A Cabin Celebrates Its 61st Anniversary
Mrs. Murray's Typewriter
April 28, 2011
|I began helping Mrs. Murray with her cabin chores shortly after I bought a cabin and 40 acres of woods in the coulees of the Minnesota River Valley. |
One September morning on my way over to help her set up for the cabin's annual anniversary party, I found her leaning against a tree smoking a cigarette. “It’s just to keep the mosquitoes away,” she said, embarrassed I’d caught her smoking. “Tomorrow’s the cabin’s 61st birthday you know. Bill and his dad built it. His parents gave it to us as a wedding present.”
I put my arm around Mrs. Murray’s thin shoulders. “It was a great wedding present. It’s weathered the years well, as have you,” I said, as she blushed.
The primitive and handsome two-room cabin the late Bill Murray and his father built from hand-hewn red oak logs was sited on a ridge opposite ours and overlooked the creek that separated us. Inside the cabin on one wall was a collection of birds’ nests; another displayed Chippewa and Sioux leathers and needlework. To the right of the split-rock fireplace was a large framed collection of arrowheads and lance tips the Murrays found over the years in the creek bottom-land.
At Mrs. Murray’s cabin, I cleaned the outhouse and split some wood for the fire ring. Then I went inside and started up to the attic to bring down some extra chairs. Mrs. Murray asked me to take up her old Remington Noiseless typewriter.
“I used to type 115 words a minute,” she said. “Now my hands are so crippled up I can hardly hold a pencil to finish my memoir. Did you know I was the Trib’s first rewrite woman? Reporters called in their stories back then. They thought I was a secretary. They’d say, ‘Oh. Hello, sweetheart. Get me Rewrite.”’
I’d learned to type on a similar typewriter. Reminiscing, I threw the carriage and fingered a few keys lightly without striking the empty roller. The old practice line my typing teacher had taught me came easily to mind: Now is the time for all good men to come to the aid of their country.
“Would you like to have it?” she asked. “For all you’ve done for me.”
“Yeah, I’d love it. And next summer, I’ll help you finish your story.”
On a shiny blue Sunday afternoon, Mrs. Murray’s many friends and the last of her cousins came out to the woods for the annual cabin anniversary party. With a crowd gathered around the fire ring, I called for a toast. “A happy anniversary to Mrs. Murray and her cabin in the coulees. May they both have many more.”
Mrs. Murray’s Remington Noiseless typewriter rests in my office on an antique secretary-desk. Whenever I get writer’s block, which is like gout, only more painful, I turn away from my computer and clack away on the old typewriter, typing up a new, more appropriate version of that old practice line:
Now is the time for all good men to take a weekend off at the cabin.
Paul Sullivan has never met a cabin he didn’t like.