A crowd had gathered. There were dozens of local residents in lawn chairs lining Park County Road XUX, watching as Victor Mazurie’s home moving company worked to right Ardell Smith’s …
A crowd had gathered. There were dozens of local residents in lawn chairs lining Park County Road XUX, watching as Victor Mazurie’s home moving company worked to right Ardell Smith’s cabin in Crandall.
Picking up Smith’s cabin and moving it to a new foundation wasn’t that hard, Mazurie said. It was all the eyes on him that made him nervous.
“You move a thousand houses and you never hear a thing. You screw up once and everybody will hear about it,” Mazurie said, adding, “I was going to be the hero or the goat. What seems amazing to some people is everyday work to me.”
It took seven days to move the large cabin — which slid 120-feet down the side of a hill Memorial Day weekend in 2018 — back up the hill 93 feet. Ardell’s son, Shane, and some friends were at the cabin when it happened. “They were out there drinking beer and putting bets on which tree was going to go next [as the land slid away],” Ardell said.
And then the group went to bed.
They woke up the next morning before 6 a.m. Shane felt the cabin move and woke everyone up to get them out of harm’s way, as the foundation under the cabin had started to split.
“I wouldn’t have stayed there for 10 seconds,” Ardell said in a recent interview.
As everyone rushed to get out, things got a little frenzied.
“You do really crazy things when stuff like that happens,” Ardell said. “One of his [Shane’s] friends said, ‘I got to make my bed.’ Then Shane told him he didn’t need to make the bed — ‘I don’t think anything’s gonna be left.’”
A day later, a neighboring cabin was being ripped apart by a 40-foot-wide muddy slurry, carrying tree trunks and rocks from the top of the mountain peak. Charlie Cooley’s family cabin was a total loss. The Smith cabin, meanwhile, had moved about 40 yards, but it was still mostly intact. Folks from the Crandall community came to help and the family was able to pull everything out of the cabin, down to the toilets, appliances and cabinets.
“There was a menagerie of people that helped,” Ardell said. “They brought trailers and pickups and trucks and worked to get everything out. They stripped it.”
And then the cabin sat. Ardell didn’t know what to do. It was going to cost tens of thousands to have it torn down and removed, so they weren’t in a hurry to make decisions. Some suggested burning it down, she said. “I said absolutely not. I’m not burning down a $500,000 cabin.”
The site had already been the scene of a fatal fire in 2013. The entire cabin was new, costing the Smith’s hundreds of thousands to replace after the fire. Ardell hoped to save it.
Then she found Maz’s House & Mobile Home Movers of Lander. It’s only one of two home moving companies in the state, Mazurie said. Just getting the job scheduled, due to his busy schedule, was a chore.
For a week in mid-August, the company slowly moved the home to its new foundation. It was a challenge, Mazurie said, due to the terrain. “The ground was a little soft.”
However, “the building was in great shape,” he said. “It was worth saving.”
Moving the structure was expensive — “It cost me $35,000 to move it,” Ardell said — but it would have cost just as much or more to tear it down, she said. So she was happy to try to save it, despite not knowing what the future holds. As for Cooley, he plans to wait to see what happens in the next few seasons before making any decisions about rebuilding.
“The best answer on what we plan to do is to say that we don’t really have a plan,” he said. “We basically decided that the best option was to wait and see what happens with a few cycles of spring run-off before we make any decisions. So, maybe we do have a plan but our plan is really to just wait.”
County Road XUX — also known as the Squaw Creek Road — has been rebuilt. And the Smith property has had improvements, hopefully to guide any future slides away from the cabin.
After the cabin was put into its new spot, the only noticeable damage was a crack in the basement floor, “like a crack in a driveway,” Ardell said.
She’s happy, and very thankful for all the help from the folks in Crandall, road crews and the U.S. Forest Service.