ATB and the Calgary Zoo join to save Alberta's swift fox
Words: Barry Strader
When Tyler and Leta Pezderic first laid their eyes on a custom-built log cabin in the foothills of southern Alberta, they saw home. Making it their home, however, has been an enormous challenge.
The cabin, built by hand by Raymond Rhodes and Ed Wald (now both in their late 80s), sat on the former King Brothers Ranch, now owned by the Waldron Grazing Co-Op. Deserted for years, the cabin was deemed a liability and scheduled to be burned down.
Upon hearing the news, Tyler’s dad Marlin told his son and daughter-in-law to take a look at the cabin. Tyler and Leta had been looking to build a new house on their acreage near Coaldale. Maybe, just maybe, Marlin thought, Tyler and Leta could move this cabin to their property and make it their dream home.
So, in September, 2015, Tyler and Leta made the trip to check out the cabin.
“We both looked at each other and said this is it. This is perfect,” said Leta. “I said to Ty, there’s no way we’re going to let this thing burn, even if we have to take it apart log by log. It’s made with old growth Douglas fir timbers, cut from the Porcupine Hills. You can’t find that kind of structure anymore. We were pretty excited but also pretty nervous about how on earth we were going to make this happen.”
The Co-Op told the Pezderics the cabin was theirs, with one caveat—the young couple would have to pay for the move. By the end of the week, arrangements were made to transport the 1,700 square foot, 104-tonne structure.
“The moving company agreed to move it, sight unseen, which I thought was a crazy move,” said Leta. “It was down in a deep valley with no road access or anything.”
Three months later, Wade’s House Moving Company showed up to start prepping for the massive job. It took a semi trailer and two D7 bulldozers to move the cabin from the valley up to the highway. The job was so big, it became an episode on the TV series Cabin Truckers. Four days later, the cabin arrived at its new home.
“It was a little nerve-wracking,” Leta said. “I still get nervous watching the episode of Cabin Truckers when you see it stuck on the side of the hill and they’re scrambling to find a second dozer to make the actual climb.”
As difficult as the move was, the Pezderics now faced the task of applying for a builders’ mortgage so they could build a proper foundation and renovate the interior to make it the house of their dreams for them and their three young boys. At first, it wasn’t easy. This was not an out-of-the-box build and the banks were not interested.
ATB Financial Coaldale assistant branch manager Jennifer Mackay, long time friends of the Pezderics, knew the story and made a suggestion.
“I knew from working with Rhonda Bird, she thrives on hard, complex deals,” said MacKay. “I said to Leta, if anyone can do this, it’s Rhonda because she’ll have the connections and the know-how.”
Tyler and Leta met with Bird and their trepidation turned into excitement. This was going to happen.
“They told me what they had planned and I was excited from the get-go, almost as if it was my own house,” said Bird, who had to go above and beyond, gathering quotes from contractors, arranging for soil samples to ensure the basement would hold and helping the Pezderics through the entire process, step by step.
“Everything was outside the guidelines. It’s not something we’ve done before. It was exciting. It wasn’t your everyday mortgage.”
With Bird’s hard work and the Pezderics’ determination, the mortgage got approved and the build is now underway.
“Rhonda’s been amazing,” said Leta. “Everything pended on getting that loan. I really appreciate the fact that ATB went out on a limb for us. Otherwise, there’s no way we could have done this build. No way.”
With the basement now poured and the cabin about to be moved onto its permanent foundation, Leta is looking forward to moving her young family into their home by Christmas of 2017. What’s perhaps most special is the fact they saved a hand-crafted structure from demolition and are bringing it back to life.
“It’s meant the world to the original builders,” said Leta. “They put so much time and energy into it. The one guy, Ed, is 89. He said to me, ‘I’m at peace now.’ It really hurt them that the cabin was supposed to be burned. He’s just thrilled. He’s going to be the first one invited over when it’s finished.”