After surviving the devastating Cloquet Fire of 1918, my grandparents decided they wanted to live in the country, in the woods, and by a lake. They found what they were looking for and bought 108 acres of land, paying a whopping 50 cents per acre to begin their new life on Aerie Lake near Alborn, Minn. (My grandfather later berated himself for buying so much land!)

They built a home on the lake, and logged the timber to sell to the paper company in Cloquet and to heat their home in the cold winter months. The years passed, and my grandfather went on to divide the land and give parcels as gifts to each of his seven children.

My parents began clearing their share of the heavily forested land on Aerie Lake in the early ’50s. My father built not only the cabin but also split huge rocks by hand with a sledgehammer to build a big stone fireplace inside and a foundation around the outside. He also built a stairway and a split-rock wall down to the beach and along the shoreline. He was helped by my grandfather, my brother, and all of his friends and relatives, who would bargain with him for materials and anything “slightly used” or “secondhand.”

My father was an amazing man who could create magic with wood and never dreamed of buying something that he could make. He built the majority of the cabin, as well as precious pieces of furniture and items of interest — many made even more precious due to my mother’s handiwork.

After my parents died, my husband and I became the proud owners of the cabin. We have made minor improvements and repairs, but we have changed little.

Several generations of our family (and in our family that means dogs) have loved this little place in the woods. It is so much more than the physical structure and location. The future of this little cabin now rests in the hands the next generation.

Gretchen Hanson, Ham Lake