By Eilene Lyon
My husband texted me this photo yesterday with no explanation. I studied the image carefully. That view in the background – I knew it well. It was the foreground I found distressing.
“Is that my old house?” I texted back.
It’s been 20 years since I sold the place, but this…it breaks my heart.
I moved to Durango in 1985 during a recession. Several years later, I made up my mind to buy a house and stop paying rent. I had $200 saved.
Q: How do you buy a house with just $200 in the bank?
A: With creativity, luck, determination, and a little help from Grandma.
It wasn’t much of a house: originally constructed as a garage on a concrete slab for the house next to it, it had been added onto to provide kitchen, bath, bedroom, laundry, and a spare room – about 1,000 square feet in all. The walls were plywood, not sheetrock. The hideous orange shag carpet reeked of cat piss. There was no heat source in the bedroom. The windows were all single pane. I fell in love at first sight.
On the positive side, it was not in town, but close enough. Though a two-lane highway bordered the property, I had 1.7 acres of pinyon-juniper forest and a barn between the house and the road. The house sits on the edge of a mesa with a deck overlooking the river valley below and Black Ridge to the west.
I lived in and loved that house for nearly 10 years and made many improvements. Once, I decided to tear off that rusty fiberglass porch cover. I hooked a tow rope to it, and tied the other end to that red Honda Accord.
You do not ever want to hire me to do any demolition work at your house – my miscalculation cost me a large picture window. Oops.
Sometimes I imagined myself living in that house the rest of my life. It was just the perfect fit for me. But life intervened and I met The Putterer and moved in with him. Then we got married. I kept the house for a time and rented it out furnished.
In the early 1990s, Durango got rediscovered and real estate prices have been through the roof ever since. I finally decided to sell and made a nice return on my original $200 investment. Even at the time I sold, I was aware that the state planned to eventually widen and/or realign the highway.
I thought the most likely scenarios were: 1) they’d move it to the east away from the property, or 2) they’d move it to the west and buy the property. Instead, they’ve come up with a horrid third option. Buy most of the property, tear down the forest and barn, and leave the house exposed to traffic. Ugh. Sigh.
This, we call progress.
Feature image: Though difficult to spot, my former home is the green building in the center background, tucked into what remains of the wooded lot.