Dave Simpson: Not A Place For The Faint Of Heart

Columnist Dave Simpson writes, "Yogi obviously climbed onto a picnic table at one end of the porch, and reduced a large hummingbird  feeder to shards of red plastic. Yellow spouts, red perches and empty bottles littered the deck. He even took a swig of tiki lamp fuel."

Dave Simpson

August 15, 20234 min read

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(Cowboy State Daily Staff)

“Been a visitor,” my old friend texted cryptically as I got off I-80 at Arlington, still about an hour away from the cabin.

A burglar, I wondered? What's to steal?

The second line explained:

“Only three hummingbird feeders left intact.”

OK, must have been a black bear. When I got to the cabin there were pieces of five feeders spread out all over the porch. Yogi obviously climbed onto a picnic table at one end of the porch, and reduced a large feeder to shards of red plastic. Yellow spouts, red perches and empty bottles littered the deck.

I found a three-quart jug of “Tiki Brand Bite Fighter Proven Mosquito Repellency Citronella and Cedar Torch Fuel” with the cap chewed off, half empty.

(OK, I'll admit I like cheap bamboo tiki torches. But in my defense, there is no plastic pink flamingo out front. Yet. The advantage of a cabin your wife seldom visits is freedom to decorate any old guy way you please. She says I arrange furniture like I'm setting up for a garage sale. I'm currently looking for one of those paintings of dogs playing poker.)

The red-dyed sugar water in the feeders was what the bear was after, but he didn't like the swig of torch fuel. One year a neighbor found a can of WD-40 with bear tooth punctures in it. Bears don't like WD-40, either.

(Some claim you don't have to dye hummingbird nectar red, but I don't buy it after seeing birds try to feed off my red Coleman lanterns. Ever since, I've been a red dye guy.)

It's been so rainy and cold this summer in the Snowy Range that our bear friend might have just been trying to get out of the rain.

Huddling around a wood stove trying to get warm kind of makes my wife's case for not going to the cabin.

But, after you build a cabin, you tend to be hard-core about getting up there.

The guy who discovered the bear damage was the longtime friend who helped me build the cabin 40 years ago, cutting 14-foot logs (the longest we could heft by hand), and horsing them into place, jamming one end against the logs already in place, then moving down the log to shoulder it higher. Once in place, we flattened the tops and bottoms of the logs with my tiny 12-inch, $75 Homelite chainsaw (it still works), and knocking off the rounded pieces with axes. A double dove-tail joint we found in an old “Foxfire” book has held the joints tight ever since.

Put simply, a lot of work.

When we ran out of downed timber on my land, I bought a firewood cutting permit from the Forest Service, and just happened to cut 14-foot sections of “firewood.”

We laugh at that “Building Off the Grid” TV show, where they put logs in place with heavy equipment - ha, ha, ha - and even get logs delivered by helicopter. We never had the luxury of concrete delivered via mixer truck. We hauled in 90-pound bags of cement, got sand down by the river, and lugged water in five-gallon buckets up from the river. We mixed concrete in a wash tub.

Really good exercise.

We think those Off the Grid guys are wimps. When we got back to Casper Sunday afternoons while building the cabin, we were exhausted, covered with mosquito bites, and we smelled like goats. (I pitied the folks in the next booth when we stopped at Pizza Hut when we got back to Casper.) We vowed to take the next weekend off, but never did, making our way back down to the Snowy Range the next Friday night, with a mandatory stop for a cold beer at the Elk Mountain Hotel.

That's how you get a log cabin for almost nothing.

I pieced together three feeders from the pieces the bear left us.

No harm done.

The good news is the weather is better now that it's August, the mosquitoes are almost gone, and we look forward to our annual Labor Day Picnic, when the sturdy, grizzled, hard-core cabin folks whoop it up at the end of Cabin Season.

(One year it snowed.)

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Dave Simpson

Political, Wyoming Life Columnist

Dave has written a weekly column about a wide variety of topics for 39 years, winning top columnist awards in Wyoming, Colorado, Illinois and Nebraska.