Ranch Views From A Town Girl: Ranch Houses

New and Old Houses, circa 1910. Photo courtesy of the Moen Family.

Cathy Worthington Moen

Our first home on the ranch was a 40-year old well-used trailer house that was home to my in-laws for 30 years before they moved into what is referred to as the “New House.” Mark lived in the New House before we were married, but to clarify, the New House is actually a two-story ranch house built in 1891.  It didn’t have central heat, running water, or an indoor bathroom, which is probably why Mark’s mom chose to live in the trailer house for 30 years. Mark’s relatives built the house with timber and rocks harvested from the ranch. His grandparents and great grandparents along with an assortment of other relatives lived in the New House and sometimes they were all living in the house at the same time. The second story was never completed, and Mark thinks it’s because they didn’t want to encourage more relatives moving in. The original old ranch house is still (barely) standing behind the New House and is referred to as, surprisingly, the “Old House.” Mark’s relatives continued to use the Old House as a cookhouse for a time after the New House was built to keep the New House smelling new. His grandmother lived in the New House until she was 100 years old at which time, she was moved to a nursing home in town. According to Mark, she may have lived longer if it weren’t for town comforts. She sounds like one tough lady, but he believes it was the central heating and air that finally did her in at 104. I beg to differ.

Old Trailer House. Photos courtesy of the Moen Family.

Mark added a bathroom to the New House when he lived in it, probably hoping to lure a wife to the ranch. His fiancé, however, wasn’t having it and insisted on living in town despite the new plumbing. No one was happier about that decision than my patient mother-in-law who had waited decades to get out of that trailer. I think she was packing boxes ten minutes after we said, “I do.” She practically made the move by herself as my father-in-law was in no hurry to relocate. When the only thing remaining in the old trailer was his recliner, he decided to move too.

Mark was not happy about his move from the New House to a town house, but we compromised and leased a ten-acre property on the edge of town so we’d all be happy. It worked perfectly for about two years until our landlord died unexpectedly. Unfortunately, our lease was just a handshake his widow didn’t recognize, so she evicted us with about five-minutes notice. Through our rushed home search, we learned Mark would never fit into most neighborhoods. He was introduced to covenants and HOAs and learned that most didn’t allow 40-foot flatbed trailers and semi-trucks as lawn ornaments. Most were fairly narrow minded about livestock in the backyard and free-roaming cats terrorizing small wildlife and unrestrained dogs digging up gardens. They especially frowned upon shooting skunks and coyotes from the front porch in one’s underwear. Although I was on board with the HOA rules, Mark, never one to be guided by anyone’s rules finally said “no more” to town living. Unless I wanted to be homeless in the middle of winter, I was forced to move to the covenant-free ranch and into the old, now abandoned, trailer house. I can’t tell you how disappointing it was for the mice when we brought our cats with us.

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