Learn how to crawl: the New York City Yarn CrawlΒ is on through Sunday, September 25.

Going Native

Dear Kay,
While you have been wandering around your apartment in your EPA dust abatement suit, I’ve been trying to catch up on my sleep. Last weekend we spent the night in a cement teepee, and I’m still having that Iron Eyes Cody feeling.
Here ya go: you’re looking at a member of the National Register of Historic Places, Wigwam Village #2 in Cave City, Kentucky. Not to be confused with Wigwam Village #6 in Holbrook, Arizona, nor with the other four Wigwam Villages that have gone the way of the great peace pipe smoke in the sky. I think it made the Register of Historic Places because it is a quaint reminder that in the olden days of the 1930s–when Highway 31 was the only way to get from Nashville to Chicago–people didn’t really care much what sort of bedroom they had as long as it had at least four walls and a roof one wall and a peak.
Now, I realize that this doesn’t really count as “camping,” but our friends Skip and Betsy, who are the hardy sort who keep a cord of firewood in the back of the Suburban just in case there’s a chance for a campfire, thought it would be a good way to introduce us to life in the great outdoors. I’m pretty sure we were the wimpiest of the eleven families drafted for this weekend. People kept coming up to me and asking, “Are you guys OK? Is this going to be OK?” People handed me beers as if I didn’t understand what could be in the Igloo coolers which were lined up by the grill. I was given instructions in how to repurpose a wire hanger into a marshmallow skewer. In a hopeful moment, I was put in charge of Hershey bar distribution.
Twelve wigwams, twelve families. Minimum of two kids per family. Fifty humans in a dozen 12′-circumference wigwams, each with one hermetically sealed window a foot off the ground. Oh, it was camping all right. ROUGHING IT. The stories coming out of those wigwams were the sort of survival tales that you hear only on the Discovery Channel:
“When the power went off at midnight, and the fan died, I was haunted by the sound of my children breathing. They just . . . kept . . . breathing . . .”
“My Monsters Inc. sleeping bag covered only a third of my body. If I didn’t keep moving it around, I might have gotten . . . really chilly.”
“As I lay in the bed, I planned the next thirty years of my life.”
“Is this what Das Boot was like?”
“I wondered whether I could have been breathing recirculated air.”
“Soft bed make man soft.”
Jon Krakauer will be writing a book about this trip: Into Thick Air.
I Know You’re Wondering
How did you get any knitting done in such harsh conditions? Between the guacamole making and the sitting in the fold-up chairs and the beverages and the grilled meats and the random flying balls from the kickball game, it was not easy. I squoze a few rows onto what I’m proud to call My Third Sock:
Yes, that’s the Fleece Artist Merino yarn that came from that Canadian person. It’s knitting up thicker than the Trekking XXL, for those of you keeping a spreadsheet of sock yarn data. I’m using my very favorite sock pattern (oh right, it’s the only sock pattern I know), the Simple Sock from Cat Bordhi’s Socks Soar on Two Circulars.
This is what I call the Interesting Part. I pretty much almost didn’t fix dinner last night because I had arrived at the Interesting Part. It’s such a bit of architecture, making a tube of knitting turn a corner and still be a tube. That fits a foot. Which has a heel poking out.
When we got home from our wigwam weekend, Betsy said we were good sports. I think we’re ready for their annual two-week trip to Minnesota in the cabin with no running water or electricity. Piece of CAKE.




  1. So, like, where were the toilets??

  2. Well, if they did as the Indians did, then those toilets were outside ;-).

  3. Do you check in at the MDKAL? Isn’t it just the most fun? And isn’t your publishing company’s marketing department LOVING it just as much as we are? It just takes your fabulous book and makes it last longer. So after checking in w/ you here, it’s on to you (in spirit) there. Life is good. All this knitting fun has gotten me out of a 2 year slump during which I read your blog and one other but didn’t knit. Oh boy am I knitting now! Thank you.

  4. I have ALWAYS wanted to stay at the Wigwams in Holbrook. Mom always sez no.
    I am anxiously awaiting the “short row heel” and “two socks, two circs” at the same time…

  5. I saw those teepees on a PBS show on Sunday about roadside attractions and other unusual buildings (actually, I think that may have been the name of the show). They look tiny on the inside! I hope the closeness didn’t drive anyone insane (like it would have done with me and my familiy).

  6. I think that socks are so addictive exactly because of that intersting part. They’re relaxing because they do have repetative portions to them but then all of a sudden, you have to go in all different directions! Fun!

  7. Two weeks with no electricity? Remember you can always drive somewhere. Get a solar shower thing, and a bottle of Bactine. I bet you’ll like it (the roughing it, that is).

  8. I travel a bunch internationally for my job. My knitting by oil lamp has kept me sane more than once!

  9. Gorgeous sock. No running water or electricity? Really?

  10. I’m thinking I might have to learn that technique because the interesting bit looks very interesting. I’ve always harboured a secret desire to knit socks in a concrete teepee.
    Well, I lie, of course, but it makes better reading than some of my other secret desires.

  11. Sleeping in a tent on the ground might have been more comfortable. Just sayin’.
    Behold the power of the turning of the heel.

  12. I remember as a child riding to my grandmothers house and passing the teepee’s and wanting to stay. The only thing my grandmother house was only 10 miles away and we never did get to. I think the next time I go to visit my mom in September (she lives in Glasgow, Ky) I will make a special trip to stay!!!

  13. I have always wanted to stay in those wigwam’s everytime with go to Cave City, but we always end at one of the other hotels down the road. Beautiful area, though. Did you get to check out any of the caves?

