Little guy on the block

“Don’t be a fool,” my big city friend barked through the phone. “Only a sucker sells at the bottom of the market so he can move into a smaller house.”

I wanted to rise to my own defense, offer up the big is less-than-beautiful argument and explain that we were swimming in our old 2,400-square foot home. But he wasn’t listening. “Your old place was small enough,” the DC dweller added. “You need a place where you can stretch out and taste a little comfort … The last time we visited it felt like the walls were closing in.”

I tried to explain that we were tired of shutting down the drafty east wing when winter arrived; done with shelling out hundreds every time the heating bill arrived; and weary of shoveling 100 yards of driveway. I wanted to describe the empty hot tub that hadn’t run since W’s first term and share the fact that my 7-year-old daughter had outgrown her playroom (a small third story that had been set up as a “gun room” by the prior owners). But arguing with East Coasters has never been my forte.

“A man’s home is his castle,” the hedge fund manager added. “If you do this, and I know you will, you’ll be turning your back on the American dream.”

I wished he could see photos of our guest room – a vacant space my mother-in-law had claimed courtesy of squatter’s rights – and relate the day she remodeled the space with lavish decorations, filled the closet with her winter clothing and made it her own home away from home. I longed to regale him with stories of the pair of his/hers packrats (one of which sported lovely chocolate spots) that snuck in through my old stone house’s porous walls. The two animals had proven so difficult to exterminate that we adopted them as de facto pets and turned the other cheek when they occupied dear old mum’s suite during her off months.

But Mr. Beltway wouldn’t hear any of it. “Go ahead,” he said sharply. “Throw away your equity and give up a piece of paradise. Just don’t hold your breath for my visit.”

I hung up, promptly exhaled and reminded myself not to call anyone East of the Mississippi for at least a few days. I also loaded a final cardboard box into the pickup and bid my old castle a fond farewell.

I’m happy to report that I lost more than 1,000 square feet on that day roughly 10 blissful months ago. Gone were the two-car garage, the double-ovens and the giant fireplace that never quite cut the chill. Forever lost were the dog wash we never used and the brass-footed clawfoot tub we big dogs never bothered to enter. Gone also was the bizarre assortment of knick-knacks that had found their way into the pad. “Nature abhors a vacuum” as they say, and my mini-trophy was desperate to be filled. And so it was that everything from a vintage bull whip (gifted to my wife by the grandmother-in-law) to precious Piranha and Yeti bike paraphernalia found its way to the Bondad landfill. They say three moves equal a house fire – we managed it in one.

In exchange, we scored a tight, newer build with postcard views and tropical southern exposure. The Sands three (my wife, daughter and I) are now happily inhabiting two modest bedrooms and relieving ourselves in one and a half bathrooms. An office, kitchen/bar and living room round out the casita, which sports more outside deck than indoor living area.

The move also enabled us to put a few words into action. The first priority was taking some of the proceeds from the sale of little Camelot and plopping a solar array on top of our new digs. It’s not the biggest line of photovoltaic panels in the county, but after swapping a few CFLs and LEDs into the sockets, our electric bill magically went away.

Even though my friend, the hedge hog, refuses to visit, we remodeled an outbuilding into guest quarters complete with tongue-and-groove and drop-dead views of Animas Mountain and Barn Roof Point. And I may be proudest of my luxuriant new “lawn,” a small patch of scrub that would fit comfortably inside the bed of a Dodge Power Ram. Ye olde gas-powered mower is off somewhere trimming greener acres and definitely not missed. Instead, the property is overflowing with vegetable gardens, orchards and flower beds packed with native perennials. More than a dozen sandstone-studded acres serve as the new backyard, abutting a length of public land that stretches interrupted as far as Red Mountain Pass.

So go ahead. Call me un-American. But after 10 months, the new spread already feels cozier than my favorite pair of Carhartts. And we’re not looking back – even if dear old mum has to boost Durango’s lodging tax on her next visit and that pair of packrats is being enjoyed by owners more worthy than ourselves.

Though I don’t expect to hear from my old college chum anytime soon, the invitation is always open. The new walls will most certainly close in on him, but this fool is also enjoying the last laugh.

– Will Sands



In this week's issue...

January 25, 2024
Bagging it

State plastic bag ban is in full effect, but enforcement varies

January 26, 2024
Paper chase

The Sneer is back – and no we’re not talking about Billy Idol’s comeback tour.

January 11, 2024
High and dry

New state climate report projects continued warming, declining streamflows