One summer evening in about 1969, our friends from Wales said, "Why don't we go somewhere for the Fourth of July weekend?" So we made some telephone calls and found that a cabin that I was introduced to some eight or nine years before was available. So we took it.
The Gatisses had two children, as did we, all younger than 6. We packed two cars and took off like a gypsy caravan. Our destination was the little village of Mill Run, in Fayette County in southwestern Pennsylvania, between the Youghiogheny River and the foot of Laurel Ridge.
From Mill Run, we drove part way up the Ridge on a dirt road to find our cabin, one of four, in the grove of conifers and deciduous trees. The cabin was about 30 feet above a creek named Fulton Run. It was a beautiful, rustic spot where we felt we were getting away from it all.
That was the first of our many happy visits to the Cabin In The Woods.
During that weekend, we took the Gatisses to the antiques shop in Mill Run. I got involved in a fishing story there with a local man.
He said, "If a man knows where the fish are, he can catch one any time. I'll bet you a dollar I can catch a fish under that bridge outside the store."
I said, "Right now?"
"Yep," he said.
We asked the storekeeper to hold the money. The fisherman got his tackle and some worms from his pickup truck and floated the bait right down the stream so it would go under the bridge. Instantly, there was resistance on the line. "We got one!" he cried as he reeled in a 7-inch rainbow trout.
He followed this with several others.
So we went in, settled up the bet, gathered up the families and stepped across the street for some fat back from the country store. We headed back up the mountain for a taste of fish in our rustic cabin.
On later and longer trips to the cabin, when our children were 3 and 4 years old, they enjoyed sliding down the hill behind the house to Fulton Run. I helped them build a dam there to make a pool where they went skinny-dipping.
Every once in a while, there would be summer storm that washed away some of the boulders. Almost every time we came back to the cabin, I helped them rebuild the dam to maintain the pool.
Only a few times after that did we sight any fish, but we did find salamanders, crawfish and turtles, much to their delight.
In time, friends from Pittsburgh with children approximately the ages of ours joined us, and we rented all four cabins for Mother's Day weekends. When the grownups gathered in the evenings to play bridge, baby monitors kept the parents aware of how their children were sleeping. Only a few times did they have to go back to their cabins to settle things down.
During the days, the children spent a lot of time in the creek, playing in the sand and water. We also took day trips to Ligonier to see the Revolutionary War fort there. Excellent displays of rifles, uniforms and artifacts fascinated kids and adults alike.
Another favorite trip was to the Big Red Fun Barn where the children could jump in the hay, ride the tire swing and play horseshoes.
Much later, when the children were grown, fathers and sons rented the cabins for annual fisherman's weekends.
Two of the young men had become excellent anglers, under the guidance of their father. Others had less interest in the lore of angling. We'd spend a half hour practicing casting with the three skilled anglers on dry land, then we'd go look for a likely stream for catch and release fishing.
Almost half the group were not skilled. We did know how to hold the rod, but much of our time was spent untangling lines. Steak dinners, hearty breakfasts and great good fun compensated for fish not caught.
As the consummate fisherman, Cy said, "You don't have to catch fish to go fishing. We'll come back to the cabin next year and try again."