Chugiak House

Would you believe this guy if he told you he’d found a great house on eight acres, close in to Anchorage and all for only $25 bucks a month??

Yah, neither would I… if my head was on straight.

But it wasn’t.

So I did.

I’m sure you’re wondering …what kind of house do you get for $25 a month?

We’d been renting a beautiful, A-frame log home in the woods outside Wasilla, Alaska.  At that point in time (pre-Palin) almost everything in and around Wasilla was woods.  I loved that house and wanted it so bad.  It wasn’t to be.  It had been sold and we needed to move soon.  So Doug did what Doug does best and found the perfect solution….if you’re a miner or a trapper.

There are no words to describe my first impression of this place.  None.  The landlord was an elderly man who lived in Anchorage.  He built the original portion of the house as a homesteader a gazillion years earlier. 

The house had been abandoned and become a playground for teens looking for a place to drink.  People used it as a dumping ground, inside and outside.  And, we were told, a bank robber hid there a few years earlier.  I was slightly intrigued to think there might still be a bag of money laying around.

The owner was happy to rent it for the cost of property taxes just so someone would be there to keep the “varmints” out.  He gave us free rein of the place with the understanding that anything we did was on our own dime.  We spent a lot of dimes.

My father-in-law, an electrician, was in town after a stint working at Prudhoe Bay.  He offered to stick around and help make the place livable.  That was the one thing that made the ordeal bearable …I knew Cliff would make it all better… or possibly convince his son this move was craziness.

Now for the house itself… someone had torn down the sheet rock from the living room ceiling.  Many of the walls had never been sheet rocked in the first place.  Every window in the tiny two-story was broken.  We hauled 10 pick-up truck loads of garbage out of the house before we could even start cleaning.  And I lost count completely of the loads of garbage taken out of the yard.  It put a whole new spin on the word disgusting.

I kept inspired by the thought of finding that bag of money…but all we found was more garbage and a Rolex watch that had been tucked under some insulation.  Doug still has it by the way.

Cliff checked out all the electrical, we scrubbed and painted and hung glass in old single pane windows.  Inexpensive floor coverings went down and at some point my mother-in-law arrived.  She made sure I had a decent stove and refrigerator.  I don’t know what we would have done without their help and will always be grateful for them.

The original house footprint was a small kitchen and living room downstairs…two small bedrooms upstairs…and an outhouse.  Thankfully (whew!), at some point part of the kitchen was closed off and an indoor bathroom added.  I’m not sure what they were thinking, but they installed a small water heater inside the bathroom wall.  Odd placement.  There was a small hatch you could open to reach the heater controls, but you couldn’t access it otherwise.  This is crucial info to remember for a future story.

Finally, a car port, mudroom and a one story bedroom had been added to the front of the house.  But the bedroom wasn’t usable.  There was a huge hole where the floor was rotting away from the wall and it looked like someone tried to beat it open with a sledge-hammer.  The hole conveniently served as a pet door for wild critters…as in porcupine.  We patched the hole as best we could and used the room for storage.  It was just off the kitchen so I kept the door closed, barricaded and prayed every night no creeping thing would find its way into the house. 

Oh, and it was a tar paper house…could it get any better??  Well, there had been siding, but someone stole it.  With no money left to fix the outside, we swallowed…..ok, I swallowed my pride and we settled down to life in a tar paper house in Chugiak, Alaska. 

It was now early fall.  The air was crispy and my in-laws boarded a plane for home.  Doug got work on an oil rig.  Winter was moving in fast.  I was alone with my two little boys in the tar paper house.  We would meet Fred soon.

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