(S)now Kidding

DadI have a like/hate relationship with snow. If I can just look out at the trees, laden with fresh new snow, as most poets do and commence to write, that is fine. I just don’t like having a shovel in my hand or feel the snow crawl down my boots, melting merrily along the way.

As you can see in the photo of my Dad, Beryl A. Martin, ( hater of all winters), he is not smiling cheerfully. I took this photo with a Brownie camera when I was ten years old and he actually posed for me. In the distance you can see Rowe’s Ledge and frozen Twitchell Pond and one of my grandfather’s very cold apple trees.

The burlap bag was filled with “blocks” from the mill where my parents worked and were used for kindling in the early hours of building the fire in the old wood stove to start another day. The Speed-Away sled was perfect for the hauling and one can barely see the little path behind Dad that was used throughout the winter. Kids feet beating it down as we rushed for the school bus and my parents as they used the flashlight to wind their way to the road in the darkness to get to work at the mill. This was way before little snow plows were available to clean out your  yard. Later on in life, Dad took full advantage of that as did my Mum. What a luxury to drive right to the house in the middle of January!

Oh the excitement to see the Greenwood road commisioner in his big truck as he passed by after a big storm. Roy Millett was the man during these storms and we appreciated him. The rumble of the truck would be heard before it came in sight and we’d rush to the window and announce, “the road has been plowed!”

The wind swept down South Pond and there were always gigantic drifts near the “old Joe Cummings place” as Dad referred to it. There were times when men were hired to shovel through the drifts as the plow could not budge the hardened mass of snow. I remember my Dad as one who went off with his shovel to assist in the drift openings.

I hated winter because I did not and do not like being cold. But for some reason, if there was a clear star filled, moonlight night I was on my Speed-Away sled pushing off with gusto and slamming down on my stomach and racing down my grandmother’s pasture hill. Then the haul up the hill and back down again until Ma appeared at the door and yelled it was bed time.

Boots came off , snow crusted mittens were put on the side of the stove to melt and ..let’s face it..just plain stink. Smell is too mild a word. Wet  mittens on a wood stove stink , but perfect for drying to be used in the morning for school. Faces still stinging from the sliding, we went to bed without protest and slept soundly for all the fresh air, I am thinking.

I hated snowball fights because I always lost and got snow down the neck and in the face. Strange I don’t remember making a snowman, but I must have. Forts were the big thing and my brother and I gouged at a bank until we (1) had a hole (2) looked at each other and decided to do something less tiring.

I have few scars from winter as compared to my summer wounds. I did have one huge accident, but it occurred in my senior year of high school. I thought I should attend the winter carnival and participate since I had the good fortune of being Queen of the ball that  night. Looking over the activities, snowshoeing was about the only thing I could qualify for and that was something I’d seen Dad do …my only experience. After pleading for permission to use his snowshoes and promises not to destroy them, he allowed me to use them for the snowshoe race.

I have no clue how I even knew how to strap them on my feet. I noticed my one opponent had ‘bear paw’ snowshoes. NO  TAILS and those on my feet were at least a mile long. Well, Dad said if you used “bear paws” you weren’t a true snowshoer. You were wrong, Dad. My opponent took off like the wind and w hile watching her do so, the tails crossed on my snowshoes and I went face first into…..crust. My face was a mass of tiny little smarting cuts…too numerous to count. Vanity had nothing to do with this. Pain had everything to do with it. Jeannie Mills, living close by on her farm, insisted I come into her kitchen and she applied something soft on the cuts to make it less painful.

I don’t know which was worse, the pain on my face or the loss of my dignity as I was sprawled out on the snow. I DID get up by myself..I think. I am sure that I returned the snowshoes, intact, to Dad and told him that bear paw snowshoes worked just fine for some people.

—and no, I have never snowshoed again. For all you snow enthusiasts, I am happy for you, but allow me to remain free of all cold activities that involve moving faster than a slow mincing walk. And now you know the like/hate relationship I have with snow.

What is it about February?

The sun is higher in the sky and feels warmer on the skin as we look out over snow drifts. Dad always said that and I thought he was just trying to make me feel better about winter, but then years later a weatherman said the same on a local broadcast, so maybe Dad was way ahead of times.

