- Shopping Bag ( 0 items )
Surviving in a Cabin in the Wilderness, 101
There are certain inherent skills required to live in a state like Idaho. Many people don't realize this and think they can just uproot themselves from New York or Los Angeles, or wherever they happen to be, and just plop right down in a country cabin in rural Idaho. This is not the case. I mean, there are some Idaho homes, albeit unmemorable and totally unnatural ones, that happen to have been built inside the city limits of some relatively cosmopolitan Idaho city like Boise or Pocatello, and which do not require any special expertise to inhabit. But these are few and far between, and as I mentioned, unremarkable.
My dear friend, Bess, was under this common misconception when she and her husband Heindrich, moved to a cabin in Northern Idaho last year. They thought that they could just move into their dream cabin, and life would continue as it always had: simple and trouble free. In fact, they thought moving to a rural cabin would actually simplify their lives! Where have I heard that before? They were looking for a place to live that would be free from the stresses of city life, so to speak. Wrong.
Bess' husband, Heindrich, is what they call "a bit of a character". When Heindrich was young-er, he was fond of running through the Sequoias in the California mountains, naked, smoking dope, and answering to the name of "Heinie".
Admittedly, Heindrich has since become much more civilized: found the Lord, cut his hair, and taken to wearing conservative business suits….
Actually, the fact that Bess and Heindrich met and were married at all was, at least in part, my husband's fault. You see, when my husband, David, and I were married, Heindrich was David's best friend. Heindrich was also single, and found it difficult to share David with a new spouse. So he was underfoot a bit. Like every day after work, right around dinnertime. And like Saturdays right around, say, lunchtime, and dinnertime, dessert time and snack time. It was therefore unavoidable that, when Bess came to visit us for a few weeks, naturally, she and Heindrich got to know each other at family dinners, family lunches, family desserts and the like. Perhaps you fail to see why this is my husband's fault? That is because there is something you do not know about David: He is a gourmet cook! Aha!
Heindrich is really a very sweet guy. To meet him today you would never know about his mis-spent youth unless some unkind author were to tell you all about it. He has been very good to Bess. He bought her a lovely Victorian house in a small Idaho town, built a coop for her three chickens and settled down to raise a family.
That was several years ago. Now, Heindrich and Bess have four lovely children: Adorable Adrian, Bashful Bonnie, Courageous Calvin, and Darling Darla. After the third child there were, admittedly, some bets as to the possibility of the alphabetical itinerary. Bess' mother began to have nightmares about children's clothing in 26 matching sizes, and about owning stock in the birthday candle companies.
However, the "E" name of choice seemed to be "Ercil". (Heaven forbid the child might have been a girl.) The family patriarch who is currently encumbered with the name, Ercil, made several formidable and dire threats against the possible appearance of a grandchild with the same name, and the possible resulting revisions to his Last Will and Testament. Whether or not these threats played a part, we may never know. But the alphabetical family stopped with Darla.
Last year, "really a sweet guy" Heindrich decided to move to the mountains of Northern Idaho to live in a cabin, chop wood for heat, raise his own food, and "get back to nature". Now, I am not saying that there is a suspicious retro kind of coincidence here, or any thing. There are certainly no Sequoias in Northern Idaho, but hmm….
So without even stopping to take a crash course in "Surviving in a Cabin in the Wilderness, 101", my sweet, quiet, non-driving, friend Bess moved to a cabin in a forest six miles from civilization with her husband Heindrich and their four alphabetical children. What could possibly go wrong? I actually think the cabin looks very nice redecorated in Victorian style. The chick-ens are very happy and the children are learning about mud.
Every now and then I receive a letter from Bess. It seems that the nearest neighbors, Sam and Betsy wear army boots, plaid flannel shirts and are "quaint". Apparently Bess and Heindrich had an opportunity to meet Sam and Betsy the very night they moved in. It seems that they showed up at the door with a neighborly wild gooseberry pie to find Bess and her family huddled around a cold wood stove. (Of course, they moved in November.)
"Hello thar' neighbor! Uh… ya know, I don't want to be bossy or nothin', but I heard tell that the onliest way to get them things to work is by lightin' a far' in um." Suggested Sam from the open front door.
Of course, Heindrich is not stupid. He knew that. It was just a little matter of how to light a fire in the stupid thing. (This is the first thing covered in "Surviving in a Cabin in the Wilderness, 101", by the way.) No matter which of the many little knobs and handles they pulled and pushed, the smoke from the newspaper they had tried to light, insisted on billowing directly into the living room. A short lesson from Sam in the finer points of wood stove lore soon put the matter straight, and marked the beginning of a solid, if strange, friendship.
There were a few other things that Heindrich and Bess should have been better prepared to handle. Like the stream that flowed through the basement, or the well that was actually a cistern that produced muddy brown water until Heindrich crawled down into it to extract a few unidentifiable blobs of wet and disintegrating fur. And maybe Heindrich and Bess should have figured out for themselves that the half-mile toboggan course that serves as a driveway would not be negotiable in the winter. But, what would life in the country be like without a half-mile hike each morning, through three foot of snow, to reach one's truck? And that first Thanksgiving will always be remembered. The one where the pipes broke in the attic, spraying freezing water down through the ceiling and the vents into every nook, cranny and bed in the house at 3 am. Not to nag, or anything, but I happen to know for a fact that every one of these little diversions are carefully covered in the afore-mentioned course, if only….
