In early summer of 1979, my dad, my uncle Troy, and me went up to our new property to Clear The Land and build The House. We bought a small barn shaped shed (hereafter known as The Barn), about 10 feet square, and built bunks in it. My dad and Troy slept on those, and I slept on a cot. That left just enough room for edging in, so we spent pretty much all of our time outside.
We cooked over an open fire in The Campsite, and worked from dawn until dark. I say "we", but what I really mean is my dad and Troy worked, and 7 year old me played like there was no tomorrow. One time we tried cooking mini eggrolls over the fire. It didn’t work. 🙂
There were deer everywhere. One morning I woke up to find my dad and Troy outside, so I went looking for them. The sun was just coming up over The Hill, and there was steam coming off The Clearing. They were standing about 10 feet from The Barn talking quietly and looking down at something. I went over and said "What’s going on"? They pointed at some flat spots in the grass and said "3 deer spent the night right here".
Several days later, a very large front end loader showed up. He dropped the blade at the road and drove into The Clearing, about 100 yards in from the road. Thus we had a Driveway. He cleared a little space, and then dug the hole for the foundation of the house. This left a very very large sand pile. For those unaware, northern Michigan is all sand. There’s black dirt in the woods and fields, but you only have to go down about 4 inches to get raw sand. When I heard we were moving to the country, I asked if I could have a sand box. My dad just laughed at me.
The next day when we got up, we went out to look at the hole and found that there was at least one deer track in every 4 inch square bit of sand. They’d smelled the clean fresh digging and came to investigate. I don’t know if there were only a few deer that walked everywhere, or lots and lots of them. It put me in mind of Toomai Of The Elephants though.
Not long after that, the foundation men came. We’d had the same company dig the hole as were laying the bricks, which was fortuitous, because they found that the guy who dug the hole dug it too deep. We ordered a "crawl space" which means someplace you can’t stand up in, but you can put things in, like the snow blower for the winter etc. Since they dug too deep, we got 2 extra bricks tall for free. So now I can stand up between the footers down there. Later in life I built model airplanes down there in the summer because it was only about 70 degrees when it was 95 outside.
Soon after the bricks were laid, the materials for the rest of the house started coming in. Our property was about a half mile from our nearest neighbor, and the road was a two track. For you city folk, that means a road so small that the grass still grows tall between where the tires go, and the road winds between trees, rather than cutting down trees to make a road. Somehow, the lumber guys got their big trucks down there to drop off our stuff, and the floor began to go on.
It was really really hot that summer. We were all on a Mello Yellow kick, and we drank an 8 pack (glass bottles, the ONLY way to drink pop) a day. We also typically drove into Harrisville and ate at Happy Jacks for lunch. It was a tiny restaurant that served burgers, fries, and ice cream. They had 3 tables, a Centipede video game, and a pinball machine.
My dad taught me to play pinball there that summer. I’d never seen it, but we played a lot. I’ve been a fan ever since, and was very sad to note recently that Bally, the last pinball maker in the world, closed their last pinball factory.
Anyway, we also tried going to the beach to cool off. Lake Huron is cold. There were still ice packs under the sand, and it had been in the 90’s for weeks. We didn’t swim much.
A little later in the summer my folks bought a small camping trailer and parked it next to where the house was being built. We spent the rest of the summer living in that. For all that the days were so hot, the nights were pretty cool, and we often heated the trailer with a Colman lantern. It also served to light the card games.
Troy went home about half way through the summer, and my mom and sisters moved up and into the trailer with us. It was the kind where the dining room table folds down to become the Master Bedroom, and there was a shelf above it that had a "bed".
The top bed in the trailer was about 18 inches from the roof. We put all three of us kids up there. I was 8 by the end of the summer, Beth was 5, and Jenny was still 2. I slept on the "inside", nearest the front of the trailer, farthest from the edge, because I was old enough to fight down the claustriphobia. Honestly, I don’t ever remember it bother me, especially since there was a small window there, and I was practically outside anyway. I could smell the good night air, and listen to the woods living through the night.
Jenny slept in the middle, since she was young enough to be able to fall out if she were on the edge. Beth slept on the edge to keep Jenny in. Beth was a hard sleeper. I mean REALLY hard. One night she fell out of that bunk and hit her chin on the sharp aluminum corner of the kitchen counter. She ended up sitting on my dad’s feet with blood running down her chin.
He got up and cleaned her up, and realized she was still asleep. he put her back in bed, and in the morning she had no idea. She didn’t even believe us that it had happened until she felt her chin.
Stay tuned for Chapter 3, The First Summer Part 2
View all posts in this series
- Chapter 1, Heading North - June 24, 2005
- Chapter 2: The First Summer
- Chapter 3: The First Summer Part 2 - June 27, 2005
- Chapter 4: Childhood weaponry
- Chapter 5: The First Fall and Winter - July 6, 2005
- Chapter 6: Setting up house - September 7, 2005
- Hunting - June 14, 2007
- Young Judoka - April 23, 2008
- UFO! - May 18, 2009
- Living Life With Tourette Syndrome - September 23, 2019
- Thoughts on turning 50 - July 17, 2021