My cousins and I would fashion fishing equipment with safety pins tied to cotton string on a stick, and we used
squished-up balls of Rainbow bread for bait. There were several spots in the creek that were good for catching the minnows within, but our favorite was in the deep pool under the timber bridge that the dirt drive to the cabin traversed.
We’d sit there, dangling our legs over the clear water, trying to entice the darting minnows with the bread balls. The bridge was made with abandoned railroad ties, and I’ll never forget the pungent smell of the creosote amid the sweet creek odors of lush watercress and water flowing over rock ledges.
I don’t think we wore tattered straw hats, but otherwise it was pretty Norman Rockwell-ish. We hooked enough minnows with our improvised tackle to hold our fascination for hours – ok, for at least a little while, until we tore off to some other distraction.
My grandmother – we called her Boss – and my grandfather Da bought the log cabin getaway on Twelve O’clock Knob in the early 1960’s. Da wasn’t too interested in the rustic place; it was Boss’s baby and I think she preferred it that way.
As a kid it seemed so far away, so far out in the country, even if it was only a half hour ride. Anyway, regardless of the distance, that place was another world away.
The dark-stained cabin was a single-story affair consisting of just a few rooms. A covered porch spanned the front, the floor of which featured an undulating, wood- planked floor burnished with time and with use.
Inside, through the creaking, seemingly-ancient front door was a plain layout: a combined kitchen, eating and living room backed by two tiny bedrooms and a simple bathroom. It was cool and dark in the cabin, the rich smell of the old logs permeaed the air. It was quiet, save for the noise that we young visitors supplied.
The cabin was isolated from the lightly-traveled road by a winding dirt and gravel drive. The setting was forest, except for the sloped meadow that flattened out by the aforementioned creek and road. Boss had found one of those old Radio-Flyer types of wagons for us to careen down the hill. Sometimes, on a particularly good run, we would almost collide with the rail fence by the creek, but usually we flipped before then, inevitably adding to our collection of scrapes and bruises. Being scraped and scratched was so normal that we didn’t give it much thought beyond the initial yelp.
There was another creek on the property, a small tributary that flowed proudly in the darkest part of the forest above the cabin. Too small for good minnow fishing, we nevertheless had endless fun clomping in and around it, and there was one particular spot in it especially conducive to dam building. The resulting impoundments were deep enough to plunge one’s head completely into the ice-cold water, and of course we cajoled each other into doing just that. Invigorating, sure, but kids are tough when it comes to cold water. The best part about building dams was in the destruction of them; watching the flood rush downstream in a whoosh.
Boss was a consummate cook and the simple kitchen in the cabin was the stage for the production of many a summer feast. There were steaming dishes of squash casserole, mashed potatoes, and string beans, bowls of fresh coleslaw, and plates of sliced tomatoes straight from the garden. The knockout punch came in the form of hot biscuits and strawberry preserves. I think what made Boss such a good cook was all the love she put into it.
Besides luxuries such as electricity and running water, the cabin was equipped with a telephone. It was a “party line” system, and that basically meant that everyone in the area used the same line. Eavesdropping, therefore, was a fascinating option. Not that we ever actually did that.
There was the site of an old sawmill just up the road, and it was one of our favorite places to play. There was no actual saw there anymore, but leftover from the activity were a tumbled-down shack, some rotting wooded barrels, and the odd metal artifact. There was also some huge piles of molding sawdust which were good for climbing and jumping. Someone had started the story that the old sawmill was haunted, and while it never seemed to be scary there in the bright summer sun, I shuddered to think of going there in the dark of night.
Boss’s cabin was a cozy place to be in the evening and we kids loved spending the night there. We’d sit at the creaky old wooden table and play Parcheesi or Crazy 8’s, or sprawl on the big woven rug by the hearth and play with the resident box of Tinker Toys.
At the cabin the days were full, so we never put up much resistance when bedtime came around. In the brief moments before sleep overtook me I lay nestled in my bunk listening, through the wide open window, to the night sounds of the summer woods, the cacophony of insects at the zenith of their life cycle.
I can hear it now. It still brings me peace.
John W. Robinson