I was dating a man who went on a peace mission to Central America and returned to tell me he’d met someone on the trip who could really make him happy. I wanted to be happy too. I bought a house in the country.
I was happy for a while. I was ecstatically happy, tossing coins into I-90 tollbooth slots on frequent journeys to my Wisconsin hideaway exactly 200 miles from my Wrigleyville door. I’m sure I was happier for a much greater period of time than my ex-boyfriend. But I had lived in the city a long time and didn’t know anything about country property. I overlooked some things when I bought.
House on the Rebound was located deep in the hilly countryside of southwestern Wisconsin, halfway between Dodgeville and Spring Green. It was minutes from the state’s number-one tourist attraction, House on the Rock, a kind of Ripley’s Believe It or Not of country houses, which I always planned to visit on a rainy day. That day arrived more than once in the nearly six years I had my place, but I was too busy bailing out the basement to think about it.
That’s the way it was being land-rich in Wisconsin. There was always something that needed attention. I didn’t mind in the beginning. I was still too amazed that I’d found something so remarkable in my price range, under $30,000.
I had looked at other places in Wisconsin, which only made my heart thud louder when I actually met my cottage-to-be. Looking back, I realize my limited real estate search had been filled with more ominous foreshadowing than a D.H. Lawrence novel.
I encountered a string of realtors who’d turned the business of not knowing about the property they were trying to sell into a fine art. “But there’s a tree leaning into the back of the house,” I told the one from Edgerton, whose Chicago newspaper ads had lured me to her door. “Well, so there is,” she replied with the blankest of expressions. “I’ll mention that to the owner.” Another realtor took me to a big old lake house near Monroe whose once densely wooded lawn looked to have been systematically ravaged with a chain saw. She acted as if there were no gashed and twisted trunks on the front lawn, pointing out instead the watery views from the back porch. The tree situation made the whole place seem eerie. I imagined as we toured large, dark rooms filled with furniture shrouded in sheets that it had been either the scene of an evil crime or a vengeful divorce.
The Edgerton realtor phoned me in Chicago a few weeks after my visit to say the widowed owner of one of the properties she’d shown me was desperate to sell. “She calls me in tears from Chicago practically every day.” I told her I wasn’t interested in the woman’s cottage. It was part of a large lake community of small, closely spaced cottages that had fallen upon hard times and was now peppered with year-round tenants in search of affordable housing, some of whom had turned their backyards into dumping grounds for discarded furniture and appliances.
That distraught Chicago widow was my most prescient warning about the perils of owning country property. But I was thinking I would never sell, and if I ever did I’d have people beating down my door. The realtor I bought from kept telling me her office couldn’t keep up with the demand for country houses.
I had given up on finding a place I could afford when a coworker put me in touch with a realtor in Spring Green who specialized in vacation properties. She was as poker-faced as the rest, a fact I rashly cast aside when she showed me a secluded little brown house nestled against a wooded hillside in one of the most picturesque valleys I had ever seen. There were two giant spruce trees on either side of the house, and at the far end of the large yard a tiny pond the realtor said had once been stocked with fish. House and yard were separated from the farmland around them by a white wooden fence, though the property continued up the hill to include one and a half acres.
It was December, and there was no snow yet. Everything was brown and frozen, except the shallow creek flowing across the private graveled drive leading to the property. There was no bridge, just a few heavy planks laid across rocks at the narrowest point to accommodate foot traffic. The real estate lady drove her big car right through the stream, and I thought this was charming. I imagined how beautiful everything would look in the spring. I remember returning to Chicago and telling a neighbor I had found Glocca Morra, that mythical place at the end of Finian’s rainbow.
I couldn’t understand why anyone would want to sell this property. There didn’t appear to be much wrong with it. It was a work in progress, a remodeling project that had suddenly stopped, as if everyone had dashed outside for a fire drill and decided not to return.
It was a three-room cabin with an enclosed porch and deck. The original part, kitchen and bedroom, sat on an old limestone foundation and had once been occupied for many years, I was told, by a reclusive bachelor. The place had been rebuilt in the 1960s, at which time somebody added a large third room in front over a cement walk-out basement, bringing the total living space to about 800 square feet. The present owners had conceived of it as a summer place. They had rewired, redone the roof, put in a new well, and ripped out an old furnace in favor of electric baseboard heat. They had also added the deck out front, installed carpeting and knotty-pine paneling in two of the rooms, and refurbished the kitchen with new cabinets, countertop, appliances, and linoleum flooring. There was a new kitchen sink too, but it was sitting in a box on the floor.
