Traditions, and there are many at our family’s cabin, have played an important, perennial part in our activities.
A favorite is to test the mettle of a boyfriend on his initial visit. With everyone seated at the large dining table, one family member clandestinely would alert the rest to make a trough of the overhanging oilcloth that covered the table. Then, one of us would pour a glass of water into the trough, sending it downstream to spill into the lap of the unsuspecting boyfriend.
If amid the laughter the boyfriend took the act in good fun, he could be invited back and might one day qualify as marriage material. Especially if he was willing to join us in the many chores: fetching water at the spring barrel, splitting firewood, cleaning fish or game, fighting off mosquitoes while gathering wild blueberries, mushrooms, fern fronds and flowers. He also needed to be willing to sleep on a bed with an ancient mattress and springs, on which came the occasional serenade of an overhead fluttering of bat or two.
The cabin hasn’t been fully modernized since its construction in 1923. There is electricity, but we heat with wood and cook on a wood stove. We carried drinking water from a spring until a few years ago.
Grandfather Karl first toured the area north of Deer River in his 1919 Buick in search of lakeshore property. He wanted something suitable for a building site with access to abundant fishing and hunting. He settled on a few acres high above the north shore of Bowstring, known then for its walleyes, canvasbacks and ruffed grouse. The cabin, though simple in floor plan, was designed by an architect and built of logs taken from the nearby forest. A one-lane dirt road leads to the back door, which opens into a catchall entryway and further in a spacious living room/dining room with high ceiling that shows off the underside of the split-log roof. The log walls have a few stuffed game trophies, but the focal point is a stately fieldstone fireplace. Off one end of the room are two bedrooms, used mostly as men’s and ladies’ dressing rooms because the porch can accommodate a dozen sleepers. Off the other end of the great room is a large kitchen. Good eating, you see, has been the high priority.
The meals have animated conversation full of family news and oft-repeated stories (“Remember the time Hugo got his Jeep stuck way up on the Camp Nine logging road?”), creating lasting memories and family fellowship.
Jim Dunlop, Northfield*
*The writer is a boyfriend who passed the
water glass test; he has been married to
one of Karl’s granddaughters for 55 years