Whose Idea was this, anyway?? Log House, second installment.
Updated: Aug 14
You know how, when you start a difficult project, there comes a time of euphoria, when you handle all difficulties that crop up--and of course they do--with a stiff upper lip, determination and brilliant ideas? Well, we were just past that point. We had handled the visiting relatives, the well report that said we weren't able to go down as deep as we wanted and you only get 1 gal per 5 minutes of water--maybe you might want to invest in a washboard and a nice collection of large rocks to beat your laundry upon. We coped with the first property being sold right under our noses--the day after we had ordered the logs from Colorado. We did the bank thing, the "no, the road has to be over here" thing, so we have to turn the house 60 degrees thing. And many other crises that we pretty much were able to handle, including finding a last-minute place to live for us and our two dogs.
The log company that we had chosen had a policy of sending a supervising foreman to oversee the initial "putting up of the house". He was flying in from Colorado on July 22 and the first of the log trucks was expected the next day. The other thing that was expected was our first grandchild--any minute, now, fortunately in Duluth. We arrived early at the airport to pick up the head foreman and waited patiently for him to come off the plane. Nobody was deplaning who looked like a head log wrestler. Then, this voice close-by said "are you the Myers's?" We turned to find a young teenage boy, who then said, "I'm Paul Woerner. I'll be putting your house up". We must have looked like we were in shock, because he said "It's okey, it's okey! Really!" and then told us that his dad owned the Log Home company and he'd been helping build log houses since he was "just a kid". That must have been last year.
Then he said that he was really sorry, but he'd only be able to stay for two days of the three-day build. He had to get back to Montrose, because he was on his high school's rodeo clown team and they had the State competition the next weekend. I think we were still standing there with our mouths open. Teen-age boy, Log House, Rodeo Clown--nothing was computing.
He'd brought all his tools in a big duffle bag, including his 28 pound sledge hammer and when we went down to the luggage area to collect them, Tom said, "here, let me take that for you". It was like the cartoon skit where the box is nailed to the floor and the unsuspecting audience member tries to pick it up-OOOF!! Aaaahhhgggoooffff! NOT budging!! So, the young man says, "no that's okey", swung it up over his shoulder and off we went. We took him out for a steak dinner and then to the hospital, to introduce him to our new grandson, Spencer, 1/2 a day old. After all, how many rodeo clowns do you get to meet on your very first day in the world?
Soooooo--I have always had a thing for the big 18 wheelers. I've ALWAYS wanted to drive one. So, when that first big Peterbuilt came rumbling up the dirt road, it was a thrill that made all the anxiety worth it.
The amazing thing was this: on that first truck were all the logs for the first floor walls. The next day, here came the second truck, with the first floor ceiling and second floor walls. The third day, two trucks came--one with the Valley Truss roofing system I talked about, and the other with all the window "bucks" or frames, some arches for special windows and a "bump-out" window area for our bedroom--all still with their little paper numbers attached.
The first day, everybody except Paul, was being very cautious. The huge crane that we had rented, was picking up the logs number by number and, directed by Paul, setting them down in their place, notch to notch, like seriously bloated Lincoln Logs. By afternoon, the local carpenters were starting to clamber on top of the logs, still hanging on or wearing harnesses. By the end of the second day, they were all up on top of the 2nd floor walls, 28 feet up in the air, walking around like they were moseying through the Rose Garden, leaping from log to log, tools and tool belts flying, pounding the huge iron stakes into the logs that would hold everything together.
The second day, the audience arrived. Our kids came with lawn chairs and "liquid refreshments" and barbecue provisions to watch the great adventure unfolding, as if they were kibbutzing on one of the Great Pyramids. So much fun!
However, another crisis was brewing, As I mentioned before, when the young man came to the front door of our Victorian house and said that he was really sorry--he'd just sold the rental property that we were going to live in while completing our log house,------- that was monumental. I wanted to yell and scream and fall into a weeping fit. This was August 1st. We had sold the Victorian House and the closing/move out day was scheduled for the 15th---of August. The rellies were still with us, the log house was only two weeks old--nowhere near finished---and the important thing--we had two large dogs, one of whom was on his next-to-his-last-leg.
Well, that last sentence isn't entirely true. We had one very large dog--an Englush Sheepdog/Black Lab cross named MacDuff. He was about 13 or so and made renting a small house necessary. We could put a lot of our "stuff" into storage, but not MacDuff. However, in a parting shot, the young man with the house said "oh by the way, I'm looking for a new home for our dog. If you want to take a look, she's chained up in the front yard. Well, you know, our daughter, new mother that she was, and I had to hop right in the car and go find this dog. We must have driven past the guy's house 4 or 5 times before we noticed the big chain leading to the hole in his yard. The hole with a little bit of blond fluff poking out the top. And there she was. We jumped out of the car, snatched her off the chain and drove home with our second large dog. She was possibly a Golden Retriever/Terrier mix and we named her "Sweet Rosie O'Grady". She lived with us for about a year, when, through no fault of my own, I came home with two large puppies. She went to live with our son, Pete, who moved her to Grand Rapids, where people naturally assumed that his name was Pete O'Grady. He would get calls from the groomer--"Hey, Mr. O'Grady, yer dog's ready."