The new well hadn’t been connected to the house yet, the whole place needed to be plumbed, the attic crawl space lacked insulation, and the basement needed cement work. But my untrained eye focused only on some exposed pipes above the bathroom tub. The realtor calmly explained that they were part of the brand-new shower the owners hadn’t gotten around to drywalling.
“Why would they sell in the middle of remodeling?” I asked in the same hushed tone in which I’d inquired about the ruined trees near Monroe. She shot me one of those inscrutable realtor looks. “The owners had very mixed feelings about putting the place on the market,” she said.
At the time we were sitting in the kitchen, which had a beautiful old wooden-slat ceiling and a window above where the sink should have been that looked out on the wooded hillside. There were blue gingham curtains on all the windows and matching tablecloths, which I knew had nothing to do with the value of the place even as I succumbed to them. I tried to remain as stoic as the realtor, but on the long ride back to her office I told her it was exactly what I wanted. But just to be safe–I wasn’t born yesterday–I wanted an inspector to go through the place before I gave the owners what they were asking.
I now shudder over that last sentence. I had been living in Chicago during a seller’s market, where people not only snapped up real estate at the listed price but threw in thousands more dollars just to be sure they didn’t offend anyone. This was in 1988, and the summer before, while Michael Dukakis was campaigning against George Bush, Chicago realtors were warning prospective buyers that no matter who got elected, interest rates were going to soar. This helped whip people into a kind of buying frenzy, so that the value of buildings jumped by tens of thousands of dollars all over the north side. I know because I’d been shopping that summer too, hoping to sell my one-bedroom Wrigleyville condo and buy a two- or three-unit building as a nest egg and a hedge against inflation. I could have afforded one at the beginning of the summer, but it took a long time to find a buyer for the condo. So I had haplessly watched the prices on beautiful buildings in my first-choice neighborhoods escalate beyond anything I could possibly afford. My realtor kept taking me to neighborhoods on the fringes of the hot areas, where the buildings grew progressively shabbier and in need of many repairs.
There were places with apartments in unfinished basements full of code violations. There were places where the market value had already risen so high above the asking price that the owners did everything they could to keep from having to sell, including not making the keys available to the realtor. There was one lovely two-flat I could have killed to buy, but the owner turned me down when I offered his price. I needed to sell my condo before I could manage the down payment, and he viewed this contingency as an easy escape clause.
When I finally did get two simultaneous offers on my condo a few days before the contract on it expired, there was nothing left for me to buy–except perhaps another one-bedroom condo farther north. My income no longer qualified me for a fixed-rate mortgage on the buildings my realtor was now leading me to in south Evanston.
It was during my delirium of the next few days–in which I managed, through a legal technicality, to unsell my condo to a couple who’d bid $2,000 above the asking price–that the idea of a country house began to coalesce in my head. And a few months later the broken romance drove me forward.
I have a long history of approaching each new situation in relation to the last. My father liked to tell a story about how when I was about a year old and just learning to walk the family took a vacation and stayed in a hotel where the bathroom was separated from the bedroom by a couple of stairs. My father said I would toddle across the room, then ease to my knees when I reached the steps and revert to crawling. The punch line was that the family stayed in the same hotel on the way home, but this time in a room without steps. I, however, still approached the bathroom on foot and negotiated the threshold on all fours.
So there I was making a bid on a remote country property in the dead of winter as if other buyers were breathing down my back. I was also acting on the crazed fear that the owners might change their minds if I didn’t offer enough. I wasn’t rich. I just figured I would drive the same car for a long time. I was more trusting than I ever would have been in Chicago. My realtor, who also represented the seller, recommended an inspector, and I hired him, because I wasn’t sure how to find someone in the area on my own. I don’t know where I got the idea that people in the country were more altruistic than city types.
This inspector toured the house one cold Saturday in December two weeks after my first visit. He spent about 15 minutes telling me what work needed to be done. “Buy it” was the last thing he said to me, after nominating himself for a big chunk of the work. “It’s a good deal.”
He never went outside to lift the heavy lid off the pit next to the house, the dry well. A dry well is a hole in the ground lined with gravel and bricks in which sewage biodegrades, the liquid seeping into the ground. It’s the forerunner of the septic system, which works on the same principle but with a more refined filtering process.
