A Day to Remember

1472099_10202005222844749_883487632_nI am twelve years old and this is a Monday..a Monday I have looked forward to for so long. Our class in school can attend a portion of the annual Town Meeting and that is something I have always wanted to do. This morning Ma came to me and asked if I would stay home with Dad, as he is not feeling well. She cannot afford to lose time at the mill and I know she hates to ask me. I don’t tell her about missing the Town Meeting and I know I can ask Rex tonight about it and if there were any good arguments.

Every one has gone. Roland has gone to work at Vallee’s store, Ma off to the mill and Rex and Curt climbed on the bus. The house is quiet and Dad is in bed asleep, at least I think he is asleep.

I have read about everything I can find from Ma’s True Story magazine to an old Police Gazette Dad left laying around and it is almost noon. I peek in and Dad is awake, but says he isn’t hungry, but thinks he will try and get up and sit in his Morris chair for awhile as he does feel better. Maybe the sleep did him some good. I have the stove going and there is some water hot for his coffee. Maybe he will want a cup. Sick or not,he usually drinks it.

There is a pawing at the door and I know Keno, our husky, wants to come in. She has been outside all morning and probably wants to come in and see what is happening inside. She loves it when it is cold and sometimes burrows in the snow until all you can see is her tail. The snow is all gone now, except for a patch or two here and there, so she probably is bored….if dogs get bored.

I open the door and the first thing I see is Keno’s face. My legs go weak as I see her face is full of porcupine ( or hedgehog) quills. She never learns and this is not the first time it has happened. Usually we have no problem because she sits while Ma pulls out the quills. She won’t let Dad near her or anyone but Ma when  she gets quills. Ma is at work and won’t be home for hours and now she is whining. I don’t know what to do. I run to tell Dad where he sits, fully dressed now, in his chair. Show me, he says. I take him to the front door and Keno is gone. She has gone under the house through a big hole she dug years earlier. In fact, that is where she had her puppies. Dad doesn’t know what to do. I am going for Louie’s rifle, he says. I guess my face looks awful because he says, there is nothing we can do, Muff. If he gets Uncle Louie’s rifle, that means he is going to shoot Keno. He can’t do that. He just can’t. I run into the house and hide my face in some blankets on Curt’s bed.

Dad is back and he has the rifle. I can’t get her out from under the house, Muff. That is what he says. I breath a sigh of relief and then he says,  you have to help me. No, I won’t, Dad. This is the first time I have ever disobeyed my father and I know in the end I will have to do what he wants. He tells me to go get a bowl of canned milk and go to the hole and call her and she will come for me. I feel like I am numb all over. This is not fair. I cannot do this. Do you want her to suffer all day, Dad is yelling at me now. I take the bowl of milk and go to the hole and call her softly. In a few minutes, I see her start to come out. I put down the bowl and I run into the house. In what seems a split second, I hear the gun shot. When you live in the woods, a gun shot is not unfamiliar. In another minute, Dad is behind me and puts his arm around me. I had to do it, Muff. He leaves the house and I go upstairs to my bed. No you didn’t, Dad.  Right now I do not like my father at all. Tomorrow and the next day maybe I will understand and know he was doing what he had to do and there was no one else to help him.  I may understand but I will never forget this day until I die.

***Dog in the picture with me is Keno’s puppy, one of her litter we kept. She, too, was named Keno and lived to be a ripe old age. I was 14 in this picture.

The Contest

Graduation 20030036There have rumblings around school this morning that there is a contest going on at the store at the top of the hill. Mr. Leach, known as Hank by the town folk, has a huge sign in his window. I didn’t know whether to believe it or not, but this noon got permission to go to the store and read it myself!

It says that anyone who pays on their bill has a vote for each dollar paid. I guess in a mill town like ours, most every one picks up what they want and pays on Friday when they get their check. Sometimes there are people who get behind on paying and to tell the truth, that is easy to do. I think Mr. Leach would like to catch up on back bills so he has a contest to elect the most popular girl in the town. I have no idea how he came up with that idea.

Two weeks have gone by and I decide to climb the hill this noon to see how the contest is going and to tell the truth, kill some time away from school. Mr. Meserve is not the most pleasant teacher I have ever had and I still haven’t see him smile. Oh, my goodness, there is my name on the big sign and also my best friend, Kay Dorey, is also on the sign. The prizes are to be a new bicycle and a Kodak camera. Well I never have rode a bike in my life but I like to take pictures. Oh, no I take that back. I did ride a bike once.

