Foreword: As soon as upon a time… I lived in a log cabin on a mountaintop overlooking a peaceable valley. Abe Lincoln by no means had it so good. That point has handed, however the recollections persist. A fortunate few of you readers will bear in mind the cabin I describe under. Many others had experiences at a household trip dwelling within the mountains or on the shore, and have related recollections of household get-togethers.This essay is meant to revive and sharpen these recollections in addition to to explain what it was wish to dwell in a real log cabin. Readers who’re too younger to have these experiences can discover in these traces some background to the household folklore they could have heard through the years. So, learn on. I hope you take pleasure in it and you probably have recollections and experiences of your personal, then by all means submit an e-comment. It’s going to add your contribution to this essay.OriginsIt was the time of World Conflict II and I feel the warfare was a consider my dad and mom’ choice to purchase the cabin. My speedy household consisted of oldsters Adlai and Elizabeth Magee and 7 youngsters (two sons have been misplaced). I used to be the youngest. Our dwelling was in Chevy Chase, Md. Dad owned a radio retailer in close by Bethesda. Within the early 1940s our household had made quite a few weekend visits to Braddock Heights, Md., a group of boarding homes and a regionally fashionable amusement park. WWII meant restrictions on journey and that improved enterprise on the little resort. Though Braddock was in decline in comparison with earlier a long time, patronage was adequate to maintain native companies going. The park had a number of rides and slides, a nice merry-go-round, a curler skating rink and a miniature practice to trip. A close-by swimming pool accomplished the amusements out there. A trolley introduced day guests from close by Frederick, 5 miles east. A small retailer doubled as a submit workplace. Jim Crow was alive and kicking in these days. I clearly bear in mind an indication on the entrance to the park that included the admonition, “This park is for use by white gentiles and their servants only.” I recall staying at a number of completely different boarding homes, certainly one of which was the Coblentz Mountain Home. The attraction to us was that the altitude was a blessing for me (I used to be susceptible to bronchitis) and for my Father (additionally troubled by respiratory issues). Alas, Braddock Heights regularly deteriorated over the succeeding years. (Braddock Heights was named after Gen. Braddock, a determine within the French and Indian Conflict. He led a drive of troopers west alongside route 40, an early nationwide freeway, marching over Braddock mountain, because it got here to be identified.)The CabinIt was about 1942 when my dad and mom determined to purchase a trip dwelling close to Braddock mountain. I used to be seven. The spot they chose was fairly distant. In case you journey north alongside the crest of Braddock mountain you can be driving on Ridge highway. Slightly over a mile up the highway they purchased a small, two-room, tin-roofed log cabin on three acres. The lot had a west view of Middletown valley. The Potomac river hole close to Harper’s Ferry, W.Va. could possibly be seen from a nook of the lot. There was solely a scattering of homes alongside the highway in these days. The pavement ended 100 yards earlier than the cabin, turning into a mud highway. Farther alongside the filth highway on the west aspect have been the Clipp farm after which a small dairy farm, the place, in later years, I used to be despatched from time-to-time to purchase contemporary milk. I suppose my dad and mom (significantly my Father) noticed the potential that the cabin and it is location had. To a seven-year-old it was the beginning of an amazing journey. Dad quite grandly named the place “Catoctin Oaks,” for the 4 stunning oak bushes on the lot, and the Catoctin mountain chain which included Braddock. This was within the Blue Ridge mountains. I am unable to shed any gentle on who constructed the cabin and when. I imagine my dad and mom purchased it from the Malones, who lived simply south on Ridge highway and who owned many acres within the space.
The cabin itself was as naked and rustic as you possibly can think about. No electrical energy, no indoor plumbing (not even an out-house), solely an outdoor nicely with a hand pump for (non-drinking) water. Warmth was out there from a good-looking stone fire. The inside had a big, open space with a sleep loft above the north aspect. And an ample provide of snake skins. There was an hooked up shed on the valley aspect, used for cooking. The outline of the within of the cabin could sound acquainted to these of you who’ve watched the TV present, “Little House on the Prairie.” In case you recall the inside of the TV home, the format was very a lot the identical because the cabin: a big room on one aspect, a central fire, and sleeping areas behind the fireside (dad and mom under, women above on a loft). (My spouse Thelma prompt I title this essay, “Little House on the Mountain.” I took a cross on that concept.)The dearth of services meant two issues: First, the cabin might solely be used for day journeys. (The woods offered an open-air out-house.) Second, Dad quickly started what turned an nearly limitless sequence of modifications and enhancements to the cabin. However the principle function of the place was the development. Sure, it was an actual, honest-to-goodness log cabin, its partitions fabricated from pine logs with mortar-filled cracks. The hooked up image exhibits the cabin about 1950; it is a of an oil portray by my sister Elizabeth. As we speak the portray hangs above the fireside in my dwelling in Gettysburg. As quickly as practicable, a nicely was drilled, an electrical line was run in, and the “valley room,” kitchen, basement and toilet have been added. All this took time, in fact. In the meantime, we might “rough it” on visits.This is an attention-grabbing anecdote: Constructing the Valley Room required a very good little bit of excavation. It so occurred that Camp Detrick in Frederick housed German prisoners-of-war; the prisoners have been employed out to native residents. (I feel the prisoners have been captured U-boat crews.) So for a time we had a crew of younger, blond employees plus an armed guard. I noticed that the prisoners took particular discover of my teen-aged sisters at any time when the women would present up. (After all, there have been no incidents.) This reminiscence of the prisoners tells me that the cabin’s main modifications have been accomplished by the top of WWII.Finally, the cabin