When our La Paloma neighbors and friends, Ken and Maureen Hake, invited us to spend two days with them at their remote cabin in North Central Nebraska, my wife, Helen, and I jumped at the opportunity. It was a part of the world we had never explored. And, Ken and Maureen are game people, our kind of people. But little did we know what a special treat this experience—spending time with Ken and Maureen in this very unique environment—would turn out to be.
The Hake’s three-year-old, well-designed 900 sq ft cabin is the perfect destination point for two couples who want to get lost in nature, play games and to get to know, to really get to know, each other better. The cabin is located in a pristine forest of ancient Ponderosa Pine on the edge of a fertile 260 ft canyon wall. While we couldn’t confirm it, Ken claims that a meandering stream teeming with native brown and rainbow trout awaits anyone who ventures a long slide down the steep canyon walls. The official mailbox is Long Pine, NE, but to access their forest home, one must drive ten miles on a dirt road north off Highway 20.
If you were blindfolded and airlifted into the cabin, it would be easy to believe that you were in the mountains of Colorado. It’s a very special place with a plethora of both whitetail and mule deer, giant turkeys, porcupines, blue birds, pine martins, rattlesnakes, bobcats and more. At night, the stars come to visit and put on a spectacular display of lights. The sunrises from our bedroom are what I would love to see when I wake up in the morning every day for the rest of my life.
Ken and Maureen brought in food supplies and wine for the three days and two nights we spent with them. Once you get to this special secluded spot, you want to stay put and enjoy some of the best that Mother Nature has to offer. The Hake’s knew this in advance and planned accordingly.
We knew that Ken would be passionate about winning any and all games that we played. I think it has something to do what with him being raised in a small rural town, Leigh, Nebraska. Perhaps it was the water or it could have been the DDT he brushed his teeth with as a child. But little did we know the passion; I mean THE PASSION that he has for everything he decides to do.
Ken and Maureen own the 200 acres of land that surround the cabin. And when Ken walks his property, he truly becomes THE ERADICATOR. If he sees a weed he doesn’t like, he destroys it with a passion; and “Not in a shy way!” as Frank Sinatra croons in one of his songs. Ken’s ultimate passion, perhaps hatred is the better word, is reserved for the dastardly, invasive red cedar that populate his land. He becomes a pyromaniac if need be and much more when it comes to these scum bags. And I must say, he makes a very convincing argument for why these bastards need to die, and to die now, before they destroy his sanctuary.
I guess in two words, Ken does everything “His Way.” Most people eat almonds. Not Ken. He prefers to scarf almonds. Many people are quite competitive and will at times beat up on their opponents. Not Ken. He prefers to fleece them. If he loses two times in a row, he will attempt to enlist Maureen’s support with, “Now, let’s fleece the Kelly’s.” However, Maureen does not always take Ken seriously and often refers to him as The Fabricator.
In spite of Ken’s unique personality, one of his most redeeming features is his passion of 47 years for his wife, Maureen. It is a joy to be around a man that radiates his love, admiration, and friendship for his best friend, his life-long companion, Maureen Foley Hake—the Eradicator’s sweet thang.
P.S. Oh, I must not forget. When you stay with the Hake’s at their cabin in paradise for two days, you will be required to participate with them in one of their most sacred of rituals. At 4:30 PM, Monday thru Friday, the best wine and cheese is served and the television is turned on for thirty minutes. Get comfortable because it’s time to watch Jeopardy. And the best entertainment is watching Maureen, not Ken or the three contestants on the large flat-screen television, come up with the correct answers first. Man, she is good! But then, life is good with the Hake’s.
P.S.S. If you’re curious, we played Qwerkle, Euchre, Mexican Train, Thirty-One and nine rounds of Golf, a game of cards. And yes, the Hake’s fleeced the Kelly’s. Ken says the next time we play for money or mortgages, whichever is more solvent.