I was walking on the “flat” and Elwin Cole came riding down the road and stopped to say hi. I told him I had never ridden a bike and he said I could ride his for just  a short way. Well, I was some pleased and hopped right up on the seat and started pedaling. I kept going faster and faster and Elwin ran beside me telling me to slow down and I kept saying how . By this time my riding was out of control and I was way past Elwin. I figured to keep upright I had to keep pedaling. It all came to an end when I got to our mailbox and ran into it. I thought maybe I would go over the handlebars, but I just kind of tipped over and wasn’t hurt and neither was the bike. Elwin caught up with me, and he was gasping for breath. He didn’t say anything, just took his bike and rode away in the direction of his house. Well, he should have told me where the brake was or how to do it. I told him I had never been on one in my life.

So there is this splendid blue and white girls bike sitting in the window along side the Kodak camera. The bike is the first prize and the camera second. Ma and Dad shop at Vallee’s down the street so they won’t be buying at the store. Well, I would like that camera so I can take pictures of Keno, our husky, and my brothers.

Well, the month is over and so is the contest. It is Sunday and Dad is going to Langway’s filling station for some kerosene in the little blue can and asks if I want to ride along. I usually go and look at the candy and everything while they visit. This morning he stops the car and says are you going to go up to Leach’s and see who won the contest? I run up and there in the big store window is my name and I have won the bicycle. I run back to the car and Dad is already waiting for me and says, well? I tell him I won, I won. He says, what did you win and I tell him the bike. Well, he just grins all over and says , good for you, Muff.

Getting the bike home is another matter. It is Monday and I tell Rex and Curt I am not going home on the bus , but am going to Leach’s to get my bicycle. Mr. Leach is so pleased to see me but cautions that that the nuts and bolts or whatever should be tightened before I ride it. I tell him I will ride it straight home and my brother will tighten whatever needs to be tightened. He says, ok, but it is four miles. It is like I am flying in the wind. My hair is swishing behind me and I pedal down past the four ponds. There are no cars on the road as everyone is still working, so I look at the ponds and the birds swooping , go around the bends and down the little hills. This is just heaven. I never dreamed I would have such a beautiful bicycle. I come to our driveway and even miss our mailbox.

Rex is ready with the wrench and tightens everything while I hurry in to get the potatoes peeled and after- school chores done. I haven’t heard anything from him in quite awhile, so go to the door. He is standing there and my bike looks a little damp. What have you done I ask him and he says, I wondered if your bike floated.  If I did not have the chores to do, I would have chased him to the shores of Twitchell Pond and made him see if he could float.

I am not sure if he rode it into the pond or not. I like to believe he was washing all the dust off from the Greenwood Road!

This is the nicest thing that has happened to me in a long time!

Visiting Neighbors

royIt is Saturday afternoon and I am anxious to walk down to my Uncle Roy’s house, which is about a half hour away. The chores are done. Ma has been using the scrub board all morning with her Fels Naptha soap and after she wrings the clothes I help her hang them on the line. Our clothes line goes from tree to tree at the edge of the woods and she has special forked poles that she props up the line so we don’t lose the clothes in the dirt and dead leaves.

I have a special friend I visit every week-end if I can.  I think she has been around for quite a few years because Ma has pictures of us kids that my friend took when we were quite small.  Her name is Gladys Bailey and she works all week in South Paris or Norway. On Friday night she comes up to Greenwood Center and stays with my Uncle Roy Martin.  She is very good to me and loves to have me come visit.

Ma gives me permission, so I start out on my journey. Grampa Martin is sitting on the porch and yells, “Hi Sandra” as I go by and I wave back to him. I don’t see Grace or Charlie Day as I pass by so they must be grocery shopping this afternoon. My Uncle Dwight’s house is so beautiful and stands up like a mansion overlooking Twitchell Pond. I think it is one of the finest houses I’ve ever seen!

The summer people have gone home and the Pralls cottage is locked up for the winter and soon I come to the ledge. This is where the tarred road ends and there is dirt the rest of the way. I don’t mind because when I walk, my mind wanders and I think about poems I might write or I look for birds in the trees. Soon there is the old mill that my Great Grandfather Ransom Cole built and the bridge over the brook that leads to Uncle Roy’s house.

