Tuesday, November 3, 2009

To our little cabin in the woods

One of the things I miss about Nebraska is our family cabin we spent many summers enjoying. Each spring, my brothers and I would anxiously wait for Memorial Day and hope that the weather was nice enough to enjoy our little cabin near the Platte River. Our cabin was modest – two rooms – a kitchen with living, fireplace and well water sink along with a bedroom with bunks. There was no running water, so we used an outhouse. Outside we had a tire swing, picnic tables and a volleyball/badminton court. When the weather was good on Memorial Day, we’d drive I-80 to the Gretna exit and take many back roads over a sketchy bridge, past a few ponds, through some cornfields to reach our remote cabin. Our family gathered there – cousins from out of town, aunts and uncles and sometimes their friends. Mom would pack a cooler of food along with a small cooler of kool-aid for us to enjoy if we were thirsty. I really looked forward to the cabin because this meant I could see my all of my cousins (there are 14 of us). Our cabin was surrounded by a forest of trees – oaks, maples, mulberry and a few pines here and there. We had two paths that took us to the sandy banks of the Platte River where we’d play, fish, build sand castles and catch snakes and toads. When the weather was hot and the Platte was low, my mom, aunts and cousins would venture out on the Platte to play in the water and if we were lucky and the river was low enough (we’re taking about the river that is a mile wide an inch deep) we’d walk across to the island in the middle and explore.

[caption id="attachment_111" align="alignleft" width="201" caption="That's one big catfish, Mary Lu!"]That's one big catfish, Mary Lu![/caption]

In the early 1980s, heavy snow melt in the Rockies flooded the Platte near our family cabin. The aftermath created a bigger sandy beach and two small creeks in which my uncles had to build small two bridges so we could get to the Platte River from one of the paths. That same year, the City of Lincoln (whom my family leased the land from) built a safer road into our cabin. No more scary creepy bridge. We entered through a locked gate, down a long road, through corn fields. My cousins and I missed that drive, through the cornfields, past the ponds. We would beg our parents to let us walk up the road each summer to look at that old bridge. We’d throw rocks in the ponds, fish and pick mulberries. When the corn was just growing, we’d explore the forest as well. One spring we found an old small abandon cabin. My mom told us it was an old hermit’s cabin and to not go back. We didn’t believe her and went back several times. Never did see the hermit and later found out it was my uncles’ deer hideaway while hunting.

One of the cabins up the road had a pond next to it we swam in when it got hot. We nicknamed it “frogger pond” because it seemed to always have tadpoles and frogs hopping around when ever we went. No one ever seemed to visit that cabin so we hung out there on hot summer weekend when the river was too high to swim.

An early memory of that cabin involved an old three wheeler we had (this was before 4-wheelers and ATVs). This was my dad’s and somehow my mom got the thing in the divorce so she left it at our cabin. My older brother Casey would take us for rides up and down the road on it and we’d fight over who got to ride next.

Fourth of July was always a treat. Since the City of Omaha banned fireworks without a permit in the city limits, we escaped to our Ashland hideaway to light our sparkles and bottle rockets. Most of the time, my uncle would drive to Missouri and buy illegal fireworks so he could perform his “Gruchi Brothers” show (this was a knock-off of the display that Rosenblatt would put on). By that time, the corn was pretty high and my Uncle Jerry set-up at dusk and we’d oooo and awww and not want to go home but mom would load us up and we’d fall sound asleep in the car.

Labor Day was the end of our summer visits. We’d have a last few swims in the Platte, say good-bye to our out-of-town cousins until Thanksgiving and swing on the tire swing one last time. My cousin Tracy and I would also make one last sand castle and catch a few frogs for good measure. We’d lock the cabin up and it would sit empty until pheasant, duck, goose and deer season arrived for my uncles and brothers.

My mom met my stepdad through my Uncle Jerry at that cabin. My Uncle Jerry married his wife Michelle at that cabin. We’d play hide and seek and listen to the songs of the 80s at that cabin. We picked morel mushrooms in the spring (and lost my Uncle Tom for a few hours – which is a whole other blog post). In the early 1990s the City of Lincoln informed my family they weren’t renewing our lease and we’d have to vacate the land –taking our cabin with us so in 1993, we moved our cabin across the river just to the east of Mahoney State Park on the banks of the Platte. It was a sad day for our family. Sure, my stepdad remodeled the cabin and we now had running water, but gone were the ponds, fishing spots, walking paths to the river and fireworks shows in the cornfields.

One of earliest memories was playing hide and seek with my cousin the cornfields. The new cabin didn’t have corn but a set of railroad tracks right behind that would keep you up if you spent the night. Don’t get me wrong – that cabin is a whole other set of blog posts – just ask my college friends. But it wasn’t the same.

In the spring of 1993, heavy snows in the Rockies brought one of the worst floods to Platte River. The flood was so bad, it shut down Interstate 80 and Highway 6 – the only way to Lincoln, Nebraska from Omaha. In the spring, we found out the flood waters went all the way up where are old cabin was located and didn’t recede, creating a lake. We would have lost everything for sure if we would have stayed. How’s that for karma?

I don’t have any photos of the old cabin but I have spent a good amount of time on Google Earth trying to view the area. The City of Lincoln was using the area to pump water to the city. While our cabin was there, they built a bridge to one of the islands so I use that as a landmark when spying on my old life on Google Earth. I often thought about mountain biking in but I never did. Maybe someday I will go back, jump the fence and check it out. It’s a big part of the memories with my mom as it was her family’s cabin. Everything seemed so innocent back then.

ariel view of the cabin

1 comment:

Shawn said...

Shannon, this was beautifully written and I am totally teary! THank you for sharing this. Shawn