The realtor told me dry wells were no longer considered up to code in Wisconsin, but many were still in use in that county. She said the county tolerated them until either they stopped working or the owners expanded the house by more than 25 percent.
She never showed me the dry well. She said there wasn’t any need to look at it. She reiterated, in the sort of loud voice some Americans use to address foreigners, that it was a nonconforming system in working condition, and said if it ever failed I would have to put in a septic. She also said that she had a dry well at her own nearby country home and that she treated it once a year with a bacterial agent that kept things moving.
Septic systems range in price from about three to ten thousand dollars, plus another five hundred for state and county permits. The more porous your soil, the better the drainage and the less complicated (i.e., expensive) your system. Because of the way the land sloped or something, there was no place on this property where a septic could be built. The present owners had therefore secured an easement for one from the farmer who owned the land just east of the fence line. They’d had the soil tested, and the appropriate system was the mid-priced type–about four to five thousand dollars–an “in-ground pressure” system.
The realtor suggested I could borrow a few thousand dollars more from the bank and put the septic in immediately. But since I already needed to spend a lot of money on other work I decided to take my chances that the toilet wouldn’t back up. Right after I bought the place the soil tester sent me his plans for a septic system he’d designed that had been approved for the property by the state. He said he didn’t know why the sellers had hired him to do this work since the dry well was in good shape, but he told me to hang on to the plans. He said someone someday might want to put in a septic, at which time they would be invaluable.
As it turned out, the toilet never failed to flush, except one frigid spring day when I had to light a Weber grill on a spot in the basement directly under the pipes to get the water flowing again because the electric baseboard upstairs wasn’t doing the job.
Maybe you’ve heard of this English guy, Peter Mayle, who found a good deal on a house in the French countryside, then spent much of his first year in residence recording the charming idiosyncrasies of all the workmen he helped support. Even though Mayle romanticized that year in his best-seller A Year in Provence with accounts of glorious French meals he miraculously had money left over for, the point of the book seemed to be that it’s not easy living in the country. Nature, that same lovely nature you spend all your savings getting close to, always has the last word. The soundest house can have sudden, unexpected problems owing to something as fickle as the wind. You have to be either remarkably self-sufficient or forever prepared to throw bushels of money at the latest crisis. And you will probably pay high taxes, but not because you get any services. In the country you’re responsible for your own water and sewer systems, your own trash disposal, and, unless you don’t need to go anywhere for a few days, your own snow plowing. Taxes are high because fewer people are paying in, yet schools and other services in the nearest town have to be financed.
I had an added complication. All that lovely land surrounding my pretty fenced-in yard belonged to a dairy farmer who grazed his holsteins on it throughout the green months. My realtor must have mentioned this. How could she have sold me a country hideaway and not told me my neighbors would be cows? But I don’t remember that she did. I remember pointing to a big red wagonlike object in one of the fields near the house and asking what it was, and I remember she kind of flinched and said it was a grain trough.
Still, even if she had told me I probably wouldn’t have understood the implications. I was a city person. I thought cows were quaint. The real estate lady drove right through the creek and up to the yard the first time she showed me the house. When I returned for the inspection everything was covered with snow. I never saw any sign of the cow pies you had to pick your way around when you approached the house on foot.
I was a good sport about it for a long time. I didn’t mind herding cows off the driveway when I needed to get in or out of my yard. I got used to opening and closing the gates that stood between my property and the public road. I enjoyed watching the cows hang their curious heads over my fence, and I liked listening to their rhythmic chewing, often the loudest sound there except for the wind. When I hosted a barbecue and cow-tipping party one summer I dubbed the place Chateau Moolieu, and the name stuck.
That party marked the height of what I now realize was the Camelot period of my country-home ownership. For a few shining seasons Chateau Moolieu was my cherished escape from urban stress and congestion and personal woes. The biggest problem–once the initial work was done and I’d persuaded the farmer to move his feed trough west of the house to foster fly control–was finding someone affordable to cut the grass. This was a strenuous, time-consuming chore I didn’t want to deal with when I arrived for a quiet weekend alone or with friends. I preferred to spend the time exploring various attractions in the beautiful surrounding countryside or just staying put on the property and staring back at the cows.