January is a loathsome month, thrown on the calendar to absorb all the feelings , hurt and otherwise, from the holidays and merry making. I have no idea what to do with that month because , to me, skiing and snowshoeing are something I cannot do any more and probably would balk if someone strapped either to my feet.

But then comes February with its beautiful colors of Valentine’s Day. Just the colors in the store makes a person feel as though there may be life after all under the skirt of white outside.

How well I remember February in Greenwood Center! It was the month of my birthday…a day that every kid feels is his own. You went to school and just knew that everyone there knew you were special that whole day..whether they knew it or not..you just felt it. We didn’t have any big celebrations at the little Martin household. Ma might have baked a cake if the oven “behaved” and slapped some frosting on it. I can’t remember blowing out candles but I must have somewhere through the years. I do remember a couple of gifts given me. Dad was definitely not a gift shopper or giver. However , one year he went to Brown’s Variety in Bethel and presented me with a book of fairy tales. I was probably ten years old at the time and he knew very well I was reading his detective magazines on the sly and maybe trying to tone down my selection of reading a bit. I still have the book.

The other gift is strange to remember. It was a pair of green slacks and a plaid girls flannel shirt to match. I wore it to school so proudly because prior to that, I had worn my brothers’ clothes…not that any of the kids cared or bullied.

We can’t forget the Valentine Box at school. That box so covered with crepe paper it could take off on its own and leave a vapor trail. How exciting to sit and gather the cards …and then take them home and go over them one by one..and especially the rare one with a lolipop glued to it. I wonder if that is still done in the little schools..or are there any little schools left?

The best part of February( besides my birthday) was knowing that spring training was going to start soon for the Red Sox. Now mind you, all we had was the old big Philco standing in the corner, but when spring training started and a few games broadcast, my brother and I were there listening. I haven’t changed…

I loved the local baseball games and after February, well soon the snow would go, the mud dry up and Sunday afternoons were baseball time. I remember Ma taking me to a ball game in Bryant Pond one of those afternoons. Somewhere, about the seventh inning, I had a terrible headache. Well, I lasted til we got to the car and she gave me probably an aspirin. Without her knowledge I grabbed an open bottle of coke and took that pill. I do not have to tell you that by the time we got to Locke Mills village I was urging her to step on the gas. To this day, I remember the terrific relief as we pulled in our door yard, I opened the door and let nature take its course. The headache was gone.

For some reason, February gives me hope that winter is not going to last forever. As soon as I settle into this little comfort nest, a blizzard blows in about the third week of March…but that’s ok. Baseball season will start soon.

–and those are my views on February …

 

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You Will Find It

Strength is a hard word to define.  Picture me as a young girl, with boundless energy, sitting on a plank looking at the scene in the picture. Yup, that is where I spent a lot of my “Extra time”. I was a dreamer. I know that now, but knew no word to describe it at that age. I loved everything in nature from the fish circling over her bed, tail fanning in the sunlight to feeling the bark on a tree. How smooth the white birch as compared to the darker rough trees.  One must never peel the white birch bark from the tree and how lucky we felt to find a piece on the ground on which to write or sketch!

But this Sunday morning I was going to write about strength. What is it to a young girl? I thought and walked miles back in the caverns of my mind and could barely come out with anything that matched that word. Strength was not screaming when my mother forced boiled poplar bark down my throat to ward off “worms” and when she found I lacked bravery in that department, bought some huge purple pills only a Clydesdale could swallow….and the purple dripped down both corners of my mouth on to my clothes . She yelled; I sniffed and sobbed and eventually the pills ended up in the old back iron sink. No worms surfaced that year..in me or the sink.

No strength there. Fast forward . Married at 17; new mother at 19. Was it strength that had me walking in snow to my hips from Johnny’s Crossing to the farm at the top of the mountain. I worked at Penley’s in West Paris during the day and should there be a storm, well as Dad said, “you gotta use Shank’s mare to get home.” I can’t tell you how many wading sessions I had, but I didn’t consider it strength; it was necessity. I didn’t relish spending the night in a snowbank.