He always has a smile on his face and Gladys always hugs me and asks me how my week has been. Sometimes she brings me a pin or some little doo-dad she picks up at JJ Newberry’s in Norway. I love to look in my uncle’s living room because everywhere there is a treasure he has carved. There is the Lincoln Memorial he copied from a picture. I don’t know what kind of wood he uses, but maybe it is pine, since there is a lot around here. I asked him one day what that huge toadstool carving was on the wall and he said that is the Burma Road and said it had to do with World War 11. It is so beautiful that it is a shame he cannot sell some of his carvings. There is one I don’t quite understand but I think it is President Franklin Roosevelt who might be fishing and a bear in front of him with his fish basket  and Pres. Roosevelt looks like he has a fish in his hand, but oh, the bear in back has taken the President’s flask and has the cork in his left paw and is drinking from the flask. There is something missing from the President’s hand and I am not sure if there was a fish pole or an oar or what. But it is a mighty fine piece of carving. Maybe Uncle Roy was making a political statement, but I don’t ask him because it would not be like him at all. Maybe he saw a cartoon and carved it . Who knows!!  Gladys says he is like the wind…he blows here and there and you never know where he is or what he is doing. She always laughs.

I always look forward to seeing Gladys because she is  so jolly and she makes me laugh. I don’t think I should ask her about Uncle Roy taking  her fishing for the first time. They stood side by side and Uncle Roy was trying to show her how to cast the line. I guess she was doing pretty well, so he kind of tended to his own fish pole and let have at it. But then she made a mighty sweep of the line and the hook caught Uncle Roy right in the nose. Well, he let out a yelp that could be heard in four counties and Gladys turned around and said, now what seems to be the matter. Well, then she saw what was the matter and with uncle squirming around, she finally got the hook out of his nose. She took him home and put some antiseptic on it and he told Dad he was never going fishing with her again. I heard that story when Dad was telling Ma and laughing so hard he almost fell out of his chair.

I know Gladys is tired and she only has a day and a half before she catches a ride back to South Paris for another week of work. I stay about a half hour and start the walk back home.

I keep thinking as I walk what a nice friend she is to me. The only girls I see are at school since my cousins moved away. I don’t use the path through the woods any more and it is very lonesome sometimes.

Twitchell Pond is looking a little darker and choppy. It won’t be long before we might have a squall which will take the rest of the leaves off the trees. I can’t wait til next week-end when I can visit Gladys again. My stomach has a warm feeling.

Another Year; Another Teacher ( sigh)

Graduation 20030036Sometimes I don’t think things will ever change. Every year seems the same and nothing much happens. I was 12 years old on my birthday in February . Ma and Dad’s friends gave me a pair of green wool slacks and a pretty pull over top to match. Mr. Weber complimented me. Maybe he was as sick of looking at my old clothes as I was. I was really pleased that he wrote in my autograph book. “The youngest in age in the seventh grade, but the oldest in the head”..yup, that is what he wrote. Made me feel special for awhile.

One day this summer, our neighbor, Grace drove into the yard and brought a big box of clothes into the house. She explained to Ma that a summer resident had a girl a little older than me and had outgrown the clothes and would she like them for me? Ma hesitated a little but then thanked her. I opened the box later and never saw so many colors in my life. Dresses of all kinds and skirts like the other girls wore. They all looked new to me and when I got my new shoes for school, I would look really nice. It made the new school year something to look forward to for a change!

But this is another Monday morning and as usual, I am tired. Ma lets us stay up a little later on Sunday night as there are radio programs we really like. I like to hear when Henry Aldrich comes on and his mother yells “Hen-r-r-ry”! It is sponsored by J-E-L-L-O and I do love that stuff!! We sit in the kitchen chairs against the wall and look at the radio. I wonder if we think that is the only way we can hear it is by looking at it!! Jack Benny, Amos and Andy, Our Miss Brooks, The Great Gildersleeve….those are just some of the programs we really like and look forward to hearing. Dad tries to save the radio battery for the news and for the boxing matches he likes when Joe Louis fights but he always says it is strong enough for us to hear those programs. That is something my Dad and I share. When Joe Louis fights, he lets me sit up with him and listen. We were so glad when he beat Billy Conn. Ma isn’t too thrilled about it but I think Dad likes company in the kitchen.

