by Jenny Lay Posted Dec 9, 2021
Pause for a moment and think back to your days at Pine Cove – the sights, the sounds, the smells. Remember the way the reflection of the sun sparkles on the lake? Can you hear the locusts and tree frogs start their evening song as the cheers and laughter give way to sleep? Even better, can you feel your heart beat a little faster as you remember the jumping, the singing, the laughing, the friendships, and the life change that happened in and around you? Remember? Don’t you wish you could just bottle up the memories and tuck them away so that you can relive them at any given moment?
Through His sovereignty and kindness, God has used Pine Cove to change the lives of countless individuals over its fifty-four year existence. And all those who have been impacted are grateful for the vision of it’s founder, Bill McKenzie, who dreamed and prayed and planned and sacrificed to start a little camp in East Texas in 1967. Though Pine Cove hasn’t yet figured out a way to bottle up the memories, they have made strides to preserve them. In an effort to remember the Lord’s faithfulness through the years and to honor the family that the Lord used, Pine Cove has opened a museum in a special building called Pop’s Cabin, in honor of Bill McKenzie’s father who gave him the first 7 acres of the family’s property to begin the camp.
The very first building on Pine Cove property was a little log cabin, already in existence when Alex “Pop” McKenzie bought the property in 1944. Pop’s children and grandchildren recount memories of the cabin before there was running water and electricity – reading at night by the light of oil lamps, catching rain water off the roof, and sleeping on cots on the screened-in porch at night. Through the years, as Pine Cove was founded and developed, the cabin was used in various capacities. Over time, improvements and additions were made to the little cabin to suit its changing needs. It housed several full-time staff members in the early years and eventually became known as the Wrangler Cabin, utilized by the horse program at the family camp. One of the favorite activities of the horse program is the breakfast trail ride. For years, the adults have had the opportunity to saddle up for an early morning trail ride that ends at the Wrangler Cabin where a delicious breakfast awaits them.
As Pine Cove grew and built more youth camps and family camps, the family camp on Pine Cove’s original property became known as the Woods. Most of the buildings at the Woods have been updated in recent years, and it seemed fitting to give its oldest building some attention too. It had been patched and painted through the years, but it was time for a full renovation. The goal was to restore it and keep the original structure, but once it was apparent that much of the pier and beam foundation had rotted, Pine Cove made the decision to do things the right way and give it a new, sturdy foundation. As much as possible, the original materials were kept, and the entire renovation was done in a way to make the design and decor true to the time period in which it was initially built.
Carrie “Dutchess” Langemeier, who has been involved in Pine Cove’s ministry alongside her husband Craig “Dutch” Langemeier since 1995, was the mastermind behind the remodel. She researched the design of the mid-1900s and used the proper materials to give the cabin an aesthetic authentic to its origin. She was able to procure several pieces of furniture that had belonged to the McKenzie family, giving the renovated cabin not only historic accuracy, but also special meaning. In fact, the very bed that Alex “Pop” McKenzie and his wife Margaret had used in the cabin in the 1940s is now back in the very same place!
The renovated cabin, now named “Pop’s Cabin” after the patriarch of the McKenzie family, covers nearly the same footprint as the original cabin. Stepping into the front door, one of the first features to meet the eye is a huge, 16-foot live edge wood table, perfect for the breakfast trail ride guests. A fully functional kitchen provides the ideal place for breakfast to be cooked. Another impressive feature is a beautiful stone fireplace, around which are comfortable couches and chairs where guests can look through photo books of past decades at Pine Cove.
Immediately to the right of the front door is a doorway that opens to a very special room, the museum. The walls of this room, made from the logs of the original cabin, are covered with pictures of Pine Cove through the years, a sampling from each era of Pine Cove’s existence. There are sections of pictures that highlight the McKenzie family and each of the past executive directors. Once you go through the museum room, the other side of the house has two bedrooms and two bathrooms, filled with accents that tell stories of Pine Cove’s and the McKenzie’s past. On the back side of the cabin, there is a porch overlooking the Woods lake. Sitting on the porch swing, guests can see the sun sparkle on the lake in the afternoon and hear the locusts and tree frogs sing their song each evening, just as people have done at Pine Cove for years.
Besides being used for breakfast trail ride during camp each summer, Pop’s Cabin will also serve as a place to honor Pine Cove’s founding family, the McKenzies, and to memorialize all that the Lord has done at Pine Cove over the decades. Why is that important?
Carrie Langemeier explains, “God, in His word, continually tells us to remember. Anytime we struggle in the present, we can look back at God’s faithfulness and see that God is bigger than any challenge we face today.” She continues, “It’s not just the history of Pine Cove—it’s the history of God’s redemptive work in hundreds of thousands of individuals and families.”
If you’re reading along and wishing you were able to take a tour of Pop’s Cabin, Pine Cove has good news for you! A virtual museum will be launching soon, filled with thousands of pictures of camp! Championed by Todd “The Beaver” Hinkie, who served on summer staff at the Woods in the 1980s, this virtual museum will be a place where past staff and campers can view and share pictures from their time at Pine Cove, whether that was in the late 1960s or last year—or anytime in between. Take time to look… and remember.