We flew to Idaho on a Thursday the 9th day of August, and checked into a hotel in Pullman. The following morning, and Rick’s birthday, we met a realtor at the property. It felt wonderful to be back in North Idaho - the dry air with the sweet fragrance of pine. That time of year the wheat fields were golden and dry. The day we visited the farm the weather was very hot, in the low 100’s.
We started the tour by walking the circumference of the pond. We started out from the barn. I climbed up the ladder that was leaning up into the upper level of the barn, and took in the large expanse. The floor felt unstable under me, so I climbed back down. On our way to the water we could see various farm equipment scattered about. A graveyard of obsolete machinery, it was interesting to see the progression of time through the scraps of metal left behind. We headed down to the lower end of the pond and took in the view. It spread out before us, willow trees on both sides.
We continued up the Northern side and we caught a glimpse of an owl in flight. Through the willow branches in their haphazard growth, we could see several large hornet’s nests. The grey masses hung like dark lanterns from the tangle of branches, and we moved along quickly. As we rounded the Southern tip of the pond we flushed up dozens of Canada geese, they honked their loud disapproval of our trespass. The mallard ducks, less annoyed by our presence, or at least quieter in their disapproval, also took flight. The geese made a large arc through the sky, honking all the while, before landing at the far end of the pond from where we had just come. By the time we reached the house I was hot and flushed, my body not used to the dry heat.
We went inside the farmhouse for a break from the sun and to take a glass of water. I could see there was someone living in the house, though most of the rooms were partially cleared of furniture. Only a bed and dresser were left in the bedroom downstairs. Upstairs, the rooms were scattered with miscellaneous junk. The bedroom at the back of the house was wallpapered with a charming flowering dogwood pattern. The wallpaper in the upstairs hall was peeling in places. I lifted a corner and was delighted to see shiplap.
After looking around for a bit we sat at the table and talked with the realtor. I told her that I really wanted to meet with the owner, Maxine. She was a lively 91 year old woman, who, we later learned from her nephew, had moved into the house in the 1950’s. She and her husband had purchased the property from her father-in-law. The property had been in the family since they had purchased the homestead from a developer in the 1930’s.
We made a request for the possibility of a meeting with the owner and she said, “If you make an honest offer on the property, I will see if I can arrange a meeting”. That left us about 5 minutes to decide on the spot if we wanted to make an offer. We both felt that the possibility of us actually seeing this to the end of an accepted offer, and an approved loan from the mortgage company, was a long shot. So, again, we said, ‘Why not?’ We just kept offering it up to the Lord, putting it, and ourselves in His hands. We agreed to drive back to Moscow and meet at her office to write up an offer.
The realtor called us that evening, saying that the owner had agreed to meet us the next morning at 11:00. We got a late start from the hotel and a quick breakfast, but I was determined to find flowers for Maxine. We arrived after frantically racing through the Farmer’s Market looking for fresh cut flowers. We were introduced to Maxine, her nephew Don, and his wife Charlotte. They were attractive people. Even Maxine at 91 was adorable. She had on a pink floral print snap up shirt, and the pink of the flowers matched the rose in her cheeks. Don was in his 70’s. His hands were large and strong, slightly crooked from arthritis. I could see that these were working hands. He was handsome, his skin weathered by his days in the dry Idaho sun. A large handle bar mustache gave him the appearance of a rugged ranch man.
We enjoyed meeting them very much. Don had a great way with words and I could see quickly that he was a charming man, and he loved to talk. We learned about the farm, the family, his time spent there as a boy. We learned of his studies to become a doctor, his work ethic, his early retirement, and, like us, his love of the Palouse and the farm life. Maxine piped up a few times. She told us that she and the family were having a hard time letting go of the homestead. With those words, I cried, told her I understood. She remembered all the years of hard work that she, and her family, poured into the place. I could tell that they wanted it to go to folks that would love it, and tend to it, as much as they had. Maxine said “It was a lot of hard work, but it was a good life”.
As we prepared to return to Seattle, on that Saturday morning, we felt this was one more step toward the possibility of seeing a dream realized. Our offer would be presented to them for discussion on Monday the next week. Those two days were long ones for us. I struggled to surrender to the higher will, to not obsess over what I could not control, and to trust that all things were in divine order for us. Late evening on Monday we finally heard back, the family had accepted our offer. We were overjoyed. Now, inspections and appraisals would be ordered.
A few weeks later we received documents from the inspector. He found a house that had been in disrepair for quite some time. He documented leaking plumbing, open vents under the crawl space, bat occupation in the attic, possible leaks on the roof line, rotten wood in the bathroom walls…. These were items that were not too surprising, but would be a financial weight on us, apart from our mortgage payments. We discussed with the realtor our desire to ask the owner to grant us a deduction of $15,000 on the offered price, and an additional 20 feet of property line adjustment on the portion of the property where the house fronted an active farm field.
Several days later we got word that they had accepted our adjustment requests.