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A neighbor out here – we’ll call Fred to protect him from being banned from the neighborhood cocktail hour – was evidently listening to "Puff the Magic Dragon" when he came over wondering where all the cabins went.

Being we’ve been lifetime friends, I had some misgivings about where this conversation was going, but since I’ve been here before with him, I listened. A bit of background might be in order here. Back in 1966 when my parents bought this cabin, it was a turnkey purchase.

Back then, when someone sold a cabin it was sold as is, complete with silverware, furniture, bedding, etc. Sellers just took the money and walked away. When Fred bought his cabin the only running water it had was water you had to run and get from the lake. So Fred set a pump in the lake and pumped it up to his cabin.

There was no bathroom, only an outhouse, so he didn’t have to water that but he did have an inside sink that needed water and he suspended a bag from a tree that he used as a shower. Over the years he installed a well and septic system but this was after he fixed a myriad of other things, like the hole in his roof that he could watch the stars through.

Then he had to extricate the bats, and on occasion they still appear inside his place just to give him a stress test. Then there’s the aroma of smoked wood that permeated the cabin and the many evenings he spent sitting by his fireplace chatting with his wooden Indian – and the nostalgia continued.

What I could extract from all this was that he was listening to Peter, Paul and Mary’s "Where have all the flowers gone" when this wave of nostalgia washed over him making him recollect how he enjoyed the primitiveness of days past.

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Over the years cabins have changed, most have running water, showers, washers and dryers, heat and cooling sources, and most of the modern day accoutrements. Thus the concept of a cabin has changed from outhouses to indoor plumbing, etc., and while listening to ‘where have all the flowers gone’ he somehow was sidetracked into wondering where have all the cabins gone and felt the urge to share his thought with me.

Evidently, he longs for the days when life in the wilds of Tschida really was wilder than are today. As I listened to him, I caught of bit of nostalgia by recalling our outdoor shower, no heat, no air conditioning, no TV, no internet, no trees/shade, etc. Back in those days we read books, played board games, napped, spent more time on the beach and shared whatever resources we had.

Our bay was more of a commune than it is today. Neighbors got together and bought a tractor to mow the prairie, purchased a communal dock, installed a water system that fed eight cabins lake water for trees and yards that eventually created a canopy of trees surrounding and shading our cabin areas, and chipped in to dredge our bay.

Better yet, since our cabins are a ways from any towns, we all knew where the keys to our neighbor’s cabins were in case we needed something. The rule was "take it if you need it and replace as soon as you can."

So over the 509 years that I’ve been here, cabin life has evolved, and although we all get along great, not many of us know where the keys to our neighbors cabins are. Thus Fred’s question has more to do with nostalgia than reality.

Here’s to hoping your treks down nostalgia lane are pleasant, and your neighbor comes up with something more exciting to wonder about.

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Dan Ulmer is a parent, grandparent, as well as a retired teacher, counselor, politician, lobbyist, public employee, nonprofit executive and opinionated citizen who believes that we need to do what we can to leave the world better off than we found it.

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