Then there was 18 years later; another upheaval in my life. The little girl from Greenwood Center had long gone and a much more mature women had taken over her place. Oh, there were times when that little girl wanted to go into a corner and wrap herself into a blanket and not come out for a few days but it was okay;  a divorce was necessary; this in her mind was not strength ,but survival. Let me add a sentence of advice which I try never to do and don’t think I have.From pure experience, never judge a situation unless you have every fact you can possibly have and then, even, it is better to let someone higher than you do the judging.

We will take a big leap now. The little girl from Greenwood has been married again and this time for 41 years. She has worked and loved every job she has had . Her four children are scattered like leaves on a windy October day. Her husband, not feeling well for some time, sees a doctor and after months, the news is not good. There will be no recovery. Her youngest son will share the duties of caregivers and they will make him as comfortable as possible. Her mind argues with itself every night; how can she do this? She cannot watch him waste  away; this man with whom she has shared so much. Is there a choice? The doctors say no.

Every day, climb out of bed, take a deep breath and reach as far back into your body and soul as you can…she kept telling herself, knowing her son was doing the same. They shared the 24 hour duty, day in and day out.

It was becoming harder; she kept reaching and sometimes would walk into an empty room, shed a few tears, turn around and get back to business. That is what her mother and father would do, she kept telling herself. And then one day late August it happened. Her young son finished a nine mile run , smiled, waved and fell flat on his back with a massive heart attack. The husband, unable to do anything but watch , was distraught. The young girl screamed his name and with no response, called his friend next door and then 911. What a beautiful sound…those sirens were like angels’ harps on the winds. The girl’s son died three times and was brought back three times as he was rushed to the hospital.

The girl sat down in a chair next to her husband. She had no one. Her daughter was in another state ( who came within two days) and her other two sons had lives of their own. This was so far away from the hot roads of summer in Greenwood Center with her Gram, her aunts, her family. For the first time in her life, she had no one…absolutely  no one. It is a feeling so empty and raw you feel as though you are floating and having no idea where you are going.She spent the next 24 hours taking word from the hospital and taking care of her husband’s needs. Neighbors come in with food and anything else she might need; she thanks them and hopes it is adequate.  Two men volunteer to sit with my husband so she can get a few hours sleep. She is not alone; yet the feeling is there.

I can look back now. My husband is gone. He left us on October 25th. My son is recovering nicely. I have no idea where I got the strength to keep going all those many months. I like to believe we all have a reserve of strength and when it is needed we have our own special Angel to turn the tap and God regulates the flow. I don’t know. It was there when I needed it.

Now there is another hurdle,b ut I am ready. As I lay having an echocardiogram last week, my mind went to Rowe’s ledge, the hawks screeching, the blue waves with white diamonds bouncing from them. I felt the tar under my August feet as we raced up and down the road. So my heart has a few problems..hmm..it is operating at about half what it should but I have an excellent cardiologist who is working wonders. I know there is more strength in that reservoir.

There will always come the time when each of us is tested…early in life; late in life. Remember you, too, have a reservoir. Time for my angel to turn the tap! Let’s go!

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“And so this is Christmas”

carThis is it. My Dad’s 1938 Chevrolet that he parked by the road every winter before the days of snowplows and more than one shovel per household…apparently. I look at it and see the cottage behind and it was then owned by a Mr. Kenyan..or Kenyon..who knows. Dad called him “Kato”..Dad had a name for everything and everyone.

“And so this is Christmas”…John Lennon’s lyrics to one of my favorite songs. It is Christmas and I am alone. Sam, the tuxedo cat, is resting his head on one of my feet, daring me to go near the feedbag without his knowledge.

You can’t be alone on Christmas, people wail. You can and chances are sometime during your life time, you will be. My first experience was in 1974 when I had a branch from some evergreen stuck in a vase on a windowsill….over the laundromat in Locke Mills, Maine. Circumstances put me there. My children had always gone to their paternal grandparents for Christmas dinner and gifts and I was not breaking the tradition. Never mind their son and I had divorced months earlier; they were good folks.

Today circumstances have put me in a different position. I had an hour with my son and his lady this morning and they are off to see her mother in another state who is not well and waiting for them. They will be back tomorrow and old Sam and I will still be doing our thing…sitting, thinking, writing and eating..mostly the latter, I am afraid!

