Clayton's family's cabin is soaked in history; built from the ground up by Sam's great-grandpa it is full of ingenuity, honest sweat and family lore. Every childhood summer and most winters his family would spend several weeks there. Here's a peek inside along with some of Clay's thoughts and memories.
"The cabin has been my greatest opportunity to interact with mother nature, to interact with aunts uncles, cousins, with water, winter, wildflowers and mountains. It began as twenty five empty and wide open acres. My grandparents had TEN children and plans to build a cabin large enough for their family and the generations that would follow. One day bargain hunting in the nearest town of West Yellowstone, my grandpa came across a tiny, rundown, one-room, hundred year old log cabin, which he purchased for a hundred bucks! Realizing that you have to have permits for moving entire dwellings down public roads, he rounded up a big flatbed trailer and waited until the middle of the night! It was in this tiny primitive dwelling that my family and anyone else willing to donate the time stayed while the big cabin was being constructed. My very earliest cabin memories were staring at the scribbles and writing on the ceiling of that little cabin, high atop a bunk bed shared with two or three cousins."
The big cabin was built almost entirely on intuition, without frilly formalities like blueprints; the whole layout and design came straight out of Clay's Grandpa's head. Foundation, basement, logs, main floor, upstairs, deck, balconies, roof, chimneys, fireplaces, kitchen, they all came one at a time and as the money came. It was built without any loans or debt, though with plenty of bartering, swapping and trading. His Grandpa and Grandma were always up in Montana working away at it. All summer long. Any of the sons who could come up and help would bring their families and spend a few weeks here and there. There is a picture of Clay's dad on a break from college; he's sporting a mustache, looking young and tough with several brothers hoisting a huge log onto their shoulders in a snowstorm!
Once there were walls and a roof, people started staying in "The Big," as it was called. The little cabin has been pretty lonely ever since, but I think there are plans to restore it. Roughly ten years after they started, it was complete: 9 bedrooms, 6 bathrooms and a sleeping loft that could comfortably sleep 30 grandkids at a time!
When Clay was in junior high he air-brushed characters on the underside of all the fold-out beds in the sleeping loft. And how fun and funky is this carpet?
The loft is an idyllic hideaway where the cousins can all run wild, stay up late, have pillow fights and even do crazy stuff like jump off this balcony into huge snow drifts in the winter!
All of the moms dread cooking for crowds of 60+ over the fourth of July holidays, but for the kids being out in the wilds of Montana with all your favorite cousins is heaven! Sam was in his element up there, nature child that he is. And as he grows there will be plenty to keep him busy: canoeing, fishing, playing at the beach, hiking the nearby canyon, cross country skiing, sledding, catching frogs and snakes, and certainly playing on the toys Great-Grandpa invented.
This swing set was the safer of the playground equipment; after Clay's grandpa died the parents raised a big stink and took out some of the really fun ones. Can you believe his grandpa designed and built this whole thing?
The whole cabin is full of inventions that Clay's grandpa dreamed up: beds that fold down from walls, benches with secret storage compartments, stools for little ones, lamps of big boiling pine burls.
One of his crowning achievements was this big carousel with wooden horses that went up and down. In the winter it doubled as a clothes rack for wet snow pants, mittens and socks. Sadly, it too came up against the safety patrol parents, meeting the same fate as many of the other wildly fun, but rather dangerous inventions. The carved, wooden horses now sit as decorations in each of the bedrooms.
"Ask me what made me who I am and I'll talk about my brothers and
sisters, parents and grandparents, my home and the cabin where I would
skinny-dip in clean water and moonlight and dream, BIG. This is the legacy I'm excited to pass down to my own children; fearless creativity, calloused hands, family togetherness, and a love of wild places."