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A ngel is doing fine.
She is, of course, the mellow Texas longhorn that became a highly visible and prized symbol of survival upon emerging from the 2017 firestorm that killed the woman who adored her as a pet. Today, Angel seems as content as ever to occupy a corral between Highway 101 and Coffey Lane in north Santa Rosa.
If only Houston Evans Jr., the cow’s primary keeper and the son of Tubbs fire victim Valerie Lynn Evans, could say that almost two years after the conflagration he, his wife and his father are doing as well.
“I thought we’d be so much further along than this,” Evans, a tall and sturdy and clearly aching man of 50, said from between Angel’s pen and the bare earth upon which his family’s two Craftsman-style homes stood.
“Everybody in Coffey Park is almost done (with reconstruction). Two years and I’m here in a corn patch.”
Evans worries about what he, his wife, Victoria, and his dad, Glyn, will do at the end of the year when the insurance money that pays for a rental house in Penngrove runs out.
Gnawing at him, too, is a sense that his late mother looks down and sees that all this time after she died going back into her burning home to retrieve her dog, her family hasn’t yet restored its life on the north Coffey Lane land it moved onto in 1978.
Houston Evans owns plans for a spacious log house to be assembled there. But for myriad reasons, chief among them the time it took to settle his mother’s estate because she died without a will or trust, his quest to get construction started hasn’t turned a single shovel of dirt.
“I can’t fail,” he said after showing architectural drawings of a manufactured log house on his cellphone. “This has to happen.”
But when? Evans’ eyes welled as he took stock that it’s nearly September and he can’t yet say when work will begin on the home’s foundation.
“The rain’s coming,” he said.
Millions of drivers know right where the Evans family lived until the tragic and terrifying night of Oct. 8, 2017. As one passes by the 2-acre ranch immediately west of Highway 101 between River Road and Hopper Avenue, it’s reflexive to scan the fence for a glimpse of the family’s 1,600-pound longhorn.
Chaos inhabited that ranch when the Tubbs fire vaulted the highway. As Valerie Evans, a professional equestrian well known in the local trucking industry, and her ex-husband and their son and daughter-in-law scurried, they became separated.
The last time Glyn Evans, now 90, saw his friend and former wife, he was running to pull a trailer with a tractor and shouted to her that he’d be right back.
Valerie Evans, 75, then went into her home as flames ate at it to retrieve her aged dog, Scooter. Both died.
The woman’s family was not able to evacuate Angel the cow amid the horror.