You are never alone when you have memories. My middle son, Gary, loves to tell the story how I managed to put the tree in the farm by myself one year , losing every needle en route to the blessed corner. I smile. The clock was striking 1 a.m. one year when I cursed the fact I was ever dumb enough to purchase a metal gas station or was that a metal farm. It WAS metal. TAB A into Slot B . They were thrilled the next morning and did not notice I had taken out stock in Johnson and Johnson bandaids as my hands were cut, nicked and not ready for photographs.

Grace and Charlie Day, our neighbors one ( then one now two) houses south of where we lived, always managed some little gift for me. I’d run up the stairs to my side of the attic and tear open the package. At that time, manicure sets were very popular amongst young girls and hair brushes and the like. I remember feeling very grown up at the time.

The strangest gift I ever saw and this includes every long year of my life was one purchased by my father. They sat at either end of the kitchen table, with the rest of us scattered here and there. She opened the large box with anticipation, probably hoping for once to realize a dream, and there laid a pair of black and white cowgirl boots. She picked them up, looked at them and very carefully laid them back in the box and put them on the table without a word.  I have no idea why he bought them…he never needed a reason. She liked western music but didn’t yodel or ever grace a stage. We stood there thunderstruck and never did get an answer.

When my oldest son, Brian, was two he was given a Handy Andy Tool Kit. He proudly walked around for days swinging it by the handle. I think he was sizing up the job and how much to charge because a few days later he was busily trying to saw down the Christmas tree. Later in life, he became a master carpenter. Go figure.

Somewhere I have a photo of Alan holding his Tom Thumb typewriter, for which he had asked for months. Nothing else…just that typewriter and he used it over and over and kept it carefully in its bright red plastic case. I believe it had a wheel and you had to choose the letter one wanted.

Debbie was happy , as was Gary, with most anything that could move or engage in battles. Gary loved G.I. Joe and Debbie had a Barbie. Back then, the custon in our household was to choose one gift which we considered expensive and then the rest could be little this and thats to go with it or whatever. Everything was so appreciated and that trait has stayed with my children as they grew to adulthood.

I was never good at buying adult gifts. The childrens’ father would open one corner of a gift to see what it was and drop it to the floor by his chair. Oh, I have seen a lot of men do the same! Well one year, I knew he wanted something and I saved, saved and saved. I wrapped, wrapped and wrapped some more. In the 18 years I lived on that farm, I do not think I ever saw a more pleased expression than when he ripped the paper off and discovered he had a stainless steel milk pail. He loved that thing and he probably used it as long as he had cows or goats. In fact, he consented to mixing up some sort of mixed drink one New Years Eve and using it as a center piece for a little gathering and the only gathering we had at the farm. I was a success at last!!

So yes this is Christmas. My soul mate of 41 years left me a couple months ago, but he would want me sitting here, writing, remembering and passing on stories.  I would like to think he is on my shoulder reading this, and if so, he will remember the time we counted our Christmas money and having only enough for gas for my little VW to travel to Maine to see the kids who wanted to finish high school there with their friends. There is no such thing as a heater in a VW bug so I wrapped a blanket around my feet and we traveled the 5.5 hours alternating between shivering and hoping the wind wouldn’t blow us over.

Good times. Good memories.

 

A SPURT OF SPIRIT

It’s always been this way…ever since I can remember, way, way back in the Greenwood Center days did I ever get that excited about Christmas. Now there were some kids who gnawed the last of the turkey ( chicken in our house) at Thanksgiving and had pencil in hand with their first note to Santa.  We never gave it much thought until one weekend day my mother would suggest it might be a good idea to get a tree in “for the kids.” My father was the Scrooge of all holidays…I know, I know he is not here to defend himself, but he would be the first to admit it. Grudgingly, he’d pull on his boots, knot them three times at the top, stick his feet in his snowshoes and then start searching for the axe. Since we lived in the forest, one would think he would have been happy to have such a selection of greenery from which to choose. We were lucky if he went fifty feet past the outhouse, chose the old maid of the forest and returned dragging it through the snow as to collect every flake on the limbs into one big white glob by the time he got it to the front steps. By the way, he was not singing carols in the five minutes it took him to complete this task. It is better  you don’t know. We knew the tree would have two boards nailed to the bottom, then nailed to the kitchen floor and two hanks of rope( to be replaced on the clothesline come spring) to tie the tree on each side to a railroad spike he probably stole from the track when out hunting. So now you can understand my mind and body’s reluctance to accept any kind of Christmas spirit. We even took bets on how long it would take before one of the decorations caught on my father’s sleeve to start another uproar. It was part of the joyous Christmas season and one we anticipated each year and thought nothing of it.

