July was unlike other summer months in Greenwood Center. The hot, sultry days made for long waits at the end of the driveway as Ace, the milkman , made his way to all the summer camps. We waited in the hot summer sun, clean milk bottle in hand, ready to exchange it for an ice cold bottle of chocolate or strawberry milk. What a delight to see the bottle with its tears in the moisture just waiting for us to run to the kitchen table, grab the enamel cups and divide up the booty. Was there ever such a delicious treat?? If a local farmer gave us milk, it went to my father who had ulcers and his diet was crackers and milk each evening before bedtime. He had first dibs on the milk and that was as it should be because he was sick and had to work. But, oh, the treat three times a week when Ace came in the milk truck. Ma gave us the change we needed to go with the empty clean bottle and sometimes we waited an hour to make sure we did not miss him. What dirty little urchins we must have looked to him, but he always smiled and was so nice.
The fourth of July was so special as my oldest brother, Tink, waited for his fireworks to come into the railroad station in Lockes Mills. Every day he checked and we waited to hear if the box had arrived from Ohio, that magic place somewhere in the United States that had all the fireworks for people like us! Tink gave Curt and me some sparklers which Ma allowed us to use. He bought roman candles so that Gram Martin could sit on her porch and watch the beautiful colors as he set them off over Twitchell Pond. He seldom bought too many of the really noisy ones as the color was minimal and the noise was enough to wake the dead ( or so my Grampa Martin said…). Sometimes we had little red rolls of caps and if there was no cap gun available, a rock would do to make them “go off”!
That was also the day of the additional treat of the summer. Watermelon..spitting seeds and all the contests that went with that. The juices ran down our chins and we just did not care except Ma referred to it as a “sticky mess” by the time we were through. We sat outside and just went back and forth on that watermelon slice like a beaver on a log. What a treat!!
Ma sometimes borrowed Uncle Louie’s rowboat and took us to Nick’s Point across the pond for a picnic of sandwiches and kool-aid. There were usually ripe blueberries, so we had a picking good time along with the boat ride. It was fun to see the houses get smaller and smaller as she rowed us across Twitchell Pond. After our picnic, we sat on the rocks for awhile, listened to the ledge hawks scream and then back across the pond for another year.
During the hot weather, Gram churned her butter on the front porch, hoping for a breeze off the pond. I loved to watch her churn and then dig out her little mold with the pretty leaf on it to make the squares of butter. Only once did I drink her buttermilk. Oh, it was such a hot day and the buttermilk was so ice cold and tasted so good. Two hours later, my body was bent in a comma-shape and my mother stood over me with threats of “if you ever touch that stuff again, I will know for sure you are out of your mind. No wonder you’re sick, drinking that stuff…” That is all I remember about the lecture because I was too busy being sick…well it tasted good going down but I remembered to politely refuse the next time Gram offered some.
Gram had a little beach for the family to use, but in order to get to it, one had to run across a field. I say run, because that is exactly what I did after someone announced there was a huge milk adder snake living in that field. Swimming was never the same after that. I breathed a sigh of relief upon getting to the beach without seeing the snake and the same when I reached the tarred road on the way out. I still wonder if that was a story made up by one of my brothers just to make me run every time…well it worked for about five years!!
Soon there were people from Greenwood City who learned about the tiny swimming hole and we had to look to see if there was a car parked by the field before we could go. Now that made for some cranky kids. After all, it was our Grandmother’s beach and some strangers were there and not room for us?? How fair was that?? Oh how unjust the entire situation was when we could not use the beach the minute we wanted.
Of course, summer meant fishing to me. There is one incident that still stands out in my mind. I knew bass were not to be caught and kept before June 1st..I believe that was the date. One day I was on Mina’s wharf and my line tugged clear to the bottom. I thought there was a whale on there and so I eased the little alder pole slowly here and there and soon ..plop! ..on the wharf was this big bass. I knew I had to throw it back. On the other hand I could see it in my mother’s fry pan covered with corn meal and frying up golden and crisp. She would be proud of me to think I caught a fish that big..well it was almost a whole meal! Back then, game wardens were more to be feared than State Police. I held my breath, dropped the pole, grabbed the bass and ran for the house. The minute I got to the house, I went to the cleaning rock where Dad had given me lessons in cleaning fish, and within seconds, it seemed, no one could identify that fish as a bass.
Later, I retrieved the alder pole and waited for the folks to come home from work. Dad was the first to see the cleaned fish laying in the cake pan. “What do we have here?” he asked. “I caught a fish,” and that was where I left it. “Looks to me like a bass”. Well I couldn’t lie to him. The man knew his fish, cleaned or otherwise. “Yes.” “Well, Muff, little early in the season isn’t it?” “yes” was all I could muster out of my mouth. “Ethel, get the frying pan hot,” Dad yelled. That was the end of the fish situation.
Now you might be saying, that’s no way to bring up a kid. You have to teach them right from wrong. Dad knew I knew. He knew I worried all afternoon what he was going to say. He figured I had punished myself. Besides, there was nothing he liked better than crisp fried bass.
I miss July in Greenwood Center, Maine.