Building a log cabin “the old fashioned way,” appealed to my father in 1975 until he chopped down a few trees with an ax. Quickly he embraced the invention of the chainsaw to harvest trees for the logs for his dream house.
The Hibbard log cabin became the family project. As dad cut trees on the old home place, my long-retired grandfather sharpened chainsaws for him. His twin brother provided the tractors and wagons needed to haul rocks and logs and the muscle to move them. My younger brother Burnie recalled recently on a family Facebook page. “Mel (our brother) did all the wiring, sanded the floors and a lot more. The day the logs went up, there were quite a few of us around. The notches were started with chainsaw cuts but finished by hand with a double-bit ax. In the top corners, Dad had spikes made that were very long: 24 to 36 inches. He worried about them staying in place. It was a pretty big deal when they were put in.”
“One day while trimming logs with an ax to get the top log to fit right, I slipped off the top, did a reverse 360 in the air and landed on my feet on the ground. Mom talked about guardian angels often and that was one time in particular,” Burnie wrote.
Dad built the first fireplace using creek rocks gathered from the Hibbard farm and carried to the house site on Uncle Bert’s hay wagon. That fireplace proved too heavy for the foundation.
The center beam supports came from an old building on the farm place. Dad installed a front porch of heavy planks and a maple wood floor inside.
Living in Indiana at the time I missed all the construction. When we did visit, our children romped through the upstairs loft and played with cousins while my mom told me, “I have to put all the food in metal boxes or the mice and other creatures who come into the cabin will consider it their next meal.”
No food sat on the counter to feed any creatures passing through the house. Fortunately, the black bear that wandered by ignored the house and my mom’s scrambling to snap his picture.
My parents lived there for a short while without plumbing before they moved out to the Wild West. They returned with a list of things to do, including adding modern plumbing.
Mom passed, Dad moved again and self-financed the sale of the cabin to a man who failed to pay. He made no payments to Dad, but many to himself as he stripped the cabin of the fireplace and its inserts, the maple floor, the front porch and the quality kitchen appliances. Dad moved back east and lived in the cabin for a few months before he settled into residential care.
My Colorado sister and her husband took the New York cabin as their inheritance. Her family began replacing items and changing the loft into the originally planned three bedrooms. For a while, my New York cousin used it as her main home. On the new front porch, she set up a gazebo tent with a bed and slept in the woods every night.
Colorado sister realized her family would not return. She sold the Hibbard log cabin to Burnie who also lives out west. He returned to begin a renovation which contractors say will be completed this fall. I don’t know who will live there when it is completed. I do know that on our next trip back East, we will visit the updated “old fashioned” log cabin that dad built.
Joan Hershberger is a former staff writer for the El Dorado News-Times and author of “Twenty Gallons of Milk and other columns from the El Dorado News-Times.”