turned appropriate for prolonged visits.Cabin lifeWhen the seasons permitted, we (my dad and mom and I) would make the one- hour drive to spend a weekend on the cabin. In summer season, stays would prolong to weeks, with Dad developing for the weekend. Our household weren’t the one ones to make use of the cabin. Aunt Corona and Uncle Frank typically borrowed it for events with their associates, largely from St. Ann’s parish in NW Washington. The truth is, I am positive mountain dwelling gave Aunt Corona and Aunt Mary the thought to purchase quite a bit subsequent door and construct a retirement dwelling on Ridge highway (now Tom and Jane Magee’s dwelling).From the late ’40s on, my dad and mom hosted household get-togethers commonly. The cabin quickly turned the main target for an prolonged household. Hardly a Sunday glided by with out household or guests stopping by and being served cocktails and dinner by my beneficiant dad and mom. Marilyn and Jack Barrett with their household have been common guests Uncle Paul Magee would roar down the driveway in his Plymouth and earlier than lengthy he and his brother can be buying and selling good-natured barbs. His sons, Paul, Jr., Jim and Bernard got here by, households in tow. The Renehan cousins visited from Baltimore each summer season; these have been two girls who at all times greeted me with huge hugs and kisses, a lot to my embarrassment. I referred to them because the Kissing Cousins. “Otherwise” Burdett, the cabin’s constructing contractor, would often present up along with his household. (He earned his nickname from his frequent use of “otherwise”.) The Daly household and the Klaks from Bethesda have been occasional guests, as have been different associates and family, many from Montgomery county.Many of those visits have been unannounced however Mom at all times appeared to have the ability to stretch the meals out there and make everybody joyful. One of the best instances have been these summer season days after we would have an outside feast — barbecued spare ribs (I used to be the designated cook dinner on the BBQ pit), a bushel of steamed crabs, or fried rooster dinners have been the favorites. After a softball recreation within the “front yard” we might have a spherical of cocktails whereas sitting on the stone patio, then line up on the buffet desk for potato salad, sliced tomatoes, baked beans, buttered sizzling canine rolls, and so on. Each household go to was made an important day by my dad and mom, however there have been two instances annually that everybody regarded ahead to. Suzanne and Frank Maddox and their youngsters returned from their dwelling for a go to that at all times turned a household get-together. And each August, Uncle Will and Aunt Celeste Hennessy and their 4 daughters would go to from Wilmington, Del., for a couple of days bringing a automobile stuffed with treats and delicacies. Cool or wet climate meant the feast was moved indoors. There have been many days that we watched the solar setting over South mountain whereas sitting within the valley room.All of those visits continued for years. Dad bought the TV/radio retailer in Bethesda c1951 and we moved to the cabin to dwell year-round quickly after. The grandchildren of my dad and mom should all have their very own recollections of visits to the cabin. Their quantity grew through the years to, by my depend, twenty-two in all. Regardless of the massive quantity, Granny and Paw-Paw have been capable of make every certainly one of them really feel particular. One specific deal with for visiting grandchildren was for Granny to ship them up the hill to choose ripe blueberries which she would make into blueberry pancakes. That is an instance of what my Mom was like.
Dad was a particular man. Two of his strongest traits have been his integrity and his humorousness. I will give an instance of every trait. I used to tag together with Dad on his native enterprise journeys. One time, throughout WWII, Dad made a supply of a number of cartons of radio tubes beneath a authorities contract he had bid on. I realized that he received the bid as a result of his worth was at-cost. I requested him why he did not embrace some cash for revenue and he mentioned merely, that this was his contribution to the warfare effort. One intelligent prank that he pulled on a visiting buddy concerned some goal follow behind the cabin. I watched him as he loaded a.22 nine-shot revolver with two completely different cartridges — one, a standard.22 slug, and the opposite a “rat shot,” a miniature shotgun shell, crammed with tiny pellets. He loaded the gun with the cartridges in alternate chambers and we went out to affix the ready sucker – I imply “guest” – to fireplace off a couple of rounds. To finish the charade, Dad fastened a small piece of steel hanging on a string as our goal. Let me level out that at ten paces it might be actually troublesome to hit a two inch huge goal with a revolver. However with rat shot it might be nearly not possible to overlook. So that they took turns firing, the visitor simply lacking each shot, and Dad inflicting the hanging goal to swing each time. I am positive that buddy of Dad’s went away with the impression that Dad was the very best shot this aspect of Buffalo Invoice. There may be one factor I have not forgiven my Father for. When he was dwelling in St. Louis a few years earlier than, an outdated chef gave Dad a recipe for BBQ sauce however he made him promise to not give it to anybody else. Nicely, Dad took that recipe to the grave quite than break his phrase. That is too dangerous as a result of I positive might use it to enhance my BBQs.I’ve my very own recollections of cabin life. I significantly loved exploring the woods under the cabin. A telescope gave me a manner of exploring the sky, and likewise to inform time by the clock within the white-spired Lutheran church in Middletown, three miles distant. I slept by a window going through west. On a transparent night time, I might truly see stars set over South mountain. I knew that was a particular expertise even then. And, sure, the sound of raindrops falling on a tin roof does lull you to sleep.ClosingThe enhancements my dad and mom made ultimately lined up the logs, inside and outside. When Dad and Mom died in 1977, we bought the cabin to a brand new proprietor who transformed it right into a two-story home, not recognizable as a cabin. However the cabin, regardless of all its recollections and attraction, was solely a construction of pine logs. If life on the cabin was particular it wasn’t on account of a country dwelling on a Maryland mountain high, however to what was inside, on the coronary heart of the cabin, Adlai and Elizabeth Magee.