Thoughts on a Foggy Afternoon

Hunting season is over in Maine for another year, so I am told. My thoughts always travel back to my childhood and that wondrous month of November, that my Dad impatiently waited for each year. Months in advance, his rifle was cleaned, his hunting maps formed in his head and by the first day he was ready.  Names floated around my head …”the old Ames Place” , “Furlong Pond”, “Overset” and on and on . Growing up, they were places that were for hunters only…at least in my mind..and I never hoped to see them. How wonderful to read of the hiking trails so many can take advantage of these beautiful hidden treasures. I haven’t heard if it was a good season down east this year or if many were dining on “track soup”. We had many a good meal of deer meat and oddly enough, I cannot remember  many calling it by its correct name…”venison.”  Here in upstate, I do not hear it called deer meat but always venison. Different culture just five and a half hours away!

What else crosses my mind this time of year? My mother making mince meat from the neck of the deer. I hope I remember that correctly. I absolutely loved the mince pies!! A few years ago we ate at a restaurant and I was overjoyed to see mince pie on the menu. Why did I think it would taste like my mother’s pies with the REAL mince meat in it?

Also this week came the news that my beloved Twitchell Pond is almost frozen over. How well I remember the skating parties we had each winter, warmed by the old tires burning and smelling.  The entire neighborhood reeked of rubber burning and no one cared. We had already cut up the inner tubes to fasten our feet to our skiis, as we took over Gram Martin’s pasture! Roland built ski trails and added a few jumps here and there. No, I did not go over any of his ski jumps! My strength was in sledding..get a running start, slam my body on to the sled and let it rip down my Gram’s hill!

November was a grim month, or so I always thought. The trees were bare; the land was colorless and the cold crept into our bones. I think it was colder back then as I remember putting on ice skates after Thanksgiving dinner and negotiating the little bog between my cousins’ house and ours. We sometimes had snowbanks for the jello to set. I hope my memory serves me correct or perhaps I hated the cold so much I imagined it!!

Gram Martin had Christmas on her mind and she sized us up for hats and mittens to knit. What a wonderful gift and it was especially nice to wear them to school for the first time to show that we actually had two mittens that matched!!

Twitchell Pond was frozen but none of us ventured out on it,  until Dad gave the word that it was safe. He forever gave us the lecture on air holes and to avoid going where the brooks ran into the pond. He,himself, went into the pond on snowshoes when he was younger and perhaps that stayed in his mind when it came to his kids out on the ice.

I hated this time of year as I wanted to feel my feet hit dirt, leaves, and anything to do with nature. In snow, all one could do was wade. Roy Millett kept our roads cleared, so when the sun shone, I bundled up and made my way down to Grace and Charlie Day’s home for a little visit. It seemed as though the world came to a stand still when the cold and snow arrived.

We adapted to the new season. Ma hung the clothes on wooden racks throughout the house to dry, turning them and shuffling them around to make the process a bit quicker.  The wood stove burned brightly during the day as we kids came in from playing and crowded around with our hands flattened over the top and rubbing them together to get the warmth. Do you remember the smell of wet mittens drying? Such a necessary thing, but oh the smell. By the third month of cold and snow, one became immune to it and accepted it along with all the other ugliness of cold!

It was the beginning of the buckled boots and long leggings for my brothers  and I had to , once again, don the long brown stockings. Some of the buckles had been broken from the year before and rattled as they walked, but if the soles were still good, they were worn.

Dad parked his car by the road side, as the driveway was too long to shovel. We had a neat path from going to work and school, so no worries there!

Well, the fog has lifted here a little and it is time to put my memories to rest for another day. I would like to be back in Greenwood Center for one more November and hear the excitement among the hunters and the stories of the one that got away…but until then, I have the memories.



Goodbye October, Hello November

I can’t remember when I first hated November. I probably was about seven or eight years old. Suddenly the days became shorter; we got dressed in the dark mornings and had precious little time in the afternoon to do our after school chores when we got home from school.

Twitchell Pond no longer gleamed a brilliant blue with magnificent whitecaps; it turned dark and broody as if to have a tantrum at any given moment. Standing on the shore, the wind whipped the water to sting on my cheeks and I knew what would soon be upon us…old man winter in all its fury.

With the oncoming of winter, the neighbors were hunkering down and were set to “wait it out”. Their firewood was in, quilts back on the beds and soup recipes were abundant.

My Dad loved oyster stew; the rest of the family gagged at the thought, so he was in heaven when Wilmer Bryant sent over extra milk and Ma fixed it just for him. There was nothing as soothing as her corn chowder and fish chowder when there was a distinct coldness in the air..straight from the North!

November was the month I brought out my collection of books. I had read them all but each November they were new to me. Most of my days off from school were spent on the lumpy bed sprawled out deep in thought with the Bobbsey Twins or Nancy Drew.

School! I hated November for the long brown stockings I had to wear to make sure I didn’t collapse from a cold. I can remember, to this day, how tight and ugly those stockings felt on my legs. It was as though they were in prison, not to be released until spring appeared.

Grammy Martin had her Mason jars on display in her cellar…filled to the top with the vegetables canned earlier. The colors were magnificent. The company was scarce at Grammy and Grampa’s this time of year, so they welcomed anyone who happened to be driving by on weekends.  Gram was busily knitting mittens and hats for all her grandchildren. Christmas was not far away. Her quilting had been put away until she could return to the porch and sew in relative silence during the warmer months.

I never got too excited over Thanksgiving. I think just the cold air wiped out any happy thoughts I might have. Hunting was the top priority this month and although I liked the deer meat, I still felt sad when I saw the dead dear hanging from our apple tree. Of course there was so swinging during November, because our old tire Dad had secured to the tree had to be taken down so there would be room for all the deer that the family shot.

Dad and the older brothers had brought pine boughs from the mountain and laid them around the base of the house. When it snowed the first big storm, it would pack in nicely and insulate us as we had no basement . Dad seldom prepared us for the winter in the category of fire wood. He hauled out a few long trees and left them for Rex to cut up after school ; I helped him when my kitchen chores were done. I never minded chores but I admit we both got a little cranky when the air turned cold and we hurried a bit more to fill the wood box.

The trees were like skeletons with little bony fingers poking toward the sky and most days seemed gray. I loved color and I think that was one reason I did not care for November. It lies in the gray area, unless of course you get a huge snow storm and you were definitely in the white area! Dad loved rainy cold mornings for hunting as he said it was quiet in the woods . If not that, just a cover of snow was excellent for tracking.

When things really got boring , I always hurried to see Grammy Martin . My favorite were her  out of date wallpaper books .  I took them home and cut out dresses to fit my paper dolls, which were cut out of her old Sears catalogs.

Thanksgiving was the bright spot in the month for those who didn’t have to plan around a hunting trip . We could not eat until our hunters came home for their meal or there was a break in their hunting plans. Ma always had the hen from Lester Cole’s , mashed potato, peas, her famous biscuits and for dessert, usually a bowl of red jello which had set outside overnight to make it jiggily! Occasionally she made a pumpkin pie if the stove cooperated.

I still am not fond of November. It has a dampness that seeps into one’s bones and relentless gray days. But it’s all part of the equation, so as my Dad always said, ” You may as well live with it and it only has 30 days.” I must have been whining when he came out with that. Hard to believe, though.