Monday, July 22, 2013

It Will Work Just Fine

As I write this my tired man and my tired pup are both taking a much deserved nap.
We left for Idaho yesterday morning and arrived back in Cody a couple of hours ago.
Whether you drive more miles and work your way around the park when Yellowstone is closed during the winter, or whether you drive less miles and go through the park (and deal with the traffic and tourists) during the very hot and dry summer, it is a slug fest of a trip. 
We bought a house in Idaho.  A house in the desert that nobody else wanted.................

Knowing that we didn't want to go back to Tennessee - and knowing that our house is rented to some stable people who pay their bills on time - we (quite a few months ago now) started looking for a small, humble, reasonably priced home to purchase here.
Only that kind of home doesn't exist in Cody.
We did make one offer on one home that needed a lot of work.  The offer was declined and the house is still on the market.
There are many homes that have been on the market here in Cody for well over a year - sometimes a number of years - and yet they do not come down in price, and because of that we very quickly discounted Cody.
Looking further and further outside of Cody we found homes in our (top) price range that were (frankly) overpriced  pieces of junk.  Even if we could afford the prices, and could settle with the piece of junk we would own, we couldn't justify the prices in our mind.
Reluctantly we decided that no matter how much we loved Wyoming, we didn't love it enough to struggle to make payments on a home that was horrible.
A trip to Montana over the winter and two trips to Idaho brought us overpriced in Montana and the reality check that we would not find what we had initially envisioned in Idaho.
And there was the rub.  If we couldn't have it all - the property, the house, the water, the mountains, the privacy, the quiet - what were our priorities?
Price (we wanted a decent house at a decent enough price to be able to still do many of the things we wanted to do in our lives).  Privacy.  Safety.  Space.  Accessibility to water and mountains.
There were doable houses in Arco (the town we used as our jumping off point during our two Idaho trips).  Affordable if we wanted to settle.  Homes were close to each other but the town was quiet and friendly and small and the mountains and rivers were accessible.
But homes were close to each other. 
Too close to each other.
Too close.
On our last trip we doubtfully went to see a house in the desert, 30 miles from Arco.
Before we saw the house we asked about the tiny community, and the typical response was "Nice enough place, but it's in the desert.  There's nothing there".
We went.  We looked.  We walked away not really certain what to make of it.
For the next month, LC and I both talked about the house off and on, still not really knowing what to think about this place.
It was NOTHING that we had envisioned.  It was huge.  It had add-ons all over the place.  It looked like it had been something else in another life, before being converted into a home (maybe a rural ambulance service or BLM office?).  It was in the desert, but desert in Idaho is not the same thing as desert in Wyoming.   It had been on the market for almost two years.  It was very cheap.  It was structurally strong as a rock (cinder block covered with wood) but badly needed painting (inside and out) and updating.
It was 30 miles in either direction to the nearest town.
It was 30 miles to the mountains. 
We had talked about relocating my business, but how do you do that when you're 30 miles from the nearest population? 
We kept looking online - day after day both of us searching, calling, scanning over properties that agents were sending us.  And we kept coming back to this place.
LC called the Sheriff's Department.  It was a safe and quiet place.
The town had a population of less than 30.
The house was on just over half an acre of flat land that contained grass and trees, and bordered BLM land.  Thousands and thousands of acres of empty BLM land.
It has a small fenced area for Jamie, and the rest of the yard was already partially fenced. 
Room again for my puppy to roam and cause a ruckus with the neighborhood dogs.
We could see the mountains .  The base of the Big Lost River Valley and Little Lost River Valley was 30 miles away.
Still trying to digest this strange home in this strange town in the middle of the desert, LC and I continued to search the real estate listings.
I looked at LC wondering what he really thought about the home.  I was unsure about what he REALLY thought, because surely he would have jumped on it if he liked it.  Right?  It turns out that he was wondering the same thing about my thoughts.  About me living in the middle of nowhere. 
We had talked about the home many times but finally making the decision to make an offer was a process of digesting it all - the location, the size of the house, the work that would be needed to make a basic bones and , outdated house into a home, the location.............

