Because Wisconsin was calling my grandparents, they finally decided to purchase land and a cabin in the state. I don’t know how or why they chose Chetek, but I suspect it was because they had friends who had vacation homes there. Chetek is on the other side of Wisconsin from Arbor Vitae.
The house they bought was a tiny two-room cottage on a moderately large parcel of land along Ten Mile Lake. It had no indoor plumbing — at least no personal care kind of indoor plumbing. I think it may have had hot and cold running water in the kitchen.
They immediately began building an addition onto the house that was twice the size of the existing structure. It included a garage, a bedroom and a small bathroom.
I remember the house before the remodeling though. I remember using the outhouse and later the chemical toilet that must have sat in the corner of what became the dining room.
I can visualize the rooms of the cabin almost as clearly as I can visualize any room in my current house. If I were an artist, I could draw a perfect picture of my grandparents’ cottage. The living room had a huge picture window that looked out onto the lake. At one end of the living room, under a smallish window was a hide-a-bed sofa. In front of the picture window were my grandfather’s chair — a dark-golden easy-chair — and my grandmother’s plush rocking chair. In the corner, behind the door, was an old, low cupboard with sliding doors. Next to the door, on the right side as you looked at the door was a bookcase full of books. My grandfather was a reader and had boxes and boxes of books in the garage.
The kitchen was a tiny galley kitchen. It held a refrigerator, a sink, an island and a enameled cast-iron stove. The stove was the kind that could burn gas or wood and I vividly recall my grandmother putting wood and paper under the cast iron cook lids. I don’t know if she cooked anything on them, but it is possible she did. I think it was mainly used to heat the house.
My grandparents’ last name was Green. They called their vacation property “Greens’ Point”. When my grandfather retired, my grandparents moved to Chetek for good. Grandpa got a job in a local bar and played some golf. Grandma fished and visited with the few neighbors around.
I can’t count the number of times we visited Chetek, but enough that everything about it is vivid in my mind nearly 25 years after the last time I was there. I spent several weeks of many summers with my grandparents; and then just my grandmother after my grandfather died.
When my grandmother met John, she moved back to Illinois, but kept the house in Chetek. The last couple of times I went to Chetek, I was in my twenties. One time was shortly after I began dating my husband-to-be. It was great showing him where I’d spent so many happy days as a child and teenager.
The last time I visited Chetek was on our honeymoon. The fact that we brought some of our closest friends only made it better.
This summer I am determined to visit Chetek with my kids. We may not make it to the small house on Ten Mile Lake — that might be a little too painful, but we’ll see if the town is the same and maybe have lunch at the B&B Bar, which according to this website, still exists or perhaps The Pokegma — one of my favorite restaurants from when I visited there. I used to love the pizza. Whatever we do, I know it will be bittersweet. It was such a huge factor in who I’ve become.