Little Camp In The Woods Part Five

campThe summer days are dwindling down and most mornings it is cool enough so we can see the mist rise from the pond and especially the bog right in front of camp. Curt and I have picked blueberries the last few days and had them for our lunch at noon. We are slowly running out of ideas how to fill our days with Ma and Dad off at the mill. We sit on the porch looking at the mountain that rises beyond the pond. There is a white farm house way up and below that a brown farm. Our friends, Winnie and Ray Hanscom live in the brown farm, although they live upstairs in their own little apartment and the farmer, her brother and their mother live downstairs.

We have visited with them before during the school year . Winnie graduated in the same class as Ma and she looks upon us as her own kids. We pop corn, dig our hands into her jar of chocolate cooking chips and she just smiles. Maybe we should go visit her today.

Curt thinks it is a good idea, but it looks a long way to walk. I am thinking what Ma will say when she finds out I have taken Curt on this long walk. It must be about two miles, but he is six years old now and says he knows he can do it. Besides, we both know once we get there, Winnie will sit us down with some milk and cookies to rest up for the walk back before we have to start supper.

I mix some drink powder with spring water and we have a glass jar of orange drink to help us on our way. Off we start up the trail beside the pond, jumping the tree roots and , this time, walking around the puddles. After all, we don’t want to show up with muddy shoes to track into Winnie’s apartment. We agree that when we get to the head of the pond, we will put our orange drink in the brook to keep it cold, and stop to drink it on our way back. We both know if we start drinking it now there will be none left for the trek homeward.

We are on the last half mile and it is all up hill but Curt is still holding strong. He asks if there are any moose close by in the woods and I tell him if there are any moose, they are probably busy eating. I have no idea what the moose are doing, but I would rather not think about it or the hair will come up on the back of my neck. Soon, we arrive at the main dirt road that runs through the hamlet of Rowe Hill. There is Winnie’s ice house on the side of the road. Ray carries the ice on a burlap bag on his shoulder to the house and up the stairs. Curt says that would be a good place to cool off right now and I tell him all that ice was cut last winter off our very own Indian Pond. He looks impressed.

I knock on the door and there is no answer. Well, Winnie cannot hear us from upstairs, I tell Curt, so we will knock on her mother’s downstairs door. Her mother comes to the door and tells us that Winnie has gone for the day. Oh, no! We have walked two miles and there is no Winnie to give us cookies and milk and a rest. I remember to thank her and we turn to walk back to the camp.

Curt is not happy and tells me I should have known she was not at home and his legs are tired. I ask him if I am a mind reader and he just trudges ahead of me without a word. I catch up and tell him at least going home is all down hill and we can rest when we get to the brook. There are no houses on this road except for Miss Hobbs’ huge house which used to be a girls’ camp. Ma says it was called Camp Sebowisha. It is at the bottom of the hill, and we scoot by hoping she is not outside. I don’t know her but I have heard she is particular who passes by the house. We were in such a hurry to get to Winnie’s, I forgot she might have peeked out her window and saw us pass.

We are at the brook sitting on rocks. Curt takes a long drink from the glass jar and hands it to me. The orange drink tastes nice and cold from the brook. We pass it back and forth until it is gone and then set out on the pond trail. Before long, the camp comes in sight and Curt heaves a sigh. I hope he is not going to tell Ma that I tired him out today and took him on a journey that went nowhere.

I light the camp stove and get the potatoes peeled while Curt munches on some peanut butter and crackers I’ve given him.  The potatoes are boiling when we hear the boat coming down the pond. Dad is using his motor tonight, so he must be too tired to row.

Ma comes up over the porch and is glad everything is ready . I’ve put the dishes on the little wooden table and Curt is already perched on the bench built into the wall. She flips the perch in the frying pan and asks what we have done today. I look at Curt and he looks at me. Dad is looking at us both. Curt tells Ma we went for a walk and had a jar of orange drink. Is that all, she asks ? Pretty much, I answer.

Dad  announces we will probably head for Greenwood on the week end and close up camp for the summer. School will start in a couple weeks and Ma says she has to buy us all new pencil boxes.

