“This Week” by Jeannette Buck

June 15, 2018

was looking for something else entirely the other day, when I spotted a notebook that I hadn’t opened in years. As long ago as when I was using a manual upright typewriter, I copied letters that were sent from my great-great-grandfather William Morley to his wife, Susannah, while he served with the Union Army during the Civil War. I filed them away in the notebook and it had been sitting there on that shelf, waiting for me to get back to it.

William fought being drafted for months because he would have to leave his wife with four small children and with very little resources. But at last, he had no choice.

It appears that William could not write. Almost all of the letters are signed ” your loving husband, William Morley” but are co-signed as “written by-” someone else.

The first letter in the collection is dated March 16, 1865 and was sent from Camp Bidwell, Carlisle, PA. The troops with whom William was assigned moved along rapidly during the next few weeks, according to the headings on the letters, from southern Pennsylvania into Virginia and then “west of Washington.”

William seems little concerned about the war. His worry is for the family that he left behind; struggling he knows, to keep warm, clothed and fed.

He instructed Susannah in that first letter, to hire his brother to pasture the sheep and to shear them and to “not take them in the woods at all.”

Susannah’s mother apparently lived with the Morleys and he suggests that Susannah’s brothers should be responsible if “the old lady wants any clothes.” If they won’t, he continues, “tell them you will have to let the town do it for you cannot.”

On April 29th, he acknowledges a letter he has received from her; the third one to reach him. He was happy to know that she was well and assures her that he is well as usual with “plenty to eat and a good appetite to eat it.” He even admits that “Since we have camped here, I have enjoyed myself first-rate except in thinking of my little family at home.”

William rarely acknowledges the war around him. However, in this letter he tells his wife that “Last night we got the news of Johnson’s surrender official from Grant. He surrendered on the same principles as Lee did to Grant, so there is no Reb armies left to fight.”

But the days dragged on. William continues through the summer worrying about the family’s “provisions.”

The one letter from Susannah to William that survived is undated. She writes:

“I want to see you and so we all do. We have got 25 rabbits little and big. Write and let me know if you have got all the money I have sent to you and if you want more. Don’t go hungry. —I will send you more –if I have to borrow it. I don’t have none.

I wear rags, but that is good enough for me all I want is you to come home.

——– I remain yours in love from Susan. ”

William Morley did get home –walking up the road one day to the astonishment of at least one of his sons; who did not recognize him.

Sadly, it was necessary for him to go into a lumber camp to make a living for his family. There he contracted some sort of fever. He died; either in the camp or while being brought home in a lumber wagon. Once again, Susannah Ardrey Morley was left to raise her family alone; this time with no hope that her husband would return.

Somehow, it is more difficult for me to read these letters now than it was when I first found them. The struggles they faced, both in the military camps and battlefields and at home, are beyond my imagination. In this era of instant communication I can not fathom waiting weeks for a letter from my husband and knowing that he could have died sometime between when it was sent and its arrival. I can in no way imagine caring for four children and their aging grandmother, having little idea where the next meal was to come from.

Now and then, amid all the riches of this time and place where I live, I need to be reminded of how very blessed I am.

June 7, 2018

I wasn’t paying attention. I was at the local cemetery with my sisters, watching as they expertly cleared away last years dried leaves and grass from around the family graves and planted new flowers. I never was very good at that sort of thing and my abilities haven’t improved with time. I made a pass or two at wiping the winter grime away from my husband’s marker, but mostly, I just sat and watched.

When they began to pack up, I got into my sister Cindy’s car. She opened the driver’s side door and gasped! Sitting on the seat was, of all things, a hummingbird. If he was there when I got in, I hadn’t noticed him. His bright green back glistened in the sunlight. At first, we thought he was dead, but he fluttered just a bit as she reached out and picked him up and held him in the palm of her hand. His red throat rippled. His wings were slightly splayed as he attempted to move. But he couldn’t even muster a flutter. Something was very wrong. The tiny bird appeared to be barely conscious as Cindy reached carefully for her phone and took a couple of pictures.

We couldn’t just leave him floundering in the grass, of course. Somewhere, Cindy found a box just the right size to hold him on the trip to her house.. “I’ll take him home,” she said. “Do you have some nectar? Maybe I can get him to take a bit of it.”

I make my own hummingbird nectar and there was a jar in the refrigerator. I poured some into a jelly glass and Cindy headed home with her new pet.

“Let me know how it goes.” I said when she left; not holding out much hope. The poor little guy was barely moving.

Once home, Cindy found a shoe tote large enough to give the bird a bit more space. She lined the bottom with dry grass and wrapped it in some plastic window screening. Putting a bit of nectar in a bottle cap, she offered him some nourishment. Since he didn’t seem to know just how to manage that, she found a medicine dropper. Holding it close to his long pointed beak, she let just a drop hang at the tip. Very quickly he got the idea And he was hungry.

Within minutes, she said, the bird began bouncing all over the box. He got h’is claws caught in the screening once and she had to gently pry them loose.

His wings were soon nothing but a blur and it was apparent that the hummer had revived. Taking the box out to her porch, she removed the screening and in much less time than it takes to tell about it, he was up, up and away! .

“Away he went,”, she said, “without even a thank you.”

Well.

We would love to know where he went. Did he head for “home”? Where ever that is. Did he have a mate somewhere back in this neck of the woods that he knew would be waiting for him?

“Don’t worry about him”, someone said on social media. “He’ll find his way home. After all, they migrate up here all the way from Mexico!”

How had he gotten into such an unusual predicament in the first place? Who knows! We theorized that since there were flowers in the back of Cindy’s car and the doors were open, that Mr. Hummer very likely zoomed in for a quick snack. And when he attempted to escape, he smacked his head on something hard; probably the windshield. In any case, he certainly took a whack that sent him reeling.

As for me, I’m still in awe of the wonderful beauty of one of God’s amazing creatures. The colors were vibrant beyond words and glistened brilliantly in the sunlight as the bird moved.

I may have been simply an observer, but I won’t forget the experience anytime soon. Of course, neither will my sister and who knows? Maybe Mr. Hummer had a story to tell to his pretty mate when he buzzed into their nest; late for supper – or maybe breakfast.

. In any case, we wish him well.

May 31, 2018

As our Dad used to say, we had a good chance and we took it. My sister Kathy called the other night and said she and Cindy were thinking of making the trip to visit our sister Peg, the only one who doesn’t live in this area.. “Want to go?” she asked. Of course, I did. We are all busy in our own way and before we realize it, more time than we would like slips by between visits. As long as I can ride in the back seat behind Kathy and Cindy and hum along with whatever CD is playing, I’m happy.

Five girls were born to my parents before our big little brother came along. Our sister Jane left this world for the next a little over five years ago, so, now, we are four.

We sang together as far back as I can remember. Dad sang all the time as he worked and Mom was usually humming something she heard on the radio while she swept the floor or washed the dishes. We sang as we rode in the car or the pickup; around the table after supper and in time, around the piano. Gradually we learned to harmonize, falling into parts that matched our voices while Dad filled in with his strong bass.

We grew up very quickly, it seems now and one by one, we married. In time, once the grandchildren began arriving, there were so many of us when we were all together, that we filled not only Mom’s kitchen table but the large guest table in the dining room. Nothing made our parents happier than to have the entire clan gathered in their home.

The years have flown by. Our parents are gone. Not only our children, but most of our grandchildren, for goodness sake, have grown up.

So every now and then, we need some sister time.

There is rarely any need for entertainment. We can keep busy for hours just talking and laughing; a lot. We took food with us the other day but Peg, of course, had some ready. Peg’s kids and some of their families were there at times to say hello. It was fairly late before we settled in for the night.

The next day, things didn’t change very much. We ate, laughed, ate some more, visited, made a quick shopping trip down town and came back to eat again. While a boiled dinner simmered on the stove, we sat down to watch a music video honoring one of our favorite country artists and now and then, we sang along; harmonizing when we could.

Shortly after polishing off the evening meal, however, we picked up our bags, I climbed into the back seat of Kathy’s car and the three of us headed home.

There was nothing about our trip to visit our sister that others might consider special, I suppose. But it was special to us. As always there were stories to tell and memories to share. Most of all, we simply needed to spend time together. Some sister time..

