Renting Grandmas House
Most ranches have a couple of houses and the Graham Ranch is no exception.
When our family moved to the ranch, we used Grandma’s House for storage. That seemed like a poor use for the rustic home built in 1906 and full of heritage and personality.
So for 10 years, I worked off and on to fix it up. Finally last summer, I bit the bullet, did some major repairs and put it on Airbnb.
Grandma’s House is not for everyone. The driveway is a bit rough. You need 4-wheel-drive in the wintertime. The original wallpaper is quaint, with a few tears that I glued back up. I like the original wallpaper so I would rather repair than replace.
The bathroom is tiny, but functional. It has one propane heater for the entire house. That is enough to keep the large rooms warm. The wavy glass in the south-facing windows offer wide-open spaces from the comfort of the living room. The porch begs for a rocking chair occupant to behold the wintertime afternoon glow.
So last November, when I got a note from a man in South Carolina who saw Grandma’s House on Airbnb and wanted to rent it for a few months beginning in January, I was a bit surprised.
South Carolina? In Montana in January?
He assured me he could handle the cold. He had spent time in Saskatchewan and knew what cold is.
Grandma’s House needed new wiring. A friend went to work on standardizing the wiring and added some outlets.
I didn’t think lathe and plaster would hold the heat in efficiently so a friend helped me blow 15 inches of fiberglass into the attic. Temperatures that work day hovered below zero. We found that no matter how much insulation a person uses, blowing it into the attic does not require enough movement to stay warm.
I wrapped the pipes and plugged the holes in the cellar just before Mr. South Carolina was due to show up.
His text message asked when he should plan to arrive.
“I’m usually done checking the heifers in the pasture by 10, but let’s make it noon just in case,” I replied.
At 11:55, I happened to be at the barn because the ‘just in case’ had occurred. A heifer needed help and I had just spent two and a half hours encouraging her to head toward the corral. We had dived through snow drifts, trotted along pasture ridges and jumped creeks just like long-form synchronized dancers. All of us – the heifer, the horse and myself – were exhausted by the time she found herself in the chute with a calf-puller behind her.
The calf shook his head as he hit the straw I had laid below him. I cleared mucus from his nose and looked up to see a truck pulling through the ranch gate.
It had snowed the day before so my driveway is not obvious. In fact, it really is not even visible.
I didn’t think it was fair to expect a stranger to find his way a half mile from the ranch gate to Grandma’s House so I jumped in my 1987 red Ford to go meet him.
I pulled up to his almost new Chevy. His eyes were wide.
“Nice truck,” he uttered.
“My husband, Steve, parked backwards a few years ago and a gust of wind came up and blew the door off. I find it handy now. I can just get in and out whenever I want,” I explained.
I was proud of myself that I included the hint about the wind without insulting my potential renter. Usually, I am not that subtle.
“Steve died in October,” I added.
I looked down at my jeans and picked off a slimy piece of calf afterbirth. I didn’t bother trying to remove what was on my vest.
His eyes followed my hands.
“If a woman pulled into my driveway in a truck like that, I’d know she was made of a different cloth,” he said.
“Yep. And it’s darned scratchy.” So much for subtlety.
I led him across my brand new bridge and up the slippery hill to Grandma’s House. I showed him the heater and the bathroom while we chatted about guns and hunting. I refrained from asking if his feet were cold in those thin boots.
The next day, I received a text from him. He had rented another place.
Like I said, Grandma’s House isn’t for everybody.