| The Cabin
I am, many would say, charmed. I have money. I have time. I am able to pursue
the things I love; my art, my passions. Indeed, many would say that I am most
fortunate. I would agree with them. I make no apologies for what I have.
Some of it was given to me, much I worked for. Either way, it is mine. And I
make good use of it.
The most important fact of my life is that I do not need to work. As the son
of a business man, I was taught early how to save, how to invest, and how to
make something from almost nothing. I was also taught how to take risks, and
how to accept failure. Without accepting failure, a person canít learn enough
to go on to success. So, at the age of 35, I have never had to work for money.
That does not mean, however, that I have not worked. I enjoy work. I enjoy
experience. I also enjoy the fact that I donít have to be there. That sense
of freedom allows me to live things a little closer to the edge. This is a
trait which I inherited from my parents. In the end, it killed them; there are
places in South America that a private citizen should not pilot a plane--no
matter how beautiful the view is supposed to be.
Seven years after the death of my parents, the lawyers were still working out
details. The latest was property in northern Minnesota: 5,000 acres of
forest, a private lake, and a self-contained cabin. It was that property that
opened up a whole new chapter in my life.
I sat on the low deck of the cabin and looked across the clear lawn to the shore
of the small lake. The air was full of the smell of fresh-cut grass--grass
that hadnít been cut in years. Several small trees lay in a large pile to the
right of the lawn, against the backdrop of a denser forest. The caretakers of
this place had fallen lax, and let the forest encroach on the yard. It would
take most of the summer to bring the yard back to a civilized appearance. I
sipped from the glass of ice water--crisp and cold straight from the ground, a
cold that comes from being this far north where the ground never warms up.
I looked around the property again. A mile-long drive wound through the forest
behind the cabin which sat on a flat open area only a hundred feet across, and
two hundred or so deep. The cabin itself was a steep-roofed building, with an
open loft upstairs. The angled walls made it useless for much else than a
sleeping space. But with a large window looking directly west over the lake,
it made a wonderful bedroom. It was open and rustic. The west and north sides
of the cabin were skirted by a low deck. The lawn--once impeccably kept, Iím
sure-- was open all the way down to the shoreline. I had yet to put in the long
pier, preferring to get the yard cleaned first. Off to the right, a short
ways from the cabin was a small shed which housed a variety of tools, yard
equipment, and, to my dismay, spiders and squirrels. The remainder of the
property was forest and bluffs. A wind turbine on a near-by hill supplied
electricity to run everything in the house, including the water pump. Natural
gas in the large storage tank supplied the furnace and stove. An cast-iron
wood stove acted as back up for both.
Every thing had been coated in dust and debris. I had primed the pump and let
all the taps run for an hour to clear out the rust and sediment. After setting
off enough bug-bombs to qualify me as a major military power, I had opened all
the windows and let set up several fans to push as much fresh air through the
place as I could, and set about cleaning the house. That had taken me 3 days.
Bringing this place back into shape was going to be a significant project. But
once it was done, it would be beautiful; a pleasant change from my loft in the
By the end of the summer, I had managed to get the main property into shape,
fixed the cabin and the shed, built a whole new pier to replace the rusted and
weathered one, and actually found time to kayak around the lake, hike
through the woods, and generally enjoy myself.
My frequent trips into the nearest town--about 20 miles away--had made me known
to the locals; especially the clerks at the hardware store. I think I may have
single-handedly made their profit margin for that year. But with their help, I
had managed to get the right tools to bring the lawn back to its former beauty,
cut back much of the shrubbery, and log out some of the deadwood from the forest
to supply good burning wood for the winter. I had put my BMW into storage and
purchased a new Jeep to replace it. Despite my long hair, odd name, and slips
back into my Ďcity waysí I was becoming somewhat of a native.