But anyway, you can see where our difficulty was--we had no place to go. We especially had no place to go that would take dogs. Two large dogs. AND-- for who knew how long?? If you have ever been involved in a building project, you might have noticed that the construction boss's nose continues to get longer and longer throughout the project. That comes from fibbing to you about how long the project is going to take.
What-to do, what to do. Well, of course!! We should have thought of it before! We will buy ourselves a 28 foot, fifth wheel travel trailer! Why didn't we think of that before??!
We can be right there, right on site. We can keep an eye on everything. We can have the dogs and enjoy the wonderfullness of camping in the Northwoods, on our very own property. And besides, it's part of the adventure, and big plus ----there's no room for the relatives, they'll have to leave, now--AND we can just sell the trailer, when the house is done. All good. Right?? Right.
And so, for four months, we lived in the trailer, August, September, October and November. A place for everything, everything in it's place. Right?? Tom , Rosie, MacDuff and me. I designed and stitched four bridesmaids dresses and a set of new first act Nutcracker costumes for the Minnesota Ballet, on the teeny kitchen table, using my trusty Featherweight sewing machine. Tom was still working, full time at the Duluth Clinic. He reported that the drive into town and back was getting shorter everyday.
One morning we were awakened by a huge explosion of noise--like one of the logging trucks fell off the bridge or something. We rushed out of the trailer just in time to see the dust settling where the cut-out rectangle of logs had landed on the ground. The "guys" had made the space for the fireplace. The only problem being that the fireplace design and insert we had purchased was not rectangular. it was triangular. I'm sure you are visualizing the triangular fireplace in the rectangular space--aren't you?? Not- a -good- fit. Not at all. Nope. It's also a well-known fact that once you cut log walls away, you do not put them back, So, off to the masonary yard to choose a different fireplace and a different insert. Not the end of the world, but I was pretty sure I could see it from there, that morning.
Another morning, eating breakfast in the trailer, we could hear MacDuff barking. He'd been let out a little while before. We went in search of him in all his usual places and finally found him---there he was---head poking out of the closest window--no glass, yet-- inside the house--happily barking and wagging his tail. The only problem with that was that "the guys" had just poured the gypcrete for the in-floor heating late the day before and it was still wet. So, Duff left us with a fine momento--his footprints are all over, under the tile floors. And left us, he did, later that month. There are six dogs buried on the hill behind the garage, and MacDuff was the first. Then Rosie, our Dudley and Toby, Pete's Bailey and Jessica's Daisy. All in good company. Good dogs, every one.
SOOOO, originally, we were supposed to be in the house by October 1st. The middle of November came, with the water and sewer freezing up and the tiny furnace not coping with the bitter cold Winter weather, This wasn't supposed to be part of the great adventure! The house wasn't livable yet---- no kitchen, no bathroom and no sink. No carpeting or tiles, yet.--and no furniture. The wood-burning fireplace was usable, otherwise, no heat. So, we dragged the mattress off the bed in the trailer and put it into the bedroom with the gypcrete floors. "The guys" put in one toilet and the basement utility sink for us to use and I cooked our meals with a hot plate and a microwave set up next to the sink. And somehow we did it. I don't even remember Christmas that year.
By February, we had a kitchen, a real bathroom, in-floor heating with carpeting and nice, warm tile. Not so fast with the Travel Trailer! That baby took more than a year to sell, while we continued to make monthly payments on it. As Tom said--"It seemed like a good idea at the time, but we could have afforded to live in a 4-star hotel, dogs and all, room service every meal, for the entire 4 months we were in the trailer, for what we wound up paying for it. But, you just never know, do you?
Just an aside, but it seems appropriate to include in the story---as we were moving belongings from the trailer to the unfinished log house, I stepped off the box serving as a "stoop" by the trailer door and broke my ankle. Wouldn't you know?? Wouldn't you just know!
It actually took close to 10 years to complete that house, by the time we finished the second floor into two bedrooms, a bath and loft area, did all the railings on all 4 balconies/porches and partially finished the lower level into a ceramics studio for Tom and a fabulous sewing shop for me.. As I said in the beginning of this tale, it was a Great Adventure, a high point in our lives. It was frightening, exhilerating, frustrating, satisfying and neither one of us would have missed it for the world.
We lived in and loved the log house for 23 years. We snowshoed and gardened, cut trails, planted more trees, saw bears and wolves and moose. Many, many milestones were passed there. Grandchildren were born, friends and relatives visited and passed away, weddings, Christmases and birthdays were celebrated. Those thick, log walls must still ring with laughter......and some tears.
However, log homes require a lot of upkeep, just like old, Victorian homes--especially large log homes, that you have to re-stain every five years, and must rent a crane in order to do it.
So, five years ago, we moved "back to town", to our "one story" Prairie Rambler", with a ceramic studio for Tom out back and a sewing shop for me downstairs, next to the big granite rock in the basement. We are both "getting up there" and need to preserve our energies for survival in our 70's and 80's. After all, it's just a new turn in the road of the Great Adventure. Right?? Right!