Remembering the Ranchhouse

We recently got some sad news that the house in Toledo, WA where Tim grew up had a fire.  It's brought up a lot of emotion for him and his siblings.  Truth be told, I've only seen the house from the road but when I heard the news, it made me tear up.  The place where we grow up is always going to be special.  It's always going to be the thing that starts new and old conversations,  it's the place that has helped to mold you into the person you are today- the good, the bad, the ugly - but most of all the LOVE.  Tim was heading to college when they sold this house.  The new owners did not live in it the way the Dugaws did.  Read on, this is a little something Dianne, Tim's oldest sister, wrote on her last visit, see what it is they have experienced from living in this place they use to call home.  Lewis County Sirens 


           A long time later—years and years and years.  Looking across the big field from the churchyard, you see the ranch house nestled on the brow of the hill.  Apple and pear trees surround it in a gnarly herd like they have from the beginning when the house went up.  Mom’s dream house in the open space in the middle of an orchard planted by the mission fathers a century before.

Before the house was there, after Daddy bought the orchard land and the field below with the creek running down to the giant oak at the bottom, you all looked forward to the building of the ranchhouse and visited the orchard and the hill and the fields.  You rode bikes there when the road went in; flew kites in the big field; picked the wrinkled little apples that seemed to come on old every year like apple-ancestors.  The grasses were tall for tramping through with the dogs and the kites that Daddy folded from pages of newspaper comics.  Sometimes you rode Sheba there, under the trees in the late summer where she found apples to eat; you coaxed her down to the lower field and loped around in the waving grass, then gave her her head to munch the stalks, nuzzle and sniff around for the green and goldish bits that interested her.

The pheasants liked it there in the flatland below, especially the field that stretches over to the church, with its scattering of piney brush here and there going across the way and up the hill toward the red barn.  Mornings and evenings were grouse and pheasant times.  Walk through slowly and quietly.  See if they bustle away in a throng or whizz off across the sprig tops and tassels of grass.

Now you drive up the roadway that is still there but growing over with grass more and more every day.  Past the graceful birches leaning together as the hill takes its shape up ahead.  The white bark angles up the trunks as they cluster together, then wing out.  Leafy branches droop and sweep down—rustle, rustle, rustle in the wind.

Go all the way up to the top.  The house is there, but shabby and broken and silent in the grey light.  The buyers lived there a while, let it fall to pieces, went off and left.  Now brambles and blackberries cover the second-floor deck that extends around two sides and the whole front.  It’s all caving in now, falling down, leaning over, parts of it lost in the covering brush.

The wind whistles—comes in sharp angles over the house as it makes its way through the old apple trees that surround.  You look in.   Recognize cupboards, windows, shelves, the colors of carpet tatters, the stones of the fireplace.  Hear conversations and dishes, picture a sofa with pillows, a rocking chair long gone.

The poor house is empty except for random scraps of trash.  Is the house thinking  back with you?  Listening for the voices and laughter of children screaming and arguing and playing?  And busy grownups?  Sounds of a sewing machine or a refrigerator door or “I’m Getting Married in the Morning” on a record player or a piano?

Momma died thinking that the house was about to be reclaimed and rebuilt and reloved and renewed.  It made her so happy.  But the deal fell through.  No way it could pass the codes, they said.

Maybe something will happen yet—some sweet, house-merciful miracle.

Meanwhile, pheasant families may still live there in the fields below.  Apples still fall for someone to eat.  Maybe the deer.

Written by | Dianne Dugaw