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Building a Legacy


The cabin has always been called just that, “the cabin.” It was as though there was only one in the entire world. To my family there was. These are the stories about the cabin. MORE

Building a Legacy

Jack Irby

The cabin story is a story of four Narlock men, their families and a never-to-be-fully-tamed 153 acres in the remote reaches of Mendocino County.

The four men purchased the property when it came up for sale from a homesteader that had used the land for timber harvesting. It was at a time when the milling industry’s century-long domination of the area was waning. Without any timber, the land value was reduced and our cabin land changed hands for a small sum: $4,000.

The brothers were four of 12 children. They grew up in Castleton, North Dakota, a sleepy farm town not too far from Fargo, where their parents had settled after moving there from Minnesota where they were born to German immigrants.

Stories my grandfather told of his childhood revolved around trying to get to the dinner table quick enough to get food before his siblings devoured it, hole-riddled shoes that filled with snow in the winter and driving on roads so dark someone would invariably have to open the door and lean their head close to the dusty ground to guide the driver through the dark.

During World War II my grandfather and several of his brothers enlisted in the military. After the war, five brothers moved their families to San Francisco. Four of the five became craftsmen, who at one point could take credit for the construction of most of the buildings on the San Francisco Peninsula. Their trade would hold them in good stead as they settled our rustic property.

With the exception of a one-room log cabin and what I imagine was a pre-existing road, the property was barren and extremely remote. To this day, it remains well hidden and not a likely location for anyone to select as a family retreat, even four enterprising Plainsmen.

I have always wondered what inspired them to buy land so remote that it would require a three-hour trek from San Francisco on Highway 101. Even today 101 is still only one-lane wide in many spots.

Recently, I asked my aunt if she knew why they chose a place so far from home. They were country boys, she told me, and wanted to build something. And build something they did. They built a legacy.