It was a hot, humid night in June 1960, and my husband, Dave, couldn’t sleep. We were visiting our parents in the Twin Cities for a couple weeks on our way to an assignment at Fort Benning, Ga.
Dave had been checking real estate ads for lakeshore property, and decided to drive north through heavy rain in the early morning hours. He recalls walking down the hill of Mogensen Shores on lower South Long Lake in Brainerd at first light. Trees dripped overhead. There he found a small, red cabin by the lake. The cabin was just a shell with 100 feet of shoreline, and Dave came back to St. Paul and announced he “had found our cabin.” We bought it that summer for $2,250. It included a 12-foot boat and a 3-horsepower Evinrude motor.
The cabin became home, and gave our children Minnesota roots even though we spent more than another decade moving to various Army posts across the United States and overseas. Most summers we would journey back to our cabin, where we started out with an outdoor pump, a clothesline for drying swimsuits, and a Coleman cooking stove. Our meals were simple: Hot dogs, hamburgers, peanut butter sandwiches, and lots of fried sunfish. We never went out to eat. A movie in Brainerd was a big event.
We would fish, swim, hike, read and spend most of our waking hours in the outdoors. We played hundreds of games of cards and put together countless jigsaw puzzles when it rained.
The Olsons owned the cabin next door, and the Hippes, Handelands, Sjostroms, Albertsons and Mary Mogensen lived up on the hill. These neighbors became lifelong friends.
We experienced many thunderstorms and countless falling trees (none of which ever hit our little place). There are shutters on three sides of the screen porch, and a window bed for sitting and watching the stars at night. We took almost daily walks — 2 miles to Busby’s Store. The main event at the lake was fishing, and Grandpa Knute, Dave and David brought in stringers full of bass, and pails of sunfish and crappies.
Occasionally, we have talked about tearing down the red cabin because it’s been rarely used in recent years. However, it still is filled with memories, and it’s those memories that keep drawing us back. It’s a place we’ve always come to regenerate our lives. The red cabin is part of a dream that Dave built after seeing it that first misty morning in 1960. We’ve all been fortunate to come here to play, relax and grow as a family.
Betty Bear, Brainerd