Mr. Weber is not teaching us this year. We have another man teacher, who is staying with Norwood and Dora Ford on Bird Hill. The first time I saw him, it was a little scary. We have been going to school for a couple weeks now and I have never seen Mr. Meserve smile. Never! He always wears a three piece suit with a pocket watch and a gold chain that comes down in a loop. He walks around the room with his finger in the loop half the time. He has a gold tooth on each side of his bottom teeth. I noticed that right off and told Ma. She told me to look more at the books and spend less time looking at the teacher’s teeth. I guess she has a point, but most subjects are boring as I heard them taught when I was in the sixth and seventh grades.  I don’t know why but Mr. Meserve has a favorite saying. I guess it is a favorite as not a day goes by but he bellows, “You’re not putting me in a knot hole and putting the plug in behind me.”  The first time he said it, I kind of jumped as I’ve never heard a teacher bellow before. I wonder what he was told about us. We are not a bunch of ruffians. Maybe he just is warning us not to try anything.

I have to admit that I got in trouble the first week. Kay always sits in front of me and he caught me talking to her..not once, but twice. So, he made me clean out my desk and sat me in the back seat of the sixth grade section and told me if I acted like a sixth grader I should sit there. That didn’t bother me much, because right behind me was a few book shelves and when I got my work done, I just reached my hand around and grabbed a book and read. After a couple days, I think he knew what I was doing and back into the eighth grade section I went.

I don’t know why Mr. Meserve is so crabby. Maybe it is because he is older than most teachers I have had before. Just once I wish he would smile but that doesn’t look as though it might happen right away.  This is going to be a very long school year.

Thank goodness for the Philco radio and Sunday evenings.

Apples and Donuts

IMG_0672I always love it when my mother is laid off from work at the mill. I know it isn’t easy because we need the money, but it seems so nice to come home from school and find the house nice and warm. Today was an extra special day. As soon as we got near the door steps, I could smell something wonderful through the open kitchen door. The door would not be open, unless the kitchen was extra hot, so that must mean Ma is baking.

Right in the middle of the kitchen table is a big pile of nice warm donuts that are draining on some brown paper bags. The pot of grease is on the kitchen stove and Ma warns us to step back as she brings a long fork with two more donuts from the stove to the table. She wipes her forehead and says thank goodness that is the last of them. She says go ahead and have one each, but take them from the bottom of the pile or you’ll burn your mouth. Oh,they are so good!  It is hard for Ma to do any baking or cooking because the counter space is so small. She must have put them together on the table and rolled them out there and cut them. These are the best donuts in the whole world and what a treat!  I am surprised she is letting us have one with supper coming in an hour or so.

Rex and I still have to cut up some fire wood, but with the warm donut in our stomach, the chore doesn’t seem so hard today and the weather is so much nicer than in the middle of January when we are standing in snow!!

My Grandfather Martin has an apple tree just across the brook and it is full of apples. I asked Ma a couple days ago if they ever used the apples because I am dying to take one and see how it tastes. Ma , for some reason, can read my mind and she told me never to go near that apple tree  unless Grampa says it is all right. Well, my grandfather is not the most friendly person in the world, I said to her, and she told me that was not nice to say.  Today the sun is shining on that tree and the apples are glistening and I am going to get one. He will never miss one apple off a tree.

The wood box is full and Ma has put the donuts away and I feel this is the right time to get the apple. I know better, but I sneak across the brook and just hope that Grampa is not looking. Grammy would not say a word and probably smile, but he might shake his cane at me. I creep up to the tree and there, on a low branch , is one of the biggest apples and red as can be. I reach for it and out of nowhere, comes a bee and stings me on my lower lip. It really hurts and I run for the house. Shall I tell Ma ? I am in really hot water. The apple is still on the tree, so I didn’t take it, but still I was trying. My lip is getting bigger and bigger. Ma is peeling potatoes and looks at me. Young lady, what have you been into, she asks. When she says “young lady” I know I am in for it. I tell her the whole story and do you know what she says? I told you not to touch those apples and God decided it was time to teach you a lesson. Whoa! If God decided, I guess the apple will stay on that limb.

Oh, no, Dad is home and what is he going to say.  Ma tells him in twenty five words or less what happened. He grins and says, oh, is that what happened? I thought you had a fight with Joe Louis. Ma says, is that all you have to say and he says, not much more I can say. But tell you what, tomorrow we will go on a back road and get you some apples. Ma says that is like rewarding bad behavior but we know she is anxious to have some apples for pies and apple goodie.

