|Squirrels on the deck of the Stringam cabin.|
We loved staying at our friends' cabin in Waterton Lakes Park.
So much so that my Dad finally felt we should have our own.
Cabin, I mean.
And the rest of us, picturing days happily spent on the lake, were very easily convinced.
He scouted around for a nice piece of property.
And found one.
On St. Mary Lake, just outside of Glacier National Park, Montana – across the border from the ranch.
It was truly beautiful.
Clear, icy-cold, blue water.
And I do mean icy. Brrr.
Lots of trees.
We fell in love.
The only thing missing was the . . . cabin.
Dad would build it.
He chose a design and ordered materials.
They were duly delivered.
And immediately stolen.
Our cabin plans were almost abandoned before they even got off the ground.
So to speak.
But, finally, Dad took a deep breath and ordered some more.
And this time, they stayed.
He moved in a small travel trailer and we took up residence.
Then began to prepare the land.
It was hot, hard work - cutting down a few of the trees and tearing out brush.
Sweat ran freely.
Because I was watching carefully, can of black cherry pop in one hand and hot dog in the other.
But before you begin to think I was entirely useless, I must point out that I helped carry some of the rocks over to the lake to help construct our boat dock.
Really small rocks.
Okay, I was useless.
Before too long, Dad and my brothers had cleared a spot large enough for our cabin.
I don't remember much of the building apart from the sounds of hammering and sawing and the wonderful smell of fresh-cut lumber.
Mom kept me near her.
Across the road from the action.
My reputation for getting in the way was obviously well known.
Moving on . . .
The cabin went up magically.
In no time, we had a master bedroom where my oldest sister could sit and tell us scary stories.
Two smaller bedrooms with bunk beds for the smaller kids to fall out of.
Which they did.
And a wonderful kitchen/dining/living room where Mom could make the food magic happen.
Oh, and there was also a big, open fireplace . . . thing.
I think that, technically, it was a wood stove.
But it was screened on all sides.
Wonderful for gathering around on a cool summer evening.
Something my family excelled at.
The cabin had huge windows facing the lake.
And a large deck.
Another favourite place.
Where we could sit and watch the water.
Something else I excelled at.
We spent several summers at the lake.
I remember evenings on the deck, looking out over the water and just breathing in the glorious air.
Splashing around in the frigid water.
Icy cold cans of pop out of the lake.
Games played beside a snapping fire.
Hide and seek in the trees.
Visit with the neighbours. (Once, a for-real professional sheepherder drove his flock right past the cabin and we got to see the inside of his wagon.)
It was wonderful.
But it ended.
Several times, when we weren't in residence, the cabin was broken into and vandalized.
The last time, someone smashed the large picture window, leaving blood everywhere.
Dad replaced the window and promptly sold the cabin.
Because it was wonderful way to spend the summer.
There is a codicil.
A year or so after my Dad sold the cabin, a good friend of his stopped him on the street, shook a finger in his face and told him what a bad boy he was.
Bewildered, my Dad frowned at his friend. “What are you talking about?”
The man grinned. “We were boating on the [St. Mary's] lake and decided to drop in and visit with you and Enes. Once we got there, we realized that you weren't home, but I remembered where you hid the key, so I opened the door and we went in to see if you had left any pop in the fridge.” The man shook his head. “I can't tell you how surprised I was to find it full of beer!”
My parents were well known for their tee-totalling habits.
Dad laughed. “I guess you didn't hear that I sold that cabin.”
The man's mouth dropped open.
“Yeah. A year or so ago.”
“So . . . it's not your cabin?”
“So . . . breaking and entering.”
Even when it no longer belonged to us, the cabin continued to entertain.
I miss it.