Danny Barnes’ first impulse was to build a cabin on the site of another cabin that’d been built by a man generations earlier.
“He picked the place to have water,” Barnes said. “He had everything he needed around him.”
But the ruins of that old cabin remain in a remote part of Tishomingo County. What’s more, Barnes split a bunch of cedar trees to make a fence around his unknown predecessor’s place.
It’s kind of a memorial that Barnes can see from the front porch of the cabin he built farther up the hill.
“I was going to build a workshop up here, but the more I got into it, the more I wanted to build the cabin here,” he said. “I got to liking where it was. I liked it being on higher ground.”
His grandmother bought the land when Barnes, 64, was a small boy, so the idea for a cabin germinated for years. He started work about four years ago.
With a little help along the way, he’s built a one-room cabin out of store-bought lumber, wood salvaged from other projects and logs found floating in Pickwick’s waters.
One piece of driftwood was turned into a beam that runs across the room.
“He got that cedar log and put it into the cabin,” said 84-year-old Jimmy Clifton, a family friend. “He put it in right. You couldn’t fit a cigarette paper between the log and the wood around it.”
There’s a septic tank but no city power or water. He converted a hot water heater and muffler pipes into a wood stove that sends warm air through the cabin.
For water, Barnes uses the same spring the old man had used. He pumps water up a rise to a 300-gallon tank and lets it run down hill for the toilet and shower.
“That spring never dries up,” Barnes said.
A generator provides power for the lights, as well as the television and satellite dish receiver, but neither he nor his wife are completely happy with the arrangement.
“I’ll be proud when he gets our solar panels on,” Joyce Barnes, 68, said. “It’ll be a lot nicer.”
Her husband is all about upgrades. He originally built the cabin on concrete blocks, but they bothered him.
“I said, ‘This is not going to work,’” Barnes recalled. “I decided to do it like an old-time cabin. I jacked it up and traded out concrete blocks for rocks, one at a time. You couldn’t have concrete blocks.”
He’s also taken care with interior touches. He made the kitchen cabinet top out of an old pine tree. He also built the chairs and a table.
“The lumber for the shelves came from my grandmother’s old barn,” he said.
One of the decorations pays tribute to a battle of attrition Barnes fought against a wily adversary. The stuffed fox sits near the cabin’s front door.
“I caught him. He was getting away with my chickens,” he said. “He got the last one, and I finally got him.”
The property also has a work shed decorated with some of the metal items Barnes has found, including a hoe that must’ve belonged to that long-gone old man.
Story by M. Scott Morris // Photos by Lauren Wood