July 11, 2019
Since 2009, I have spent my summers in Duck Creek, Utah at my friend Pat’s cabin. It has been a work in progress over the past ten years. It is not just a single story one bedroom cabin with an outhouse. It is a mansion of a place. It has a wraparound porch. It is has a basement level, a living level and a loft. There are two bathrooms and two bedrooms. There are pitched ceilings with tongue and groove running across. There are pine cabinets with granite countertops. A beautiful stone hearth with a black wood stove. A beautiful centerpiece is a tree that is a support beam that holds up the center of the cabin. The cabin is solid wood logs on all four sides. There are high windows that let the light shine in from the north. It is majestic, but it wasn’t always the case.
Doug, the kids and I first came to the cabin in 2009. We came up to camp out and do some fishing. It was really roughing it. The cabin was just a shell. The living level was not complete. There were no walls, no plumbing, no water or electricity.
We had a great time. We fished and caught nothing. It was camping with a cover. We had shelter but it was still very cold. We barbequed and cooked on Coleman stoves and had a great time.
The next year, Pat invited us up. The living area had been done, as well as the loft. That’s when the work began.
From then on, we went up each summer to do a little bit of work on the cabin. Doug, being the handyman he was, could do anything. He could do anything from running electrical to plumbing to drywall. Pat used him for all of the above.
My job quickly became the chief and girl Friday. I made sure our camp ran smooth.
Pat would let me know how many people were coming up to work that weekend and I would meal plan for the group. I was required to fix breakfast, lunch and dinner. At this point, we still did not have a working stove and were still working off Coleman stoves. We did have a grill. I also learned how to use a dutch oven.
Using the dutch oven, I would get up earlier than the guys and start some coals. I would have a cup of instant coffee and watch the coals heat up. You had to wait until the coals burned down. The art of dutch oven cooking is an art. You need to have just the right amount of coals on the bottom and the right amount on the top to create the oven effect for the ingredients to cook. I perfected my technique.
The guys would wake up to biscuits and gravy and eggs, so they could get right to work. They may have been working on the electrical or HVAC. It didn’t matter. We would have large groups and small. My role was always the same. Keep ‘em fed, so the work didn’t have to stop.
Work would end when we lost daylight. Our evenings were filled with card games, specifically a game called 13. It’s Doug’s family game. It’s a lot like rummy but the wild card changes each game starting with aces and ending with kings. The one with the least amount of points wins. It’s a great game and we had many a night playing games by propane gas lamps.
Each year we would do another improvement on the cabin. We went from no insulation in the roof to insulation. The temperature in the cabin was finally not so freezing at night. That was a nice upgrade.
Another year, the woodstove went in. That was a game changer. The whole cabin could get warm and stay warm all night. This also allowed up to come up other than the summer months. We could, if the roads and weather permitting, come up and enjoy the cabin without freezing to death.
One of the major game changers, was the toilet. All these years we had been doing our business in nature or shitting in buckets. The boys just peed off the deck in the morning, but I had to go squat in the woods behind the house, pee getting on my boots with splashback. Nothing worse than having to pee at 2AM in the dark with a flashlight. We got hooked up to septic and were able to put a toilet in.
Now, we were over the moon about the toilet. It was a rigged toilet. There was a huge drum of water that was next to the toilet that gravity fed the water to the tank. You had to turn the water in the drum on to fill the tank before you flushed. But, the point of the story is, the toilet flushed! No more pissing in the woods. Sure, the boys still peed off the porch, but I guess I would too if I had the plumbing.
Next came electricity and city water. They came around the same time. With that came the end of the generator. We could watch TV at night until we fell asleep. We could leave a light on to see to go to the bathroom and not worry if the flashlight worked. We could use the toilet on the living room level.
What was interesting about all these things with power and water was we still didn’t have any drywall up. You could see from one side of the house to the other. Our bathroom was covered with black trash bags. If the sheeting was down, someone was probably shitting, so you just waited.
One time, Doug and I stopped over at the cabin on our way home from a very long cross country road trip. Pat and our friend Mike were at the cabin. We decided to stay on for a few days. They had busted a pipe and were digging through the mud to try to find the leak.
We had been there for a day and a night. The guys were still digging. The next thing I hear is, “Corn? Why is there corn in the hole? Oh, Jesus! We had corn for dinner. We’re digging in shit!” They all jumped out of the hole.
The water line that they thought was broken was actually the septic line. The brown mud was actually mud and shit. They were covered in it. I was dying.
The hard part was, there were no showers at the cabin at the time. They all had to take whore’s baths one at a time. The water had to be heated on the stove. They all had to wait their turn. There was only one set of buckets for the baths and only one pot large enough to boil water.
They all got cleaned up. But we always laugh about the corn.
Around the same time, we got electricity and water we got our propane hooked up. We were really rolling in it. Within a couple of years, we had running water, a refrigerator, and a working indoor stove. We had all the creature comforts you could ask for. We didn’t need to haul food or water to the cabin anymore. Gone were the days of several coolers packed with ice to hold food and drinks.
We only needed to shop for groceries from the main town, Cedar City, to haul up the mountain to get us through the weekend.
As time went on, the work lessened. There were still things that needed to be done, but not to the degree that required massive manpower of days gone by.
Doug and I separated. That was something that Pat had to take into consideration. Who gets who in the divorce? What would happen with the cabin? Who would get custody of the cabin? Who would have rights to visit?
Well, it all worked out.
Pat ended up giving me my own key to the cabin. Since I have summers off, I use the cabin the most during the summer. I come up during the week. That leaves the weekends for Doug to come up with his family. I try to give him the holidays to come up with his family since he gets those kinds of days off.
Pat moved to Alaska but kept his cabin and continues to work on it. Whenever he plans to go to the cabin, I go with him to cook for him. He is a very capable cook, but it’s nice to fall into old grooves again. The only thing I don’t cook for him is steak. I’m terrible about grilling meat. I do okay with chicken. Pat is not one to complain but I have seen the look of disappointment when I’ve overcooked his steak. I just leave the grilling to him.
Last year, we put in cabinets for the kitchen and countertops. Pat needed me to be here for some of the measurements and delivery. I was happy to do that. I have all the time in the world during the summer.
This year, we are doing the floor. It is a big job. Doug is up. We also contracted another carpenter to help with the work. Pat’s sons are here to help. We do have a big crew. The entire living level is getting wood laminate flooring.
My job as chef and girl Friday has been reinstituted for the week. Cooking for a crew and taking care of their needs is always nice. Right now, I’m staying out of the way and just being on hand should I be needed, which I won’t.
The cabin is coming together. I don’t foresee but another year or two of work for full completion. The loft needs carpet. Outlets need covers. There needs some final trim in places. But all in all, things are really complete. It’s a full livable place. It’s my place.
Pat told me once, “This place is yours as much as mine. You’ve done just as much work as anyone else. Without you, the work would not have gotten done.”
I really appreciated that sentiment. I will sit back and enjoy my cabin until I am needed.