The asking price of the house had been dropped three times by the time we found it.  We made a very low ball offer and it was accepted.
We drove over to the house yesterday to drop off a truck load of wood and another truck load of heavy tools, and then left one of our trucks over there before heading home to Cody again today.
We drove through the park both ways, saw many beautiful things along the way and took very very few pictures (that I will post another time).
I'm exhausted.  So is LC.  So is my pup Jamie.
Some pictures that I snapped quickly before leaving this morning.
The living room..............
The large kitchen - complete with ugly grey carpet, ugly orange counter tops, and cabinets that need to be refinished.
There is a small dining area not in the picture.............
Looking from the living room down the hallway.
Two bedrooms are off to the right, the laundry room is off to the left, and the master bedroom is at the back of the house...................
Ugly brown and white carpet in the first bedroom...............
Ugly green carpet in the second bedroom................
The master bedroom.  A lot of space and two closets in the opposite direction..........
Master bathroom off the main bedroom........
Laundry room with door leading to the sun room.
Half bathroom to the right of this picture...............
Half bathroom.............
So OK.  Right now it's just a big space, but I see the sun room that it will be................
The greenhouse.................
The breezeway with the garage to the right.
The breezeway leads outside and has such a huge door that when LC closes it up it feels like we're in a fortress................
Wood room off the sun room................
I have known LC for almost six years now, and in all that time I have watched him cram his tools into one too-small space after another all over the damned country.
I have watched him make-do, try to work projects under adverse conditions, search and search for whatever specific tool or nut or bolt or insert-other-tool-related-function he was looking for.
I have wanted him to have a space to put things, to work things, to find things.
He's finally got it.  His space.  That pleases him. 
And it pleases me................
The vice the previous owner left.
The door to the wood stove in the garage.  In LC's workshop...............
The detached garage..................
After a long and hot drive from Cody, and after eating sandwiches and watermelon, and after unloading a truck filled with tools and a truck filled with wood, we all three took a quick drive on BLM land behind the house to see what Idaho BLM land looks like.
It was late in the day, the day was finally beginning to cool off, the sun was beginning to set..............
It wasn't what we were looking for when we first started looking.
But it will work. 
It will work just fine...............

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Little Pumpkin

All of the horses that live on the property we are renting headed out to summer pasture a couple of months ago, leaving behind just one horse.
Rose is 13 or 14 years old and had never had a foal, before she safely gave birth to the newest resident of the property a couple of weeks ago.
With her beautiful long body, Rose did not look anything like the short and stocky wide-load that Dixie had been two years ago when SHE was pregnant.
And then the supposed due date came and went.  No baby.  No milk sac.  A slightly heavier body but definitely not what looked like a heavily pregnant body.
A day went by and then a week and then two weeks.
And then one morning we walked outside and there was a new mother standing protectively over a sleeping new foal.
All was well with both of them.
The elderly neighbor lady who caretakess the property and watches the horses does not like Rose, supposedly because Rose is "mean".
Rose is friendly with people but instinctively needs to be the leader of the herd.
She eats first.  She receives human attention first.  She nips and bites any and all annoying horses within her domain who dare to forget that she is Leader.
I like her very much.
A sweet and affectionate and friendly horse.  An Alpha just as Jamie is, as LC is, and as I am.
Which is perhaps why we all understand each other.
As LC and I watched the neighbor lady feed Rose and gently pet the newest addition to the horse herd, I realized that Rose is also a good and dialed in mother.................
These pictures were all taken while baby was still less than 24 hours old.
Two weeks later she is now a spunky, funny, kicking, bucking, running, tasting, steady-on-her-feet boundlessly energetic little girl horse.
Still un-named, LC and I have taken to informally calling her "Little Pumpkin".
I'll post up-to-date pictures soon.................