On many of the weekends when I didn’t visit I would rent it out to friends and acquaintances whose generally glowing accounts of their stay made my heart swell with owner’s pride. I would close the place up every year at the first freezing weather and return in the spring, letting thoughts of it energize me through the winter.
I had surgery in February 1991, and just before the doctor put me under in the operating room she suggested I think of a favorite place. I pictured myself sitting on the footbridge in front of Chateau Moolieu on one of the clear sunny days when hundreds of white butterflies darted around the creek and a finch or two hovered above the thistles.
In the fall of 1991, anticipating a move to Madison, I reluctantly decided that I could do without the expense and effort of maintaining Chateau Moolieu. Some of my friends wondered why I wasn’t moving into it. I told them that it was 50 miles from Madison and too remote, the same thing most people from that city whom I tried to rent and later sell to would tell me.
The first time out I turned to the same Spring Green realtor who sold the property to me. I figured she knew a lot about it. I don’t know how I could have forgotten how irrelevant such knowledge is to realtors. Anyway there wasn’t much interest that fall. I wasn’t really ready to part with it though, so I didn’t mind. But considering the way the place looked when I first saw it, I was a little miffed when she sent a note suggesting it would show better if I painted the bathroom.
In the spring of ’92, just before I moved to Wisconsin, I listed again with the Dodgeville office of a firm a friend had recommended. I had a bad case of seller’s remorse that year, even though I had begun renting it out more than I was using it myself. One offer surfaced from a couple looking for a starter home. It was about five thousand less than I’d paid, plus they wanted me to install a septic. I just shrugged it off.
Toward the end of this listing contract I heard rumblings that a Chicago couple were going to give me my price if they could acquire some of the adjacent land, especially the land leading to the property line. It was no go, however. The farmer said he had no other place to graze his cows.
The third realtor I contracted with to sell my place actually used its moniker in a Madison newspaper ad. “Chateau Moolieu,” it began in bold type. “Feel like you’re in the Swiss Alps!…year ’round home between Dodgeville and Spring Green. Time to smell the flowers!” There was a photo of my little place in the ad, dwarfed by the fir trees and the yard around it. In this same ad she advertised Madison homes that were selling for three to four times as much as mine. She omitted my asking price, so as not to scare away the upscale buyers.
That was the summer of 1993, the wettest year in a long time, a summer filled with nightly television news reports of people in eastern Iowa floating past their homes in rowboats. Chateau Moolieu had begun having problems as soon as the snow melted. I had a tenant in the place and one day he called me in Madison to tell me it was muddy there.
“It’s muddy here,” I said, and reminded him that he was already more than a week late with the rent.
When I drove out the next week I discovered it was so muddy he couldn’t get his car into the driveway. He’d been parking on the road and hoofing to the house in waders. The driveway, which was the length of about one and a half football fields, didn’t belong to me. It belonged to the farmer with the cows. It was the only access to the property, however, so use of it had been deeded to me as an easement.
I’d talked to the farmer before about maintenance of the drive, so I knew he didn’t want to put any money into it–though he didn’t mind if I did. But now he cautioned me that there was nothing I could do about the mud until things dried out. Nothing ever really dried out that year until September, so the first load of breaker rock I bought pretty much got trampled into the mud by the cows. The area around the creek bed was the worst, because that was where they crossed over to the side of the pasture where their owner kept the feed trough. It got to the point where you couldn’t tell which was mud and which was manure.
Peter Mayle would have hired a cantankerous local to build a culvert across the creek, then kicked back with some grilled mussels and Cote du Rhone to watch him work. The cheapest culvert, however, costs several thousand dollars. I had poured so much money into the place by then that I didn’t even consider it. I figured my money was working better for me in the bank, even at 3 percent.
Meanwhile the tenant was claiming he wanted to buy the place on a land contract, and at the same time asking if he could use his security deposit to pay his second month’s rent. Fortunately after about 80 days Wisconsin Power & Light sent him a big bill, and he packed up the huge American flag that doubled as his bedroom curtain and moved out. It was the only time I was ever grateful that Chateau Moolieu had electric baseboard heat.
I enlisted a friend and it took the two of us about six hours to clean up the mess he left behind, both inside and out. The good news was he didn’t come back. With the place restored to its gingham-curtain charm I decided to list with the third realtor. She’d been after me for some time, despite the fact that her office was in Madison.
