Story type: Essay
A little more patience, a little more charity for all, a little more devotion, a little more love; with less bowing down to the past, and a silent ignoring of pretended authority; a brave looking forward to the future with more faith in our fellows, and the race will be ripe for a great burst of light and life.
It was not built with the idea of ever becoming a place in history: simply a boys’ cabin in the woods.
Fibe, Rich, Pie and Butch were the bunch that built it.
Fibe was short for Fiber, and we gave him that name because his real name was Wood. Rich got his name from being a mudsock. Pie got his because he was a regular pieface. And they called me Butch for no reason at all except that perhaps my great-great-grandfather was a butcher.
We were a fine gang of youngsters, all about thirteen years, wise in boys’ deviltry. What we didn’t know about killing cats, breaking window-panes in barns, stealing coal from freight-cars, and borrowing eggs from neighboring hencoops without consent of the hens, wasn’t worth the knowing.
There used to be another boy in the gang, Skinny. One day when we ran away to the swimming-hole after school, this other little fellow didn’t come back with us.
You see, there was the little-kids’ swimmin’-hole and the big-kids’ swimmin’-hole. The latter was over our heads. Well, Skinny swung out on the rope hanging from the cottonwood-tree on the bank of the big-kids’ hole. Somehow he lost his head and fell in.
None of us could swim, and he was too far out to reach. There was nothing to help him with, so we just had to watch him struggle till he had gone down three times. And there where we last saw him a lot of bubbles came up. The inquiry before the Justice of Peace with our fathers, which followed, put fright in our bones, and the sight of the old creek was a nightmare for months to come. After that we decided to keep to the hills and woods. This necessitated a hut. But we had no lumber with which to build it.
However, there were three houses going up in town–and surely they could spare a few boards. So after dark we got out old Juliet and the spring-wagon and made several visits to the new houses. The result was that in about a week we had enough lumber to frame the cabin.
Our site was about three miles from town, high up on the Adams Farm. After many evening trips with the old mare and much figuring we had the thing done, all but the windows, door, and shingles on the roof. Well, I knew where there was an old door and two window-sash taken off our chicken-house to let in the air during Summer. And one rainy night three bunches of shingles found their way from Perkins’ lumber-yard to the foot of the hill on the Adams Farm.
In another five days the place was finished. It was ten by sixteen, and had four bunks, two windows, a paneled front door, a back entrance and a porch–altogether a rather pretentious camp for a gang of young ruffians.
But it was a labor of love, and we certainly had worked mighty hard. Our love was given particularly to the three house-builders and to Perkins, down in town.
Of course we had to have a stove.
This we got from Bowen’s hardware-store for two dollars and forty cents. He wanted four dollars, and we argued for some time. The stove was a secondhand one and good only for scrap-iron anyway. Scrap was worth fifty cents a hundred, and this stove weighed only two hundred fifty, so we convinced the man our offer was big. At that we made him throw in a frying-pan.
For dishes and cutlery, I believe each of our mothers’ pantries contributed. Then a stock of grub was confiscated. The storeroom in the Phalansterie furnished Heinz beans, chutney, and a few others of the fifty-seven. John had run an ad in “The Philistine” for Heinz and taken good stuff in exchange.
For four years after that, this old camp was kept stocked with eats all the time. We would hike out Friday after school and stay till Sunday night. At Christmas-time we would spend the week’s vacation there.
Many times had I tried to get my Father to go out and stay overnight. But he wouldn’t go. One time, though, I did not come home when I had promised, so Father rode out on Garnett to find me. Instead of my coming back with him he just unsaddled and turned Garnett loose in the woods and stayed overnight.
We gave him the big bunk with two red quilts, and he stuck it out. Next morning we had fried apples, ham and coffee for breakfast.
What there was about it I did not understand, but John was a very frequent visitor after that.
You know we called Father, John, because he said that wasn’t his name.
He used to come up in the evening and would bring the Red One or Sammy the Artist or Saint Jerome the Sculptor. Once he brought Michael Monahan and John Sayles the Universalist preacher.
Mike didn’t like it.
The field-mice running on the rafters overhead at night chilled his blood. He called them terrible beasts.
From then on we youngsters were gradually deprived of our freedom at camp. These visitors were too numerous for us and we had to seek other fields of adventure.
John got to going out to the camp to get away from visitors at the Shop. He found the place quiet and comforting. The woods gave him freedom to think and write. It so developed that he would spend about four days a month there, writing the “Little Journey” for the next month. How many of his masterpieces were written at the Camp I can not say, but for several years it was his Retreat and he used it constantly.
He reminded us boys several times when we kicked, that he had a good claim on it–for didn’t he furnish the door and the window-frames?
I never suspected he would recognize them.