My Cabin: In Praise of Cabinology

If one cabin is good, maybe two is better?


A few years ago, I became a fan of architect and Cabinologist Dale Mulfinger after acquiring a couple of his well-known books, “The Cabin” and “Cabinology.” At the time, I was building my own retirement dream cabin in the foothills of northeast Alabama’s Appalachian mountains.

With fall approaching, I had moved into my still-unfinished A-frame early, before drywall or flooring were installed or doors hung. As winter evenings approached, I would huddle on my cheap futon under an electric blanket with Gordon Lightfoot songs playing on my portable CD player while I perused Mulfinger’s books, seeking inspiration on the design, construction and finishing of my first cabin in the woods. His books also inspired me to come up with an original name for the cabin, which is now aptly named “Fox Rock Hill.” (Dedicated readers of Cabin Life magazine may recall the April 2012 issue in which the magazine saw fit to publish an essay I wrote, in which I explained the inspiration for the name “Fox Rock Hill.”) The inspiration was a friendly little fox that, for a full summer, sat atop a rock and watched inquisitively as I built my dream cabin just feet away.  Well, Fox Rock Hill has now been completed … kind of. (Are they ever completely finished?) And I remain a dedicated fan of Mulfinger. I even took a first-ever road trip to Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan’s U.P. two summers ago to explore the land of Mulfinger’s inspirations, and seek a renewed connection to the concept of cabin living.

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 Along the way, I discovered Frank Lloyd Wright’s family estate “Taliesin” in Spring Green, Wis., where I was reminded of the ongoing battle between design and function in architecture. And, surprisingly, I learned the tragic story of mass murder there. I then stumbled upon the Little Bohemia Lodge, in Manitowish Waters, Wis., site of John Dillinger gang’s famous shootout with police in 1934. As retired law enforcement, these stories interested me. In the process of building, living and exploring a cabin life, I have found myself, like Mulfinger, an avowed cabinologist, dedicated to the concept of all things cabin-related.

With a tip of my hat to my mentor, I searched in vain for his definition of cabinology, so I eventually came up with my own definition. Here it is: “The study and implementation of personal dreams related to planning, designing, constructing and/or living a simple life, in a simple structure, close to nature, the purpose of which is to bring peace, tranquility and satisfaction to one’s soul.” So, it should come as no surprise to learn that in April of 2013, I acquired a second, smaller cabin in the artsy northeast Alabama mountain community of Mentone, located about an hour away from my first cabin. I named it “Buck Rut Hut” after a persistent white-tail buck that still insists on establishing his territory right outside the kitchen window.

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This tiny 700-square-foot cabin – with its full kitchen, full bath, sitting area and loft bedroom – was built in 1983 by a now-deceased old-timer from, of all places, Wisconsin, who used timbers from a local 100-year-old cotton mill to build four handcrafted cabins in the Mentone area. Modest in appearance from the outside, once I stepped inside the handcrafted beauty, I had to have it. Granted, nobody really needs two cabins, but I couldn’t help myself. I call it my remote guesthouse, and have made it available to friends and family who want to get away from TV, cell phones and video games. A well-stocked library, board games, latte coffee machine and elevated deck view assure visitors peace and tranquility.

Located near DeSoto Falls State Park and Little River Canyon National Preserve, Buck Rut Hut has become my perfect getaway from my perfect getaway. Why not a beach house, my friends ask? No thanks, I tell them, unless you are a cabinologist, you wouldn’t understand. Response from Dale Mulfinger: Who needs Webster’s Dictionary or Wikipedia when Alex Moore is available for a definition of “Cabinology?” The study of cabins is an affliction borne by many, but Alex’s fever, fueled by building his Fox Rock Hill cabin and later purchase of Buck Rut Hut, grants him unique stature in the community of Cabinology patients.

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