I didn’t sleep too well last night because my lip kept hurting, but today Dad is taking Curt and me on a back road to get some apples. We went there last year and it was wonderful. I think we go down to the road that leads to Irving Martin’s house, but I think Dad makes a left turn right away and I wonder if that is the road that eventually goes way to Rowe Hill or Sheepskin Bog. I can’t keep back roads straight. But up in there is a farm and no one lives on it. There are wild grape vines growing and Dad tells us that he thinks the grapes are pretty sour. But the apple trees. I have never, ever seen an apple so big in my life.  Dad says they are Wolf Rivers…I don’t know..that is how it sounds when he says it..though it sounds more like wuffriver when he says it. I just know they are huge and seems like they are three times as big as any other apple I have ever seen. Last  year we took some bags and filled them and had the best time ever.

Dad is calling now. He calls me Muff and when I was really little it was Muffett. When he calls, we scurry. So fat lip and all, I will get an apple.

I didn’t know Ma had a direct line to God. I am going to have to be very careful in the future.

Do Men Teach School?

Graduation 20030036I am now eleven years old and it feels like I’ve been in school forever. This past summer was way too short and my bare feet are now back in the stiff school shoes. My feet always hurt me and Ma says my feet never stop growing just like the rest of me.

Some things have changed, though. Hank Leach has bought the store at the head of the street and he and his family live in the old Joe Cummings house about a mile and a half north of us. Barbara goes to school with us now, but she is in another room and I don’t see her often.

We had a very strange start to the school year. Mrs. Lurvey is not teaching any more in our school, so we arrived to find a very young lady teacher behind the desk. Now I have to admit we do have some students who like to talk and perhaps behave as well as they should sometimes, but one day I looked up and our teacher was seated at her desk crying. I didn’t know what to do so we all kind of looked at each other and pretended we didn’t see her.

Monday when we came to school, there was a tall man sitting at the teacher’s desk. I have never seen a man teacher before! Do men teach school?? I never knew one to teach school, so my morning was completely confused.

He had a nice smile and said his name is Gail Weber. He wrote Mr. Weber on the board with a flourish. I guess he is going to be with us the rest of the year.

Well, this should be interesting. I wonder if he heard that a couple years ago, some boys set off some black powder in the woods behind the school. That was something!!  One boy was burned and didn’t come to school for awhile and the others were not hurt, but it sure was talked about!! Maybe people think we are such horrible students, they searched til they found a man they thought could handle us. I don’t know, but I behaved last year and will this year, too!

My ear is aching again today. My left ear aches sometimes pretty bad. Dad blows cigarette smoke in it at home and puts a piece of cotton in it after to keep it warm. That does help at home, but the days at school are very long. Ma has a friend who works with her at the mill and that lady goes home every day at noon. When she goes home, she fills a hot water bottle full and sends it back to school with her son. Her name is Mrs. Corkum and her son is Carl and he always gives me the hot water bottle. Mr. Weber does not mind that I put my head on it if he is teaching the other two classes and it sure helps me get through the afternoon. I tell Carl to be sure and thank his mother for being so kind to me.

The school doctor, Dr. Boynton looked in my ear and told me to come to my Grandfather’s farm next door on Saturday as he comes every other week-end to check on him. He said to tell Ma and Dad that my tonsils should come out and something called adenoids. I told them, but they said if I wanted to go , I could. Well, now if any kid thinks that someone is going to be operating on them sooner or later, are they going to go see the doctor, even next door? Not me, I decided.

Today, however, is a special day as Mr. Weber has us studying something called bartering. He asked us each to bring something from home to barter with someone else. Maybe we have something we do not want that someone else would really want.  I found a lined tablet that I had never written in. Maybe someone will like that. It turns out that Albert wants the tablet and he has an autograph book. I think some of the pages are missing, but there are several pages left and I can have my friends sign it. My mother has one from her days at Woodstock High School where she graduated in 1933, so I know that autograph books have been around for awhile! Kay is the first to sign it and then some others write in it. The boys are goofy and they write silly things in it but that is ok. I will have fun reading it when I get home.

