My great-great-grandfather (Axel Laine, a Finnish immigrant) and his wife bought 100 acres of heavily forested land adjoining a small lake near Bigfork, Minn., in 1949. While he engaged in logging and selling of cedar posts and poles for several years, he spent his summers living in an old farmhouse on the property. Two generations and three decades later my grandfather had to destroy the decaying structure for safety and health reasons, replacing it with a modified A-frame with a sleeping loft. We call our cabin Hevosenkenkä Jarvi Tupa (Horseshoe Lake Cottage). Over the years electricity was added to replace the use of a generator and the cabin was insulated. The additions of a knotty pine interior, new cabinets and cork flooring made the structure infinitely more livable and inviting.

My parents, my younger brother Axel, my little sister Pearl and I now spend one or two summer months at the “new” family cabin (now 35 years old). We love the opportunity to escape from the heat and humidity of Memphis and trade that for the sunny days and cool nights of northern Minnesota (even though we had a bumper crop of mosquitoes this past summer). We thoroughly enjoy entertaining guests at our isolated woodsy retreat.

My Grandpa John takes us fishing and we have loads of fun engaging in “catch and release” of sunfish while he tells us stories about the outdoor escapades he had when he was a little boy. He also designs really fun activities for us, such as treasure hunts with maps and clues, or gives us a metal detector to search for buried treats. Grandma Diane often brings up a homemade dinner, which we enjoy on the picnic table under a screened tent. My Mama takes us out on the lake in our kayaks and canoes to watch otters, beaver, geese, loons, pelicans and bald eagles in-between refreshing sessions of swimming in the water. My Papa takes us for daily walks on our “secret” trails through the woods, while he teaches us how to identify (and avoid) poison ivy. Our dog Cleo loves to investigate and run around the spacious front yard.

The most fun of all, however, is at the end of the day when Papa heats up the old-fashioned wood stove in the Finnish sauna. There we get to soak up the heat and steam, work the soreness from our tired bodies, wash ourselves off and run down to the lake to jump in for a cool rinse. Then it’s off to bed (after story time) to dream of a new day of cabin adventures. We plan to keep the cabin in our family for a long, long time!

Ruth Lillian Newstok, age 8, Memphis, Tenn.


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