I dig into the fried perch and potatoes and nod. My day has just been saved.curtCurt, the year of the walk.

Little Camp in the Woods Part Four

campIt is another summer week-end. This morning, after eating our fried eggs and potatoes, my mother said we should ride back to Greenwood and check on the house. I can’t imagine why we would want to do that, since my older brothers are there and Keno, our husky, guards the front door as if it were Fort Knox. But I am ten years old and not about to argue and Curt secretly wants to get more comic books to read.

The house is fine and my brothers are still snoring in bed. I run across the field to see my grandmother and find her churning butter. She has the wooden mold set out with its little maple leaf design and she turns the handle for what seems like forever. Grammy is so tiny, I wonder where she finds the strength. At last the butter is ready and she offers me a glass of buttermilk. I have never had any before and oh, how good it tastes on this hot day.

Dad is impatient, so it isn’t long before we come back to camp. Curt and I walk the shoreline path and soon my stomach is talking to me. It is not a good feeling but I do not want  to upset Curt, so we hop over the tree roots and jump across  puddles in the path and peek through the bushes to see how far my father has rowed down the pond.  Soon the little camp comes in sight and my stomach says it can not stay where it is any more. I run behind the camp and you can imagine what happens!  Soon my mother jumps from the boat, hauling it up on shore and tying it down for my Dad to draw in the oars and climb out.

Mothers always know when something is wrong and won’t stop prying until you confess. In this case, Curt finally tells her I am sick and she leaps into the air like a bullfrog out of the bog. It was that buttermilk; how many times have I told you that is nasty. I thought you knew better than to drink that stuff. Well, I can tell you, I do not answer back. I keep wondering how a person can say no to someone as sweet as my Gram when she offers you something to drink on a hot day and still please your mother. She finally calms down after my father reminds her we are having company this afternoon.

The company has arrived. I like the man and woman, but wish they would not bring their dog. He is one of those long , drawn out hot dog kind and what kind of people have those things for a pet? I keep looking at him and thinking of our husky, Keno, and bet Keno could take one bite and have a meal out of him. He has been here before and sometimes he draws his mouth back and hisses through his teeth. Curt put his hand down to pat him once and the little hot dog nipped his hand. I wouldn’t have one of those on a bet…never know if they will lick your hand or bite all your fingers off for lunch.

We are all out on the porch and the man is telling my father all about the canoe he paddled down the pond. My father says how he wouldn’t mind having one of those and my mother snorts that the row boat is enough trouble now that he has a motor on the back he uses some times. The man tells Dad he ought to try it out and I can see a glint in my Dad’s eyes which usually means something is going to happen. I think my mother sees it as well because she tells my father that it is harder than it looks to keep upright in a canoe.

I guess Dad has been reading about canoes and rivers or rapids because he is heading for the pond. I can’t hear, but the man is bending over and I guess telling Dad how to use the paddle. The man gives the canoe a little push and Dad lets out a whoop and starts to paddle. He paddles a few feet and we are all impressed. The man hollers that he better turn around and come back. Dad gives a deep paddle and the canoe starts to turn and I can see the look of victory on his face. I am not sure what happens next but Dad lets out a different kind of whoop , the canoe overturns and all I can see is my Dad’s head and one hand with a paddle. The man hollers again but I can’t hear him because my mother is really sputtering to the man’s wife and the hot dog is jumping and barking with a yipping sound. Dad somehow grabs the canoe and swims the few feet to shore dragging it behind. The man is laughing now and they right the canoe. My father is dripping wet, my mother is beside herself in frustration from having a kid sick from drinking buttermilk and a husband who thinks he is a frontiersman. Curt and I stay away from the dog and keep very quiet. Curt pokes me and points at Dad and we both snicker to see that he still is wearing his hat.  We won’t point that out to Ma, though.