We had a good chance and we took it. And oh say, but I’m glad.

05/18/2018
I had to laugh when I opened the curtains one morning recently. Here in my neck of the woods, May flowers are no where near as common as dandelions. And there they were, bright and beautiful and yellow, all over my yard.Just the evening before, my grand-nephew and his dad had brought their big lawnmower to my house and made very short work of mowing my lawn. It had seemed to be suddenly overgrown and had gone from winter drab, dirty and ugly to overgrown, ragged and ugly almost overnight. .Not to mention the dandelions that had sprung up everywhere, as they always do every Spring..

Cooper whizzed around the yard; was helped out of a couple of tight spots by his dad and soon headed back up the road. I sat on my stoop for a couple of minutes, just admiring that bright green smooth, neat lawn. It looked almost good enough to make a magazine cover, as far as I was concerned.

But, you know how dandelions are. They have real spring in their step; pun intended. I opened the curtains the next morning and their they were, up and at’em, brand new yellow blossoms grinning at me. And, yes, there were at least twice; probably three times as many as there had been the day before. I guess they showed me, huh?

My husband hated dandelions, as did all farm kids of our day. Although a good many folks looked forward to eating dandelion greens as the first real fresh vegetable of Spring, the fact remained that they are nothing but a weed. A miserable nasty invasive weed. And so, even though neither of us had lived on a farm in years, Husband could never quite give up his war on dandelions. He would call to me from the basement on a bright May morning, “Come on! You get on the tractor and I’ll grab the trimmer and we’ll get rid of those danged dandelions.”

I enjoyed it. I rode the tractor-mower around the most level areas of the lawn while he trimmed. Once I had finished my part, he took my place and whizzed around the trees and along the banks; areas that I was too timid to attempt. The yard was soon smooth, neat – and entirely green.

But, sure as shootin’, the next morning he would stand scowling at the fresh crop of sassy yellow blossoms that grinned up at him from the lawn. And he would go to work; not with the lawn mower, but with a screwdriver. He wasn’t content with just mowing them off one more time. Not at all. Over his shoulders they flew, roots, leaves and blossoms as he worked his way across the yard. He knew I was trying not to laugh as I watched from the porch. “I can’t help it,” he would say, grinning back at me. “I hate those things.”

Yes, Husband would have laughed along with me the other day. The new crop of dandelions was bright and beautiful, spreading across the yard. I had no intention of hunting for a screwdriver. I let them have their day. I came to understand that Husband enjoyed the battle as much or maybe, even more than he disliked dandelions. It was a rite of Spring as far as he was concerned. So, I’ll relax and settle for the memory.

 

May 10, 2018

Well, May is finally here. For many of us, it seems as if she took her good old time. After weeks of lingering cold and dreariness, the first day of May dawned sunny and relatively warm. My daffodils had finally blossomed after being frozen off at least twice. I couldn’t resist taking a couple of pictures of them and sharing them on the social network. It was the closest I can come these days to celebrating May Day the way we did when I was a kid.

There are those who remember dancing around a May Pole at school in Ulysses. I recall seeing that happen a time or two but have no memory of taking part.

However, I do remember making May baskets at the Gold School under Miss Esther Howe’s watchful eye.

She introduced two or three designs. We rolled colorful construction paper into cones and attached a strip to make a handle. We carefully cut corners from a another sheet and then folded them into the semblance of a small square box. With a handle added and a few decorations crayoned on the sides, the result wasn’t half bad.

My favorite took a bit more time. I could show you how to do it, even after all these years, but for the life of me I can’t figure out how to describe the process. In any case, as a seven year old, I thought the result of a triangular woven paper basket with a handle at the top corners, was lovely. But I didn’t have a clue what I was supposed to do with it.

However, my grandmother knew exactly how to use them.

I took it to her house when school was out on that long ago day, proudly showing her the baskets I had made. After a quick snack, she took me out to the yard where her flowers were in full bloom. She cut daffodils along with others, the names of which I have forgotten, and filled my May baskets.

“Now, take this one to Aunt Maude’s house,” she said. “And take this one to Aunt Cora.”

Really? She was going to let me do that all by myself? That was exciting. And scary.

She told me to be very quiet when I went up onto their porches. “And then,” she said ” you hang the basket on the doorknob, knock on the door and RUN!”

Run? I wondered why in the world I should do that. Why couldn’t I wait and see them smile at me when they found the pretty flowers and the beautiful basket that I had made?

“Yes! Run!” Grandma said. “Because they aren”t supposed to know who left it.”

Well, if one was wise, one did not argue with Grandma. She sent me down the road but when I looked back, of course she wasn’t far behind me. She made sure I crossed the road safely and stood watching as I scooted up on the porches and left the flowers, just as she had told me to. I never could run very fast and I heard the both doors open before I scrambled down the steps. Aunt Maude called a laughing “Thank you.” and waved at me.

The best surprise, however, was when I jumped down from Aunt Cora’s porch and began to run across her yard. She had a reputation for being a bit sour and although I had gone with Grandma to visit her a time or two, she made me nervous. But, I couldn’t resist looking back, just as I reached the road. And there she was, peeking out from her door- smiling! And I thought maybe she waved.

Wow! So that was what May Baskets were all about!

To quote an old song: Memories are made of this.

May 3, 2018

Steve and Polly appeared at my door the other day, grinning. They are special cousins of mine but I hadn’t seen them in close to a year, at least. Oh, we exchange Christmas cards and now and then one of us makes a phone call. But, there they were, in person.

“I brought you something,” Steve said with a grin. He leafed through the magazine he was carrying as they came into the living room and found the page he was looking for just as he dropped into a chair. Polly took a seat nearby.

The article was about Gene Autry and Roy Rogers, who were, back in our younger days, very popular singing cowboys; stars of stage, radio and screen.

Steve and I looked at each other and laughed out loud.

I need to back up just a bit. Stephen Morley grew up just down the road from my home. We are cousins, but he had no siblings and mine were all younger than me, so he became in many ways my big brother. We both attended the Gold one room school for a few years. My mother sent me to school on my first day with my lunch packed in a lard pail. Someone laughed at it and made me cry. That night, Steve came walking up the road with his old lunchbox in his hand. I could have it, he said. He had a brand new one with a thermos bottle and everything.

Steve was good at the role of big brother. He watched out for me. He scolded me now and then. He growled at me as we walked up our road from the bus stop if I the boy I was seeing didn’t quite measure up to his standards and I made faces about some of the girls he dated But most of the time, he just picked on me; any way he could.

Once he figured out that I was a devoted fan of the cowboy movie star and singer, Gene Autry, he decided that he was an admirer of Roy Rogers. He admitted to me the other day that he really didn’t care that much about Rogers; he just pretended to because it made me mad. .

Polly watched and laughed at us as we spent some time hashing over old memories.

Circumstances kept me from attending his marriage to Polly, but he was an usher at my wedding. I liked the girl he chose and he approved of the man I married.

Steve and Polly eventually moved to a town a couple of hours away from here. Years flew by. They became the parents of two daughters and my husband I had three sons plus a foster son. And now we are grandparents several times over.

Well!

There we sat in my living room. His hair is white and so is mine. Both of us walk a bit slower than we once did. But other than that, things haven’t changed much. He knew he could tease me about my little girl crush on Gene Autry. And, I laughed out loud when he made that admission that he only pretended to favor Roy Rogers just to ruffle my feathers. .

“Yeah”, (A few years ago I would have stuck my tongue out at him) “” I knew it all the time.”

Well! Maybe I did. But it still made me mad.

Too soon, those cousins of mine went on their way, planning to find lunch in a nearby town before they headed home.

No, we don’t see each other often these days But that’s OK. Nothing has changed. We still pick on each other. We still laugh at each other. Steve is still my big brother. And we still like each other; a lot.

 

April 26, 2018

When I was a kid, now and then I would hear someone speak in a slightly different way than those around me did and someone would say, “Oh, they have an accent.” I thought it was fascinating. The way I spoke, in comparison to them, was boring, it seemed to me. I wanted to have an accent.

Little did I know.

