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Movin’ on out

By on May 23, 2021 in Featured Homes with 0 Comments
Dawn and Phil’s hilltop home is circled by horse pastures and corrals and filled with lovingly chosen cowboy art and artifacts.

Wenatchee couple heads east for more of their western lifestyle

By Susan Lagsdin

Dawn Davies and Phil Heideman are ready to make a big move. The sale of their home is complete — signed, sealed, and almost delivered. 

Fourteen strong offers in only three days, according to their real estate agent Steve Bishop, indicated not only a lively market but the rarity of their four acres perched high above Sleepy Hollow Road.

When asked what she’ll miss most when she leaves in early June, you’d think Dawn would have said, “the view.” The view from the big, lightly gentrified water trough that serves as a hot tub. Or maybe the view from the couches grouped around the lava rock fireplace on the covered patio.

But she quickly replied, “The neighbors. This is an amazing community up here — I didn’t have anything like it where we lived before, and I hope to have it again.” 

Phil Heideman and Dawn Davies, in front of their barn atop Sleepy Hollow Heights, are excited about making the big move to the Spokane area after 17 good years together in the Wenatchee Valley. Fond memories, a lifetime collection of western artifacts and their two horses will travel with them. Photo by Mike Irwin

Distinctive courtesies from the very day they moved into their new home 17 years ago loom large in her memory. First, the heartfelt welcoming letter left for the couple by the departing owner included a hope that they’d enjoy and protect the new bird nest hidden in the house’s eaves.

Their homecoming was twice blessed. “I woke up that first morning, and when I heard a lawnmower outside, I assumed the sellers forgot to discontinue their yard service. But no,” Dawn said, “it was Harold Land, the man from next door. He said, ‘You folks are busy moving in — I thought I’d make this one less job for you.’ ”

“There’s always someone who’ll feed the horses if you need it or watch out for your dogs. We’ve always helped each other out,” she said. And when the 2015 wildfire came licking close to the homes on Sleepy Hollow Road, a quickly-formed horse trailer brigade shipped all the resident equines to safety. 

Phil said this heavy-duty plastic watering trough became so popular as a hot tub the manufacturer added a slide. Plumbed by him and duded up with wood, it serves its purpose well.

However, the view is spectacular. 

With Horse Lake Reserve just a few minute’s steep climb from their corrals, Phil and Dawn, both lifelong horsemen, have seen from a hawk’s perspective the confluence of the Wenatchee and Columbia rivers, and their property’s altitude gave them mountains, city, wheatfields and river, constant and everchanging.

This era of their married life — packing up and starting fresh in Spokane, where they have family ties but no history — is a high energy endeavor, but their life and work has been anything but a straight line, so adjusting goals comes easily. 

Dawn was from the west side, Phil’s an East Wenatchee guy. In 1989, they met at a calf roping at the Mazama rodeo arena. She’d walked over from a wedding party; he was on horseback. Yup. Love at first sight, although, “We spent about 10 years taking turns breaking up with each other, leaving and getting back together,” Dawn said.

A value-clarifying cancer diagnosis urged Phil to look for her one last time, he said. “She was in my head, and I realized I needed to do something about it.” He searched and found her. 

“I’d been thinking of him. All the time,” Dawn said. They re-upped the relationship, moved to the valley he’d grown up in and hunted for a home for themselves. 

When they first saw the 4.4-acre property in 2004, they’d already discovered that in Wenatchee, and now similarly in Spokane, affordable horse property plus a perfect house is a rare combination. They decided sweat equity could make the standard four-bedroom, three-bath home everything they wanted it to be.

Opening to the back patio and the pastures and close-by the kitchen, the living area is perfect for entertaining; 60 well-wishers easily gathered here for a significant birthday. Photo by Travis Knoop

Phil’s a fixer and a builder, with an inventive bent and lots of tool skills; they both agree that Dawn is the visionary. With that teamwork they created a functional and comfortable home for themselves and a good number of guests, horses and dogs over the years.

Their new house, built in 1997, was big enough at 1,800-plus square feet, but Dawn said, “when we bought it, everything was builder grade and there was mostly just dirt outside.”

Custom-made kitchen cabinets from Mexico, new tile flooring, rock and wood features, soothing cream and earth tone tint on the walls made the interior soft and sophisticated. Their old west art and artifacts, many pieces locally sourced, melded easily with the updates.

Other significant changes were outdoors. Corral and pasture fencing and irrigation were ongoing projects, with many revisions. “Phil has his PhD,” Dawn quipped. “Post-hole-digging. 

Those perfected facilities served an unexpected function in later years: Dawn’s job as executive director of the Wenatchee Valley Humane Society meant she was often a first responder and caregiver for abused horses.

One lonely red shed anchored the property when they arrived. They built a sturdy barn with hay storage and stalls, and a tack room that’s evolved into cozy bunkhouse guest quarters.

A back courtyard-style patio with pergola is protected by a steeply terraced hillside, and the front of the house — the view spot — has been extended to allow a satisfying spot to relax in all weather.

Their high-up home, a product of love and labor, has given them years of pleasure, and leaving it and their supportive neighborhood is bittersweet. But now in their mid-60s, they’re eager for a change.

Phil tapered off shoeing horses all over eastern Washington a few years ago and retired from his position with Marson and Marson Lumber last spring. Dawn’s 10 years with WVHS (as a force behind its expanded facilities and national reputation) officially ends in June, right before her birthday, just at moving-out time.

 “Two years ago, I had a cancer scare too, and we planned on me retiring in June 2020,” Dawn said. “But I knew I couldn’t leave in the midst of COVID. This last February, when we finally opened the new clinic, I realized ‘Hey, my work here is done!’”

They’re actively house-hunting, in mid-May at this writing, and with good horse boarding facilities available in the Spokane area, they’re seriously considering a variety of options — a comfortable home may take precedence over fenced acreage this time around.

Big house or little house, near or far, moving day has some universal elements. For this spring’s real estate photos, Dawn and Phil already packed personal belongings into a roomful of boxes. (Dawn said, “I kind of like the spare and spacious look — I might just try that again…”) 

Soon they’ll mobilize the big stuff, pass vital instructions from old owner to new owner, figure out how to ferry the vehicles and the RV, hug the neighbors. Then they’ll pack up horses Starbuck and Raven and dogs Josie and Skeeter and be on their way.

They’ll leave years of rewarding work — on their hill and in the community — behind them when they leave. And of course there’s the view: the distant river, city lights, orchards, shrub steppe, wheatfields and snowy peaks. Which one will stand out? 

Dawn paused a moment, eyes closed. Then, “One of my favorite images at night,” she said, pointing to the narrow band of track at the base of Sleepy Hollow’s long escarpment, “is seeing the headlights of the westbound train way down there just coming around the bend of the ridge.” 

Maybe she’ll leave that in a note to the new owners, just a little welcome home.

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