We didn’t explicitly thank our veterans today. (Thanks. Your balls swing farther most of ours ever will.) Here’s a vet to remember: Dick Proenneke, who in 1968 built an Alaskan cabin by hand and lived in it for 35 years.
In a story that's approaching legend to those around Lake Clark National Park, Dick Proenneke, a Navy vet, headed up to Alaska with a canoe, some steel tools, and sheer pluck to build a cabin next to the Twin Lakes. Proenneke didn't even bring in completed tools, but just the metal parts. If his axe needed a handle, he made one from a tree. If Proenneke needed a hammer, he made one from a hunk of spruce.
What made Proenneke even more unique than mountain men before him was his obvious love of filmmaking. He brought a Super 8 camera with him, filming his first year of construction. A few years ago, a filmmaker took Proenneke's footage and spliced it into a movie, Alone in the Wilderness. It's more or less 90 minutes of just watching a man building a cabin—and it's fascinating.
The first bit of Alone in the Wilderness is on YouTube. (Linked above.) Give it a whirl. If watching a man build things out of wood doesn't grab you in the first few minutes, it's probably safe to say it's not going to grab you at all. But if it does, DVDs (and VHS!) are available at DickProenneke.com.
There's something quiet and moving about Proenneke, both in his life choices, his purposeful demeanor, or even just the way he works and the things he designs. (His wooden door hinges and lock blew my mind a little.) I'll refrain from preaching too much, but there's something right about the opportunity that Proenneke made for himself: a man who served his country, become self-sufficient in the process, and used his freedom to spend the rest of his days surrounded by the fruit of his labour.