The Best Ever Story of a Cabin Purchase
Sometimes memories trump money
February 17, 2011
Money isn’t everything. Yes, cash is required in order to buy a cabin, but my family is living proof that sometimes a dream can come true – and it has nothing to do with dollar signs. Let me back up a bit.
Photo by Dan Fergus
My dad was a lucky duck. When he was a teenager, he had a best friend named Marty who, for three straight summers, invited him up to his family’s northern Michigan lake cabin. Dad said that each year, as soon as they arrived at the cabin, he would race down to the dock, scan the water and exclaim, “This is awesome!”
While at the cabin, my dad and Marty engaged in all sorts of adventures – like taking the 12-foot rowboat over to a tiny island on the lake, dubbed Mosquito Island, where they would go ashore and bury deer bones under rocks. Then in later summers they would return to dig up their “treasures.”
Dad and Marty also loved to take the boat across the lake to indulge in a scrumptious double scoop of 10-cent ice cream. Their after-dinner ritual consisted of drowning a container of worms in the hopes of snagging a perch or walleye. When the fish were really biting, Dad and Marty made sure to chart their good fortune (and lucky spot) on a map that hung on the cabin’s wall. At night, they built massive bonfires by the shore, then stayed up late reading comic books like Walt Disney Comics, Little Lulu, and The Fox and the Crow.
Each year when the vacation ended, Dad would again go down to the dock, scan the water, and say aloud, “Someday, I’m gonna own a place on this lake.”
Fast-forward 21 years to the summer of 1981 when Dad got a call from Marty’s mother, letting him know that the cabin two down from theirs was on the market. Immediately, my dad started salivating at the thought of owning his very own piece of paradise – and in the same cove he had fallen in love with two decades earlier.
In 1981, Dad had a wife and two children (me and my older brother Dan; 8 and 11 at the time). Dad loved the thought of being able to recreate all of the magical times he had experienced as a kid. But he didn’t know if he had the money to make it happen.
When Dad spoke to his realtor, he was told that the cabin had already generated a lot of traffic, and he didn’t see it staying on the market for long. Without hesitation, Mom and Dad hopped in the car and drove 520 miles north to see the place.
When they arrived, there was a group of potential buyers out on the dock and another group touring the cabin. Mom and Dad began looking around, and the owners, who were sitting near the window by the lake, kept their eyes glued on Dad. Then the woman cocked her head to the side and said to Dad, “You look kind of familiar.”
Dad explained how as a kid he used to come to the lake with the neighbor boy two cabins down.
“Oh, yeah,” the woman said with a smile. “I’d see you boys playing in the water constantly. You always seemed to be having such a great time.”
Later that night, my parents made an offer on the cabin – as did two other families. The next day when the cabin owners received the three offers from their realtor, they only had one question, and it had nothing to do with money.
“Are any of those offers from the boy who used to come up here?” the cabin owners asked.
“Yes,” the realtor responded. “That would be Mr. Heitger.”
“Well, we want to sell to that boy,” the woman said.
When Dad heard he got the cabin, it took all of 30 minutes to pack up the six of us (Mom, Dad, Dan, me, our cat Furry, and our dog Bonnie) and head north. Upon arrival, we followed Dad’s ritual by racing down to the dock, scanning the water, and exclaiming simultaneously, “This is awesome!”
Yes, money bought the cabin. But clearly it was old cabin memories – and the promise of making new ones – that made the purchase possible.
Frequent contributor Christy Heitger-Ewing thinks it’s pretty cool that during the summer of 2010, Marty and his grandkids returned to Mosquito Island, where they unearthed some of the treasures that he and her dad had buried 52 years earlier.
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