Off-the-wallBy Bob Spiwak

Until sometime in 1968 I had never heard of Winthrop. Then a good friend told me that he and his dad had bought 20 acres west of town and would I like to drive out and look at it. We did, and I fell in love with the area. His acreage was across the road from where I now live and have since 1970. Ms. Gloria joined me in 1981.

Getting our 5 acres was not easy. I approached the owner, asking if he would sell me 100 feet of frontage so I could build a cabin or put a trailer on it. He lived next door and did not want to sell. He was a retired government trapper living with his wife, a retired postal worker. She had a bad heart.

Over the course of a year or more, my friend and I would come over here to hunt, fish and hang out. Each time I would bug the owner here about selling, and it became a joke. But no, he would not sell. He had my phone number in Everett in case he changed his mind.

It was in spring 1970 when the owner called. He asked if I was still interested in buying, and I immediately said yes. He suggested I come out and look at the property, but it would have to be 5 acres.

I came over with a buddy, a fellow who had been on my parole caseload (I was parole officer) and I had known him for years. He was off parole and working as a volunteer in my domain. I asked the price for the 5 acres as I became more and more entranced with the place. It had a pond, fed in part by the Rockview ditch, and lots of trees. As to the price, $6,500 was as low as the owner would go. Uh-oh.

I could not afford that, and the owner said he would throw the barn into the deal. That did it. My friend suggested we go in as equal partners — he was working in construction and had money. Hands were shaken and the deal was done.

I asked the owner what had made him change his mind. He told me of a late March snowstorm that had come up in the night. Along with this, his wife was having severe pains and Brewster was the nearest hospital. He looked out into the flying snow — now over a foot deep — and got his snow blower

But the snow was so wet that his machine kept choking out. So in the dark he began shoveling to his garage that was along the highway, over 100 feet from the house. His next problem was opening the outward-hinged doors with drifted snow against them. This he did, and backed the car out.

Now came the hard part. Walking back along his trail to the home, he realized his wife was in too much pain to walk to the car. He said he carried her to the vehicle and set off into the flying snow on the highway, which then was a narrow two-lane road. They got to the hospital a couple of hours later. The emergency room had been on alert for their arrival.

She indeed had a heart attack but survived, and he brought her home after a few days. The owner said they could no longer risk living here and they had found a place in Idaho with a more delicate climate than the Methow.

So sometime in 1971 my friend and I took possession of the place.

Not long after signing the papers he and I began building the first cabin and a functional outhouse. After a few months he produced a quitclaim deed, and I became the sole owner; with a non-interest payment plan.

Were it not for the blizzard I probably would not be here now, but back in Montana. Or Burns, Oregon.