Thursday, January 27, 2011

My Hideout in the Woods

When I first started hanging out with the Linton boys at the sawmill, I was living some 10 miles away. And once I realized there was the potential there for doing a lot of creative work with wood, I decided to figure out how to live close-at-hand.

Location, location, location.

To get back into the hollow where the sawmill was, you had to drive across (i.e., through) Brush Creek. And there, at the mouth of the hollow was a nice bluff owned by the neighboring farmer. I went to talk to him and told him my idea. My idea was that I would like to rent that hilltop from him, and build a shack there, so I could get down to the sawmill and work on wood projects. I told him that, whenever, I left, he could have the shack. It might make a nice place to lodge deer hunters, now and then. He was pretty sure I was crazy, and so was I. He rented me the land for 25 dollars a month. There was no road up to the top, but I found my old truck could just manage the meadowy hill that sloped up to it. Eventually I wore the route into little ruts I called 'my driveway'. Months later, when the rainy weather came, I discovered my driveway ran over a wet weather spring that turned to complete impassible muck. So, later, my driveway had a big curve that went around the spring. Live, and learn!

Constructing my abode.

For the first few weeks I slept on the bed of my pick-up, while getting the foundation established, and laying a floor. From then on, I slept on the new floor while building the walls and roof. It cost me very little to build this. I worked with throw away wood from Bud's sawmill, or from the bone pile of a commercial sawmill a few miles away. The shack had a tin roof of old rusty barn tin someone gave me. The windows were salvaged from a burned out building. The front window was especially nice, with a view out, over and down to Brush Creek, about 20' below. I took a couple of trips into the city and gathered up a lot of leaf -filled trash bags people had set out by the curb. I stuffed these under the crawl space beneath the shack to serve as an insulating barrier from the cold ground.

The side of the shack.

All those boards that look like they are falling off, was my fanciful notion of being 'decorative'! (Eat your heart out, Martha Stuart)

The Water barrel.

The nearest potable water was from a spring about three miles away. So, I would take 5 gallon buckets in the back of the truck, bring them back full, and dump them into this 40 gallon barrel. By placing the barrel up the hill, I was able to run a flexible pipe to the shack, and be so modern as to have running water! The small lean-to on the back of the shack is where I would keep my firewood.

The multi-purpose sink in the corner.

It was gravity fed by the water barrel up the hill. Cold water. Very cold water! But, I could fill a pan and heat it with the stove. ( A real task, since my stove did not have a level place to sit a pan on. I would have to suspend the pan with coat hanger wire over the stove-top.) The sink was my place to scrub up, as well. It was a 'whore's bath', as the saying goes. the sink drained to the sloping ground and trickled away. I felt ok about that, since it was a relatively harmless grey water. It was an area for improvement, though. (The insulation I put on the interior ceiling was one of the few things I spent money on.)

My wood stove.

Actually it was designed as a coal burner, but it did well with wood also. I lucked into this at a junk yard not too far away. In the middle of winter the tasks of securing wood, keeping it dry, and keeping the stove going, take a lot of time each day. And, if you get behind, you'll be sorry!

My future bathroom.

It would have been a primitive affair at best. But anything beats taking a shovel and a roll of toilet paper on a walk through the winter woods. (Which is what I did all winter long! Talk about freezing your a-- off!)

My not-so-king-sized bed.

It was comfy enough, and beat sleeping in the back of the pick-up by a long shot! The floor of the shack was 1" thick maple planks. At this point, I had laid out a tar -paper sheathing over it, in anticipation of a finished floor later. (Never got around to it.)

Dirt road to the back of the hollow.

Each morning, rather than rebuild a fire in the stove, it was easier to hike down the bluff and head to the very back of the hollow where Bud's shack would already be warm, and there was always hot coffee waiting.


I made it here on the bluff until about mid-February when we were hit with extreme winter cold, snow, and ice. It got very difficult to keep wood dry, and to keep warm. So, I bailed. I rented an efficiency in town. By mid spring I was off to work on a project in southern New Mexico.

As it turns out, by the time I returned, the shack was gone. Evidently some people squatted in it, used it as a meth lab, and ultimately blew the place up. Nothing remained, except for charred wood on the ground. Oh, well.


  1. until now i had thought something like this only existed in films, wow
    that stove looks fantastic, though i can imagine how hard it can be to use it.

  2. Interestingly, once the cold weather set in, maintaining the stove offered a basic way to structure the day. Plus, there is nothing like opening that iron door and just staring at flame and embers until you are ready to sleep!

  3. Dan, I wish I had seen your "Hideout" in person.

  4. Well, Dee, I had wanted to go back there once Winter wound down, to finish what I had started. But, as I say, the dream project was destroyed by a bunch of meth heads!

  5. It was a beautiful place and still is but not as beautiful as when Bud was there<3