Just about everything outside Jack and Debbie Robertson's home on Springfield's west side brings to mind the word "nature."
From the dark wood siding to the expanse of property that features both abundant trees and a creek that runs nearby - even the address, 1 Woodview Lane, lets visitors know that the Robertsons just prefer to be outdoors.
When Jack discusses the house he and his wife have lived in since 1984, he is definitely talking about a place where they have always felt right at home.
The Robertsons' house was built in 1979, the year Jack and Debbie were married. "This was originally the dream home that was designed by a former Springfield architect, Armand Sarti. You can tell by all the angles and the windows," Jack says. "He built it as his dream house, but we bought it five years later, and we've always loved it. Our place is unique - and that's one of the reasons we like it so much.
"You know, the neatest thing about the inside of this place is what's outside," says Jack, who owns Jack Robertson Lawn Care in Springfield. "Today I was watching the deer chase each other in the front. Deer and turkey are the most common, but I've seen a coyote out stalking the turkey. I took a great picture of that. And we see fox and quail out front. And, of course, ducks and geese fly the creek. We just really enjoy the atmosphere out here."
Their aging black Lab, Feathers, has the run of the land but is welcomed inside in bad weather. She might give a slight "woof" when a deer wanders past, but mostly keeps quiet about the wildlife that often shows up in the tree-filled yard.
"Over the years, the animals have learned not to bother the wildlife," Debbie says. "They know if they do, they aren't going to win."
Like many women, Debbie is partial to the babies and is happy they are left alone. "We have the mother deer with the babies that are out here, and it's the same with the turkey - they'll bring the little ones."
Debbie says no matter what the weather, she enjoys looking outside and seeing nature. "The woods change so much with the seasons. It's gorgeous out here when it snows, and then when the woods fill in during the spring it looks pretty. Of course, it's nice in the fall when the leaves change."
With so much nature surrounding them, the Robertsons' home was a great place to raise their two children. "When we moved in, Andy was a 1-year-old and wouldn't remember living anywhere else," Debbie says. "Samantha was born when we lived here, so it really is the only place she ever lived."
Both Robertson children liked growing up on Springfield's west end, Jack agrees.
"We have 11⁄2 acres, but there is a seven-acre flood plain in front. There's a tree fort down in the woods and a creek in front where they spent a lot of time. Anytime an outdoor opportunity presented itself, we were out there. It was just a fun place to grow up." Andy is married and expecting the Robertsons' first grandchild later this winter, and Samantha is engaged to be married, so these days just Debbie and Jack - and the dog - enjoy the place.
The house looks like it once belonged to an architect, with high, angled ceilings, skylights and abundant windows. Even though the home is nearly 4,000 square feet, including the finished lower level space, it is easy to heat. "We face south, so we have passive solar heat in the wintertime. We can open up the skylights and get a lot of warmth that way," Jack says.
And who washes all those windows? Most of the time Jack and Debbie call in a professional to shine them up. "We have attempted to do them ourselves," says Debbie, who works with Jack at the lawn care business. "I know the birds like to fly into them, but they've never broken them."
An avid outdoorsman, Jack doesn't just photograph wildlife; he enjoys hunting for sport. In fact, it's easy to tell that a hunter resides in the house. The home's main entryway features several of Jack's hunting trophies, and a large turkey he bagged is part of the decor. Various hunting-themed pictures are hung around the place and a playful-looking toy black Lab puppy peers out of a doorway into a first-floor hall.
With all the wide-open spaces, angles and windows, the Robertsons' four-bedroom, three-bath home feels light and spacious. Even the downstairs family room seems bright and has lots of space to roam and a bar for entertaining.
On the main floor, Debbie's kitchen is anything but typical - unless you happen to be living in Disney Land. Everywhere you look in the kitchen and dining area, Mickey Mouse reigns. He's on the walls; he's on the counters; he's even on top of the fridge. A red backsplash and walls further brighten the cheerful rooms.
"I've just always liked the little mouse," Debbie says. "I'm telling my age, but the Mickey Mouse Club came on the year I was born, and my mom used to sit me down in front of the TV to watch it. I guess I probably started collecting Mickeys in high school, and as I got older people just kept giving them to me.
"I don't know how many I have, but there has to be hundreds. I put them away and change them around. I have seasonal ones, too, that I put out for Halloween and Christmas. My (late) mother-in-law, Betty, was probably my biggest supporter. She really enjoyed finding them for me," she says. "Jack and I even went to Disney Land on our honeymoon, and we went back for our 25th anniversary."
Debbie and Jack admit they like stability. They've been married nearly 32 years, lived in their home 26 of those years, and Jack's been in the lawn care business since 1977. Still, after more than a quarter of a century living in the house that he and Debbie still love, Jack admits that some of those beautiful trees keep him bringing his work home.
"The whole shade thing presents a challenge. Thank goodness I'm in the lawn-care business. We do the seeding in September, just in the dense shade areas," he says. "At one point we had 120 trees here, and we've decreased them substantially. You know, shade and lawn don't mix, and in my case, the lawn's gonna win out."
Shade problems or not, Jack and Debbie aren't planning to leave their home anytime soon. "Oh, we'll be here for a while. We have country, but we have city because we're so close to everything," Debbie says. "We have privacy, but yet we have neighbors. It's just the best of both worlds."
Story published Friday, January 7, 2011 ( Volume 5, Number 8 )