Fast forward a few years . After we graduated from high school my best friend and I traveled less than a hundred miles away to a town in New York State. She went to school and I got a job as a waitress. And, I soon learned that, to those folks, I had an accent. For instance, I pronounced the word “water” with a flat “a”. They, on the other hand, said it in a way that sounded to me like “wutter.” I thought they were the ones with the accent.

Over the years, I have become delightedly fascinated by the many and varied ways we Americans; all citizens of not only the same country, but of each individual state, express ourselves so differently. Not only do we have varied ways of pronouncing some words, we sometimes use them in a different context. Pennsylvanians alone boast a good many accents; all depending on which area of the state they hail from.

One of my favorites is the word “crick”. Now, to me, a crick is a stream of water; any stream of water smaller than a river. The first time I heard someone call the crick running by the house where I grew up a “creek” I wondered what he was hearing. I hadn’t heard anything at all.

Well.

I posted a note on the social network the other day, after rain had fallen all night. I mentioned that most of the time, folks were unaware that there was a crick running through the field opposite my house. And I just couldn’t help myself. I added, “Yes! I said “crick”‘

And the discussion began. There were those who said, “Me, too!” Then there were those who said, as far as they were concerned, a crick was actually a pain in the neck. Depending on the place where you live, calling a stream a crick could get one quickly labeled a hick.

So, I decided to look it up. It seems there are as many opinions on the subject as there are those who care to express them. Basically, it is a colloquial choice. “Crick” as opposed to “creek” is used in many areas around the country to designate a small stream. And, of course, the noise a rusty hinge or some of our joints make is sometimes called a “creak.” The choice of either word should not automatically label anyone as a hick.

I am one of those folks who will stubbornly continue to call a small stream a “crick” rather than a “creek”. My joints and the rusty hinges on a barn door creak.

Yes, I have an accent; common to this place where I live. Most of us do, where ever we are from. It has nothing at all to do with our intelligence or our upbringing. It simply lets others know that we are proud citizens of this wonderful country of ours and that we communicate in the way that is most natural to us.

April 19, 2018

I hadn’t thought about the old Potter County map in -well, I don’t know how long. I’m not even sure how I acquired it. Like so many things in my collection of stuff, it probably was included with some other items which I brought home from my grandparents’ house.

It looks like a hard-covered book at first glance. However, it is a folding map of Potter County, dated 1890. It is a bit complicated to open and at full spread, takes up a good deal of space.

A question from a friend about some early owners of property in this area brought it to mind, and wonder of wonders, I found it without a lengthy search. Miracles do happen.

At some point, I had the foresight to make a copy of the thing, page by page. With a bit of concentration, I was able to pull the pieces together that represent this place where I live as it was nearly a century and a half ago.

In 1890, neither of my paternal grandparents had been born. My great grandparents, Edsil and Betsy Williams and James and Minnie Morley were two young couples just getting homes established in the areas of Gold and Raymond.

The most fascinating thing about the map as far as I’m concerned is the details depicted of each village. These days both Gold and Raymond, although marked by highway signs denoting their names, are barely a blip on the landscape. In 1890, both were bustling communities.

A proposed railroad is noted on the map by a dotted line, running along side the road going from Coudersport to Ulysses; the road which would eventually become Route 49. At the point labeled Raymond�s Corners P.O. there is a depiction of buildings; the school ( No. 4) , a store, the cemetery, and across the road from them, a cheese factory. Privately owned property areas, many of them quite large, are labeled by the names of the owners.

Gold, which was a somewhat larger community, boasted a store, a school, a cheese factory and yes, a hotel. Just a short distance to the north on what is now labeled Route 449, was a tannery. Gold did not have a church yet at that time, although I think the one in Raymond was already established.

There are so many names on the map which I have heard my entire life. Cobb, Fassett, Reynolds, Andrews, Kidney, Moore, Fuller, Perkins, Kelly, Conable, Wright, Raymond, and of course Morley.

Newfield, just a short distance to the east, also had a school, a cheese factory and a store with a post office. Every day life in that time, could be led quite comfortably in a small area. Travel was not only unnecessary, but time consuming.

As I so often say, I’d like to visit those little towns now and then. I’d like to drop into the store and have a chat with the proprietor. I’d enjoy some fresh cheese curd from the cheese factory. I’d like to drop in and observe a few classes being held in those one-roomed schools. And, yes, I’d like to get a glimpse of what a hotel in Gold might be like.

However, as fascinating as it might be, I know I would want to be home by supper time, back here in this twenty-first century place where I live.

April 12, 2018

You would think, since I have lived in this neck of the woods all of my life, that I would have thought of it. But, I didn’t.

The first thing I saw when I came out from my bedroom one morning last week was my bird feeder- scattered in pieces across the yard. The metal container that held sunflower seed and sat on my stoop all winter was on its side. The cover not only had been pulled off, but had been tossed into a corner. And I had weighted that thing down with a rock! Yep! The bears are out of hibernation and of course they are hungry. This one was probably a bit ticked off, since there wasn’t much left in that container. I had planned to buy another bag of seed on my next trip to town. That won’t be necessary now. I must have been sleeping pretty soundly to have missed the racket all of that activity would have caused.

Since I am who I am I grabbed my camera and took pictures, all the while calling the invasive critter unflattering names under my breath. However, once I simmered down, I gave myself a lecture. I should have realized that it was very likely to happen. It isn’t the first time bears have been in my yard. ‘Tis the season.

Apparently he, she or they were on a determined hunt. My bird feeder wasn’t the only one emptied or trashed that night. Several neighbors reported signs of hungry visitors. After all, why not, since most of us humans like to feed the birds and the food is out there, available for the snitching. My nephew found tracks of a large bear and a small one; probably a sow and a cub. Others saw one large bear. In either case, if I had caught the critter in the act, I certainly wouldn’t have put up any argument with him – or her.

After I had eaten some breakfast and enjoyed a cup of coffee, I went out to clean up the mess. While I worked, I could imagine the conversation between that Mama and her cub ”Now, Junior,” she might say. “I have something to show you. I know you are very hungry, since we haven”t had a bite since last fall. It won”t be hard to find a very quick snack. Human are so amazing, And so generous! “

And she led him around this neighborhood where I live, first to one house, then the next. Down came the bird feeders, one after the other. Oh, those seeds were tasty.

Once she they had finished there, even though it was getting late, she brought her babe down to my yard. By that time he (or she) had gotten the idea. This was just nothing but fun.

On they went. Of course, my neighbors and I weren”t the only ones. Only those who had the foresight to take their birdfeeders inside escaped the carnage.

“You do have to remember this, my child”, Mama Bear cautioned her delighted offspring. “This only works one or two nights. Then the humans catch on and take the feeders into their dens. Once that happens, you’ll have to work a bit harder for your supper.”

Well.

Actually, it is probably wasn’t a mama bear with a cub that came to my house. More than likely, it was one good sized papa bear. In any case, I will buy another feeder and I’ll  do my best to remember to bring it in at dusk. I miss my bird buddies. The seed container is stored inside for now.

And, of course, it is almost time to put out some sugar water for the hummingbirds. ‘Tis the season.

April 5, 2018

   

He came to the door the other afternoon; wearing a grin so wide I thought maybe the sun had begun to shine.

“Look what I found he said. Right over there. I took a picture so you could see how close it was to your house.”

What he found was a “shed”.

Well, until a few years ago, the word  “shed’”meant a small rough building with a roof on it, as far as I was concerned. The shed my grand-nephew Cooper Soule was holding was a deer antler, of course. I’ve heard him talk about finding sheds many times, but had never before had the pleasure of seeing the excitement on his face after finding a new one.

He came in and showed me that on the shed there were still traces of reddish deer hair where it had once connected to the buck’s head- and that at some time, the feisty fella must have gotten into a fight with another buck deer and had lost a “main beam”, as Cooper called it, from his rack.

Cooper sent the picture he took with his phone to my computer and there that thing was, plain as day, within very close sight of my house. Come to think of it, I had noticed the tracks of several deer in that area just before the last snow cover melted. However, I never caught sight of the animals and surely had not seen that shed.

