Thursday, February 16, 2012

Our version of the American Dream.

When Retired Mountain Man and I moved to Idaho in 1974 our dream was to build a house on the 5 acres he bought from his Aunt and Uncle.  He bought the property with the money he had saved while he was in Vietnam.  Back then there was no easy way to buy or build a house.  Banks required a down payment of a third of the price or other collateral equal to that to qualify for a loan.  Our plan was to build a log house similar to the one we were renting at the time.

Our five acres was not only undeveloped land, there was no road to it, no electricity even close to it, no water, no septic.  You needed a 4x4 truck to get in and out of the place.  You get the picture.  Most of our friends and relatives thought we were nuts.   But, it was our dream so we pressed forward and our friends and family supported us in our efforts.

The first step was to log some of the property to clear a place to build the house and to have some pasture to raise a couple of cattle each year.

This is a photo one of the first trees to come down on our property in 1978.

Our friend and neighbor, Cliff McChesnie is running the "cat". His son, Andy, who was about 15 at the time, was the hooker.  The "cat" was named Alice.  Alice was a wonderful piece of machinery, old but reliable.  Clifford was the expert when it came to logging.  He was the guy you wanted on the job along with Alice.

Several of our friends helped with the project.  We needed seventy red fir 40' in length and 8 tamarack 32' in length, for beams.  The rest of the logs would be hauled to the mill.

 Cousin Glen helping out.

Keep in mind that this was a low budget project.  Retired Mountain Man was a teacher.  His starting salary in 1974 was $7600.   Foolish we were.  We thought we were rich!

To make ends meet we had a vegetable garden along with fruit trees and berries.  Every summer I froze and preserved as many fruits and vegetables as possible.  We raised our own beef.  We would sell one each year and it would pay for our costs and put one in the freezer for us.  We raised chickens, rabbits, guineas, ducks, geese.  You name it, we tried it.  We had one used vehicle, a 4x4 truck.   Retired Mountain man carpooled to work with two other teachers.   We were frugal out of necessity.

 We were trying to get to our dream of having our own place in the woods. 

Retired Mountain Man

It took us three weeks of dawn to dusk hard work to make this log deck. 

We pulled over most of the trees so that the stumps would be pulled out.  Once we were finished logging Clifford put a brush blade on Alice and piled all the stumps and slash.  It was a huge mountain of slash the length of the log deck.  We let it dry for two years and in the fall of 1980 we burned it all which finally left us with a clearing for our pasture. 

Clifford and Alice

Jamie standing on the log deck

The logs that were chosen for the house were hauled to a separate deck.  You can see one of the decks in the photo above.  It's in the background behind Jamie. 

My friends, Alma, Linda and Diane, along with Jamie who would have been ten,  helped me peel logs. It took approximately two hours to peel one log.  Sometimes longer if the bark was thick. It was hot in the afternoon and it was definitely hard work. 

Our friends were awesome!  They weren't afraid of hard work and they were glad to help. 

Diane and Linda

Lunch break with all the kids.  David, Mary and Kiley were too young to help.  They spent their time playing in the woods while their parents peeled logs.  Every once in awhile Jamie was sent to look after them.  It was a job I'm sure he got tired of doing, but he didn't complain too much as it was easier than peeling logs.

Upper house log deck

This log deck was located approximately where my garden is today.  You can see the "lower log deck" off in the distance.

Glen, Retired Mountain Man and Dave Finklenberg

We shipped nine loads of logs. 

Clifford celebrating the first load.

We tried to get a bank or the VA to loan us the money to build our house but had no luck.  I had drawn up the plans for the house.  It would be a 28' x 36' main floor with a second floor for bedrooms.  The banks were very reluctant to loan money for "owner built" log houses as it was common for people to default on their loans and then the bank was left owning a house that was poorly built or not finished.   Reluctantly, we gave up on the idea of building our house out of our own logs,  We sold them.  They were hauled away to a location somewhere near Priest River.  The house was built over there somewhere.

We didn't give up.

The dream was still there. It had just been altered a bit. 

Still to come:  A well dug for water, to build a road to the property and to get electricity to the property.

Retired Mountain Man had to do some smooth talking with the utility company to convince them to do it, but it worked.  They agreed to install six poles and run the line.  The total cost to us would be $110 for the line from the transformer to the house.   He was a smooth talker.

It looked like our American Dream might become a reality.


Julie said...

Great post!!! This is a great epic tale needing to be told... and leading up to an amazing grand finale now thriving! The suspense is killing me even though I know the ending :)

Linda said...

Great story and a familiar story. We pursued the same dream; no power, no water, no bank--just a lot of hard work and no regrets! Love the pictures, wow, look at Clifford!