Meanwhile, my sainted Gram Martin stood for hours in her plaid house dress covered with an immaculately clean apron, cotton stockings and blue sneakers carefully cutting out cookies, putting exactly the same amount of raisin filling in each one, covering it with another, making little tine marks around each one in such a manner, one would think a machine had done if for her. She had knit our hats and mittens months before and she was set for the holidays. There were no big fireworks and no big to-do at the farm house, but it was a peaceful feeling with the cow in the barn( lowing as in all Sunday school stories) and probably talking to the pig at midnight. I have no idea.

So now let’s fast forward six decades…one would think over a span of sixty years ( and more) that the Christmas spirit might make a move  sometime before the 24th of the month. Never happened. Until yesterday. Sam (Tuxedo Cat) and I were having a spirited conversation about probably one of these nights he might try catching a mouse who now weighs fifty lbs from eating peanut butter off a trap. About that time the mail man came and there were cards. I sat at my desk, enjoying the notes and the sceneries on each and Sam looked up and said, “Forget the mouse. Let’s bake cookies.” I swear it was either Sam or the Devil.  “No, too late in the day. My back is killing me and I can’t handle it all today.” ( cop out right there). “There are some you can put together and leave in the fridge over night and finish tomorrow.” The cat wouldn’t let up….

Forty minutes later, there was a lump of off- white dough in a green mixing bowl on the third shelf of the fridge. It was in the ecru range of color but looked about right for something that should taste like a sugar cookie. Fridge door shut; dough forgotten; bed time.

Do not, I repeat, do not look in the fridge for anything before you have your favorite beverage in the morning. The first thing I saw was that olive green bowl and the ecru colored dough. What was I thinking? Who on this planet wants to dig out a rolling pin and cut out little shapes ? Obviously I had experienced a lapse of judgment and given in to the cat/devil the day before. 

Let’s get this over with now and I can get on with the rest of the winter. Out comes the pastry board..oh, look, it is also a cutting board since my son was here prepping for the Food network. There’s the rolling pin…waiting for the cobwebs to be removed and scrubbed down. Flour…have to have flour. Dough sticks without flour. Oh, the recipe says it should not stay in fridge over two hours…well I over looked that little item in my spurt of spirit yesterday and  now I not only have dough, I have a bowling ball that could wipe out ten pins with no problem. Sip the tea…tap the dough..sip the tea..tap the dough. Can’t let it get too soft. OH, what shape shall they be? We have every reindeer and the jolly man himself, name it Christmas and I have it in a cookie cutter. Do I want to really go through all this? Flour on the board…slap some dough, roll it out, sip the tea, …whoa, wait one minute…there is an interesting little cookie cutter right there…

My mind works in mysterious ways…one cookie cutter…one to wash…not a multitude of little crevices etc…hmmmm….and that is how I ended up with six dozen musical notes..each about two inches long. ….and about six cookie sheets more to wash than I should have.

No apron, floppy slippers, snarl on the lips, boy, Gram would be proud of me. Now that I have have my spurt of Christmas spirit, I can sit back, relax and figure out how to catch that fifty lb. mouse .

 

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Cranky Aunts and other Memories

18543_1252857814166_5455564_nNovember isn’t the same any more…at least in what is left of my memory bank. As soon as we finished our Thanksgiving dinner, which was eaten at the convenience of deer hunters, I always strapped on a pair of my brother’s old outgrown skates and tried to hop around branches and twigs inbedded in ice on a little piece of bog near our house. It was cold. There was usually snow on the ground..maybe not much, but a tracking snow for the hunters and enough for my old buckle boots flapping away to make a little trail.

October was the month for kicking leaves to see how high they would go. We had no leaves in our yard as there was nothing but the old apple tree complete with the old auto tire hanging for a swing.