She drove out to Chateau Moolieu one sunny May day and said the place would be a real find for people trying to circumvent the rising prices in Madison. She suggested it was worth about $7,000 more than I’d thought. She took out her pocket calculator and showed me, based on this asking price, an impressive five-figure number that would be my gross equity. I signed the contract. Then it started to rain.
She was a deer hunter. She told me she found nothing more relaxing than sitting in a tree on a November afternoon and waiting for her prey to get close enough to shoot. For some reason this anecdote convinced me she would bag a buyer for my house.
She didn’t sell it, but she was the most communicative of the Chateau Moolieu realtors. She called me regularly with excited reports about people who were definitely going to make an offer–if only the bank would qualify them for a loan. In July she found a Madison artist she described as “a little weird” whom she said the place would be perfect for. The trouble was she took her out there one Sunday after some heavy rains, and the creek was too high and swift to drive through. The footbridge was gone, washed somewhere downstream where I never found it. I guess they both took off their shoes and stockings and a few other things and waded across. The realtor said it was the only house she ever showed in her underwear. She said the artist was thrilled with the property nonetheless, but did I know that there were about six inches of water in the basement?
No, I didn’t. (I hadn’t found any potential tenants lately with unsuspicious credit ratings.) I also didn’t know when I bought the place that there was no drain in the basement, that limestone is porous and tends to let groundwater in, and that once in there was no way for it to flow out because the newer walk-out section of the basement had been built a step above the old part.
The ground was so saturated that summer that when a friend and I formed a bucket brigade our efforts proved fruitless. We worked for quite a while before we were willing to admit that the water was flowing in faster than we could carry it out. I bought a small electric pump and connected it to a garden hose that I ran out to the yard through a gap in the limestone. But what the basement really needed was a sump pump.
In the spring of 1994 I found yet another month-to-month tenant–my fourth in less than two years–and another realtor. Actually this realtor found me through direct mail. He was with the Spring Green and Richland Center offices of a nationally franchised firm, so I thought he would know a lot about country property. It turned out he didn’t even know how to fill out an offer, and when he drafted the settlement statement after two months of haggling between the eventual buyer and me he listed the selling price as $1,000 under what we had finally agreed on.
The only thing realtor number four knew for sure was that Chateau Moolieu was worth at least $9,000 less than what the Madison realtor had listed it at.
However, less than a month after I signed with him he called with the exciting news that there was an offer. It wasn’t quite the offer I’d expected, but we dickered a little and eventually reached a figure I could live with. Then the buyer had his inspection.
“His plumber says the dry well isn’t working,” my realtor called to inform me. “He’s canceled the deal.”
“What does he mean, the dry well isn’t working?”
“He says it’s not.”
“But there’s a tenant in the house. If the dry well weren’t working I certainly would have heard so from him.”
“He says it isn’t working.”
This plumber, it turned out, had told the prospective buyer not that the dry well wasn’t working, but that he couldn’t guarantee it would work in the future, which was more or less what the realtor I bought from had told me.
I told realtor number four that if the buyer didn’t trust the dry well he could still buy the property and put in a septic.
“There’s no place on the property for a septic system,” he said.
“There’s an easement for one,” I growled. “He can put in a septic on the easement.”
“The easement is not on the property. According to Wisconsin law there has to be a place for a septic on the property,” he lectured.
I went for the first of many long, brisk walks I would need after a phone conversation with him.
Realtor number four may have been the victim of too much country inbreeding: the state had no quibble with the idea of putting a septic on an easement that had been designated for such use. But other factors were making potential buyers skittish. By late 1992, when I became a serious seller, area banks weren’t giving fixed-rate loans on properties with dry wells. For another, the plans for the septic system that the soil tester gave me back in 1989 had expired. They were supposed to be renewed every two years on a certain date, and I lost track and missed the second deadline. It eventually occurred to me that this buyer and others like him didn’t believe there really was an easement that was suitable for an in-ground pressure system.
Meanwhile I also discovered that nobody agreed on what constituted a working dry well. The most liberal definition, espoused by people like the realtor who sold me the house, is that a dry well is working if the toilet flushes and nothing overflows into the yard. Others say it has to do with the water level in the pit and whether it stays relatively low. County zoning officials say it’s working only if no unsuitably filtered sewage gets into the groundwater. There’s no simple, noncostly way to know for sure about the pollution, but then a septic system isn’t fail-safe either. Anyway, with all those cows roaming freely, how can anyone prove what’s polluting what?
