In the early 1900s, my great-grandfather bought a large piece of land on Clearwater Lake near Deerwood, Minn. He divided it into 13 lots, one for each of his children. The property was called On-Pa-We Lodge.
There was an old farmhouse that served as a main gathering place on the first lot, which belonged to my great-uncle Tom. Family coming from out of town stayed there. Cousin Denny’s visit from Colorado was the highlight of the summer. He was a priest and would celebrate mass on the lawn. Everyone would be at the lake, including friends and family from Brainerd. I always thought he was the coolest priest, wearing his cowboy boots and kicking back with a beer.
Four cabins were built on the property. There was a tennis and shuffleboard court in the woods behind the cabins when my mom was growing up. During my childhood, the cement was full of cracks and weeds and the lines for shuffleboard were faint. I would go back there and imagine what it must have been like for my mom, playing there with all her cousins. My brothers, cousins and I had the run of the area: shooting soda cans with Dad’s .22 rifle; swimming out to a wooden raft; paddling a canoe; riding bikes to Nokey Lake Resort to buy candy. Mom and I liked to walk the shoreline looking for agates, and I would fish with Dad on our pontoon boat. Our favorite spot was on the edge of a sunken island.
Our cabin, designed by my grandfather, was rustic and filled with memorabilia from family trips. A screen porch stretched along the front of the cabin and had two swinging beds at one end. Mom and Dad slept in the queen, and I had the twin. My four brothers slept in two bedrooms. I loved waking up to the sound of the loons on the lake. A square table in the middle of the porch was where I liked to have lunch or play cards and look out through the birch trees at the sparkling clear lake.
The dining room had a big round table that was painted teal blue. At night the whole family would play games there. Our favorite was Tripoli. In the mid-late ’70s, my dad added a wood-burning stove. That winter we went up there for a weekend, but the stove barely kept the room warm. Everyone slept on the living room floor in sleeping bags.
Summers haven’t been the same since our cabin burned down in 1980. My parents replaced it with a 27-foot camping trailer, which made it possible to still spend time at the lake. They sold our lot after a few years.
The farmhouse and all of the original cabins have been torn down now, most replaced with year-round homes. Of the 13 lots, only two remain in our family. I still stop by when I’m in the area. I really miss that special place.
Katy Prozinski, maple grove