We’re house shopping, planning on a return to BC, the Province to the west of us, in the New Year. Our settled destination is at the head of the Columbia Valley, a small town in the mountains called Golden. I’d rather be farther south, but Golden is a convenient three hour drive from Calgary on Canada’s only major east-west highway, so Golden it is.
I make a daily visit to the real-estate listing site to see if any new listings have shown up, as the pickings are slim in our price range. Today for some reason the site went berserk and interpreted my “Golden” request loosely, and showed me offerings within 100 miles or so. Believe me, it didn’t expand the list all that much. This country is pretty thinly populated.
But one of the first houses on the list caught my eye because it looked very familiar. The address was 120 km (75 miles) down the Valley in Invermere, a village we lived in some 40 years ago. But, looking on Google Street View, the house was not at the address listed. Favourite realtor's trick, wrong address. If you want to see the house you have to come to the office.
It’s an old house, built in the 40’s, and it’s on a five acre property surrounded by lush greenery. The inside is wrecked. The walls are vandalized, furniture is overturned, looks as if it’s been used as a squat. Still, looking at the pictures I have a sense of recognition, even of the outbuildings, the little log cabin and chicken coop on the property, and I keep coming back and looking at that darn house.
The price is ridiculously low, this much property should be five or six times the asking price. It must be going for back taxes. And while the house is in rough cosmetic shape, and will have to be completely rebuilt from the outside walls, there is no apparent water damage, and in the basement the subfloor is composed of huge peeled pine logs 16” in diameter, with the sawn-off branches still butting an inch or two from the timber.
I am puzzled. Golden is at the Northern, wet, end of the Columbia Valley. The farther south you go down the Valley the drier it becomes. By the time you reach Invermere, where the agent says this house is located, you have reached high desert. The pines are widely spaced and grass ekes out a starvation existence on gravel moraines dumped there by glaciers. This house is surrounded by thick, fat pines and lush undergrowth. And then I look at the background of the photo the mountain looming behind.
And I know where it is. In the early-mid 1970s we lived a few miles from the tiny not-even-wide-spot-in-the-road hamlet called Spillamacheen, BC on an 18 acre farmstead which overlooked the Columbia River and the Purcell Mountains. If Heaven was ever dropped on earth it was here for me.
Every few days I’d get in our van and drive over to Spillamacheen to pick up the mail. The postmistress was Francis Dunn, a middle-aged single lady who lived with her widowed mother in the house her father had built when Francis was a girl. The post office was a square building, maybe 16 feet on a side, with a peaked roof. Down the road was the General Store and Gas Station, which comprised the “business district”. Just beyond the Gas Station was Mary Yadernuk’s gate, and her expansive meadow dotted with grazing sheep. Aside from a half dozen houses grouped loosely around the post office and gas station there was nothing more to Spilly.
But the house. I was talking about the house, because it’s Francis Dunn’s house. Or was. The post office closed many years ago. I don’t know if Francis went elsewhere, or if she stayed on. She and her mother had a huge vegetable garden, and they raised wonderful flowers. I was there many times because we became friends. They were lovely ladies.
It’s too far from Golden for us to buy. Right now I’m in the third day of “recovery” after a full afternoon out, as we had a medical appointment across town, went out for a late lunch, and then Ian took me grocery shopping. Having to make 120 km trip to go grocery shopping every week would kill me. Yet I would love to go back there, to the view, to the place. But then again, it's just a view. I might just be going back to a terrible sense of loss, since everyone who was dear to me there, especially Mary, is now gone.
There's not "there" any more.