Back in the 60’s, Dr. Byers Shaw built an A-frame cottage up the hill from Catfish Hollow on Rocky Fork Lake. He had three young kids and this new getaway would be their wooded oasis. It was close enough that they could jet over for a sunrise ski session and get back in time for school. Yet far enough that it felt like vacation.
Eventually, these kids grew up and had their own kids, and a new generation discovered the magic of this handcrafted refuge. We gathered for sparklers and boat rides and poison ivy every July. In the 90’s, we had outgrew the handful of beds and one tiny bathroom, so the 2nd generation made the life-changing decision to add onto the A-frame. The legacy my Grandpa built would continue. We would escape together a couple times a year, sharing experiences that would shape who we are day to day.
In 2013, while we were all together for the 4th, my Grandpa passed away at 93. We gathered in the original living room to share our memories. It was heartbreaking and beautiful. A few days later, at his memorial, we brought a box full of his bow ties to the church. He was a general surgeon and felt long ties weren’t functional for spending your days bent over open wounds and such. That day we all sported his signature look.
I was talking to a friend later that week and said, “You should’ve seen it, it was a church full of bow ties.” In that moment I decided I wanted to write a song with that lyric. Maybe that’s how I process. I don’t know. But I wanted to write a song.
I’m not a songwriter. Or a musician. So I asked my buddy, Jim Zartman to help me. He explained song structure and after listening to me tell stories about my Grandpa he offered a couple suggestions. It was a fascinating creative experience. So, I wrote some lyrics and emailed them over. I fully expected him to write back and say they were awful. But he didn’t. He just sent me back a demo. And I cried.
I asked my brother in to sing lead, and my cousin to sing harmony. They’re not professional singers but this song is for my family and I wanted it to be created by our family. That feels like a fitting tribute to my Grandpa. He built a gathering place for our family that gave us, and is still giving us, a lifetime of shared experiences that define who we are.
This summer, we hung a sheet on the porch of the original A-frame and watched this video (below) together. There were happy tears and stories shared. It was a very cool moment.
The next morning, my son, Henry (3 years old), woke me up at 6am to go on a boat ride. We snuck downstairs while everyone else slept, made some coffee and Cheerios, and walked down the hill to the docks.
We motored out of Catfish Hollow, Henry beaming in the glowing fog, and rode to the beach where he waded out in his pajamas looking for lake snails. It was magic.
On the way back in he asked, “Can we stay here?” Overwhelmed, I smiled and said we could. The legacy continues.
Photos and Video Courtesy of Brad Wise