Please note update at the bottom.
No deadlines looming. Recently deceased leaves raked and hauled away. Drop-dead gorgeous blue skies. No clouds. Greenhorn Mountain, two-tone with fresh, white snow cape and newly- washed deep green tree base ('cept for that ugly scab just above the subdivision). A day, fit for adventure and the freedom to make it whatever I chose.
So, I put Kiwi in the house, stuffed a pad and pen in my pocket and promised her I'd be back soon. I drove past the police road block to Baldy Road and hit Boyer in time to wait for a train. Once the UP had passed, I drove a couple of more blocks and pulled into the old LP Mill site (Hedlund for the oldtimers; Balch, for the Extreme oldtimers). A security man told me where to park and where to stand to catch the bus to the Extreme Home Makeover site.
As I walked across the huge cement expanse, still covered with hundreds of stray nails from last year's mill dismantling, I was struck by the beauty of my old Lincoln School standing proudly with the snow-covered mountain mass as its backdrop. Once more, I felt happy that at least one of Sandpoint's old relics has managed to survive our town's makeover.
Three Schweitzer buses run every twenty minutes to and from the construction site where the Extreme Makeover crew is building a fancy new house for a bachelor named Eric who stepped up to take his niece and nephew when their mother died. The house is located on a spur road off Baldy near the old Healea place.
One would never know it's there, but now that brand new roads have been built across Travis Kaul's field for this production, and hundreds of volunteers/spectators like me have tramped the ground, everyone locally will know about what will soon be the most famous home in Sandpoint. Good bye Mark Fuhrman, hello, Eric Hebert.
My bus ride to the site was fun in that I met the Klopmans from Gold Creek (Rebeca, Bailee, Breann and Aimee). They've watched the Sunday night series since it began, so mother Aimee decided her daughters should see this "once in a lifetime" event. Somebody in the family played hookey, but I'm not telling.
Along with the Klopmans, I also had a nice visit with my former student Donna Johnson Roundy and her son Zak who's 12 today. Zak was hoping to volunteer as video-game expert, should the crew need some advice on what to put in the young boy's room. About half a dozen other volunteers (they're the ones in blue T-shirts and white hard hats; yellow hats come from Sullivan Home Builders in Spokane) rode with us.
While we chatted, our bus driver, Jackie Riggs, drove us to the site but not without sitting for yet another train, blocking the Baldy tracks. Once there, we were free to stay as long as we wished. Word on the new dirt road was that demolition (set for 9 a.m.) would occur at any minute. This was 10 a.m., and someone was in a Bestway Tree Service bucket limbing a tree, which would be felled and then used to demolish the house.
Approximately 200 lively people were there having a great time. I ran into Jeri and Julie Meneely near the honeybuckets. They were wearing the volunteer uniform. I asked them what they were doing and never really got an answer. In fact, I asked that same question of several people in the uniforms and still don't know what they're doing. I do know that some of the volunteers had a small orange football. They played several quarters in the big field while we stood waiting for the tree to come down. Every so often security guards ordered us to move as if the tree were about to fall, but nothing would happen.
It was definitely a carnival atmosphere. One lady (whom I don't know) came over to where I was standing and gave me a big, familiar hug. Then, she pulled out pictures of her chickens, her guinea pig, her dogs and her cats. She was circulating among the onlookers, showing these pictures and informing everyone that she had applied for a Makeover house and that she took in animals nobody else wanted. I guess that was her M.O. Then, she told anyone that would listen that she had no bedrooms in her house and that the couch had to suffice for sleeping. It was really kind of sad.
I'm also aware there was a "medium" who circulating among the crowd. She was hoping the KXLY crew would feature her on-site interview on one of its upcoming shows. I don't know if she was gonna talk medium stuff to the TV reporter. Maybe someone who watches the TV coverage can report back.
Ran into some more former students who pointed just past the house toward the trees to show me how close some neighbors lived to all this action. I asked how they liked the excitement and was told that they'll be glad when it ends. Heard that from some others who live close by also; but that still doesn't minimize the excitement which kept the crowd standing, waiting, and watching for anything to happen. Occasionally, we'd hear a chainsaw fire up, but only for a few seconds.
As my toes turned numb, I heard one guy on a piece of heavy equipment yell out, "Take that tree down." Also, heard a lot of comments suggesting that they certainly didn't have any North Idaho loggers on hand, or that tree would have been gone hours ago. But, this is a television show, and this is theatrics, so trees will fall when Cut 1, Cut 2, and Cut 3 indicate it's finally time to film the real thing.
I knew Kiwi was back in the house, probably chewing up the TV remote or even one of my shoes. After all, I'd lied to her and had been gone two hours. Plus, my third toe on my left foot had lost all feeling, so I boarded the bus and had a nice visit with a sweet Italian lady named Maria Rosario on the trip back. We did wait for two more trains before returning to the mill site.
All in all, I was impressed with the organization of the bus crew. I'm not so sure about the demolition crew, though. Apparently the tree has fallen, and the house is gone, ready for the new to begin appearing today. I'll have to go back. This time I might just take Kiwi along to warm my toes, save my shoes and add to the atmosphere.
Special note: A family in Westmond lost its home yesterday when it caught on fire. Jodi Greve, the mother, has worked for the Sandpoint Chamber of Commerce and now works for Mike Wolcott at Inland Forest Management in Sandpoint. She has two sons, ages 14 and 6. A fund has been established at Panhandle State Bank under the names Jodi Greve and Cody Likkel (her fiancee).
I know, from experience, this family will appreciate help at this time. If you wish to help out somehow, call Mike at 263-9420. If you have items (furniture, clothes, dishes, etc.) to donate, you can call Kay Short at 208-610-3993.
I'll provide more information as I receive it, and if you'll pass along the word of this need to everyone you know, that would be great.