Little Camp In The Woods Part Three

dadWe are again at our Indian Pond camp this summer, but it is different than in past years. One cold February night, word spread from one neighbor to the other in Greenwood Center that the mill was on fire. We rushed into the yard, coats and hats pulled tight and we could see the red in the sky four miles away. Slowly, we went back into the house and I saw my mother and father’s faces as they sat across the table from one another, silently asking, “what now?”  As in most of the households, the mill was our lifeline to paying bills. Suddenly it was gone..charred timbers which my brothers and I saw when we went to school the next morning. Hoses were still stretched out on Main street across from the school and the acrid smell of wet burnt timbers permeated our three room school house.

My mother searched for work and finally found one at another factory. My father knew only logging and working in the woods. The minute the ground was bare enough, he announced one evening over the supper table that he was going to camp and would log some timber for another mill owner. As soon as school was out, we would join him.  The house seemed very strange without my father and we couldn’t wait for the last school bell to ring. 

But now we are here in the peace and quiet Dad wants every summer. There is no one at the other camp on the pond and evenings are very quiet as we gather on the porch after supper.

This morning my mother left early, walking up the shoreline path to the car and to work again in the factory. My two older brothers, Tink and Rex are with us for a short time to help in the woods, and because there is no one left in Greenwood, our husky is with us.  I am afraid because there are hedgehogs everywhere and she never learns to stay away.

We have sandwiches for noon in a sack and a jug of orange drink for Curt and me and water for my Dad and older brothers. Dad leads us and we all fall in line, crossing the old dam, with the dog bringing up the rear. I keep Curt in front of me to make sure he doesn’t lag behind. At last we come to where Dad is cutting the timber. As soon as he and my older brothers have them on the ground, my job is stripping the bark. I love doing this and see how long a strip of bark I can get before it breaks. The sun shines on the wet wood and gives off a wonderful smell. The husky lays in the shade and sometimes Curt helps me strip the trees.

The sun is overhead and Dad announces it is time for a break, so we all find a log or a rock to sit. The sandwiches are peanut butter and jelly and how good the orange drink tastes after working all morning. The dog goes from one to the other, gathering up a pinch of sandwich here and there. Soon we are all back on the job.

Dad announces we have to start the walk back home, if we are to get there so he can row the boat up the pond to get Ma when she drives home from work. The walk back to camp seems much longer than it was this morning, but soon the old dam is there and the camp waiting.

In a few minutes, the fire is going in the little camp stove and I start peeling potatoes. We hear the distance sound of a car horn which means Dad is to go get Ma. By the time she gets to camp, the little table will be set with the mis-matched dishes, the frying pan out and waiting for her to work her magic on the perch caught last night.

It is a different summer at the little camp. But as Dad said today as we worked in the woods, you do what you have to do to get by.

Soon my older brothers will be settled in on the porch, Curt and I on our mattresses and we’ll go to sleep by the night sounds.

 

Little Camp In The Woods Part 2

dadIt is another Sunday at Indian Pond camp. Ma fried eggs and potato for breakfast earlier and we are sitting on the porch. The sun has been up just a little while and the pond sparkles like diamonds in the early morning. Curt and I perch on the porch railing and are glad our parents are home today.  My father rocks in his chair, coffee cup in hand, making plans to go fishing up in the corner of the pond by ” a big brush pile.”

Suddenly there is a thrashing sound in the woods followed by a splash of water around the bend in the cove. My father says he’ll bet his last dime it’s a moose and soon a big bull moose comes in sight , his mouth full with pond weeds hanging and dripping. Dad tells us to be quiet and Ma says she hopes he stays where he is. Curt and I look at the kitchen door for a quick escape, if need be.

The moose is walking around the edge of the bog right toward the camp and ends up on the shore still munching his bog weeds. Dad thinks he should see how close he can get to the moose. He has read that it is possible to get a few feet away if one is careful. Ma reminds him that he will do no such thing and that his reading is going to get him killed one of these days.  I can feel my heart pounding in my throat.

