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Cabin Country Podcast... Cottage Life Wonderfully Revisited...


Once in a while I find treasure in this world, as wonderful and precious as an heirloom quilt or a warm cup of Joe on a frosty morn. Something that sticks to your bones, like the feeling you get when you walk up your parent’s driveway, and you know you’re home.

The treasure of which I speak are two men —

Bjorn Loinstadt and Fud Klugman.

And the lake shore world they invite us into — The Cabin Country Podcast.

It’s a laid back, unhurried affair that covers cottage life in northern Minnesota — today, and most especially back in the day — hosted by two fellows who well appreciate the Good Life… when cabins weren’t meant to be mansions and boats were never behemoths. Each episode is a slice of that idyllic life well remembered… as families screamed out of town on a Friday afternoon and headed north to breathe clean air and leave the hectic world behind.

Bjorn and Fud aptly describe that exodus ritual in the episode entitled, "The Drive," for heading to Cabin Country demands ritual…

Mothers furiously packed the coolers with the foodstuffs needed for the trip. Those metal beasts were often tartan, or stamped Coca-Cola red, in design, as heavy as lead and could withstand a nuclear bomb blast. The squeaky Styrofoam beauts of which Fud and Bjorn so fondly speak were an ear-splitting addition. If I have any hearing loss, it’s because of them.

Fathers — the post-WWII kind — shed the navy-blue business serge for the khaki shorts and Hawaiian tops, mutely pointed to their Timex watches for the brood to load up, started up the Buick or Mercury land yachts, and hit the V8-packed throttle with speeds even NASA could be proud. As an aside, my father was ex Royal Canadian Mounted Police, so our Call to Duty was, “Mount Up!” His bark was scary as heck, but effective.

Cabin Country fathers only had two speeds: sitting in a lawn chair, drinking a cold one, or 60mph. No silly bathroom breaks nor vista picture-taking stops permitted on this cottage quest. For these ex farm boys/vets, it was back country roads to avoid freeway gridlock until the cabin was in sight. We children of those fathers may not have stormed the beaches of Normandy on D-Day, but by gosh, we knew what it felt like.

Cabin Country tales like this aren’t restricted to Minnesotans. Bjorn and Fud’s remembrances translate to any North American cottager who fondly remembers those heady days…

  • When shorts and a T and bare feet were the fashion plate, when a comb or brush was a useless object to pack, and when lake water more than tap water washed your sun-kissed skin.
  • When Brylcreme tubes were left unopened, and for once we kids saw the natural color of our father’s windswept hair.
  •  When mothers leapt out of their office togs into drip-dry ones, lipstick and hairspray tucked into the suitcase, and never used.
  • When kids tossed their school books into their bedrooms like a splayed deck of cards and hunted the garage for fishing poles and nets and the closets for beach towels and swimsuits and comic books. No smartphones had nor needed.
  • When time — once those land yacht tires slowly crunched along the cottage gravel drive — meant nothing, and bedtime and sunrise were marked by a loon’s call and a chickadee’s chirp in the lakeside trees.

And like the myriad of activities that held one’s interest up at the cabin each year, Bjorn and Fud cover an array of topics...

  • Tackle Boxes and Lures
  • Fireside Food.
  • Heavy Weather and Cabin Decor.
  • Pop Music circa 1976 (Your parent’s radio station choice, not yours. I know all of Bing Crosby’s ballads off by heart).
  • Bjorn’s Schmidt Scenic Beer Can Collection (I have a Labatt’s 50 beer cap, circa 1968, my father stuck into a Cabin Country cardboard box I’m rather proud of).

And as Fud and Bjorn sit next to the crackling fire, their calming, velvet-lined voices take you back to a simpler time when dusk was your dinner bell for frankfurters and home baked beans and your morning alarm was the wafting scent of percolating coffee and frying bacon. All these years later, I cannot smell that mix, float back to those peaceful days, and not sport a Mona Lisa smile…

Back in the day, vacationing in Cabin Country wasn’t a One-upmanship game it seems to be now. No one was interested in building log cabin mansions, and no man worth his weight in lake trout needed a boat motor faster than cruising speed allowed. Cottagers back then were trying to escape the Rat Race, not accelerate it. You headed for the cottage to unwind and be yourself, and to breathe.

While the coffee percolator bubbles on the back burner, Bjorn and Fud carry us back to a time when,

·         Beer came in an amber glass “stubby” or in a can a man couldn’t easily crush.

·         Tackle boxes were made out of wicker or metal, not plastic.

·         Cabin dishes and cutlery didn’t quite match and the coffee cups had chips.

·         The Good Life boiled down to the basics, and laughter was the only currency.

Sure, the lawn mowers were fixer-upper’s that never started on the first dozen pulls, the grass was anything but soft Kentucky blue, and more sand lay between your bedsheets than on the beach. And slivers could be the result of sitting in weather-beaten, ages-old Adirondack chairs that sat upon weather-beaten, ages-old docks that Canada Geese unceremoniously christened.

Germs? Dirt? There’s a lake. Wash it off. What’s the worry? Go lie in the sun, listen to the clap-clapping of the languid waves, and snooze. You’ll feel better.

As luck would have it, in the Cabin Country podcasts you’ll get an ear full of, “And now a word from Our Sponsors,” an array of giggle-producing commercial ditties that sure sound real, promoting products and services you’d purchase in an instant…if only they existed outside of Fud and Bjorn’s imagination.

I well remember my Cabin Country days up in the Muskoka Lakes District of Ontario, when there’d be a line up at the local John Deere tractor store ‘cause the owner was giving out two free donuts and coffee to the first dozen people to drop in on a Saturday morn. Now, that right there creates some serious Dad gridlock! You’d hear the ad on your transistor radio, the signal all squelchy and scratchy, but you didn’t care. It’s not like you and your Mom had plans to leave the dock as your father gunned the land yacht and soared into the wee hamlets of Haliburton or Minden to grab those donuts and have a look-see at the latest lawn mower beasts he’d never buy.

But that kind of wonderful nothingness is what Cabin Country podcasts offer. A way to sit back, and wind back, to a simpler time when wacky pastoral adventures over possession obsessions were the bee’s knees.

For Fud and Bjorn today, it is the Paper Birch and Norway pines that sway in the breeze...

For me, back in the day, it was the majestic Yellow Birch and centuries-old Sugar Maples that hugged the pebble-strewn Maple Lake shoreline, where fun could be had all summer through… until those dinner-plate sized autumn leaves turned a fire engine red and a golden amber yellow, and quietly fell to the ground, and the lake shore breeze turned brisk and cold, Mother Nature signalling it was time to head home…

A sad kind of feeling I felt then, as I do now, when each Cabin Country episode comes to a close...

I hope Fud and Bjorn air Cabin Country podcasts for as long as there are rippling waters and swaying pines in Minnesota.

For, as long as they air, I’ll be there. I’ll always be there…

“Let’s find the place where the loons call out among the moonlit waves, where the wind sighs among the Norway pines, pull up a dock chair, have a sip of your coffee, and get a line in the water. This is Cabin Country.”

A Cabin Country episode entitled, Spring Grove Soda & 29 Bells, includes a short story I wrote for Fud and Bjorn, as they asked listeners to contribute their own cabin country tales. My offering is called “29 Bells,” and it comes on at 40:00, after their Spring Grove Soda interview, the “And now from our sponsor…”  giggle-inducing commercial and Part Two of their hard-boiled crime short story about a snapping turtle, entitled, “Jack the Ripper.”

I hope you enjoy their take. I surely did.