The Man Cave.
A place ventured near with caution for fear of being sucked into it's black hole of unleashed testosterone.
The testosterone seems to leak out from the event horizon of its open door, seeking to seize the unwary passersby, sucking them in to their doom. For much of its career it has been a floating flophouse for young males of the homo sapien species (some have questioned this categorization after several loud, violent ructions, complete with grunts, growls and howls, that have emanated from inside the Man Cave). Many a gunshot has been blasted from the front porch for no other reason than UMT. (Unleashed Male Testosterone.)
I have been called upon to do wilderness first aid for prostrate victims of the Man Cave. This usually entailed mopping up blood and slapping a sterile bandage on gaping wounds and duct taping the bandage in place.
I have also delivered libations and grub to these sinister precincts, and have offered literature and spiritual advice in hopes of civilizing the denizens of the Man Cave--all to no avail, I fear.
This went on for several years, with certain characters coming and going, while one remained more or less steady, my nephew Sterling. He was resident caretaker of the Man Cave for his brother Ethan who owned it, but who'd wound up deployed in Afghanistan and Iraq. Eventually, Sterling, after many adventures with me, moved to Ketchikan to take up a landscaping job and settle down with Cayce, his "better half."
Once the young male occupants packed up their testosterone and left, the Man Cave began to sink into obscurity.
And by sink, I mean literally.
The Man Cave was originally built by my brother Robin while he was still in school. He, with my dad, gathered the logs for a float and then built the small 12'x16' cabin with a sleeping loft. The new floathouse was tied alongside my parents' house, except for the time Robin had it towed to Bear Creek to serve as a trapline cabin--but that's a story for a different blog post.
While it was still new, when Sterling was a toddler, he and his parents stayed in it while they built their own floathouse of much larger dimensions.
But it has been over twenty years since then, since it was new, and the inevitable in Alaskan waters has occurred: the wood-eating bugs have gnawed the float logs into mere skeletons of themselves.
After the guys left, it developed a severe list and seemed in imminent danger of either turning turtle and capsizing, of the float pulling apart under it. Since it was still tied to my parents' float, the worry about it was a constant stress. My dad and I dreaded having to deal with it on our own in addition to the projects we had to do on our own houses.
We were delighted when we got word that Sterling would be coming out to work on it.
Sterling is a blond, slim six-footer who is deceptively powerful. I watched in envy as he jerked twenty foot poles, small trees, out from under the cabin as if they were Lincoln Logs, and tossed them aside. He also casually dismanted the rotting, water-logged and HEAVY parts of the float that were no longer pulling their weight.
It would have taken me an entire day--assuming I could build up the energy and motivation--to do what he did in less than an hour. And he did it with a twinkle in his eye, a sense of the absurd, and comeback quips that left me weak with laughter.
Of course he felt obliged, in honor of past Man Cave exploits, to do it all while nimbly twirling and playing with a hatchet, sword, knives and the odd gun somewhere on his person.
The UMT had returned to the Man Cave.
This was all done, of course, when the tide was out. When it came in, Sterling towed the float log (a firewood log that my dad had parted with in a true spirit of sacrifice) that would go on one side of the cabin, through all the floating obstructions--including the generator shed.
I used a pike pole to help guide things out of the way of the log, but it was still a tense, frustrating business in tight quarters with everything that floated perversely going in exactly the direction we didn't want it to. Sterling also had to be careful he didn't foul his outboard engine's prop in any of the many lines about, including floathouse mooring lines to shore, or run into any of the lurking rocks. Plus, the tide was so high that the lower branches of the evergreens were in the water, causing their own obstructions to get around.
Despite the stress level, probably not improved by my and my dad's ever-so-helpful suggestions, Sterling got the log back behind the cabin and in place without losing his temper. No mean feat when it comes to manipulating logs and ropes with a skiff.
Now we were ready to refloat the Man Cave.
Unfortunately, before we could do the next step--putting new support poles under the cabin--Sterling got a call from Cayce saying she was sick.
The first evening he stayed with us he shared that he and Cayce were going to make my parents great grandparents and me a great aunt. Cayce being sick in the first month of her pregnancy had Sterling taking the next floatplane back to Ketchikan. It was good to see him taking on the responsibilities of a man, taking care of, and being concerned about, another person. The Unleashed Male Testosterone had been, if not tamed, at least was now under some constraints.
It would be up to my dad and me to finish what Sterling had begun in refloating the Man Cave.
Tara Neilson (ADOW)