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Chris Smith: A new home rises where Angel the cow lives, and where her Valerie died

Houston Evans has had precious little to smile about since the heartbreakingly destructive night in October 2017 that the Tubbs fire vaulted Highway 101 just north of Santa Rosa, right where he and his family lived.

But Evans smiles broadly now - alongside the new family house that’s going up log by log at that spot, and that he believes would be most pleasing to his late mother, Valerie.

“It’s not just for me,” Evans said of the highwayside home, perhaps the most visible rebuild to come since the inferno 31 months ago. “It’s for all victims of the fire.”

The lodgepole and cedar symbol of renewal is being erected by Homestead Log Homes of Oregon. It stands near where the Evans family’s two homes existed until the Tubbs fire.

Houston Evans and his wife, Victoria, lived there with Evans’ parents, Glyn and Valerie, and with beloved animals that included the most famous resident of the 2-acre ranch: Angel, the mellow, white-and-black Texas longhorn.

As flames menaced the ranch early on Oct. 9, 2017, the four family members scattered to collect what important items they could before evacuating.

It appears that Valerie Evans, who was 75 and an 18-wheeler driver and competitive cutting horse rider, left her house but ran back in for her aged dog, Scooter. Both perished.

When Valerie Evans’ grieving family was able to return to the property, they were amazed to find Angel, unsinged.

The 1,600-pound cow became for many fellow survivors of the 2017 fires an embodiment of endurance and hope. For Angel to come through the catastrophe was a silver lining for Houston Evans and his wife and his father.

But their anguish deepened as their efforts to rebuild on the ravaged ranch ran into one obstacle after another.

Last August, nearly two years after the fire, a hurting Houston Evans stood on the bare land and shook his head. He said he felt that his mother was watching and was unhappy that the rebuild was taking so long.

“I can’t fail,” he said then. “This has to happen.”

Well, it’s happening. Suddenly the walls and the roof timbers are up on the log house a stone’s throw from Angel’s pen. During a walk-through, Evans pointed out where the picture windows with a panorama of the hills to the east will be, and his dad’s room and the kitchen that will open to a great room with a pitched roof supported by a central pole.

“It’s been a long time coming,” Evans said, readjusting to a smile. “But we’re almost there.”

HHHHHH

IF YOU’RE HUNGRY and hurting financially and in Sonoma Valley, or you know of someone who is, you should know what good folks will be doing on Saturday.

Starting at 11 a.m., the Sonoma Sunrise Rotary Club will host a drive-through lunch giveaway at member Tony Moll’s Three Fat Guys wine tasting room, 20816 Broadway.

Rotarians ask that people in need of a free meal wear masks as they drive up. Club members will bring to their cars to-go lunches - one for each person in the car.

The meal will be barbecued pork sandwiches and cole slaw by club member Rob Larman of Cochon Volant BBQ.

If anyone wants to make a donation, Rotarians will accept it and pass them on to the people-helpers at F.I.S.H., Friends in Sonoma Helping.

You can reach Staff Writer Chris Smith at 707-521-5211 and chris.smith@pressdemocrat.com.

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