Montana. The word evoked the old west for me. Winchesters, Colts, Buffalo, Antelope, vast hills and plains, mountain streams full of trout. When a client with a small ranch of 1500 acres (yes, the neighbour’s was rumoured to be 50,000 acres) called me for a design for a ranch near Big Timber, I couldn’t wait to take on the project, perhaps having a chance to go there to build it. He chose three of our best 19th century log houses, the ones with the biggest timbers of course. A period hand-hewn barn was also chosen for the attached garage addition. The scope of the project took a few months of planning and drafting and shaped up in so many exciting ways.
Yes, we were to go there with a crew and build it for his family. We sent our tools ahead with the building parts, packed our gear, anticipating an eventful project. Ever hopeful, we took our fishing gear along in case we ever found time. The four of us arrived at O’Hare airport at the terminal ticketed to us. For some unknown reason we were redirected to another gate on the other side of the airport and we were told we were late. So we ran for our lives, carrying lots of gear. Great for my bad knees. We didn’t run fast enough. We missed the plane. The airline put us up so I notified our client of the new arrival time.
The next morning we were met and quartered in a nice motel before driving to the ranch site. I was happy to see the foundation in place as designed so we could begin setting up the log walls right away. The machinery for heavy lifting was a welcome sight too. The off-loading took some time as there were so many parts to become the large ranch house. Besides what seemed to be a forest of logs there were the hand-hewn period beams to carry the second floor, all of the wide pine flooring to lay throughout, the period-style kitchen cupboards we made, even painting them in period colours. The load even contained some 19th century furnishings from our inventory. Of course they chose our Tradition Windows and Doors, custom-fitted to every log opening. A grand country staircase from one of the earliest houses in Ontario would eventually lead to the upper floor.
We were surprised at the changeable weather. It varied from sweltering heat to gale force winds, even snow in the last week there. The house parts went together as planned and everyone seemed proud of the result. Others came in to build the roof and build the fireplaces. I was there just long enough to correct the client’s mason’s mistakes. They wouldn’t have worked at all. We were taken to one of the client’s favourite parks one day. We could see the fish in the clear stream from the ridge above but no, we didn’t have time to make one cast.
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