My husband, Steve, is the magician-in-residence responsible for our ever-changing and much-loved cabin on a small lake near Deer River, Minn. The cabin began as a sturdy one-room dwelling of peeled pine logs that Steve and a few helpers constructed in the 1980s. The lights were kerosene, water was pumped from the lake, and an outhouse was located in a shady spot down the driveway.
After Steve and I married in 1994 (a happy second marriage for both of us), I lobbied for amenities such as electricity, running water, an indoor bathroom and a three-season porch facing the lake. And — abracadabra — Steve produced them. The bright colors he loves give a Nordic feel to the spacious interior, with its white walls, green-and-white checkerboard floors and furniture painted in brilliant reds, yellows and blues.
Drawing inspiration from Steve’s adventurous childhood in Grand Rapids, the cabin is Boy Heaven. Our three grandsons, ages 8 to 18, catch bass and sunnies off the dock. They light fireworks, drive the lawn tractor, shoot BB guns at plastic jugs, build campfires and catch frogs. They enjoy plenty of boats: an old pontoon, a rowboat, a paddleboat, a kayak and, most recently, a red and yellow hydroplane (“The Chili Pepper”) that Steve and our middle grandson built.
We gather around the big red kitchen table mornings and evenings to feed hungry boys and their parents. After supper there are uproarious games of Balderdash, 31 and Charades. Shelves of movies, games and books supply entertainment on rainy days.
A beloved part of our cabin life is the town of Deer River. We’re regulars at Jurvelin’s Hardware, Deer River Lumber, Northern Star Grocery, tiny Clara Lutheran Church, and even the Deer River Hospital (outstanding care for cuts that need stitches and appendicitis symptoms!). We also often head to Grand Rapids to tour the UPM Blandin paper mill (where Steve and his dad once worked), Old Central School, the MacRostie Art Gallery and the Judy Garland Museum. And many trips require a stop at Sammy’s Pizza or Hopperton’s.
In the vision of my creative and hardworking husband, the cabin and the cabin experience are never finished. There is always a shed that could be upgraded, a motor to be tinkered with, a new experience or trip the boys might enjoy. Now that we’re almost retired, I look forward to seeing what future miracles of beauty, ingenuity and fun Steve will produce at our cabin.
Kathryn Oakley, St. Paul