The March of Progress

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.


The south (kitchen) side of the house. I nearly set the porch on fire one time when I forgot I had pizza boxes in the oven and turned it on. I threw the flaming box onto the wooden porch – oops.

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.

Standing on my deck with the valley and ridge in the background. I used to toss a dog toy down the steep hill and my dog Hades loved to go bashing through the brush to retrieve it.

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.

The east side of the house with the cinder block chimney that caught on fire once because the soot had never been cleaned out. How did the volunteer firefighter put out the blaze? He sprayed an extinguisher into the wood stove, shut the door, and the draft drew it up the chimney. Poof!

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.

The spare room with board and batten walls and stained glass window. There’s a lot in here: a bed in the background, my woodcarving project in the center, paint and a bucket of drywall mud for disguising the plywood walls in the other rooms, and my home office in the foreground.

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.

In front of the barn trying to wrangle my two large, black dogs, Dantes and Hades, into posing for a Christmas card shot.

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.

31 thoughts on “The March of Progress

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  1. It is looking rather exposed, sad that so much of the woodland was cut down. I know I was sorely disappointed when our first home together (a rental) that I loved so much was torn down to build a “Vancouver Special” (as we called them). Some large monstrosity on a tiny lot. I often shake my head at what is considered progress.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Owning that place meant a lot to me. After moving every couple years my whole life, I finally had a home. With a new car, a mortgage, feline and canine dependents – I’d arrived at at last – an “Adult.”

      I’m sure we all have someplace like that that represents a major milestone in our lives.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Enjoyed your post. It reminded me of the Susan Branch book – Martha’s Vineyard – Isle of Dreams, the story of the first house she bought on Martha’s Vineyard. Have you ever read it?

    Liked by 1 person

      1. It’s the second book of a trilogy. After her divorce in the 1980’s she moves from CA to Martha’s Vineyard and buys an old house and fixes it up. I enjoyed it so much I read the first (about growing up in CA) and the third (her trip to England with her husband). She’s the cookbook author from the 80’s/90’s and watercolor artist so it’s like an illustrated journal. The house was basically just four small rooms in need of lots of love, now she lives in a mansion!

        Liked by 1 person

  3. How sad. I know the feeling. My father was an architect and designed the house my family lived in for ten years. After we were all out of the house, my parents moved (my dad designed and built a smaller home for them). About ten years after they moved, my husband and I drove down my old street to see our house, only to find that someone had torn it down and built a garish McMansion instead. 😦

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Aww, your house was cute! Sad to see it unceremoniously torn down. But buying a house with $200 in the bank – I can’t imagine! Last week marked a year since Marcus and I moved into our house, and it was a whole lot more than $200, especially with London property prices being as grotesquely inflated as they are!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Well, the house still stands, but the forest and barn are toast. I was fortunate that it was a buyer’s market here at the time. I had to work my butt off to make several balloon payments and to pay off what I borrowed from Grandma. It was well worth it.

      Liked by 1 person

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