The buck deer lose their antlers, Cooper told me, when their testosterone level decreases during the winter. Later, his father, Chip, explained that the loss of testosterone is the main factor, although snow depth in winter and lack of nutrition can also contribute. The antlers drop off, he said, for the most part, from late January through March. They are scattered where ever they fall, waiting for an avid “shed” hunter to pick them up. Cooper has found 27 so far this year and is hoping that he can beat his record of the 34 that he found last year.

Cooper became interested in shed hunting five or six years ago, and that got his Dad involved. For the first few years, Chip went shed hunting with his son, but these days, Cooper likes to hunt the antlers on his own. Most days, he told me, he usually finds at least one.

Finding sheds lets hunters know that a deer has survived the winter and will soon be growing a new rack. However, the most interesting thing I learned during this conversation was that it also gives a hunter a clue which bucks have survived. “We have sheds from the same buck for consecutive years”, Chip told me.

“How on earth do you know that? I asked.

“They don’t change a whole lot in shape but the size increases.” he said. Sometimes, they have even given the animal a name.

Shed hunting has become quite a thing with avid hunters during recent years, I learned. There is even a market for them, if one is inclined to sell their finds. Cooper, however, prefers to keep his collection on a rack he has in his home. “It is just one more thing,” his father added, “that feeds his passion for the outdoors.”

I’m delighted that Cooper came to my door that day; wanting to show me the shed that was so near my house. And, because he is a boy of this amazing modern world, he was able to take a picture for me with the phone he had in his pocket.

Even though I have been vaguely aware that finding sheds was very exciting for some, I had no idea how interesting it could be. I’ve said it before and I expect I’ll say it again. None of us are ever too old to learn.

March 29, 2018

Nothing ever changes out there in the country. That part of the world is so behind the times.

I’ve heard people say things like that all of my life. When I was a kid, it bothered me. A lot.

And I thought I wanted things to change. I wanted to live where life was busier and funnier, smarter, more up to date- and, well– where it changed once in a while.

These days, I’m the one who has changed. I’ve seen enough change in my life to last a lifetime. But, if I hang around for a while, I’m very sure I’ll witness more changes. Most will be good, I expect. Others- well, not so much.

I have often wished that I had asked my Gram Williams more about the changes she witnessed over eight decades. She was born in 1870 in a house that sat back in what is now a field not far from where I grew up. There is no trace of that farmhouse now. On Christmas Day, 1888 she rode with her husband-to-be in a horse-drawn sleigh to Shongo, NY where they were married.

She was 50 years old when women were finally given the right to vote. And I clearly remember watching her get in the car with her grandson; my father; to go exercise that right. It never occurred to me what a privilege it must have seemed to her.

She watched as loved ones were caught up in two world wars. She cherished their letters and tearfully welcomed them home.

She saw and welcomed the transition from kerosene lamps to electricity and the innovation of radio and then television. She thoroughly enjoying shows such as “I Love Lucy” among others.

She traveled across the country via automobile once and again by passenger train to her daughter’s home in Wyoming. And when it was accepted that she had very little time left, she came home in huge passenger airplane.

I wish there had been time for her to tell us how she felt about that.

Well.

The sleepy little town of Gold has changed many times since the first home was built here somewhere around 1845. From a crossroad offspring of Raymond, it became the larger town, at one time boasting a cheese factory, a blacksmith shop and a large general store which later housed the post office. There was also, believe it or not, a hotel. A small one room schoolhouse eventually gave way to a large two story building; complete with a lovely belfry. A beautiful church was built in 1899 which served the community for over a century.

These days, many changes are apparent. The hotel and cheese factory have been gone for nearly a century. The school was taken up over 70 years ago and the pupils, including me, were bussed to Ulysses. The stores have disappeared and the church is now gone. A lovely new one stands a couple of miles up the road to the east.

However, as sleepy as our little town may appear to others, we are living in the 21st century, just as is the rest of the country.

It would have been very difficult to convince me 20 years ago that I would ever mess with something called a computer.

“Are you nuts?”I whooped at a relative. “Not me! That would scare the daylights out of me!”

Then, one day, a cousin appeared with a rebuilt computer that he offered to give me. He was interested in the family genealogy and wanted me to get up to date with the material I had collected for years. He hooked it up; spent a couple of days teaching me the basics– and away I went. My goodness, that thing was amazing.

Then, after a few false starts and stumbles, I discovered the Internet. Oh, my!

Of course, I’m not alone. The person in this neck of the woods who is not connected in one way or another with the cyberworld is very rare these days.

I’ve only hit the highlights.

The people that think that nothing changes back here in the sticks are dead wrong. Among the many things I learned from Gram is that , good, bad or otherwise, change will come, so we had better make up our minds to take advantage of it. I would love to show her the places I can go while sitting here at my computer. She would be absolutely fascinated.

And, you know? I can only wonder what new changes are waiting, just out of sight around the next corner.

March 22, 2018

I have really been afraid of it. We have let our Hoody Hoo Day celebrations slip for way too long. OlMan Winter has gotten the impression that he has captured the upper hand. March didn’t just come in like a lion this year; it has stomped around like an entire pride of the critters.

Oh, I know! We’ve seen deeper snow drifts. We’ve dealt with colder temperatures. We’ve experienced worse winters. I well remember a trip my husband and I made to Buffalo to take our foster son to the plane – longer ago than I want to admit. He was headed to an assignment at a distant Army base and, of course, he had no choice and neither did we. He had to be there on time and we had to make sure he boarded that plane. The snow banks in a town this side of the city were at least three times as high as our car. It was like driving through a frozen and seemingly endless canyon. But we got him to the airport, watched his plane take off and then headed back home; after getting lost on a back street and turning around in someone’s badly shoveled driveway.

Yes, we’ve seen much worse; many times. After all, we are in the northern Pennsylvania mountains.

However, that doesn’t mean that this ol’ gal has to like winter. In fact, I like it less every year. I would much prefer, once the March lion has roared once or twice and gotten it out of his system, to see the rest of the month ushered in (and out) by a gentle flock of lambs.

Well.

I haven’t spent all my time this month grumbling. The birds are finding their way back north, even though they may question their own judgment at times. Some robins are planning a summer home in my maple tree. When a spot, no matter how small, of bare ground is visible, they hustle to listen for any worms what might be waking up. I watch from my dining room window, thinking it must surely be hopeless.. But doggone! Every now and then, I have caught sight of a robin flying away with a hapless worm in his beak.

Goldfinches, juncos and titmice keep me busy filling my sunflower seed feeder. And, for the last few days, at least two pair of purple finches have been taking their meals there. The brilliantly hued males get feisty now and then. I’m not sure if they are fighting for access to the sunflower seeds or are concerned that their mates might be in jeopardy. In either case, the flurry they create is fun to watch. The lady purple finches are much to wise to waste their time in feuding and placidly enjoy their lunch.

And so, Spring is on the way. I just have to be patient.

However, there are several of us in the neighborhood who have been discussing plans for next year. Barring a major hang-up, we will celebrate Hoody Hoo Day here in Gold in February of 2019. Ol’ Man Winter must not be allowed to gain any suggestion of a stronger foothold. There will be food, fun, and in all probability, some very good music. And at 12 Noon on the dot, we will Hoody Hoo winter away. Mark it on your calendars, my friends Location to be announced.

 

 

March 15, 2018

 

It is that time of year again. Ma Nature just can’t make up her mind; handing us winter one day and spring the next. I’ve had it with white. I am more than ready for green grass, leaves on the trees, and yes, dandelions.

In the meantime, however, in this neck of the woods it’s sugarin’ time. It is time to tap the maple trees and begin the centuries old ritual of making maple syrup and sugar.

Legend has it, so I understand, that an Iroquois woman, the wife of Chief Woksis, was responsible for discovering the process that produces maple syrup. When her husband left on a late winter morning to hunt for supper, he yanked his tomahawk from the tree where he had thrown it the night before. Apparently sap drained from the gash left in the bark into a container of some sort at the foot of the tree. Late that afternoon Mrs. Woksis realized it was full of what she assumed to be water. Rather than going to the creek for a bucket of water to boil the game her husband had brought home, she dumped the liquid collected from under the tree over the fresh roast and set it over the fire.