But I digress. This time of year if I think back to Greenwood Center, my  mind goes to an early morning fog rising off Twitchell Pond and shivering til the sun came up to take the nip away. I was going to tell you about my cranky aunts…which probably is terribly unfair, now that I think of it…at my age.

I blame it on the fact I was brought up with three brothers, no other  girls in the neighborhood to play with except for one exceptional year and then she left after the one year.

My days were spent with my Uncle Louie ( the one with the sapphire eyes) . I turned the grindstone handle for him or watched as he meticulously piled the winter wood in a very artistic manner. I visited my Uncle Roy to see his latest carvings and needless to say, followed my father around when I was eight or nine years old. So I was more at ease with men then with women.

The two women who figured in my life were my mother, who was busy either working at home or at the mill and my dear little Grammy Martin, who shared her hen house duties with me, as well as snapping peas on her front porch.

So it came to pass, one day I was told that my Aunt “Vi” was moving back to live with Grammy. She and her husband were coming from Connecticut , which in my young mind, must be a million miles away. She was nice . I stood on the porch and watched her unpack box after box. I can imagine that drove her to distraction as finally she gave me a kewpie doll on a stick and I ran happily home with that. Our paths did not clash for about a year after that.

Grammy’s house didn’t seem the same. It had always been Louie, Grampa and Grammy and we got along very well, thank you. One thing remained constant. We still were carrying water from Gram’s to drink and cook with, so that one day I thought nothing of carrying the pail across the field and into Gram’s kitchen. W-e-l-l. I took one step into GRAM’s kitchen and a gawdawful screech came from the other side of the house.

“I just washed and waxed that floor and now you’re on it.” Frankly, our own floor at home was made of boards and we scrubbed it. Period. I had heard of wax on cars and skiis but on floors? I had no idea. Gram stood behind my aunt, wringing her hands. Now Gram and I had come a long way in my short life and no one was going to make her wring her hands. I reached down, touched the floor, brought my head up and said, “Your floor is just fine.” and proceeded to fill the pail and when it was full, I strutted out of GRAM’s house, head held high.

After leaving the water at home, I proceeded to pass Gram’s house to go visit my friend, Grace, and my aunt was still screeching about what kind of a daughter her brother had and I think the word “uncivilized” came into play, but at age 8 or 9, a good roll of my eyes sufficed.  After all these years, I can see this scenario in my mind as if it happened yesterday and I think that is how I learned throughout life…observe and learn( and be a little snarky at the same time, obviously).

Now, wait, there was another aunt who thought I could have gone to charm school and profited highly. My cousin , Blaine, was unfortunate enough to be born exactly one year after me. We both were photographed so many times, there could be a full length movie made of us. SO it came to pass, that on that precious day in February, I should leave my school desk and proceed up Bird Hill with cousin Blaine to have a birthday “dinner” with him. Aunt Mary, in all her goodness and kindness of heart, had the best intentions and I cannot tell you how many years we plodded up the hill. I was about the same age as the big floor wax eruption, so maybe it was just a bad year for me.

I remember the table being covered with food…remember our own table at home usually held the fare of fish sticks, deer meat, trout etc. We are talkng a banquet, in my eyes, topped off with a cake the size of the Eiffel Tower. I ate..and ate..and ate..the cake was served and Blaine and I went out to play until it was time to plod back down the hill to school. Suddenly through the open window, I heard, “Does that child ever eat at home? Where does she put it all? I have never seen anyone eat as much at one sitting as she did.”

Blaine apparently did not hear this, as he continued playing. I started feeling guilty. Maybe I did take too much. Maybe this, maybe that, so by the time we got back at our desks, my stomach was as taut as a trampoline. I managed to get through til the bus took us back home, but without saying a word to the parents, swore I would never go back. I was so ashamed.

Fast forward to the following year. I sit at the table, look at the towering display of food and take just enough to cover a small portion of my plate. Aunt Mary stands behind me saying , “My goodness, child, you eat like a bird. You have to have more than that to get you through this afternoon even.” It could have been the clash of the Martin temperment; hers of her generation; mine in my generation. I swore I would starve before taking one more morsel.  I didn’t take one morsel; I didn’t starve.

