Living Big in a Tiny House on River Road

My parents lived big in a tiny house long before it became fashionable. In a time before solar panels and battery packs, they moved for their honeymoon and early marriage into a cabin tucked between a hilly slope and the Casselman River. In that low-lying land along River Road, they lived in one room, heating and cooking with propane, using a chamber pot in a lean-to, and hauling water for bathing and drinking and cooking.

“There was something fun,” my dad told me, about living frugally. “It was sort of like camping out.”

He was musing about this as he sat in physical therapy, hooked to an ice machine. He had just been through a regimen of exercises that had seemed more like torture than therapy. And he was glad for a quiet, pain-free talk.

Outside their window, he recalled, Slabaugh Run had tumbled over itself down the slope on its way to the Casselman River. Under a rocky outcrop and behind tall grass, a doe hid her fawns. From the rich, moist floor of the woods, Jack-in-the Pulpit flowers emerged. And the air was filled with the calls of the whip-poor-will and the chants of the katydids.

“You know what?” my dad said. “I don’t recall even missing a telephone.”

He fell again into musing.

“I’ve been thinking,” he said when he roused himself, “about placing a marker where that cabin used to be, a plaque to mark the spot.”

My dad hasn’t walked the River Road for more than two years, not since his knee started giving way. But now that he’s got a new knee and is on the way to recovery, there’s been talk of a River Road walk in the spring. That’s when the woods in Western Maryland will be budding and the woodland flowers blooming and the Casselman River rushing. That’s when my dad will turn ninety. And maybe that’s when he could mark the spot.

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