When supper time came, they found that the meat was surrounded by a lovely amber syrup and the meal was the best they had ever tasted. I have no idea how long it took them to figure out what had occurred. In any case, one of the best things that ever happened to man – or woman, eventually became a Spring time ritual for northeastern Native Americans. Once the white folks who came here on those big boats got a taste, they begged for the recipe. And we have been enjoying the results ever since.

Well, I don’t know how much truth there is to that tale. I have often wondered who was the first to figure out that if you boiled the water that leaked out of the maple tree long enough, it made almost anything taste better. If it was Mrs. Woksis, the lady deserves a medal.

When I was growing up, almost everyone I knew had their own grove of sugar maple trees known as a ‘sugar bush’. They tapped the trees each spring to make maple syrup. Some only made enough to supply their families with syrup and the hard sugar they produced by boiling the sap longer. However, if there was any surplus, it was not difficult to find a buyer.

Our Dad always looked forward to ‘sugaring’ and when the air was right and the sun rays angled just so, he was ready to tap the trees not only in the ‘sugar bush’ on the other side of the pasture, but those near the house.

I was much too young to appreciate the work involved but I loved the smell of the steam rising from the vats in the sugar house. Not only did we enjoy the fresh syrup on our breakfast pancakes, we looked forward to the night when Dad would bring some syrup into the house. He would boil it down some more on the kitchen stove and we would ‘stir sugar’ to make maple cream or hard sugar.

Although many, especially those who make maple syrup for large markets, use very modern and efficient methods these days, there are still some who do it the old fashioned way. I love to see the sap buckets hanging midway up the trunk of the sugar maples; some in’bushes’ and others, on single trees, as we used to do here in our yard.

Since the ratio is about 40 to one, it takes forty gallons of sap to make one gallon of syrup. That is a lot of work, no matter how you figure it.

Yes, it’s that time of year again. I don’t make maple syrup anymore. I buy a little from my friends and while I’m at it, I pick up a jar of that wonderful maple cream. There is nothing better, as far as I’m concerned, on this old planet.

And, if that story about her is at all true, well, we can only thank you, Mrs. Woksis, where ever you are.

March 8, 2018

A picture a friend sent me via messenger the other day set me to thinking as my folks used to say. Can you identify these people? he asked. It is a photo of students who attended the Newfield School that stood on the Pushersiding road. I can only guess at the year. I have my mothers copy and can identify most of those in the picture, but since they are not standing in well-ordered lines it is difficult to make it clear on paper. Mom is in the photo; I’m guessing that she was probably about 13, give or take a year. And the reason I can name most of those standing around her is because nearly all of them remained lifelong friends of Mom and her siblings.

When John Young and Pearl Eddy were married on December 15, 1903 at the home of the brides parents in Ulysses, they did not plan to live on the Pushersiding where John grew up. The brides father, Reed Eddy, had built a large home for them on a side street in town; with, I have always been told, a lovely open stairscase constructed especially for Pearl.. John had a good job at the livery stable in town. Apparently he had no intention of becoming a farmer.

However, sometime, within the next year or so, his fathers hired man quit or was fired and that left no one tend the family farm. John and Pearl moved to the hired mans house on the Pushersiding, just for the summer. However, they never went back to town and the house with the lovely staircase.

Their first son was born in the farm house in December of 1905. They would become the parents of nine children, although only five lived to adulthood.

I’ve often wondered if the decision to permanently leave the house built just for her was difficult for my grandmother. If it was, it appears that she did not voice it to her children. At least we never heard any such suggestion.

The Pushersiding, a smaller road that drops down from Route 49 in Newfield, at that time was almost a community unto itself. The Young children formed deep and lasting friendships with their neighbors. The Tomaks, the Kosas, the Gazdags and oh, yes, the Carey girls were names we heard many times as we grew up. The Pati girls lived up on 49, as did Thelma and Malcolm Brown and they also attended school on the Pushersiding. There are one or two of the nineteen students in the picture whos names have been lost to time.

They all grew up, of course, as children tend to do. They went on to high school and marriage and several moved out of the area. But on any occasion when they were reunited, their old friendship rekindled and they shared memories of their childhood on the Pushersiding with a great deal of love and laughter.

The building that housed the Newfield School is a hunting camp these days. The house where John and Pearl Young raised their children is now the home of one of their many great-grandchildren and her family.

Now and then, I see a member of the Tomak family, or a relative of the Carey girls. As our parents before us, we share memories and laughter.

Sometimes, when the weather is good and the mood strikes me, I take a ride along the Pushersiding. I remember – and I often wonder– how different would my family’s life have been if that hired man had stayed on the job. We’l never know. And Oh, say, but Im glad.

March 1, 2018

The house where our grandparents lived in Gold had a parlor. Now, just in case you are wondering, I looked it up. My trusty thesaurus, which I thought would tell me almost anything other than the time of day, did not list the word. However, my Webster’s is old and sage enough to define the word “parlor” as #1 “a room in a home for receiving visitors; a living room.” Apparently the word isn’t used much these days, if at all.

The house where they lived which is no longer owned by family, is a large Victorian style; ginger breaded in every roof peak and with lovely bay windows resting atop one another on two stories. When it was new, around the end of the 19th century, the owners surely used the parlor to receive and entertain visitors, as was originally intended. However, in our memory, it was the room to the left of the front door; closed off, most of the time, by heavy pocket doors.

The room fascinated me when I was a kid. An upright piano sat against the wall opposite the bay window; perennially out of tune. Grandma’s plants occupied the bay window alcove in the summer time. There was a chair or two and outdated pictures on the wall. But most of all, there were at least two book cases. And they were both full of books.

Well.

I don’t remember when I first got a chance to “paw around”, as Grandma would say, in those book shelves. There was an outdated collection of the encyclopedias titled “Books of Knowledge”. There were other books; one or two fiction and an atlas, as I recall and a county government book. And, there were magazines. Oh, my, yes. There were magazines.

I spent hours in there, even on days when it was cold enough that I wore my coat, rifling through huge Life magazines, Colliers and now and then a Look. The Life editions carried pictures and articles about World War 2; with photos of men who were featured in my history books at school. I gazed at photos of movie stars; modeling the “New Look” the style that came in after the war; wearing longer skirts and higher heels and long fluffy hair styles. I wondered if I could ever look like that.

Since I found such deep pleasure there, I promised myself that when I had a home and a family that there would be a place like that in my house. There would be shelves of books and magazines saved for my children and grandchildren to enjoy.

And I did it. Although the home my husband built for us was no where near as large as my grandparents’ house (thank goodness!) nor did it have a parlor, I stuck to my plan. I saved Life magazines and copies of National Geographic and any other publication which had historical content or anything that I considered to be interesting information. Someday, I told myself, I’ll have grandkids who sit in a corner munching on an apple while reading those old treasures.

Well.

I have grandchildren. And now and then, when they were little, I showed them a few of the things that I had saved for them. But times have changed Oh, my, how they have changed. There is no need to leaf through a musty magazine to read about or view photos of historical events. It is much easier, if you know the magic words and buttons, to bring it all up in living color on the Internet. I do it that way myself these days.

So, gradually over the last several years, when I get the urge to hoe out and throw out, I have gotten rid of most of that stuff I saved. It serves no purpose other than to clutter up a closet that can be put to better use.

I can’t help but wonder what the next generation will find fascinating; and where they will find it. What will be the 21st – or 22nd century version of an old fashioned parlor? We can only imagine.

February 22, 2018

I was chatting recently with a cousin and in the midst of the conversation, he said that he thought I should write a book. “Write a book,” he said, (and I could see him grinning through cyberspace) about the place where you lived. You could call it “Little House in the Holler”.

Well.

That’s not likely to happen. However, the idea did set my memory wheels to spinning.

We grew up at the end of a gravel road not far from Gold. At some point, it was known as Spicer Brook, although that name was rarely used in my memory. It became known to some, later on, as Morley Hollow.

Now and then; not nearly as often as we would have liked, our mother’s sisters and their families came to visit. They were town folks; both families lived on streets that had names and had neighbors within spitting distance. There were times when I envied them and times when I didn’t.

