Sunday, February 3, 2013

Our Log Cabin in the Woods

My childhood buddy and dearest friend , Tommy McDonald , and I would roam the backwoods of Pokiok looking for the ideal spot to build a camp ... or a "fort" as we often called it. We had both received hatchets for Christmas one year so we were well equipped to chop down or chop off a few alder saplings and spruce boughs and piece them together into a makeshift lean-to .... very much like the one in the above picture which I put up for my two boys and their friends in our backyard in Pokiok during the 1970s. The overnight shelters were most often erected within earshot of our homes .. just beyond the edge of the woods ... as we were still of that age when the pitchblack darkness   and weird sounds of the forest sent shivers up and down our spines. Besides we had quick and easy access to old pieces of linoleum , tarpaulin or carpeting to make our dwelling more rainproof and "liveable".

However , as we got older we started widening our range of explortory endeavours ... mainly out behind Tommy's house as there was very little space behind our place because of the shear dropoff of some 800 feet to the river below. One morning we set off with our lunches stashed away in our packsacks and headed straight for the Blueberry Hills .. later referred to as the Burnt Hills after the big brush fire of 1948 ..  With Tommy sporting a heavy flare gun ( no flares , of course ) his Dad had brought home from the war  and myself armed with my faithful "beebee" air-rifle , we were ready to take on any imaginary enemy we might meet along the way. I cannot remember what prompted us to go beyond our usual range that day ... but we did ! And were well rewarded for doing so !

Some 20 minutes later , once out of the hills and back into the spruce forest , we came upon a small clearing .... and there smack in the middle stood a log cabin ... almost a deadringer to the one in the picture below except that ours had a window. We were a bit leery at first as we drew near .. even intrigued at finding such a treasure here in the woods ... and seemingly abandoned to boot ! So we approached the cabin , pushed the door open and peered in. There was absolutely nothing inside but a few old rusty cans and empty shotgun shells cluttering up the damp ground. There was no wooden flooring. " Our first big real estate dream had come true" , thought we ... so back we headed to tell Tommy's Dad , Ernie , and get his "blessing" to use these newly found "digs" as our headquarters , sleeping quarters , frontier outpost , etc . We didn't want to tell him that it was "almost" on the ridge overlooking Boar's Head Road and the Millidgeville Airport for he might have thought that a bit too far from home ... so we kept that to ourselves.

Now Ernie was not in a very good mood when we got back as he had been digging up the backyard for over a month by then looking for water and all he found were droplets of his own sweat accumulating in the earth as he dug. And that morning before Tom and I had set off to the woods Kay's ( Tom's Mom ) nanny goat had butted Tommy sending my little friend ass-over-kettles into the thickets beside the house. Kay had bought the goat for milk during the war. Ernie was nearby when this happened  so ,. while uttering a few choice adjectives as to the goat's geneological origins and its final destination , he grabbed the goat by the horns and was about to "heave" the poor beast into the woods when  Kay intervened and stopped him.
So with Ernie still smoldering from a frustrating day we decided to get Tommy's mother along with her two sisters , Marie and Margey , to sweet-talk him into accompanying us back to our newly discovered haven in the woods. So off we went with Ernie muttering and uttering threats to all the mosquitoes , blackflies as well as their offspring that we met along the way . After about 40 minutes of "forced march" over hillock and dale with a guy who had just left the army , we finally reached our newfound nest. To our great surprise Ernie approved quite readily of the spot ... adding that he might even use it as a hunting cache or blind during deer season. In the following three or four years we enhanced the looks of the place by covering the floor with lots of spruce boughs which we constantly renewed at no expense at all ... even made a table and two benches from old lumber we found around the neighbourhood. All this back when life was not complicated ...and then we grew out of this phase in our lives ... unfortunately ! I went off to school in Ontario and Tom stayed on to stand guard atop McDonald Mountain ...    

The log cabin pictured above was built by my dear friend , Yvan Breton , in the wilds of Québec's Bellechasse County... and is a repliqua almost to the finest details of our cabin in the woods in Pokiok. Yvan and I were colleagues for over 30 years at Université Laval in Québec City and have spent manys a night discussing and settling world problems in our camp in the woods between 1975 and 2000 .... I'm still a kid at heart I guess and most likely always shall be !


  1. Great memories Gerry, keep up the writing I am intrigued!

    Anna in Turin (aka Pinguina in Italia)

  2. I love the stories of my dad and you growing up, I remember when we used to build camps out back of the house too.

  3. gees where is the rest of the story? -I was really getting interested ;)

  4. Hi Gerry, The cabin you found in the woods behind the lake, sounds like the one that Murray DerHant was said to build, he and Eve. Marr.. we used to go out there, and play init. If I remember it had a spot that you could sleep upstairs, I enjoyed your story on it . Brought back a lot of happy memories, Art.

  5. Hi Art ,
    Maybe it was that camp but there was no upstairs .. not even high enough for a makeshift loft. Tom and I used it for about four years... 1946 until 1950 ... before I went away and never had anyone claim rights to it. Hadn't thought of Murray nor Eve for quite some time. Great guys all ...and Junior told me over the phone that he had spotted Murray Durant in the back row of our white quarry picture ... take care , old Pokioker ...