Monday, June 27, 2016

That House in Milltown: 1989

My wife and I considered buying a house when we lived in Missoula. We were newly married--childless--and both attending school at the University of Montana. I had never owned a house. My wife had owned her half of a duplex in Champaign when I met her, but she sold it when we moved out west.

We had lived in a cabin in the Bitterroots--outside Stevensville--when we first moved to the area and that was for sale, but we wanted to be in town or at least closer to town. We looked at a few places, including one in Milltown.

Milltown was just east of Missoula, through the gap of Mt. Sentinel and Mt Jumbo, where the Clark Fork River is joined by the Blackfoot. There's another adjacent town called Bonner, but I could never distinguish between the two. It was a small town, depressed (at that time at least) and, as one would expect by the name, it had a mill. A paper mill, I suppose. It was home to The Milltown Union Bar and Laundromat: an establishment immortalized by a poem of essentially the same name by Richard Hugo. (I liked Richard Hugo and that poem and I liked that bar.) In fact, the house we looked at in Milltown was almost across the street from that bar.

Yes, we looked at a house. It was small. One bedroom. One bathroom. Not more than 1000 square feet would be my guess. It was cheap. I don't recall how much but, even to me even then, it did not seem like much for a house. I recall that it was painted red. The caveat for the property ended up being that it had no property--that is, it was a one-time mill company home and though you could buy the house, that deed did not include the land on which it was built.

The realtor seemed a little dubious--no doubt because of the land ownership thing--that we were really interested in the house. And, ultimately, he was correct. But I was interested (my wife, not so much) and wonder what would have happened if we had bought it.

Instead we ended up looking at houses in town, settling on one close to the university. Ultimately I nixed the deal. I wasn't ready to buy a house. We didn't have career-type jobs and who knew if we were going to settle in Missoula.

So, we did not buy a house--in Missoula or Milltown or the Bitterroot. We did not settle in Missoula--or in Montana, or in Seattle or Portland as we had half-planned. We ended up back in Illinois for a spell, had our two kids, then moved to South Florida, bought a house, and stayed there for over sixteen years.