What I finally discovered when I had a second offer on the place late that summer was that there’s virtually no independent plumbing inspector in the state who will lift the lid off a dry well and say it’s working. They will say it’s illegal in Wisconsin according to state code and must be replaced by a septic. They will not be aware of or interested in the various policies zoning administrators set up in their individual counties to spare rural residents the expense of installing a more modern system.
The plumber who inspected the dry well for this second buyer declared that it should be condemned. The buyer threatened to cancel the sale unless I put in a septic.
My own realtor remained my least fervent supporter.
“You should have used a lawyer when you bought,” he chastised me as weeks passed and the pending sale grew increasingly tangled and uncertain. “A lawyer would have told you that a dry well is illegal.”
I told him I did use a lawyer when I bought. The Spring Green realtor had given me a list of five local attorneys, and I had chosen one who also practiced in Chicago, supposing that this might make him less aligned with her.
This lawyer hadn’t told me the dry well was illegal. He had acknowledged the realtor’s words that it was a nonconforming, working system that the county currently approved of.
“Nonconforming means illegal,” realtor number four said.
Fortunately this time I had hired a lawyer I knew and trusted, to whom it had never occurred to me to mention that the place had been on and off the market for more than two years. So while I alternately held my breath and lost sleep and cried into my pillow, she negotiated.
Before we could get to the closing table I had to dig up the soil tester, who convinced the buyer that the easement was suitable for an in-ground pressure system. The soil tester agreed to redo his original plans, which apparently didn’t need a lot of changing, and take them into Madison for new state approval. He didn’t charge anyone for this service. He said it would be worth it if it kept me and the buyer and the various realtors and lawyers involved with the sale from ever calling him again.
So we closed. I wound up paying for half the cost of the septic and permits. I had to pay for all of the cost of obtaining yet another easement that expanded–on paper at least–the width of the road leading to the house. This was due to an obscure county zoning requirement that only the buyer’s side had heard of. The ordinance stipulated that a septic system cannot be built on private property unless access to it is at least 50 feet wide. The existing easement was 33 feet wide–well, two rods actually, which will give you an idea of how long ago the agreement was originally recorded. Two rods is wide enough for cows, cars, tractors, and just about any other vehicle the buyer was going to need to bring in to install the septic. But the law is the law, and so I satisfied it, even though much of the new easement is part of the farmer’s cornfield.
By the time I sold Chateau Moolieu I was deeper in legal fees than my delinquent tenant had ever been in mud. This sale of less than $30,000 had produced a file folder thick with offers and counteroffers, amendments and counteramendments. My lawyer had to write most of them. The buyer’s realtor always left something out that she said she would put in, and my realtor remained permanently fogged in.
Years ago in Chicago I had a landlord who was a real estate tycoon. My kitchen window faced his sumptuous deck, and one summer day when he was entertaining there I overheard someone ask him for some real estate advice.
“Buy low and sell high,” my landlord had replied with characteristic brevity, and this silenced his questioner. I had smiled to myself, figuring he’d left out about 5,000 pages. I now think that mostly what he left out were those other three rules: “Location, location, location.” Otherwise what sort of measuring stick do you have, besides hindsight, to know what’s low and what’s high?
I drove past Chateau Moolieu recently. It was still winter, and the cows weren’t out yet. There was no snow on the ground, and everything was pretty much brown and frozen the way it was the day I first saw it. There was no sign of the new owner, but there looked to be a culvert across the creek and there was a big addition going up in the area where the dry well used to be. The septic was in, and a fuel tank sat above it in the newly turned field east of the fence line. The new owner had evidently put in a much-needed furnace.
He’s in the building trade and, from what I’ve heard, is doing most of the work himself. He pretended during those endless weeks last fall when we slowly communicated through our realtors and lawyers about the smallest details that he wasn’t sure he wanted the place at all. The soil tester let it slip toward the end that he was crazy for it.
And why shouldn’t he have been? It’s a wonderful spot, I thought, sitting in front of it for a long time in the old car that served me well through all the years I owned country property, and which, I hope, will serve me a little longer. I looked out at the house, the giant spruce trees, the yard, and the hillside behind it, relishing the view as much as I did on that very first visit, but no longer with the urge for possession.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): illustration/Slug Signorino.