Home! Oh, no. Someone says the bus has left . What am I going to do?  I have to have the potatoes cooked, the coffee water hot and the kitchen warm by the time Ma and Dad come home. I can’t wait for the mill to blow its whistle and ride home with them to an empty cold house. I run to the mill office which is just across the road, being careful not to run in front of the Merrill Transport trucks passing through. My Uncle Dwight works in the office and maybe he will save my neck.

I am afraid Ma and Dad will be angry but I have no choice! I go in the office and there are women sitting at desks and I see my Uncle Dwight, who gets right up and comes to me. I ask him if he will give me a ride home, and I never even think that he is working on his job and maybe his boss won’t like it. He says sure I will and he takes my hand and walks me to his car. I am eleven years old but I feel like I am five years old right now. How could I miss the bus? I never have in my whole life!  Uncle Dwight puts me in the car and we drive down the Greenwood road and he tells me all the way not to worry and that he will get me home on time. He pulls into our driveway and I thank him over and over. He looks at me and smiles and says, anytime you need me, Sandra.  He is so nice and so handsome. I hope his boss won’t be mad that he just walked out of the office.

Sometimes being eleven and having all these chores is a mighty heavy load, I swear.

Summertime, Summertime

DSC09981Strawberry season has passed. Curt and I made several trips up on the “flat” and filled our white enamel cups with the tiny berries growing near the side of the road. I know there are lots more over in the field, but that land belongs to the Cole family and we have been taught to never go on someone else’s property to take something that does not belong to us. I know if I asked them, they would not mind, but we get enough for our lunch as it is.

Soon Grammy Martin will have some of her great grandchildren come to visit for a week. I love to have someone different to play with and they always have new games to share. We spend a lot of time on Gram’s lawn.  My cousins Valerie and Junior Winslow come most summers and we have fun!  They showed me how to play games like “Red Light” and “Simon Says”.

Last year, my Aunt Cecile invited me to come visit them for a week in Crescent Lake. I didn’t know where it was, but it sounded like fun. Ma said it was ok for me to go, so when Valerie and Junior left Grammy’s house I rode home with them for a week.  They have a grand house and Valerie has a room of her own.  We played paper dolls for hours. Junior was very good and most of the time he played by himself but there were some games he joined in on, too. I had never stayed at anyone else’s house but Winnie Hanscom’s, so I was a bit nervous, but they were so nice to me, I hated to come home at the end of the week! There was a dance hall or something almost across from their house and we sat and listened to the music and watched the cars come and go on a Saturday night.

The Fourth of July is coming. Roland ordered some fireworks and they are supposed to come by train. He checks the station each day when he goes to work and hopefully they will be here by the Fourth.

Well, this morning I woke up pretty excited. Today is the Fourth and Roland told us last night the fireworks came in yesterday. Today Ma is going to give us a treat. She has asked Uncle Louis if we can borrow his green rowboat.

Curt is lagging behind this morning and finally I tell him if he wants to go on the boat ride he had better hurry. He wants to bring a truck with him to play with and I have told him that we will have a picnic and pick some blueberries.

Ma is rowing Curt, Rex and me across Twitchell Pond to a little area that we have always called Nick’s Point. It is just a little piece of land that juts out into the pond. Nearby is Brooks’ beach and towering above our heads is Rowe’s ledge. The ledge hawks circle and shriek, wondering who is coming so close to their nests. At first it kind of scares me to hear their shrieks, but after awhile it is really nice to see how wide their wings are.  Across the pond our house is just a speck.

Ma spreads out an old blanket and takes out the peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. She was going to bring tuna fish but said she was afraid the sun would be hot and there is mayonnaise in them. We have some puffy pink cookies from Vallee’s store and also a couple of white ones with the coconut on top. This is really a treat and a big jug of orange Kool-aid to wash it all down. 

After the picnic, Ma hands us each a little pail she has saved from buying peanut butter and sometimes lard. They are perfect for berry picking and there are blueberries just waiting for us! Curt asks me if there are any bears here and I tell him they are all busy on the other side of the mountain. He remembers once Dad was picking berries and had a gun. Well, he leaned the gun against a tree and kept on picking and soon he looked up and there was a bear eating berries on the other side of the bank. Dad did not want to shoot him, just scare him, so he said he yelled and made some noise and the bear kind of looked at him and wandered off, but he took enough time so that Dad was kind of worried. He said if she had cubs, he would have been in a lot more danger! So Curt keeps looking around for a bear as much as he is picking berries. Soon, Ma has her pail full and the rest of us have a little over half a pail each and she says that will make a fine pie and some muffins.

