Ernest Dittemore Built a Home and Really Put Himself in a Hole
updated 02/08/1988 AT 01:00 AM EST
•originally published 02/08/1988 AT 01:00 AM EST
The last surviving member of his immediate family, Dittemore was born and raised on the farm he calls home. A bachelor, he was living alone in his six-room house when it was destroyed by fire in 1975. Friends pitched in and bought him a trailer, but by then Ernie was committed to living in his hole. "It's cheaper and more efficient," he says. "When I was living in the house, I only used one room anyway, and that was the kitchen." So when he's finished his day's duties—tending to his horse, nine hogs and 35 head of cattle on his 80-acre spread, Dittemore retires to his hole. There he cooks dinner (food is kept in the trailer's freezer), pops a few Snickers or Milky Way bars for dessert and turns in for the night.
A sweet-tempered man, Dittemore is a popular figure in Troy. He enjoys company (though it's hard to fit more than two people in the hole) and always shares his candy bars with visitors. "A lot of people want to believe he's kooky," said neighbor Jim Gilmore, "but they don't know him. Everyone who knows him loves him."
"There are no ill feelings toward Ernie," says Dittemore's lawyer, Robert Reeder. "The reverse is true. He just chooses his way of life. Of course, he doesn't like to spend money." But Dittemore takes issue with the cheapskate label. "I would argue with that. I get along real good. Besides, some people who aren't cheap don't get along so good." True, he admits, his home isn't exactly a palace, "but then, I guess I'm not a king either."