Horses make a landscape look beautiful...............Alice Walker

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Thelma and Louise

A week or so ago we drove towards Greybull and twenty miles outside of Cody, pulled off the highway and went in search of the wild mustangs.
The blog about our experience with the horses is in my previous entry.
After spending a very long time enjoying the sight, and motion, and rhythm of these free roaming animals, LC and I debated for a few minutes what we should do next.  Head towards the house or continue driving further to see what we would see.
There really wasn't any decision to be made.  It was a beautiful, sunny, warm but not too hot day, and we had come out to BLM early.
We had a lot of day left and no particular plans in mind other than exploring further on BLM land close to McCullough Peaks.
After spending a long time taking pictures and quietly watching the horses, we pulled the truck back onto the gravel road a short way, and then turned right onto a straight-up rutted out dirt road, heading further east to a place we had found a second horse herd late last summer.
We didn't find them.
A look south from that dirt road, looking towards the endless mountain range that contains Carter Mountain.
Just as Heart Mountain dominates the landscape around Cody, Carter dominates down the Southfork.
We were more than sixty miles from Carter and yet there it stood - towering over the landscape, demanding to be noticed, silently calling to me as it always does................
And looking back towards Cody.................
Heading back the way we had come, we eventually picked up the gravel road again.
We knew from previous explorations that if we stayed on this road we would eventually make our way to the outskirts of Powell.
Still looking for more horses, and after only traveling a couple of slow miles, the terrain began to change.
We had moved from the flat, sage brush filled, butte surrounded and mountain surrounded land where the wild horses quietly roam, to what can only be described as a moonscape.
Endless shades of beige.  Endless rock.  Endless sand.  A few antelope and the ever-present sage, but not much else...................
The seemingly endless wall that is the Big Horn Mountains, sixty miles to the east..................
Tourists don't visit the badlands.
Actually - come to think of it, I don't believe I have EVER seen another person in this section of BLM..............
Fifteen minutes after we had left the wild horses, LC and I found ourselves at this place.
The first time we came here was when we were first in Wyoming over two years ago, and we had done exactly the same thing on that day that we had done on this day.
Enjoy the sights and sounds of the horses, and then continued driving further on the gravel road (at that time) not knowing what we would find up ahead.
We stopped the truck in the middle of the road when we got to this place, because we literally could not see what was on the other side of the hill.
Did the road continue?  Or would we be playing the cheap-seat version of the movie characters Thelma and Louise?
That sounds almost ludicrous from the perspective of someone who isn't from Wyoming.  
Surely if the road dead ended or dropped into nothingness there would be a sign telling us that, right?
We spent an entire day a couple of summers ago exploring in the truck on the top of Rattlesnake Mountain, and late in the day came to a road that simply dropped into nothing.
No signs.  No warning.  Nothing.  Just up and down dirt road across the vast length and width of a mountain top and road and big air.
Thankfully we took the time to stop the truck, climb out, and walk to the edge to see what was on the other side, before just continuing with our drive.
And so it went the first time we came to this place near McCullough Peaks.
This time we found that the road did in fact continue.
Leaving the truck on that day - and leaving the truck on this day - in the middle of the road, we climbed out and wandered in different directions, both of us exploring................
Welcome to the moon.................
Abundant wild flowers, found in clumps all over BLM land..........
And seemingly, feelingly, endless dirt road...................
Click on any of the pictures and it will pull up a slide show of enlarged pictures.
LC standing at the edge of a cliff.
Thelma?  Or Louise?
Hard to say because our personalities are so similar.
I watched my guy - that I think I have known for over six years now - and smiled to myself as I watched him.
Two churning personalities who somehow seem to bring calm to each other.................
When we first left the wild horses we passed a couple of small herds of antelope grazing and sitting in the sun.
I almost missed this guy because we had not seen any signs of life at all for almost an hour.
One lone and very huge bull, sitting on the side of a small rise and blending quietly with the sage bushes..............
The very first time we came this way two years ago, we had spent so much time on dry and desert-like BLM and then driven through the badlands, that unexpectedly finding this very large pool of water was astonishing.
The last thing we had expected.
That summer two years ago had been very hot and there had not been any rain at all in a couple of months, which made this pond even more unexpected.
We had an unusual amount of rain during the spring this year, and have had an unusual number of brief periods of rain this summer, and so we expected this pond to be full.
It was bone dry.  
How could that be?  With all the rain we've had, how could that be?
We had no idea, and as we parked the truck and climbed out, we both wandered towards the parched and cracked land, completely mystified................
Close to the outskirts of Powell, and close to the end of BLM land, we finally began to see signs of life again.
Cowboys rounding up a handful of calves that had wandered away from the herd................
We had been gone for hours and had loved every moment of our trip to BLM.
We had seen wild mustangs, antelope, endless mountains, endless dirt road, the moonscape of the Badlands, wild flowers, a few trees, cows and bulls and cowboys.
Such a very good trip.
As we left BLM land and drove down the dirt road that we knew led to the paved road to Powell, I asked LC to stop the truck one last time.
The bright green of the field (after spending hours in a world of brown and beige) was beautiful and compelling, and just as I climbed out of the truck to snap a picture of the green and blue world we had returned to, saw the familiar head and ears of a deer in the field.
Hundreds?  Thousands?  More times that I could ever count, we have seen the heads and ears of individuals and herds of deer as they quietly sat in fields all over the Big Horn Basin.
I watched him for a moment.  Watched him watching me, and smiled at the sight of this sweet and wary animal.
And then watched in stunned amazement as he began to walk through the field.
He wasn't sitting at all.
The grass in the field was so high that all I could see was his head.  
I had never seen that here before...................