First, the cow. Now, the cowboy.
The Evans family of Santa Rosa is once again saying, "Thank you," to their Sonoma County neighbors for helping them take yet another step closer to normalcy two years after the Wine Country Wildfires.
In October 2017, fire destroyed 90-year-old Glyn Evans' home and ranch and took the life of his wife, Valerie. In his grief, Evans consoled himself in the knowledge that Valerie's favorite animal, a Longhorn cow named Angel, surived the fire. "She means the world to me right now," Evans told NBC Bay Area in February 2018. "She brings my wife back to me in a good way."
It became Evans' overriding mission to fix up their property enough that Angel could return to her favorite pasture alongside Highway 101.
What Evans didn't know at the time was that Angel had something of a fan club among the thousands of commuters who passed by her each day. When word spread among the community that Evans needed help, they resonded with the money, manpower, and materials needed to provide shelter, water, and fencing for Angel.
In October 2018, Angel returned to the property. "I couldn't be happier right now," Evans said.
To Evans' son, Houston, however, the job was only partly done. He wouldn't be satisfied until his father was able to return, too and live, once again, on the property where he had lived for the past 40 years.
“My father is 90 and he's missing his mate in life, and that's hard. That's hard on anybody,” Houston Evans said. “He doesn't need to be somewhere else, he needs to be at home.”
Still, Houston could make little progress on getting a house built on the property. As a flurry of home construction was taking place in nearby Coffey Park, not a shovelful of dirt was turned on the Evans' property. Houston said too much bureaocracy and too little money were to blame.
"We got everything in order and then we got to looking at the numbers and, you know, frustration and fear set in because of the prices of things," Houston said.
So, he turned to Ghilotti Construction, the company that had cleared the land after the fire. He went to their headquarters in Santa Rosa and asked if there was anything they could do to help.
"My family wants to rebuild but we are going to need help doing it," Houston said.
Ghilotti replied, "Yes."
They would prepare the site so construction could begin. It was close to $50,000 worth of work they were willing to do for free.
“This community has gone through a lot being hit by the fires,” Willie Ghilotti said. “I think it just makes a statement that we're a good community and Sonoma County is very strong and we're very family orientated, we come together.”
The bulldozers arrived on Monday and the Evans family could not have been more grateful.
"I couldn't say enough good things about them if I had a week to say them in," Glyn Evans said. "The amount of thanks, it couldn't fill a rain cloud, it's so huge. It's unbelievable," Houston Evans added.
Houston said he hopes to have his father moved in sometime in the next six months.
“The most important thing for me was to bring my father back to this property, because my mother had passed away here,” Houston said. “My grandmother had passed away here, I was married on this property and this property brought my father so much peace over the years.”