Gail and Denvy
45 Years and Counting
Year Nine- 1978
 



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The First Remote Winter

     The first miracle of the first of the first winter in Trapper Creek, eighty miles from a grocery store and a hundred and twenty from the airport, was the wood stove. A couple of friendly neighbors had helped move the stove into the house the weekend after the roof was installed on a very rainy day. The quality of the wood the first winter varied but with good hardwood birch the fire glowed all night and ignited quickly in the morning with some fresh wood.
     Another miracle were the neighbors. Indeed, that's one of the reasons why small communities are a value for raising a family. Many people simply walked up to the door, or the blanket that covered the doorway, introduced themselves and welcomed us to the neighborhood. Some neighbors were from among the original homesteaders of 1959, just 18 years earlier, others came to farm, log, or experience the wilderness. Gail and Denvy found a number of couples their same age with children the same age. Most of these couples were college graduates and many had advanced degrees. One night they gathered to just discuss Shakespeare.


Building Continues

     By spring the house had windows and one finished door. A plan was laid out for a toy store and shop next to the house with a covered roof between the buildings. The foundation was concrete pyramid shaped plinths using sand and gravel scrounged from the highway ditches. The floor frame was hand hewn logs and the frame was rough cut two by sixes and finished with mismatched discarded wood paneling. The shop had a dirt floor and many of the first tools were handmade. The army barracks tent which had served as a shop and storage for the winter, and had collapsed under the weight of the snow was retired for later use.
     The tools and dust moved out of the back room of the house, and the toys were displayed on shelves in the store. Gone were the days when one might come home in the evening to find the plastic window blown out and ducking under blanket doors. A neighbor had an eloquent coal stove that was put in the store but never used. Customers only came during the summer. The business was very seasonal.


And Continues

     During that first winter, Denvy and Gail attended a church service down the road which was literally in the minister's unfinished rustic home. It was similar to their own. There they met new friends. About midwinter they heard that there were some horses stranded up in the hills with no feed. We offered to walk them out the 12 or so miles.
     It was a sunny cold day when he climbed on the back of some friends' snowmobiles and headed up Petersville Road. The young teenage daughter of the owner of the horses went with us. The troopers had gone in the day before and made arrangements so that we would not be shot. Negotiations went well and we started back through waist deep snow. Walking on the hardened snowmobile trail we stayed on top but the horses broke through to their bellies. We didn't understand "horse language" but we knew that they were comparing the trek to the journey of the Israelites coming out of Egypt. "Why are you taking us out here to die when we could have died back there in the barn?"
     Ultimately the party made in back, in part by riding one horse on the hard-packed road. Of the three horses, a neighbor took one, we sold one and the last, a beautiful pinto we kept. Denvy's uncle in North Dakota mailed some tack and harnesses which were oversized having fit large draft horses on the farm.
     Denvy and Gail bought a load of hay for the horse, which introduced dandelions into the yard, the pasture and ultimately the neighborhood.
The bales were stacked in such a way that they formed a small barn. This warm cuddly hole housed the first chickens and goats which they discovered down the road and bought. Hutches were built and rabbits were purchased from a neighbor. The animal side of the farm was started. What more could you want: chickens for meat and eggs, goats for milk and meat, rabbits for meat and a horse for working the fields. Life was good.


Spring Comes Late

     Spring came and the yard got the next attention. Rough sawn planks were purchased to contain the soil for a partially submerged greenhouse. A neighbor whose only way of getting around was on his tractor tilled a garden plot. The soil was red and of poor quality. It would be years before the garden was rich and fertile but with the help of the animals, fertility was on its way.
     The stage was set: a warm house, food from the land, a small business for cash flow and good friends and neighbors. Life was good. The ninth anniversary was spend in their new home, a home distinctly their own.