It is a strange feeling to be out on the pond and see the houses from that view. Grammy’s house looks so big sitting on the hill and ours looks like someone plopped our house out of a big hand right into a little clearing in the woods. Ma doesn’t mind rowing and the pond is nice and calm today. Before we know it, we are on the shore and Rex jumps up with the rope to tie it tight so we can all climb out.

It is getting dusky now and we are all eager to see the fireworks Roland has bought. He has given each of us some Roman candles but says he will set them off for us so we will be safe.  We stand on the side of the road to watch and Roland goes to the edge of the pond. The Roman candles are beautiful! Curt and I each have a package of “sparklers” he has given us, so we run in circles with them sending off little sparks into the night. Uncle Louis and Grammy are sitting on their porch enjoying the pretty fireworks Roland sets off. He did not buy many with a big boom and I am glad for that!!

It has been a nice day. We have had a boat ride, a picnic and tonight some wonderful fireworks to look at. Maybe next week, Grammy’s company will come and we will have friends to play with again.

Maybe Dad will hold off his Indian Pond trip for another week!  Curt and I are sure hoping!

Remembering a Big Brother

Young TinkFor those regular readers of the blog, you will find that today’s writings are a bit different. I was not going in this direction, but something kept pulling me back, so here goes.

I can’t remember when my oldest brother, Roland (Tink) was not looking out for my younger brother, Curt and me.  With both parents working, he was the man of the family, the overseer of the dirty ears and necks each morning and making sure we were neat, clean and warmly dressed in the winter. As I have mentioned in earlier blogs, Curt did a dance every morning as Tink scrubbed behind his ears and then made me circle to make sure that all was in place. Most mornings, out came the comb and he did a few licks to my hair, which was blonde and fine and wanted to fly in every direction. Many mornings, he anchored the flyaways with a barrette and told me not to lose it!

Tink was always quiet growing up; he was not one to make waves or have any confrontation. I remember his going his own way much of the time. He was contented in his early years to read his Hardy Boy books, which he promptly loaned to me when he was through. His Gene Autry guitar hung from a nail on the wall half way up the stairs to the attic, and one could hear him strumming on that in any of his leisure time.

He never pointed out that I was his “little sister” but as the years went by, he showed he was aware of the position he held as the big brother. He noted with interest any boys who might take me to the movies.

He started high school at Gould Academy but left when he became 16. I was never sure why, but heard my mother mention that he was ashamed because someone made fun of his clothes. That could or could not have been the reason. I like to believe he wanted to work so that he could make life easier for our mother. He went to work at Arthur Vallee’s store in Locke Mills as a clerk at a very young age and as soon as electricity was strung through our little hamlet, the first thing he bought was a second hand refrigerator for her. He looked at my father and told him he could still keep his beer cold in the brook. My father grinned, but I cannot remember beer ever being in her refrigerator! 

Not long after, he bought Ma a washing machine..a Maytag wringer which was a joy after years of Fels Naptha soap and a scrub board. Finally he bought something for himself. I came home from high school one day and sitting in the corner of the kitchen was a Zenith record player. It was a tall brown console and probably the most beautiful thing to ever be in the house. I remember his saying, Sandra, do you want to hear something fantastic? He was so excited, so unlike him, I hurried and he put on a 45 record of Les Paul and Mary Ford singing “How High the Moon”. I could not believe the sound. He went into great detail of how it was recorded track upon track.

When I wanted to ice skate, he bought me some white ladies used skates so I could join the fun. When I wanted to be a cheerleader in high school, he bought me the white blouse I needed to go with the uniform. One winter he asked me what all the girls were wearing in high school and I said, red corduroy skirts and black cinch belts. On Christmas morning, I opened a package from him and you can guess what was inside.

When Curt had an ulcerated tooth, he took him to the dentist. He took our dog to the veterinarian when she was sick. That was just the way he was.

He gave me away when I married the first time at age seventeen. I moved away; my brother Rex was in the Army, Curt still at home, and Tink joined the Air Force for four years. He spent a great deal of time in Morocco and wrote me about life there.

As years passed, he learned to appreciate Chet Atkins and in time could listen to his albums and play them exactly the way that Mr. Atkins played. It was a shame more people did not hear him, but playing in public, he said, made him nervous, his hands sweat and he was afraid he would make mistakes.

