Tales from the Cabin
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My Neighbor, The Superhero

By Christy Heitger-Ewing
Published: May 1, 2007
Jim Ratterree, the project superhero.
I shouldn’t admit this, but last summer at the cabin it took me nearly an hour to assemble my 2-year-old’s plastic picnic table.
Despite the grueling assembly process, I took pride in my accomplish-
ment – that is, until Kyler sat down. The moment his bottom hit that tiny blue bench, the entire structure dropped to the floor. And then Kyler, already wise beyond his years, looked up at me with his big brown eyes and said, “Need Me-Raaree” (translation: “We need Mr. Ratterree’s help”).
Kyler knew that Jim Ratterree, our kind, sweet and amazingly handy neighbor, would fix his table because Jim is the quintessential “Mr. Fix It.” He’s also “Mr. Invent It,” “Mr. Build It” and “Mr. Renovate It.”
To Jim, dreaming up cabin projects comes as naturally as breathing. He’s not boastful about his abilities, either. He simply delights in making cabin-related things for his friends and neighbors.

Recently, for instance, my dad mentioned to Jim that he’d like to hang a captain’s wheel on a wall
in the basement, so that when the grandkids visit they could play “pirates.” Immediately Jim’s eyes lit up, and he went home and drew up a pattern for a captain’s wheel mounted on a pseudo ship’s hull - pirate ship included.
For the project, Jim utilized leftover oak flooring from a recent kitchen renovation and fashioned the boat’s hull out of knotty pine. To ensure that energetic children wouldn’t accidentally tip the “boat,” Jim installed a mooring cleat on the top center of the hull as well as two more cleats on the wall, one on each side of the boat. He then looped a braided tie line through all three cleats, adding both stability and nautical charm. Finally, Jim perched two black skull and cross bones flags atop the boat to round out the pirate theme.
Maritime inventions aren’t Jim’s only specialty. This past summer he designed a lakeside waterslide that attaches to our dock so that kids of all ages can take a slippery dip in the drink whenever they please. Jim even created a makeshift “waterfall” by positioning a garden hose with a shower nozzle above the slide, keeping it wet and cool for endless hours of fun on hot summer days.
Most children idolize characters like Batman, Spiderman or Super-man. But because of the pirate’s wheel, the lake slide and the picnic table (which Jim fixed in about three minutes flat), my son has found his own kind of hero in Jim.
Kyler’s no fool. He knows that fictional superheroes are a dime a dozen. But there’s only one “Me-Raaree” – a true hero who can magically transform dreams into reality and whose only kryptonite is the absence of cabin projects. 

Freelancer Christy Heitger-Casbon admits to using the lake slide just as much as the “younger kids.”

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