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.