Thursday, October 22, 2009

Building a life #8. The Little House in the Big Woods.

                                    The little house in our big woods.

It is cold, dark and snowy outside our snug little pump-house cabin. We are all tucked into the big double bed and are reading the first book of the Laura Ingalls Wilder series, ‘ The Little House in the Big Woods’. The wind shakes the boughs of the overhanging firs and down thump big puffs of snow onto the roof, but in our imaginations we are off in the much wilder world of the Ingalls: Mary ,Laura, Ma and Pa are living in the big woods of Minnesota during real pioneer times. How brave they are and how much they care for each other. How warm and cozy we all are in the our own big woods. How real their lives feel. We are living parallel lives.

Up on the hill on the other side of the stream, piling up with snow is the log cabin. There is not much to see as yet, some short posts on concrete pads and skinned logs stacked nearby that we have cut on the building site, but we are underway and the snow, heavy and wet as it is, will soon turn to rain and I will be back to work with the chainsaw.

During the mornings, Gwyn is the only child at home and Heather is anxious to help move this project forward. She sets Gwyn up in the trailer in front of the TV watching Mr. Dress-Up and Sesame Street and hurries up the hill. One morning I am placing the big sill logs on top of the cedar posts that raise the building high enough for a crawl space underneath. The final 30 footer has a curve that must be adjusted for and then I lever the smaller end up in place: easy. The butt end however is heavy and I sweat away, raising and placing blocks and wedges with Heather`s help, as it inches upward. Finally I call to Heather, “Take your hands away from the other end. I`m going to roll it on now!” Being curved, it moves slowly as I lift with the peevee until suddenly, passing the tipping point, it rushes to complete the roll. Heather`s hand is crushed as it rolls over her fingers!

There is no time for recriminations. We rush down the hill, put her hand in ice, gather Gwyn up and drive for the hospital, twenty minutes away. So far it has not hurt, but after the doctor has pulled each finger to check for damage it certainly does! Nothing broken, but this is a good reminder of how close we have been skating to an accident. Back in the other little house in the big woods we bet that Ma and Pa would have been more careful: not only was there no hospital for them, but an accident that crippled either of them would have life threatening consequences for their family`s ability to survive way out on the real frontier. Our life here may be rough and ready by normal standards, but it is only play acting compared to that of those folks in the big woods over a hundred years ago.

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