Cabin Country: Our family cabin, in three acts

  • Updated: December 12, 2013 - 2:40 PM

Dubbed the “International Hilton,” the shack above was insulated with heavy cardboard, on which visitors scribbled their memories. It was demolished in 1975.

My “cabin/shack”story began in 1948. I was 9 years old and my family — Mom, Dad, my 4-year-old brother and me — packed up our camping gear and headed to the North Woods. Several miles past Orr, we finally came to the place where dad went hunting each deer season. It was a very long drive from Albert Lea in our 1937 Plymouth, and the dirt roads off Hwy. 53 were barely passable in certain places.

There in the clearing sat a rustic and lonely building. A short distance away sat another sad and rundown building. Dad explained that this was once where loggers cooked and ate, before the place was abandoned. Upon entering the shack I commented on the mess everywhere, even on the tables. Dad informed me that the mess was porcupine droppings; no way was I going to sleep in that shack. Not to worry as Dad and Mom put up our Hoigaard’s umbrella tent and most of us slept soundly through the night … and survived to see the sunrise!

I’m not sure when or how shack No. 1 mysteriously burned down, but it did. Shack No. 2 was situated across the meadow but needed extensive repair to keep out the elements. Previously, this was the place where deer were hung until it was time to head home. Repairs were made, bunks built, and a table and a cooking area set up. It was still a “shack” with large pieces of heavy cardboard nailed to the inside walls and floor for insulation. It must have worked because the hunters returned season after season and in between for berry picking. They called it the “International Hilton.” Before shack No. 2 met its demise in 1975, I cut away and saved many pieces of the cardboard walls on which years of visits were recorded.

Fast forward to Sept. 28, 1969, when shack No. 3 came to be. Dad plus two hunters from Albert Lea rented a big truck, took down a condemned building and hauled the wood to the property. Mom cooked all their meals and the 16-by-20-foot cabin stood solid by Oct. 4. I presume the cabin still stands today, although I haven’t been there in more than 20 years. My dad passed away in November 1993 at age 87 and the property was sold sometime in the late 1980s. I can still remember the haunting sound of the whippoorwills at dusk, a sound I’ve never heard anywhere else.

Kelly (Dusek) Schultz, Albert Lea


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