Randy Tucker: Cutting back

You spend the first half of your life accumulating things, and the second half getting rid of them. That seems to be a pattern with many of us. Even the legendary Robber Barons of the late 19th century found this to be true.

Andrew Carnegie, John D. Rockefeller and even Henry Ford spent much of their final years giving away the vast amounts of the wealth they’d earned as young and middle aged men.

Those thoughts swirled in my head over the last week as a couple of my accumulations became the pride and joy of someone else. In the course of the week we sold a pontoon boat full of memories, a portion of our property we purchased in 2001, that I subsequently built a small house on a few years later and the final thread wasn’t something we owned, but a small section of land I took care of for an aunt since 1995.

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The pontoon came from the mountains west of Denver back in 2009. Our son-in-law Adam helped me pick it up from a cabin on an isolated mountain road at 9,200 feet. Where they used the 24 foot party barge was a mystery to me, but I brought 40 “Ben Franklins” after discovering it on a Craigslist post.

We had the 140 horse Mercury engine rebuilt, and had a major electrical repair done on it over the ensuing 13 years, taking the floating fishing dock (as we slowly transformed it into) on Bass, Boysen and Ocean Lake dozens and dozens of times. Our son Brian added a powerful foot operated trolling motor to the front end. We built some stands, attached pedestals fore and aft and had all kinds of fishing adventures with it.

We took my dad many times. Even though he was in his 80s, he usually caught more largemouths than we did out on Bass Lake. Perched in his pedestal chair on the starboard seat flipping his favorite rubber worm into the shallow water bordered by cattails on the west end of the lake, he had the water boiling with largemouth bass many memorable afternoons.

When dad passed away four years ago, it was different. We only took the boat out two times since 2018, and it just wasn’t the same. It was time for someone else to make memories with it, and the young man with four boys who purchased it will surely be able to make many of their own.

The small house on the far north side of the place was an experiment in low cost construction. Originally I wanted to build a log cabin, but after buying a load of logs from Meeteetse, the lay of the land wasn’t conducive to constructing one. So I began hauling the semi truck load of house logs I’d purchased to my friends Orville and Mary Stevens at Pavillion to cut it into dimensional lumber.

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Add in a little scouring of Craigslist, and the early sales listings on Myspace (remember that one?) and I was able to get engineered joists from outside Cheyenne, windows from Frederick, Colorado, and click and lock flooring from Denver for substantially reduced prices. I built the trusses, and the deck from the rough sawn house log lumber, but had to purchase the sub-floor, plumbing, wiring, gas lines, metal roof, vinyl siding and sheetrock from Bloedorn Lumber.

A trip to Hasco for infiltrators and a septic tank, with leach field construction, followed by inspection by the county and by the summer of 2010, Brian was able to move into the 1200 square foot New England saltbox style house. The “Walden’s Pond” style experiment led to a house built for only $28 per square foot, a bargain by today’s standards.

We squeezed it into the surrounding cottonwood trees, with the deck cut around a few to allow them to grow .We had to cut one of them down a few years later when the wind ripped a big section out of the top. Our friend clay laid down the giant cottonwood with ease

We sold the place last fall, and the friendly couple who purchased it paid it off in full last week. Good luck to them on their new adventure.

That leaves the bottom section of our place at the corner of Gasser Road and North 8th West, a 2.4 acre parcel that I first encountered almost six decades ago.

It belongs for a few more weeks to my Aunt Ruth in California. She always wanted a piece of Wyoming, but her sons decided it was time to sell.

That little section had the northeast corner filled with cattails and standing water about the size of the Riverton swimming pool, maybe three feet deep and filled with minnows when I was a little kid. Yes, the ground is wet, saturated in fact. Over the years as we’ve repaired the fence we hit water at less than a foot deep everywhere on it.

In an effort to dry out the heavy, sodden alkali soil I planted Garrison Foxtail over a decade ago. This water draining marvel slowly changed the grass from that nasty barley foxtail that’s so dangerous to horses and cattle, to Garrison, a special water soaking grass with black seeds on a four foot stem that converted the upper eight inches to usable pasture.

You still don’t want to drive on it, dig into it or work it in any way since that muck is waiting just a foot or so below the surface. One memorable day a flatbed loaded with hay tried to turn around down there. Two tractors, a backhoe and a few chains later, we were able to drag it out of the slick, organic ooze. I waited until October, the driest part of the year, to blade the ruts closed with my lightweight Ford 2N. Any of our full sized tractors would have ended in another chained rescue.

For 27 years I took care of Aunt Ruth’s property, building fences, treating weeds and practicing a little horticulture in an effort to turn it into productive land. It is now productive, horses love Garrison Foxtail, and will make whoever purchases the property a great place to pasture horses, cattle or anything else that doesn’t require construction.

As a kid the south fence was lined with cattails halfway from North 8th to our house along the old gravel surface of Gasser Road. I remember snipping those cattails for projects with grandma and grandpa Gasser. The gravel and the cattails are gone, but the memories, and the water that destroyed all those fence posts over the years still remain.

I hope the new owners enjoy my aunt’s little piece of Wyoming as much as she did.

That’s it, a boat, and a couple of sections of land. Nothing much has really changed with the productive areas of our property, but the memories are all that will remain of these departed items.

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