  14. Don’t get too cocky, Goddess of the Wilderness. You can knit a sock without electricity, but kids + S’mores – running water = rampant stickiness of massive proportions. All the wet wipes in the world won’t substitute for a bath when times get tough. Sock #3 looks super cozy!

  15. Get thee back to Grundy County! I’ve seen those teepees in person and they are heap big tiny. The Smokies are so much less…side of HWY 31-ish.

  16. Did Betsy tell you about the mosquitos we have here in Minnesota? And the black flies? And the deer flies? Insist on full disclosure.

  17. I often have more than one pair of socks going because I like to save the interesting bit for when I can focus my attention on it. That leaves the slow part of socks for meeting with freinds or watching good television.

  18. *snerk* “Into Thick Air.” hahahahahahaha

  19. Lordy lordy, my life will end if I don’t go stay in one of those ceeee-ment wigwams NOWWWW! So much kitsch in one little cone village.

  20. What was it about ‘cement wigwam’ that sounded attractive? I’m sure it was no Comfort Inn. How’s Hubbo faring? Will he go anywhere with you, ever again? xox Kay

  21. We almost stayed there this past March but passed it up for the new Super 8 next to the new Cracker Barrel:)

  22. 3rd sock , does that mean that you’re hooked?
    I am NOT staying anywhere without electricity… it was clearly stated in the wedding contract. πŸ˜‰

  23. I wonder what those wigwams are supposed to be made of…did you know that a Wigwam is a structure made of birchbark over spruce poles, is left standing where it is built, and is used for up to 7 years before a new one must be built? A Teepee (or tipi) is made of hides over wooden poles (not sure if the tree type is specific), and is moved as the family moves. Wigwams were constructed in forested areas, where birch was abundant and bison were not, and teepees were constructed on the plains where bison were plentiful.
    The things you learn working at a historical park!

  24. That is so funny! I saw those wigwams featured on a PBS show not too long ago called, “A Program About Unusual Buildings and Other Roadside Stuff”!
    Your sock is looking great! I am on the second sock of my first pair ever and think I finally understand what all the sock knitting fuss is about.
    I am also thoroughly enjoying my copy of Mason Dixon Knitting! Thanks!

  25. Hey, I’m on the heel of sock # 3 as we speak. Three’s a breeze. No cement wigwams in my future, though.

  26. Our parents had a weird idea of fun for three little girls. Pile us all in the Country Squire wagon and drive up to Kentucky to go … antiquing!! This meant we were not allowed to touch anything in a series of stuffy emporia. We desperately wanted to stay in the teepees, but we were never allowed. No. It was the Shaker Village for us. How … educational.
    The only bribe allowed was grape soda. Sarah threw it up all over the back seat, and it smelled so bad we ultimately had to trade that car in for a fresher one.
    It’s no wonder I am a slacker mom.

  27. So, I guess I’m the only mom here that regularly takes other people’s kids camping? It’s just too much fun being a scout leader. You never know what’g going to happen next. I had a mom sleeping in my tent that woke up suddenly asking ‘What’s that bright light?’ The full moon had crested the hill facing our campsite. Back to knitting, I save chopsticks so I have extra knitting needles to teach knitting with. Works great. I’m still watching that sock on the circular needles. Very unusual design. Please keep posting pictures. I’m curious, suspicious of circular needles but curious. Does it get a heel flap or short row?

  28. I have to admit that I have called in sick to work so I could stay home and turn a heel. I was clearly knit sick and it was my second pair of socks and well I simply couldn’t wait to see what the self striping yarn was going to do.

  29. Unlike some of you other knitters posting comments, I have no desire to stay in a concrete teepee and wept tears of hilarious laughter reading this post. Oh, the comforts of home…or the Marriot. I hope the company was good!

  30. Awww…I stayed at the Wigwam Village a few years ago. It was a hoot.
    Hope you made it to the caves with your sock. How many of us can claim to have knitted in a cave?

  31. Camping advice from one who lived in a large canvas tent with 5 kids, 2 cats and a black lab for 4 wks one (luckily dry, temperate, and relatively bug free) Alaskan summer while waiting for housing: Campsites with a playground, bath house and a laundry room are your friend. You can never have too much bug spray. Check for rocks, sticks, and sloping/bumpy ground BEFORE you set up the tent. Pick the campsite that’s not too close to the dumpster- that’s where the racoons and bears like to hang out. If you have an air mattress- make sure you have a patch kit!! Duct tape is a miracle product. Teach the kids to empty their pockets and take off their shoes BEFORE they come into the tent and sit on your sleeping bag (but bring the whisk and the dust pan anyway). Pack each day’s clothes (and the knitting!) in ziploc bags just in case your duffle is the one next to the leaky end of the tent. After a couple days, that solar shower rigged up inside the shower curtain hung from the hula hoop will feel like a day at the spa (sorta). The pop-up tent trailer is still camping. S’mores have no calories when consumed in the wild. πŸ™‚

  32. Tish, you are the most “facho!” Missing the HV these days, here in the flatlands.

  33. OMG – I stayed in one of those teepees in Cave City 6 or 7 years ago. I’m pretty sure you WERE breathing recycled air – I had the same thought at the time…the beds were pretty terrible. And I know that if I (of the height-impaired) thought the place was cramped, you probably couldn’t even stand up straight!

  34. I think it is roughing it enough to be without AC and TV. My kids and I went to many several “resorts” in MN near Bimidji. Cass lake had nice fishing, Black Duck seemed like like shangri-la. Whatever you do, watch out for poison oak/ivy. (I never stumbled into any up there… but that was when I had a better immune system, too.


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