The moose stands and chews as Dad walks very slowly down the two front stone steps. He continues to ignore him as he takes two more very short steps. Ma is now on her feet and  tells him to come back right now and that he has four kids to support. Dad shushes Ma and there is something about the shush that arouses the moose . Up swings the massive head and stares Dad in the eye. I  know I should take my brother and run inside the camp, but neither of us can take our eyes off our father a few feet from this huge animal. Dad takes his hat off ; the moose paws the ground and makes a huge snorting sound. Ma asks him if he is crazy just as the moose takes one step toward Dad, who in turn, jumps in the air and high-tails it up the steps on to the porch.  The moose, apparently contented that he has established his territory, snorts and lumbers off into the woods.

My brother and I just look at each other. Ma tells Dad if he keeps up these shenanigans she will burn all his books. Dad sits in the rocking chair, grins and taps his foot in rhythm.  Life at the little camp is never boring.

Little Camp In The Woods

dadIt is just two rooms and an open attic. A porch attached to the camp makes it look a bit larger.  There is one other camp on this tiny pond and seldom does anyone ever inhabit it. It is our get-away, our piece of paradise, my father’s refuge from all the summer residents who, he asserts, ruin the entire span of warm weather with their water skiing and high powered boats.  When the last school bell rings, he summons the family to the kitchen and we know it is “time to go to Indian”.

The bedroll is ready, fastened with a gigantic safety pin, packbasket brimming with necessities. My father controls the situation barking out orders interspersed with sips of Maxwell Coffee…remember, kids, we are not running back here for anything you might forget! This is going to be your home til you go back to school in the fall.

My father rows the supplies down the pond while my mother walks the shoreline path with my younger brother and me. We top the knoll and there the little camp sits, its porch just waiting for the rocking chairs to be brought forth again.

The kitchen was designed with elves in mind; the stove a tiny wood burning unit and the sink as small and black in the corner. Living room walls come alive with cardboard cut-outs of fish caught at another time and the door bears messages from former fishermen.

My brother and I look at each other. We are home for the summer and go up the ladder stairs to make sure our mattresses are still on the floor and no family of mice has taken it for their own.

In the morning, our parents will wake early, climb into the boat and row to the head of the pond to ride to work at the factory. We will have the day to explore. The old dam is off limits, though I will hop expertly on rocks to find the best fishing hole. The spring with the sweet cold water is up the path a bit and we’ll make sure there is water for coffee when they come home that night.

There is a flat fish bed in front of the camp and for hours we will watch as the fish fans the bed, keeping it pure white amongst all the dark muddied water around it. We name it Egbert…male, female, it? It doesn’t matter. It is our fish and its name is Egbert.

There is another old rowboat and if I am careful, I can take Curt for a row, but only around the bog in front of the camp. I cannot, under any circumstances , take him into the main part of the pond.  I am nine years old and he will be five in December and it is my job to make sure he is safe all day.

We wonder what will happen on the week end. Maybe we will have company and Dad will jump on the log and start it spinning again. Last year some big man came and his feet flew around the log and Dad was dumped in the bog. It was the first time he had ever done it and said he read about it in a book. My mother asked him if he read about someone jumping off a cliff if he would try that and he said he probably would.

About three-thirty, I start a fire in the little wood stove and fill the kettle with coffee water to heat. I peel a few potatoes. We will have fried fish tonight with them and after supper, Dad will troll around the pond to see if he can catch some white perch for our supper tomorrow night. My mother knows just how to cook the fish and they are crispy on the outside and pure white inside.

We hear the mill whistle and know it won’t be long before they are rowing down the pond to end another day. We’ll have supper and go to sleep listening to the night sounds at the little camp on Indian Pond.

 

Hot July Days

DSC09981July days take me back to my childhood in the Maine countryside.  I am nine years old and my older brother and I have been rolling old car tires on the “tarred” road all morning. Our hands are blackened to match our bare feet, which are getting hotter as the noon sun hits the road. We roll the tires up to our little house, change into what passes for a “bathing suit” and run across my grandmother’s field to jump into the little beach she owns.  We know the limit we can swim; there is a mark in the bottom of the pond where feet have trod before and past that is no man’s land. High bush blueberries hang over the bank and we step around sticks and rocks in the water to have a feast.