But what I did do was learn. I observed, ( got a little snarky and stubborn) but I learned. Most of my life I have learned how to get along in society by observing….and it all started with two cranky aunts….who, incidentally, were two precious friends when I finally grew up!

HUNTING SEASON AGAIN

huntersGrowing up in Greenwood Center, Maine, probably was not the most exciting, but with the coming of the fall’s crispness and gathering of apples, one could feel what could only be described as a zing of excitement with hunting season closing in.

This was way before the days of flourescent clothing and Dad’s red and black plaid heavy jacket hung on the peg behind the woodstove just waiting for that first fog shrouded morning when the calendar said “it’s time!”

Oh, the planning that went into each venture. Chairs were pulled around the kitchen table, heads bent low as Dad penciled a map where each man was to go. Some would “drive”, others would be standing here and there. I will preface this by saying, I was the only one in the room who did not participate in hunting nor even understand what was going on. As we “kids’ grew into teenagers, my mother even joined the foray and enjoyed every minute of wandering the mountains. This was almost beyond my comprehension when most of her life was working in local mills and for any enjoyment, sitting behind her sewing machine. She  now had a gun and was joining forces with all these men! Unbelievable.

The kitchen air was so full of cigaret smoke that it hung like smog over a city. It was part of the whole game plan. No one thought about lung damage, unfortunately, or any serious health hazard. The smoke was as much a part of the planning as my mother’s new glass coffee pot perking on the woodstove. That glass coffee pot almost caused a casualty..and it had nothing to do with the hunting whatsoever.

Dad had completed a good share of what was to be the next morning’s hunt and decided he would have a bit more caffeine to brighten his outlook. He did what he described as a “Canadian Clog” learned in the potato fields of northern Maine, to the stove, grabbed the pot, filled his cup and clogged back to the stove, only to mis -calculate the height of the stove. There was quite the clang and bang with my mother running top speed, but Pyrex must have made them sturdy. The brand new glass coffee pot was intact as was my Dad’s head after that near catastrophe.

As with most young men, my two older brothers often had late nights prior to an early morning hunt. When I say early, I mean before the sun is up and my Dad behind the wheel of his car, gun by his side ready to roll. One morning he tracked a deer or perhaps got a shot at one ..so many years ago I forget the details, but he came ripping back to the house. My brothers were still snug in bed, blankets to their chins. This was just not done..not in hunting season. Up the stairs Dad bounded, yanked both out of bed, exclaimed in as few words as possible the position he was in and that they had to get up and at it immediately. I cannot relate what happened after that, only for years after, one of my brothers mentioned he was on top of a mountain hunting, glanced down and he was wearing his “dress shoes” from the night before. Hunting was serious.

As much as I disliked seeing the dead deer, I realized at an early age, it was necessary to shoot and use all the meat. It got us through the winter and we were taught to say nothing…if we did not like to look at the dead deer, don’t look. Period. Even knowing that, I shared in the excitement of seeing the car come in the driveway and if the trunk was a bit ajar, running with the rest to see if there was a deer in there.

When the time came for flourescent clothing, most men were downright disgusted at the flaming oranges etc. Over the years it was accepted and has probably saved a lot of lives. There was only one time when my Dad came home, ashen faced and looking a bit scared. Come to find out, someone had shot in his direction. He hit the ground after just the one shot. When he decided it was safe, he got up and found the bullet hole in the tree next to where he was standing. His one remark was “Damn out -of-stater”. It could have been his neighbor, but so much easier to blame it on someone with a strange number plate on his car.

There is nothing better than a mince pie made out of real mince meat ; my mother took the meat and ground it for what seemed forever. I remember the sizzle of the steak as Dad cut it from a hind quarter and tossed it in the hot frying pan. We seldom called it venison; it was deer meat. It has been a long time since I’ve had meat like that. I did have some about twenty years ago from a friend in Vermont and it tasted like beef to me and someone said it was because they grazed with the cattle in the fields. Now, that to me, is not deer meat. Deer meat has to be earned..you get up before dawn, run yourself ragged, eat track soup  most of the season and if you’re lucky, on the last day, you get your deer and pose with the tag in the ear.

I could never bring myself to hunt; but the memories of hunting season bring a special feeling.