I asked John, the cousin who had set me to thinking about this, just what his memories were.

His mother and older brother and younger sister often spent a week or two during the summer at our grandfather’s home on the Pushersiding, he reminded me.

“I remember,” John said, “ when Uncle Reed would bring Mom and me and my sister Jannie Pearl over to your house for the day. In a 1951 Chevy pickup.” (Trust John to remember the important details.) His mother brought the wash with her, he recalled, as our grandfather didn’t have a washing machine. While our mothers were kept busy doing the wash and hanging each item in precise order on the clothesline that ran the length of our back yard, we ’young’uns ’ had plenty of time to play.

He remembers bringing his box of toy trucks and playing in the dirt with our younger brother. And he enjoyed going up on the hill after the cows with my sisters and the dog Tag.

Somehow, between washer loads, our mothers produced a delicious meal for all of us to enjoy. We ate and giggled and cleaned up the chocolate cake. The sisters continued to reminisce, sometimes laughing, sometimes close to tears, while they cleared the table and washed the dishes. They talked about old boy friends and funny neighbors and relatives and now and then they whispered, just in case we might be listening.

John remembers that Uncle Reed and our grandfather would appear in the evening to take them home, driving a beautiful 1937 Chevy Master Deluxe Coupe. They would sit and chat with us for a while and then load up the wash and head back over the hill.

Simple memories, these. The sort of memories that make us grin and, when we think no one is looking, we might blink a bit and take out a tissue to wipe the fog from our glasses.

“Actually,” he said at the end of his note , “How about titling your book ‘Best Little House in the Holler’? I remember those days as some of the best times I ever had as a kid.”

And you know what? So do we.

 

February 15, 2018

I’ve said it many times before. However, some recent conversations have set me to thinking about it again. You see, no matter how much I enjoy local history and love the stories about times past, I have no desire to go back to what some like to call “the good ‘ol days.”

There are times when it seems, at first glance, that life might have been easier or nicer or, well, less complicated back then.

I don’t think so.

I feel it is important to be aware of all history; world, national and local. I believe that past events have given birth to those in the present day. And I want those hard-working, funny, resourceful, loving people who came before me to be remembered. But, lets not get carried away.

Diseases that were very often deadly to babies and children only two or three generations ago are almost entirely treatable these days. Many medical conditions that were an automatic death sentence to those of any age in my grandparent’s time are not only treatable in the twenty-first century, but more often than not, are entirely curable.

Electricity became common in homes around here in my life time. Telephones, once a large wooden contraption that hung on the wall, are now those tiny things that everyone carries around in their hip pockets.

And television? Oh for goodness sake! Those of us who recall snowy black and white reception, (which, by the way, seemed downright miraculous to us then) deeply appreciate the lovely clear color pictures that we take for granted today,

I love the clarity of recorded music that is available in so many ways that I’m not going to attempt to list them here.

I have to remind myself now and then, that there was a time when I scoffed at the idea of ever using a computer “Who, me? No way! I could never figure one of those things out.!”

Well, I think I’m on my third one at this point. To be honest, I’ve lost count. Without it, this column would not exist.

And what would any of us do without the Internet? (Well, we can discuss that another day.)

No, I have no desire at all to go back and live in my grandparents’ time. When their children were small my grandmothers washed on a wash board, read by the dim light provided by a kerosene lamp and the bathroom was a “two-holer” in the far corner of the back yard. Bathing was a task usually managed about once a week and it meant lugging washtubs into the house, heating water on a wood-fueled stove and, more often than not, sharing the water and the tub with a sibling or two. Next time there is a power outage in your neck of the woods, think about living that way permanently.

Sure! There are times when we all wish life could be simpler. Wouldn’t it be nice, we muse, if- well, if we could make a visit back to the “good ‘ol days.” However, I know that if I ever got the opportunity to do that, I would insist on being home by suppertime

If we think about it, those days gone by couldn’t have been all that great. If they were, why did Edison, Bell, Marconi and all those other fellas work so hard to invent improvements? And of course, there are those who are doing the same thing today; imagining and inventing and tweeking; in order that life will be even better for the next generations.

As for me, most of the time I’m happy with things just the way they are. But, you know, I heard someone talking the other day. There is a guy who thinks he can — well! I won’t spoil the surprise.

 

February 2, 2018

We found the scrapbook in a back corner of a cupboard in a very old house in Gold that had belonged to my great aunt and uncle. Aunt Maude kept a perfectly neat and clean home although she never, ever, it appears, threw anything away. How she managed that, I will never know. But, oh, say, I’m so glad she did.

I didn’t realize what it was when the book was first handed to me. It was very thick with a dark heavy cover; a record, apparently, of state government information from county and township officials right up to the governor himself. But when I opened it, I realized that every single page had been covered with newspaper clippings and photographs, glued in, I’m sure, with homemade flour and water paste. Who cared about all those obliterated political somebodies? The clippings made the book worth its weight in gold, as far as I was concerned.

Obituaries, marriage and birth announcements, anniversary celebrations and, oh, yes, the local news columns were haphazardly glued next to each other with no intention of any sort of organization. The book had belonged to Aunt Jane Morley Clark, a feisty, funny woman whom I remember somewhat from visits she made to our house when I was a child. She married William Clark, a Civil War veteran, who was twenty years her senior. Jane became the mother of his children from two previous marriages as well as two daughters who were born to her.

Although the book is a treasure trove of genealogical information for several families native to this neck of the woods, I found the clippings of local news columns the most interesting and -well- the most fun.

There weren’t many events occurring weekly back then that would be considered “real news” in this day and age. However, in that time- life, as well as newspaper reporting, was made up of the little things. Gold, Raymond, Newfield, Hickox and yes, even Cobb Hill, were a few among the local communities considered worthy of published reports.

One fine day on Cobb Hill in September of 1921, Mr. F. A Benton was putting a cement porch on his house. He may have had to stop for a bit when the Colegrove family came to visit.

And John Carpenter of Raymond was reported to have had business on Cobb Hill on Thursday.

Nearly ten years later, in June of 1931 the headline reads “Cobb Hill Report Tells of Freak”. Further reading reveals that a “freak” chicken was hatched having four legs, and “was lively until it drowned.” I am very sure that Aunt Jane laughed when she cut that one from the paper.

In a column relating the doings at Raymond in August of 1905, Mr. Z. C. Moore was “taken with a severe stitch in his side while at work haying and has been unable to be around for a few days.”

There is no year given for the article titled “Thousands of Dollars Damage by Cyclone at Raymond, Pa.”

The sky “got black” and the very destructive storm tore a path “just southwest of town”, completely uprooting the trees in the school yard and upsetting and splintering the outbuildings. Much more serious damage was described in detail.

A column from Gold which was written in February of 1902 begins: “Did any one ever see such drifts?” And then announces the birth of a daughter born on Feb. 9th to Mr. and Mrs. Edsil Williams. That baby, named Daisy, was my grandmother’s little sister.

The same column relates that the Gold School teacher, Miss Koon, closed the school “last Friday” and in the evening she took the eighth grade for a sleigh ride. One cool teacher, huh?

Oh, there are many more such columns. And obituaries and accounts of weddings and anniversary celebrations and even criminal activity. As often as I have read through them, I always find something I missed or simply forgot.

Eventually, I put the pages from that old book into plastic holders and stored them in a three-ring notebook. They are easier to read that way and I have no reason to think that Aunt Jane would disapprove. It is good entertainment on a cold winter afternoon and in general, beats the heck out of the news on TV these days

 

January 25, 2018

I complain a lot. Especially in the bitter cold weather we have been having. And, while I complain, I am sitting in my warm home; gazing out of the window watching traffic zip by on a paved highway. My computer sits on the desk as does my phone. The TV blinks on at the click of a button.

Across the kitchen the coffee maker sputters and spits and lets me know that my morning cup is ready. The thermostat sends the furnace in to action and my breakfast cooks in the microwave.

My goodness! I have a tough life, don’t I?

While looking for something else the other day, I stumbled across a column I wrote at some time or other. When I saved the clipping, I failed to record a date. In any case, I discussed, as I so often do, the story of Daniel and Amanda Raymond, the earliest settlers of this place where I live. As I read it over, I wondered, again, just what it was that prodded those hardy people on– away from their comfort zone, not once, but twice into an entirely unknown part of the world.