I am truly impressed, however, with Bess' courage and endurance to make the half-mile walk out to the main road every day to retrieve the mail which is, of course, to be found tied to the tree over that little impassable stream. As she so reasonably says, "Driving really wouldn't help me here. You have to snow-shoe every where anyway."
However, it seems that one of the most difficult adjustments that Bess and Heindrich have had to make, without the proper training, stems from the fact that the cabin had not been occupied by humans for some time before they moved in. Apparently there were a few non-human residents who took offense at the intrusion of the many and varied humans now insisting on sole proprietorship of the cabin. The first one to complain happens to have been the skunk who had been living in the basement.
It seems that Heindrich and the skunk had some heated discussions, all of which the skunk won. Then Heindrich bought a dog. The skunk couldn't stand the smell of the dog, and the dog couldn't stand the pompous attitude of the skunk. Bess quickly learned to keep stocked up on tomato juice (for the dog's daily bath), and the neighbors were known to comment unfavor-ably on "that smelly pink dog". It was a toss up who was going to win for a while, but the skunk had the last laugh.
One morning, when Heindrich was walking out to his truck to go to work, he was met at the door of his truck by the skunk. They stared at each other for a while. No doubt the skunk was trying to figure out how to get out of this encounter without smelling like a human. I don't know what Heindrich was thinking, unless it had to do with how much tomato juice was left after the dog's last bath. Then, slowly and calmly, the skunk turned around to walk away. Or not. He gracefully raised his tail and let Heindrich know exactly what he thought of humans for neighbors! He sprayed the truck, Heindrich, the dog and anything else within range!
Well, Heindrich is nothing if not a good sport. He turned around, went back into the house, changed his clothes, took a tomato bath, threw the old clothes away on his way back out to his odiferous truck, and went to work. They wouldn't let him in the building! His co-workers sent him home with loud suggestions for new trucks and more tomato baths.
Later that afternoon, Heindrich tried to go back to work after another long soak in tomato juice, another change of clothes and a Taxi ride, but his boss met him at the door with a charmingly phrased leave of absence for "as long as it takes to kill that smell!"
The skunk, however, had made his last rude remark. He did not return.
Then there were the raccoons. In another letter Bess explained to me that the raccoons were a terrible nuisance. They would get into the trash, spreading it all over the property, and would find any open window or crack to climb into the basement and destroy the winter stores. After an apparently exhausting struggle to take possession of the house from the raccoons, Heindrich finally went to the Fish and Game Department and received a permit to shoot the raccoons.
But they only came at night. How to catch them? So Heindrich cleverly installed one of those motion sensitive lights out by the trash cans and tilted it so that it would shine directly into the bedroom window when it turned on. Then he loaded his rifle (a recent purchase after the lesson from the skunk), and waited.
About midnight the light came on. Sure enough, Heindrich could hear noise out by the trash cans! He grabbed his trusty rifle, and quietly snuck out the front door to come at them from around the corner of the house. He didn't realize that he was out in the snow in nothing but his camo-colored underwear and his boots until he dropped down onto his belly to crawl up the driveway to surprise the varmints! Brr! But Heindrich would not retreat! The light had gone back off and he had the advantage of the cover of darkness. Up the cold wet driveway he crawled, slowly, quietly, coldly.
When the light came on again, Heindrich looked around to get his bearings. Next to his right elbow was a set of old army boots. Next to those were another pair. What in the? He looked up the boots to the ragged jeans to the old farm coats to the smiling faces of his nearest neighbors, Sam and Betsy.
"Well, howdy thar' neighbor! That thar' is the dandiest little gadget I ever did see! I hope ya' don't mind me bringin' Betsy here over to see it? How do ya' make that thar' light go on and off like that? And, uh… I knows y'all are a little new to the woods an' all… but… well… Yer supposed to put on more clothes than that before ya go out a huntin'! Yer liable to catch yer death crawlin' around in the snow like that! "
With that rather embarrassing bit of instruction Sam and Betsy turned around and left Hein-drich lying there in the snow. But he heard Sam comment when he thought he was out of earshot, "That thar feller just don't have the sense God gave an ant. I just don't know how they're gonna make it out here. I surely would like to know where he got them fancy drawers, though. I surely would."
The raccoons are still there. Heindrich finally made peace with them by giving them their own little rubbish heap a little way from the house, and by encasing the trash cans in an airtight fortified steel enclosure.
In their last letter I heard that Bess and Heindrich have a new interest. They are teaching a course to the new arrivals to the area down at the local civic center. I think they said it was called "Surviving in a Cabin in the Wilderness, 101".
Posted May 29, 2002
I loved this book! It was so funny that it had me doubled up and reading it out loud to my husband! I highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to take a minute and enjoy life!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted April 16, 2002
Country Tales twists and turns down the back roads, sprinkled with rural characters, livestock and wildlife which make the simple life not so simple, but belly-busting funny!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.