There is still time for us to go home, dry off and have our chores done before our parents come home from the factory. The wood stove has to be started, potatoes peeled and kettle put on to heat the water for coffee. We have no running water. My brother says we do because he runs to my grandmother’s for a pail or two every day. There is no electricity nor phone.

My younger brother and I often take our white enameled cups up on the “flat”, sit in the sand by the side of the road and fill them with the tiny strawberries growing at the edge of the grass. We hurry home with great anticipation of a fine mid-day meal. We pour canned milk and sprinkle sugar sparingly over the berries and twirl our spoons until the milk is a bright pink and then, very slowly, let the treat trickle over our tongues.

There is the path, through the woods, to my cousins’ house…past the red trillium growing, around a corner where there is the white trillium, past the ledge, over a tiny bog, around a corner and there is the house where tree house plans are made and one act plays carried out on a picnic table. There are always the marble games in the sand by the side of the road.  Simple times when everyone was in the same boat, all looking for a set of oars. A few  years ago, I wrote a poem about these simple times:

Country Girl

We children just the same

wore ragged clothes but knew no shame.

How many times I dug your name

in the sand by the side of the road.

You carved a wooden heart for me

from some discarded old birch tree.

I dug your name for all to see

in the sand by the side of the road.

We rolled our tires, fingers black.

Now I laugh in looking back,

we ate lunch from a paper sack

in the sand by the side of the road.

We’re older now. Our lives complete

we both have children grown and sweet.

How much they’ve missed in this concrete

….no sand by the side of the road.

 

Pasture to Pavement

DSC08127It was September in 2007 when my husband and I started our trek for a new cat. No kittens for me, I said, no. I’ve done my share of introducing cats to litter boxes and all that goes with it. So we drove to Wilton, then to Lake George with the husband getting more desperate. We lost our cat of 8 years a few months before and he missed the company..or so he said. We dropped into the local shelter to look around and nothing caught my eye…the husband was no help. He had dropped helplessly, almost in a fetal position, from coughing and inhaling whatever was being spread around on the floor. We stood there in the fine mist of drifting something or other and although we were surrounded by felines…nothing. Nada. The husband left the building coughing so hard my finger was on the cell phone emergency number. It was time to give up…we didn’t need a cat. I started to walk away and out the corner of my eye, I saw a cage on the floor in a corner and the most beautiful eyes looking at me. I walked to it and said…hey, cat, why aren’t you outside? Well, the attendant said he didn’t like coming out; he was too nervous. I got down to eye level and asked him what his problem was as the door was opened. Out he came, circled my legs ..in, out, in out. That is the story of how we came home with the hundred dollar cat in the photo. Fast forward seven years( well, almost). Cleanest and most loving cat we’ve ever had; however, it has not been all fun and joy.

I remember vividly being alone one night watching a television show from my recliner when Sam wanted in from the deck. He dropped something in front of the tv set and kept going. Meanwhile, I eased my backsides into the chair again, thinking I’d catch the rest of the show. And then to my wandering eyes, what should appear? He’d left a bat..yes..the flying kind…on the floor between me and the set. And it was crawling in my direction. As it is so eloquently put: OMG!! A broom would not sweep that bat off a carpet over the door track out on the deck. Was it going to take to the air and start dive bombing? I decided I hated the show and moved hastily out of the room to greet my son and husband coming home and to tell my husband what HIS cat had accomplished. I retreated from the scene completely and the last thing I saw was my son with the pool skimmer taking the bat outside.

Biggest accomplishment that my husband has been bragging on for several months now is that HIS cat knocks when he wants to come in from the deck. Well, the point is, HIS cat knocks on the screen door…and HIS cat has claws. It was finally pointed out that the screen door was badly in need of repair. Yes, it certainly was, he agreed.  The door is in tatters, but there is an upside to all this. I don’t have to get up to open the door anymore. Sam just jumps through the shredded hole he has been working on….like a tiger through a ring of fire.  Time he joined the circus…and earned his keep.