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HOME COUNTRY: JENKINS CABIN

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We all know that someone will find Jenkins's cabin. Someday. Oh, it's up there in those hills somewhere. We all know that.

It's become a friendly object of conjecture and speculation. No one living has seen it, as far as we know. Jenkins himself died quietly when he was on one of his infrequent trips to town for supplies. Funny guy, that Jenkins.

He worked in the city for years, mostly as a night watchman in a factory that made diapers. Didn't really enjoy people much, and told us many times how nice it was to just be in the huge factory when it was quiet. Then one day he decided to move to the mountains and make pretty things out of leather. Once in a while he'd have his coffee at the counter at the Mule Barn, but often as not, he'd camp out on the edge of town for the two or three days it took him to sell his crafts and buy supplies. He'd smile and wave from his campsite, then he'd be gone one morning. We wouldn't see him again for months.

Now and then someone would ask him where his cabin was, and he'd just point toward the mountains and say, "Up there." How far up there? "A ways." What was his cabin like? "Not too big."

And so we came to regard the little cabin as an intriguing mystery, an object of local legend. After he died, several of the fellows tried to backtrack him to find the place, but Jenkins evidently didn't take the same trail each time, as though he wanted his quiet times protected from even a friendly visit from one of us. During his lifetime, we respected his wishes.

In this country, a man has a perfect right to be a little strange. And, truth be known, we hold a certain admiration for those of us who hear different instructions. But there is something in the human spirit, also, that begs to have its mysteries solved. So now, several times each year, one or two of us will use the mystery of the lost cabin as an excuse to poke our noses into the nuances and seclusions of these hills. We play off our curiosity against our wishes to respect a man's privacy, even when he's gone.

We have yet to discover Jenkins's lost cabin. Maybe we never will. Maybe that wouldn't be such a bad thing, either.
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Brought to you by Home Country, a book of the best columns from the first five years, at www.slimrandles.com.

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