At first, it may have been a simple sense of adventure for those Raymond brothers, William and Daniel. And, of course, there was the promise of open lands waiting for the claiming. They first left their homes in Massachusetts and settled in Tioga County, NY; put down roots and began their families around 1817. However, twenty years or so later, they got the urge to move on once more. Daniel made the exploration trip to Potter County in 1835 along with his brother and four other men. Once they had staked their claims, they went back to round up their families and bring them to their new home. I doubt the women had a great deal of choice in the matter, unless, of course, they wished to raise their families alone. And that was not really a viable option.

The following is from my previous column; with a few embellishments.

I wish I knew more about the woman who was willing to follow Daniel Raymond not once, but twice into unsettled country. The first time they were young, newly-married and unburdened. It probably seemed like a wonderful adventure. The second time, however, they had a large family and were approaching middle age. And she had just given birth to her ninth child. The hardships of leaving loved ones behind; knowing full well that they would never see them again, boggles my mind. To say nothing of the isolation that they surely knew awaited them.

I have a picture of Amanda Raymond, taken in her old age. She gazes from the frame with very little expression. Also, there is a small swatch of cloth; which was, according to family story, woven by her. I have no knowledge of weaving. However, is of a beautiful and delicate design; possibly intended as a sampler. A woman who could have created such a piece must have loved beauty and took pride in fine work.

Amanda Raymond died in her 81st year and the home she had helped her husband create out of the wilderness was a landmark for new settlers. Her husband outlived her by several years, dying just a few weeks short of his 100th birthday.

As a child, I was fascinated by the stories told by my Great-grandmother, who was the granddaughter of Daniel and Amanda. In time, I came to realize that she wasn’t simply telling us adventure tales. Her grandparents truly did bring their family through the ancient forest with wagons pulled by oxen. They did hear panthers and wolves howling from the hillsides at night. The women bore their children alone and when necessary, they buried their dead alone.

Out of all of this, they created homes, towns, built schools and churches and raised respected families.

Wow!

And, here I sit. Warm and comfortable; waiting for my coffee to brew while I browse the Internet. I expect that if Amanda Raymond could see my house today she would be as mind-boggled as I would be if I walked in to hers.

I am sure of a few things. My house is warmer. The lights are brighter. My supper is waiting in the fridge and I don’t have to chop wood before I cook it.

I admire that lady and all of those other brave first comers. I am proud to say that I descend from her. Because of Amanda and Daniel and their family, I am at home in this place where I live. But, my life is infinitely easier and much more comfortable than theirs was.

I’ll stop complaining, now.

January 18, 2018

She was a pretty girl! No doubt about it. The earliest picture I have of my Great-great Grandmother, Persis Rogers was probably taken for her wedding. She is looking solemnly into the camera, as everyone seemed to do in those days. However, her sober expression can not hide her beauty. Not at all.

Persis Lovinna Raymond was born on May 1, 1836 in Richford, NY, the daughter of Daniel and Amanda Freeland Raymond. She was the baby whose impending arrival kept them from joining her oldest brother Amos in the wilds of Potter County during the long winter of 1835-1836. When she was no more than three weeks old, so the story goes, her family finally made the long journey to their new home, not knowing if Amos would still be alive or not. He was, and at last the then fourteen year old boy understood why he had been left alone for so long. As many times as I heard the story, I never once was given any hint that he ever held it against her.

I have no way of knowing what it was like for her as she grew up in the growing community that eventually became known as Raymond’s Corners. I have no idea how much education she received. However, she was her parents’ ninth child, having three older sisters and five older brothers. No matter the time period, older siblings are what they are. I’m sure they saw to it that Persis, and the two that came after her, were well educated in what was necessary for the times.

When she was nineteen, Persis married Calvin Rogers, who was nearly 10 years older than she. The son of another early settler in the area; Calvin, it would appear from a couple of diaries he kept, was a man with a sense of humor and with great love for his wife and family.

The picture of them that I remember the best hung on my Great-Grandma Williams’ bedroom wall. It is not the early one taken when they were young and handsome. Rather, the wear of time and living shows on their faces. “Who are they?” I would ask Gramma Williams now and then, repeating just because I liked to hear her tell about them.

“My Papa and Mother,” she would say, and she would look at the picture for a moment with a soft expression that, back then, I failed to understand.

The Rogers built a house and a farm out of an area that was labeled “over back” when I was a kid. Nothing was left of it by my time, other than the well. I never saw it, because we were always warned to stay a good distance away from it.

There they raised their six children. Their first born, apparently never named, died at birth. Thomas was born in 1859, Mary, 1862, Eliza, 1865, David William (Will) was born in 1868 and Betsy, our Gram, was born in 1870. Their little brother Ray came along in 1873. I grew up knowing that Gram loved them all; every one.

Persis was the hard working woman of her day, cleaning house, keeping her children clean and in line and making sure that everyone had enough to eat.

Thomas married and lived near by. Mary, the “Aunt Mate” whom I have written about so many times, married a wandering Westerner and broke her parents hearts when she went with him to live in Wyoming, of all places. Eliza settled down close to home, as did Betsy. Both Will and Ray married but suffered losses; Will apparently by separation and Ray became a widower. Persis and Calvin, of course, fussed over their grown children, just as all parents do.

By 1896, 40 years after their marriage, Persis’ and Calvin’s family were each one on their own. Calvin kept a diary from July of that year until the end of March, 1897. It was handed to me one day, the lined sheets tied together with a frayed ribbon. There are a good many intriguing, amusing and interesting entries. The ones I enjoy most, however, take place in November of 1896, when the baby girl who would someday be my grandmother, was born.

Amid the day to day entries: Sunday, Nov. 1 “went to meetin in the afternoon and evening’ “ . Nov. 2, “ Ray has got home. He has been with his best gal.”

And then, on Nov. 4 “ ‘Pirt’ (Calvin’s nickname for Persis) has gone to Betsy’s. She is sick. I am alone tonight.” And again, on Nov. 5. “Pirt went to Edsils (Betsy’s husband) Betsy is sick.”

Then, at last: Nov. 6, “Helped D. W. Green butcher his pig. Betsy had a girl baby this morning. Wife got home.”

Two days later the grandparents went back to Edsils and Betsys to see the “Baby”, who would be named Mary.

Persis lived to see that baby grow up to become a mother, herself. She died on February 24th, 1915, just six months after my father was born to Betsy’s daughter, Mary Williams Morley and her husband, Seth. . Persis held him at least once, I was told.

And , through him, I was touched by her.

January 11, 2018

Baby! and mom and dad and the neighbors and my great-aunt Matilda!: Its cold outside! There isn’t anything at all to say about it that hasn’t been said on TV , on social media and in the privacy of our own homes. I don’t know about you, but I’m more than ready for some warm.

However, it is winter in Potter County and the story is that the deep chill has taken up residence in some very rare southern places. Like it or not, it is likely that it will stick around for a while.

So, I’ve done the only thing I could think of that would make the chill less- well- chilling. I made my mother’s thickened tomato soup for supper.

I not sure where the recipe came from. It was just one of those things that our Mother made now and then; never too often for me. And once I made a pot for my husband, he was hooked. It became a winter night staple for us.

So, if you would like to try it-here you go:

Cook a few thin slices of onion in some butter until softened and fragrant. Pour in some pureed canned tomatoes and bring them to a boil.

Here, you must stir in a bit of baking soda; probably less than a half teaspoon. Otherwise, my mother told me, the tomatoes would curdle the milk when it was added. I’ve been told that the soda isn’t necessary these days, since tomatoes are not as acidic as they once were. I choose not to risk it. And I prefer the slightly sweet taste that the soda produces. So, it is up to you. Soda — or not. Then add the milk; enough to lighten the color to a deep pink. The amount depends on how much tomato puree you have used. .

Add some cooked rice; enough to give the soup some body but not enough to cause it to no longer be soup.

Mix a little cornstarch with water and add slowly to the bubbling mixture. How much? It all depends on how thick you like your soup. I don’t add a lot.

