I’m dictating this file half-asleep in my favorite bedroom in The Cabin, listening to the wind sighing through the trees and raindrops bouncing off the leaves.
The first time I saw The Cabin, south of Remer, Minn., it was wasn’t a cabin but just a steep, wooded lot crammed with trees and underbrush so thick you could barely make your way in. Downhill, barely visible, Big Thunder Lake sparkled faintly in the distance.
Kristin and her city boy husband — that’s me — failed to grasp the big picture, the cabin of the future, as seen by the starry-eyed Fauchers, Ray and Karla (my wife’s sister). Oohing and ahhing over the land, we secretly thought: Better call Paul Bunyan; you’re gonna need a bigger ax.
It was about a year later, in 1990, that we and our twins, 4, returned to find a cleared and neatly mowed yard along the top of the hill, a cute wooden outhouse so new it hardly stank, and a five-person tent populated by Ray, Karla and their three kids. Cooking was done on a two-burner propane stove in a smaller gazebo shelter. Leading to the lake, a steep set of railroad-tie steps had been placed, with a rough, wooden handrail. A wooden dock took form. Minnesota’s newest North Woods paradise was aborning.
Then, a nice little runabout was moored to the dock. The Faucher kids water-skied, fished, and swam in the 100-feet-deep lake. The Gillespie twins went for boat rides and fished, too.
A combination garage-bunkhouse appeared one summer. Still, the old tent got used, not to mention the somewhat gamier outhouse. No matter, the place was magical. Once you go backwoods, you never go back.
People went to college, people got married and divorced, fell in love, moved away and came back — and the ideal of the cabin endured.
Then, after almost 20 years, the dream came true: a year-round cabin home designed by daughter Laurie Faucher, an architect, was built, with input from everybody. It’s beautiful and gorgeous, and it wraps itself around you like a wool blanket on an autumn night. Ray and Karla became full-time lake people — and had running water!
One crisp October day, Karla returned from work to find that Ray had left the building, his body stretched out on a bed, a faint Mona Lisa smile on his now-silent lips. Our captain had sailed off, and we, his loyal crew, were bereft. But we knew this is the way it should be, the way he would have wanted. He got to live his dream, and so did we. A cabin is a lot more than just a cabin.
James Gillespie, Minneapolis