One day in early August, I was reading the limited news in the local paper and
sipping a cup of coffee at the local coffee shop when I overheard a small group
of locals discussing the school. There had been, over the last few years,
concern that students in the local school were not getting enough education to
prepare them for life outside of Millerís Junction. The academics were there,
but with the advent of the internet, cable TV, and instant communications, the
kids of Millerís Junction couldnít keep up. I sat back and listened to their
conversation, making mental notes, and came to a decision. I could use a new
job, and this sounded like a fun one. So, the next day, I was sitting in the
office of Margaret Weiss, principal of the Millerís Junction High School.
Margaret was a lovely woman of about 50. Her appearance was an odd mix of ages.
She certainly looked as though she were fifty, but her body would have made any
20-year-old jealous. Her hair was a mix of dark and gray, styled neatly,
but casually, in a short cut that didnít come off as trendy. While there were
some fine lines around her eyes and at the corners of her mouth, they werenít
overly prominent-- just enough to add a look of maturity and wisdom. Her body
was trim. She stood about 5í 8" and had, as far as I could tell from what she
was wearing, a well-toned body. Her were small, but still remained
pert, and her ass showed no signs of spreading with age.
I did my visual survey with as much discretion as I could, and remained on my
best behavior. I had a sense, though, that she knew I was looking her over,
and as long as I remained a gentleman, she didnít mind me looking. I suspect
she enjoyed it. If I had had a principal that looked like her when I was in
school, I would have found new and creative ways to get sent to the office as
often as possible. This was one woman, however, that knew what was going on,
and was nobodyís fool. She was definitely in control. That sense of control,
and the diamond band on her left hand, made her all the more enticing.
"So, Mr. Marr. What is it I can do for you?"
"Well, Mrs. Weiss..."
"My apologies. Ms. Weiss. As you know, Iím sure, Iím somewhat new to this area.
Iíve taken quite an interest in the area, though, since Iíve been here. One of
the things Iíve been hearing a lot is that people are a little concerned about
the scope of classes offered here."
"We have a first-rate academic regimen here. These students are receiving an
excellent education, Mr. Marr."
"Iím not debating the quality of the education. The core classes are top-rate,
Iím sure. Itís the more....esoteric classes that Iím referring to. With all
the stuff thatís going on in high schools these days, thereís a lot of concern
over the non-academic education kids are getting. You know better than I do
what itís like dealing with high school students. Thereís a lot of stuff going
on, and they donít always know how to organize the available information well
enough to make a good decision. We both know that high school students arenít
kids. They have a lot of important decisions to make, they have the ability to
make them, but often arenít told how to go about it."
She sighed an exasperated sigh. "I have to agree with you on that. So far,
weíve been fortunate. Weíre far enough from the city that things like gangs
arenít a concern. But we still have our share of drugs, and the potential for
violence. I think that being in a small town like this often makes it worse.
We donít have the resources to offer the services that we should."
"I agree. And Iíd like to help."
"How?" Her defenses raised slightly.
"Iíve had some experience with this type of thing. Back in the city I
volunteered at the neighborhood B&G. I went through the training and even got
my teaching certificate. I know that itís not valid in this state, but there
must be a way to transfer it."
"Boys and Club. I was one of the councilors."
"We already have a perfectly qualified councilor."
"I know. Iím not looking to take his place. What I would like to propose is a
couple of new classes. Non-academic classes. A lot of the larger schools are
offering classes in decision-making; classes that deal with important issues--
gun control, first amendment issues, abortion, drug laws--the kinds of topics
we, as adults, have to deal with all the time. The things that campaigns are
based on. What the classes do is make the students study a volatile issue and
come up with a well-reasoned argument for their opinion. The class officially
supports no side. The grade is given based on how well a student researches
the issue, how well they make their argument, and how well they present it.
Basically, youíd be teaching them how to deal with problems by thinking them
"And you think the students would take this class?"
"I think so. Give them a chance--in fact encourage them--to argue with a
teacher? Oh yeah. I think theyíll like that."