It was Tom who put in the luxury outhouse: wood-paneled with not only a lamp to read by but a small heater; why be uncomfortable if you didn’t have to? He was apparently enamored by outhouses, and in the collection of books they left behind was one that made me laugh until I cried, as it must have affected Tom: “Gems of American Architecture,” a spoof of an outhouse catalog, possibly from the 1930s or 1940s, complete with drawings (below). (For example, the “Fourposter” is described: “By replacing the conventional hole-equipped seats with a log over which the patrons may hang, we have reached the utmost in efficiency.”)
Tom and LaVerne made this cabin the livable place it is: putting in a compost toilet (even though Tom continued to use the outhouse), a wood-burning stove, and front and back decks (top) that offer the best vantage to absorb this landscape; and tearing down the wall between the kitchen and living room to open up this tiny cabin a bit more.
So many things in the cabin work well because of his efforts: small things, like the backstopper for the back door, so it doesn’t hit the kitchen cabinets; hooks on which to hang pots and pans.
The old bottles Tom and LaVerne collected when they took their young family on drives up Rampart Range Road still decorate the bookshelves, as do the bird nests they found. Tom’s books, from when he was a librarian at Smiley Junior High in Denver, still sit on the shelves: nature classics like Watchers at the Pond by Franklin Russell and Wild Animals I Have Known by Ernest Thompson Seton.
A nature lover who put up bird houses all over the property (several of which are still used by house wrens), Tom also kept a written log over a nine-year span of when he saw the first flowers, birds and animals,. In 1992, the first pasqueflower didn’t emerge until May 10, while the year before it was April 17. (They were late again this year, buried under May snows until about May 23.) In 1994, he spotted his first bluebird on April 3 and his first wren on May 11.
It was Tom who hung on the outside of the shed various historic mining implements that he and his family found on their excursions into the mountains: a huge metal wheel (above), the thick metal top to an old water main, a rusted wrench, what looks like maybe an animal trap, and items I’ve never been able to identify.
Last December, Tom lost his battle with Parkinson’s, but his spirit remains at the cabin. I can’t help but feel that he and LaVerne passed on to me—someone who didn’t discover the cabin until four years after they left—their love of this place, evident in every loving detail in this house. Rest in peace, Tom.