Chef deserves full credit for the house hunt that ultimately led to our acquisition of the home on the range - he was the one who found it. He’d been driving around the neighborhoods of Whitefish he considered suitable for about nine months before finally spotting a local broker’s for sale sign posted on the street in front of “The One.”
He might’ve been able to find his dream house sooner had we enlisted the house-hunting services of one of the local real estate agents, but my prominent position at the town’s only title office made taking that approach difficult, especially when there were so many pitbulls fighting over the same scraps. The catty fallout from giving the impression that I might be playing favorites with any of the area’s real estate agents I was dependent upon for business just wasn’t worth it. There was no doubt in my mind that the prudent approach in this circumstance was to circumvent any unnecessary big sky drama by finding the house ourselves, and simply contacting the listing agent directly when we were ready to view the property. As snipy as those agents were in the habit of being, there wasn’t one of them who could find fault with that.
The seller of the house we hoped to call home was a retired man in his late 60’s named Sutton. His wife had divorced him about two years earlier after bolting from big sky country with a younger hillbilly buck. It was obvious that Sutton had grown tired of living alone on a property that was too large for one old man to maintain, but it was the need to pay his ex-wife her share of the equity in accordance with the terms of their divorce settlement that really forced the sale.
When our purchase was under contract and put into escrow, Sutton invited us over to the house for a personal tour with the objective of educating us on how to operate and maintain the homestead. This would typically be unheard of in a big city home sale, but in rural Whitefish, it was commonplace. We were stoked, and didn’t waste a second in accepting his offer because we were all about doing anything we could to shorten our learning curve.
Obviously Chef and I had toured the house before making our offer to purchase, but viewing a property with the intent to purchase tends to have an abstract emotional detachment associated with it. For us, that emotional detachment had no choice but to quickly alter into attachment when the reality became hands-on, and that was the minute we pulled into Sutton’s driveway for our new homeowner instruction. With a copy of our home inspection report in hand, we emotionally embraced our new reality with ambitious anticipation.
As far as I was concerned, the inside of Sutton’s ranch house was an old man’s homage to the 1970’s. It was like a time capsule; replete with dark brown hi-lo shag carpet, wood paneled walls, yellow countertops, ugly wallpaper, and heavy orange Aztec print drapes that were always drawn. But I figured all of this was merely aesthetics, and not worth stressing over too much until escrow closed, when the house became officially ours to update.
Unfortunately, the whole décor thing took on a very disturbing dimension for me during that home tour with Sutton when he began to personalize the house by casually dispensing way too much information about his lifestyle for my sensibilities ... thereby reaffirming my belief that sometimes there is no bliss better than ignorance because once known, it cannot be un-known. And because his Suttonisms were intermingled with the important knowledge we were there to acquire, it made it next to impossible to stop listening altogether in case we missed something significant.
Consequently, I silently suffered through the tall tales pouring out of this pot-bellied Moby Dick in overalls who possessed the sensitivities of a caveman as he described for us just how easy it was for him to entice the casino chicks over to his man-cave (and my soon-to-be new home no less). Apparently all he needed to do to hit the jackpot on any given night was to dangle the irresistible amenities of his bachelor pad in front of some lucky lady tipsy enough to take the bait. Each room seemed to have its own salacious anecdote, but the topper was when we got to the large sun room on the east side of house. The sun room was home to the hot tub.
|Hot Tub Sun Room on the right (east) side of the house|
Let me preface this next part by saying, I’m not a big fan of hot tubs, never have been. I’m of the opinion that they’re basically gigantic, gurgling petri dishes, chlorine infusions notwithstanding; and besides, chlorine makes my sensitive skin burn.
When we eventually got around to the sun room, Sutton wanted to show us how efficient the on-demand hot water heater in his walk-out basement was when it came to filling up the hot tub. I was immediately bowled over by the hot, humid wave of chlorinated air that hit me like a wall when I stepped into the sun room. Sutton was already rambling on about the wild hot tub party he had last week while fast at work removing the hot tub’s protective cover in order to show us his fountain of youth percolating underneath. A steam cloud of concentrated chlorine billowed straight up into my eyes when the lid came off, and so it was through watery eyes that the unbidden dream sequence surged forth and did its damage …
... An image flashed before me of old man Sutton lounging naked in the hot tub with his arm around some shriveled big sky mountain mama; half empty wine glasses sitting on the deck behind them. Then I saw the soaking effects of hot, chlorinated water as it violently circulated through the unit’s jets, and exfoliated the dead layers of Sutton’s flaky skin from his body, only to co-mingle with the other body fluids seeping simultaneously into the churning cauldron. I watched the resulting brew of nastiness create a thick, oily film on the surface of the foaming bubbles that had frothed to the top. In horror, I blinked my eyes and snapped to like I was waking up from a horrible nightmare …
There wasn’t enough chlorine in the world to sterilize the ick of that unsolicited vision from my brain, and once the house was ours, I asked Chef to drain the hot tub right away. Draining it wasn’t even enough though; and when I ultimately told Chef I would never, ever use it, he decided to pull it out and sell it. Good riddance.
All procrastination aside, Sutton had too much stuff for one old guy to move, so he couldn’t manage to get himself moved out the house before we arrived with our first truckload. No surprise there, we were half expecting it, but we had people moving into our old house and were on a tight timeline.
In the end, Sutton left a lot of junk behind that we had to pitch for him, nor did he bother to clean up the house before we moved in. I don’t know about anyone else, but I’ve come to believe that household dirt is a personal thing – it’s never disgusting when it’s my dirt and grease, but when it’s someone else’s dirt and grease, it’s gross. And with Sutton, it was extra gross. So before I would let anyone even use a toilet, I put on plastic dish gloves, filled a bucket with some kind of sanitizing Pine-sol mixture, and wiped down everything in that house. And I mean everything.
By the time the sun had set late on moving day, those ugly orange drapes were in a heap on the driveway, and Chef had ripped out a hideous juniper tree in the backyard that had the misfortune of blocking his view of Big Mountain from our living room windows minus those drapes.
The brown hi-lo shag carpet, on the other hand, ended up staying with the house until I left. It didn’t take me too long to realize that it did a phenomenal job of camouflaging the dirt from ten acres, a yellow Lab, two cats and an adolescent daughter with a lot of friends. Replacing the carpet simply kept moving down on the home improvements priority list until it just never got done, at least not by me. That’s OK though, because it was our dirt the carpet was hiding.
Living The Big Sky LifeTM
© by DK King
© by DK King