Tink came home, married and for years continued to care for our mother and the home she lived in until she passed in 2007.

Tink was my second father and I continued to tell him that when we were both adults. In the role of older brother, he was that and more.

Tink passed away in November, 2010 and I miss him. Today would have been his 80th birthday.

Spring Cleaning and Smelts

MVC-025SIt seems so good to see some green again. There are some very cold nights but the days are warm. The mittens and knit hats are put away for another season and the dreaded long, brown stockings are stashed in my bureau drawer. I hope they get lost over the summer. The air feels so good on my bare legs. Ma says we can’t go barefoot yet and the ground really is too cold, but the mud has dried up pretty well.

I visited Grammy yesterday and she had her parlor rug out on the line and had just beaten it with some kind of rug-beater. She looked pretty worn out and told me she was glad that was over with and now she had to take down all the curtains and wash the winter smut off them. She says the wood stove really smokes them up and she can’t wait until they are washed and starched and ironed and then she will hang them once she gets all the windows washed. I told her it seemed like a lot of work, but she told me it made her feel good to see everything sparkling and clean. My Grammy is a tiny woman, but boy she works hard. She told me it wouldn’t be too long before she needed me to mow the lawn the way the grass was coming along.  She has a push mower and her side lawn is a hill, so it takes me quite awhile to get it all done nicely.

Ma is pleased that we can hang the wash out again on the clothesline that reaches from one tree to another at the edge of the woods.  They smell so clean once the wind whips through them. It won’t be too long now before Ma starts looking in a little patch of grass to see if her Mayflowers have started. Those are her favorite flowers and every year, once they have blossomed, she puts a water glass in the middle of the table and plops a few in there to brighten up the kitchen. She leaves most of them outside because she says that is where they belong.

One day last year I went fishing on my favorite rock past Wagner’s camp.  On the way there were yellow and pink ladyslippers. They are so pretty. I told Ma when I got home and she said, oh, no you didn’t pick any, did you? I said no and she told me never , ever pick them as they are the prettiest right where they grow. She said if I pick them, they might not grow again.  Ma is part Native American and she is very strict about nature and flowers.  She did show us what she called Indian Tobacco once. It is a white stemmy looking plant and she broke off a piece on top and chewed it and gave Curt and me a little to chew. It didn’t taste bad, but I didn’t want it in my mouth very long. Curt just pretended he was spitting chewing tobacco like one of Dad’s friends!

I just remembered it won’t be long before Ma boils down the poplar bark again and makes us take a tablespoon or more of that awful tasting stuff. I am not going to remind her.

Dad already has his supplies handy for tonight’s smelt run. This time of  year it gets pretty loud and noisy at the brooks where the smelts run. There is a brook right across the road from our house and they come up there. Oh, the cars that come and line the road just as it gets dark. All the people, mostly men, try to get the best spot and they shine their flashlights and jostle others around. I think Roland and Rex might go once in awhile, but Ma won’t let me near there. She says it is no fit place for a girl and the language is awful. Well it is loud enough so I have heard plenty right from my bed.

Dad says there are always a few who drink too many beers, especially on a Saturday night, and spoil it for everyone. I remember one night he came home very disgusted because the smelt had just begun to come up the brook and someone lost his balance and fell into the water. That was the end of smelting for that night!  Ma said probably the ground was still soft from the spring weather and Dad said, no, the man was full of beer. Ma hushed him and told him he could go the next night and get a mess of smelts for us.

There is a limit on how many smelts you can dip. Dad has his pail, his flashlight and net and he usually can get his limit. Once in awhile, a game warden will come along, ask a few questions and look for someone who has too many. One man poured some smelts down his waders. Well, the game warden got him in a hurry. No need for waders unless the man thought he was going to chase the smelts back into Twitchell Pond! At least, that is what Dad said the next morning.

Cleaning the smelts can be a slow job, but Dad showed me how so I helped Ma clean them because I knew how nice she cooks them. She gets the grease in the frying pan real hot, rolls the smelts in corn meal and pops them in there. Oh, they are so crispy and they have a little sweet taste to them that other fish do not.  I just love them.

Well, if Dad gets some tonight, it won’t take me long tomorrow morning to help clean them!  Spring is such a nice season. I am not crazy about the cleaning part, but cleaning smelts has a nice ending to it!!!!