My homemade cabin in the woods

Submitted by James Clyde Couch Jr.

I have many fond memories of growing up in the East Texas Piney Woods.  My siblings and I were raised so poor we couldn't even pay attention, as the saying goes, so we developed a lot of creativity to overcome our lack of money.  Hunting, fishing, and complete immersion in the forests that surrounded our home formed the fabric of who we would become.

Summertime in East Texas is as hot and humid as it gets.  At the ripe age of 12 years old, I awoke one summer morning with no sense of purpose and convinced my younger brother to assist me in building a log cabin.  We spent the next two months cutting beetle-killed long-leaf pine trees and dragging them to the cabin site.  Our mother would not allow us to use a chainsaw so we did it the old way, with hand saws and an ax.  Every fallen tree had to be cut to our engineering standards and notched for proper assembly.  Needless to say, the summer heat and strenuous work made us stronger and even more determined. 

 As time went by, the cabin began to take shape.  The dimensions were about 8' by 8' in the entry and 12' by 14' in the living area.  We built the log walls up to seven feet in height.  We completed the cabin by August. 

Over the next few months we spent every spare moment at the cabin.  As the heat of August subsided and September came, we could hardly wait for fall at the cabin.  In fact, all these years later, months with an "R" still stir me. 

As the weather cooled, we needed to warm the cabin.  We fashioned a makeshift wood stove from a rusted 55 gallon drum with a smoke stack extending out the roof of the cabin.  

We used pine needles and kindling to start the fire but try as we might, it would always smolder out.  One cool night, we thoroughly doused the stove with charcoal lighter fluid as the fire struggled and then suddenly, BOOM! The cabin had flames leaping from the gaps in the roof. We rushed out of the minus a few singed hairs.  Luckily, the stove slowly snuffed out and all was fine.  We properly vented the stove that night and it worked well for many years after that.

The woods cabin remained a fixture in our lives for many years.  We sold the East Texas place when I was 28 years old and my last task was to dismantle the cabin and burn the pile of wood. It felt like saying goodbye to an old friend.  No one can share a place like that with a new owner. It was ours.  It formed who I am and created a place that permanently anchored my love for the great Texas outdoors.   

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