Tales from the Cabin
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A Boy and His Dog

Man’s best friend plays matchmaker

By Paul Sullivan
Published: March 24, 2011
Photo by dreamstime.com
In 1956, when I was 12 years old, our family bought a 10-cabin resort on a lake in northern Minnesota and moved there. Eisenhower was president. Elvis’ big hit that year was “Hound Dog.” Wolf, a white German shepherd, was our hound dog. He was 2 years old. In dog years, we were about the same age.
The May afternoon that Wolf and I arrived at our new home, we spilled out of our ’52 Ford to explore. Wolf immediately picked up a scent in the sandy parking lot and followed it to a closed garage door. When I opened it, a chipmunk dashed into his hole in a huge mound of sawdust. Later, I learned the building was once an ice house, where ice from the lake had been stored in the Roaring Twenties.
I put a nickel in an old slot machine stored there and pulled the lever. A blur of cherries, oranges and lemons whirred by. The machine stopped at two oranges and a cherry. Three nickels clinked out.
“Wow!” I said to Wolf, “This is our lucky day. We’re not going to de-tassel corn and slop hogs the rest of our lives.” Wolf barked and wagged his tail in excitement, too.
In the laundry house, a stack of ironed and folded white sheets anticipated customers. Sharp knives in the fish house awaited whoppers. A minnow tank made of stone stood empty waiting for someone to fill it. Hung on pegs on the back wall of the boathouse, a 10-foot seine waited to catch minnows to put into the minnow tank to sell for bait.
On the beach, 10 upside-down wooden boats lay waiting for someone to caulk and paint them. Dock posts stacked by the boathouse needed someone to stand in near freezing water and pound them into the sandy lake bottom. A 5-foot ridge of sand built by a west wind at ice-out had to be leveled. On a rack in the boathouse, five elderly rental outboards waited patiently for their spring check-up.
Wolf and I walked up the stone steps from the beach to look at the cabins hidden among the giant Norway pines – the biggest trees I’d ever seen. The cabins were locked, but I peeked in the windows of several and saw simple rustic furnishings, wood stoves and stripped beds. Beside each cabin’s garbage can, I saw a stack of stove-length pine logs yearning to burn if only I would split and stack them.
“Wolf,” I said, “we’re going to have a lot of fun here. We’ve also got ourselves a summer job.”
Back at the store in the lodge, Wolf curled up on a throw rug while I helped Mom unpack gum and candy for sale. A woman and a pretty girl about my age came in. The woman said they owned a cabin nearby and welcomed us to the lake.
The girl patted Wolf. “What’s his name?” she asked.
“Wolf,” I said. “What’s yours?”
Wolf was always a great pal to me, but that day he introduced me to a girlfriend. Man’s best friend, indeed.

Paul Sullivan has never met a cabin he didn’t like.
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