I stood there in the dry grass of this long contested property, the canyon falling away on my east, the neighbor’s anodized windows staring at me from my west, and I wondered how to take that first step.
Bill said start with water. Wetting hard ground makes it easier to dig. And I’d need water to keep the dust down, and for the concrete truck when it arrived. So I asked Mr. Brawley at the north end, Mr. Brawley who had never really joined the fight against us or signed any petitions against us or gone to court against us, and he said sure, run a hose. Feel free. And so we began building.
And my engineer came out to watch Bill’s crew pour the footings, cut by his decree a good foot into the mudstone of the site and, embarrassed a bit by his cautionary calculations, declared that this house wasn’t going anywhere.
And Joe Mama, head carpenter, proved to me that he could do adequate finish work with a skill saw. And the Rudy brothers made me try my hand at plastering a wall, though it was mostly my shoes that got covered. “Do the best you can”, their dad Art would say. “That’ll be rough enough.” And Marcus set the bathroom floor tile to match the porcelain pattern of Pine Place, where our daughter had come into the world. And Bill reminded me to order the windows now, and to phone the subs a week before I needed them, and again three days before, and then the night before. And the mason set the bricks and stone I’d salvaged from the Cooper House into the hearth and mantle of my Rumford fireplace. And the building inspector questioned whether the steel sash doors I’d salvaged from 1010 Laurent and stored for ten years met egress code, but then never brought it up again. And I planted three racks of flea market antlers- two elk and one caribou- into my stucco walls on the canyon side for the wild birds to rest on, though the first to alight was Mr. Brawley’s escaped parrot. And the bank wasn’t supposed to release my third draw until the cherry wood floors were installed, but the boards were there acclimating on site, as they could see, and so they gave me the money and I could finish. And it had been such a good year, what with the big job I was doing for the software company next door to my office at the old County Bank building, that I’d been able to pour it all into the house, until my accountant reminded me that the IRS wanted a big part of what I’d already spent. And my folks gave us a year to pay back what I borrowed from them, and Janet’s mom lent some money too. And in twelve months we’d beaten the debt down to just a mortgage that we could handle, on a home that we would wake up to each morning and wonder what we’d done to deserve something so beautiful as this.