Little Cabin in the Woods
Wendy L. Huston-Robinson
I was born in Des Moines, Iowa but only lived there for a few years. My parents had a bug to be elsewhere and for a while, we traveled around. We lived in Seattle Washington for a short time and we camped and traveled quite a bit of the western United States.
When I was about 6 or 7 years old, we moved and stayed in Colorado. We moved up to an area north of Lake George, Colorado. We moved out in the middle of the National Forest to run a mining claim for a man we knew it was Gem mines, mining such things as Amazonite or Amazon Stone, Smoky Quartz, and fluorite crystals. Beautiful rocks but I digress.
The first summer we pretty much camped and my dad built a tent structure (reminiscent of the old camp cabins at a Girl Scout camp. We lived in that and there was an old bus that had been converted to a motor home that we used for cooking, etc. That summer/fall my dad commenced to cutting down Aspen trees and getting them ready to build a cabin for us to live in. My little 3-year-old sister and I thought this was great fun.
He used an old pioneer chain saw that weighed 40-50 pounds and cut all the logs and with help of my mother, they erected our log cabin. It was about 16 X 32 ft. I suppose that roughly makes it a bit less than 500 square feet in size. It had log walls inside and out and my dad chinked the cracks with mud much the way they did back 100 years or so ago. There were several large windows in the front and a big heavy wooden door, which was at least 6 inches thick. The boards were very thick that he used to make the door; it had a latch on the inside. The back of the cabin was built into the hill behind. Even though the walls were all log the bank added extra warmth. The roof was log with layers of plastic and tar paper and then dirt on top of that. You could walk up on the roof when you went to that back of the cabin. Actually, later we erected a fence to keep the goats and horses from climbing up on the roof. We did not need horse to fall through the roof, which would have been a true mess.
The floor was actually dirt, very packed down with a barrier of plastic and then a pad and carpet on top of that. It actually worked really well. We had a wood burning stove for heat and for cooking; we had a regular propane gas range. We also had a gas refrigerator, which worked beautifully. We also could put extra jugs of milk from our goats into the spring box and keep them cold if we were short of room.
We did not have electricity or conventional running water into the house. We had kerosene lamps for light. Later we had barrels up on the roof and had gravity feed system for the water to run into the house and so could have a source of running water. We would pump it up from the spring with a tiny pump ran by a little gas motor or we would carry it up by the bucketful to fill the barrels. We also had a hot water heater because my dad rigged a hot water heater to run on wood and heat the water that way; it was like a miniature wood stove in the base.
We moved into our new home around the first part of January and we had waited to have Christmas until we could be in our house. Santa Claus would come later for us and he would understand.
The first night we were all snug in our cabin when the coyotes came out, they stood on our roof, and howled at the big moon, which was shining brightly on the snow. It was an eerie sound and made us glad were snug inside but at the same time, it was beautiful, wild,eerie and free.
We lived in that little cabin until I was almost 14 years old about 7 years or so. We were snowed in at times for days and a few times even a month at a time. My mother home schooled both my sister and I from Kindergarten through 12th grade. It was always a big deal to have company, if we were snowed in occasionally, some friends would ride snowmobiles in over the deep snow to see us and bring the mail or some extra supplies. That was always exciting.
My dad ran trap lines trapping coyotes, bobcats and fox for their furs to sell and in the summer, we ran the gem mines, which were open to the public for people to come dig for gems. My dad also expanded into filing his own mining claims and selling them.
My sister and I could go ride our horses out over the forest, we had 1500 acres of national forest as our playground, and all we had to do was make sure our folks knew kind of where we were heading and when we would be back. We would be gone for hours. I loved to take my horse and go off with a lunch and a book and park under a tree several miles away and spend the afternoon reading my heart out and plotting some story I wanted to write with no one to disturb me; just me my horse and dog. The Best child hood scenario ever.