Simmer the soup for a minute or so; add salt, pepper and butter to taste. My taste calls for a big dollop of butter. A really big dollop.

The uncertainty of amounts in the above instructions is entirely deliberate. This is an old fashioned recipe and can be interpreted at the whim of the cook. Don’t like onions? Well, you can try making it without them. I wouldn’t, but again, it is the cook‘s call.. Maybe you would prefer it without rice. Or –well, I expect you probably shouldn’t leave out the tomatoes. Pureed or not, they are basic. I would, however, suggest that you make more than enough for one meal, because, I promise, it tastes even better the next day.

My mother loved to tell about the day when one of her grandsons came into her kitchen; tired and chilled to the bone from an early morning of hunting.

No one ever went hungry at Mom’s house. “What would you like to eat?” she asked. “Well, Gram,” he answered, “some of your Thickened Tomato Soup would taste good.”

“It will take a while.” she answered.

“That’s OK”, he replied and leaned back in the chair and promptly went sound asleep. When he woke up, a pot of soup was waiting for him.

I never heard the term “comfort food” when I was a kid. But that is exactly what Mom’s T T S is; warm, soft, satisfying and very comforting.

Yes, it is doggoned cold outside. But here in my kitchen a small pot of Mom’s Thickened Tomato Soup bubbles. I’ve added the bit of soda, the rice, enough milk to give it the right color and stirred in the cornstarch. It is just about ready to pour into a bowl. I’ll float a good -sized pat of butter on it and enjoy every spoonful.

Thanks for the memories, Mom. And for a soup fit for a king, as well as hungry daughters, grandsons and anyone else who might drop in.

January 4, 2018

Its “hunker down” time. At least, that’s what I call it. The festivities are over and the serious winter season has begun. When I was a kid it meant back to school, with the dreaded homework, and wishing for spring. These days it means more time to read a book or more likely, several books. It is a slow time; a time to relax in my warm house and watch the birds flock around the feeder. And as always, I will look forward to spring. A winter lover I have never been.

I was introduced to the magic world of books when I was very young by Miss Esther Howe, our teacher at the Gold one-room school. She read Mary O’Hara’s “Green Grass of Wyoming” to us one winter, a chapter a day.. Then, possibly a bit against her better judgment, she allowed me to take Louisa May Alcott’s “Little Women” from the Gold School library which consisted of a small bookcase set in the back of the room. I was in second grade when I took the book up to her desk and asked permission to borrow it. She looked at me over her glasses for a moment and then handed it back to me with a smile. I fell in love with Jo, Meg, Beth and Amy from the first page and never looked back. When the Gold School was “taken up” that spring, Miss Howe allowed me to keep that copy of “Little Women.” I still have it, ragged and tattered from years of re-reading.

When I began third grade at the Ulysses School we were allowed to go to the Ulysses Town Library once a week. There I found the rest of the Alcott series and truly became aware of the wonderful world of books.

Our neighbor, Gladys Morley, soon realized that I loved to read just as she did and gradually she began lending or giving me some of her books. Through her I found Gene Stratton-Porter’s “Girl of the Limberlost” series and the fascinating world of “Anne of Green Gables.”

I would haul a stack of books home from school; only one or two of them related to my homework. I propped my feet on the heating vent on the bus and lost myself in a book for most of the long ride. Once my sisters and I got off the bus and began the walk home, I usually tried to make them carry part of my load. The idea never went over well. They remind me of it now and then, to this day.

Once home, I would grab an apple or two for a snack and pile into the easy chair in the living room, throw my legs over the arm and go back to reading.
“Come set the table for supper,” Mom would call — or later, “come dry the dishes”.

“Just one more page!” I would mumble, my eyes glued to the book and my mouth full of apple. Mom was a patient woman but after a few of those brush-offs, she would march into the living room and close my book with a snap.

I’m still addicted to books. They are all over my house and stacked on a stand beside my bed. And these days it is possible to read myriads of books on something called an “E-reader”. At present, I own three of them. After all, they contain dozens of books and weigh next to nothing. I would have thought I was in hog heaven if an E-reader had been in my pocket when I got off the school bus all those years ago! My sisters would have appreciated it, too, I’m sure.

But, now and then, I enjoy going back to those first books that introduced me to the world of fiction. They are very outdated, of course. The heroes and heroines lived in a time and place that young readers today can only begin to imagine. However, their problems and trials weren’t so very different from those of this era. They often felt out of place and were teased and harassed by their classmates and contemporaries. They were pressured by family issues and money problems and the loss of people they loved, much as we are today, They just dressed differently and drove a horse and buggy rather than a convertible.

I haven’t made my mind up yet, but I just might “hunker down” and revisit one of those old friends this winter. They are waiting for me; on my book shelves or at the click of a button on my E-reader. However, I was given two new books for Christmas. One is a collection of photos and background information about the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville and those who made it famous. The other, titled “Light and Dark” is a compilation of essays by famous authors on “Creativity and Inspiration and the Artistic Process”. It is a gift from my granddaughter who likes to give her grandma a nudge now and then.

In any case, I have plenty of choices to read through the long winter.

But I probably should finish the dishes first.

December 28, 2017

I don’t make New Year’s resolutions. Its against my religion. Well, no, that’s not true. But it is against my better judgment.

There is nothing that makes me yearn for a piece of candy or a bowl of ice cream any quicker than to promise myself that I won’t have one.

If anything, my New Year’s resolution would be to never make empty promises which I know very well that I won’t keep.

So, with that in mind:

I will thank God every day for the family, both immediate and extended, with which He has blessed me

I will make sure to tell my friends more often just how much I treasure them.

I will resolve to appreciate the blessings I enjoy every day.

I promise to smile more, laugh a lot and frown as infrequently as possible.

I am blessed to have grown up and spent my adult life in this wonderful part of our country; this beautiful place where I live.

Most of all, I want my readers to know that each one of you make my life richer and better every day. I resolve to keep telling the stories about this neck of the woods as long as I am able.

Thank you all, from the bottom of my heart, for letting me know that you still enjoy my “stuff”.

Wishing you a happy and blessed 2018, my friends.

December 7, 2017

Here we are, betwixt and between two major holidays. For me, the best things about them are first of all, family, second, food and then, number three, the music. The older I get, the more I like the music that carries memories.. Oh, there are a good many new songs out there that are very pretty and they say all the right stuff. But I’m old. And I like older better.

However, many songs have become so deeply associated with the holidays that we often sing them almost by rote; seldom considering what they really mean. We have no idea who wrote them–or why.

Recently I was given a book titled “Then Sings My Soul” by Robert J. Morgan.

It is a large collection of hymns with the stories of the people who wrote them; the reasons the songs were written and now and then the effect a particular song had on the book’s author. Many of the old familiar holiday songs are included..

While trying to choose songs for a church prelude the week before Thanksgiving, I confided to my music partner , “I’m trying to pick out some that will say what we want to say, but aren’t – well,- hackneyed.” She nodded. So many seem just that. Hackneyed and overused and because we have grown accustomed to them, they are sometimes meaningless.

Well, I sat down with my new book and checked out a few of those old songs. I plan on paying more attention to them the next time we sing them.

Who didn’t sing “We Gather Together” for Thanksgiving services or at school programs? “We gather together to ask the Lord’s blessing. He chastens and hastens His will to make known” As a kid in the Gold School I remember wondering what in the world that meant. The last line :”Sing praises to His name, He forgets not His own” was better, I thought. I didn’t want to be forgotten.

I had no idea that the hymn harks back to the 1500s when Holland was oppressed by Spain and the people were not free to worship as they pleased. After years of struggle and warfare, the Dutch Republic gained freedom. The hymn that we associate with Thanksgiving was actually written by an unknown Dutchman in 1597 to celebrate Holland’s freedom from Spain. Knowing that, the words, “We all do extol Thee, Thou Leader triumphant, —– Thy Name be ever praised, O Lord, make us free” take on an entirely new meaning,

“Count Your Blessings” is another one. So familiar and easy to sing that before we have reached the second verse we are wondering what we will order for lunch when we finally get to the restaurant. The hymn was just one of many written by Johnson Oatman Jr. At the age of 19 he joined the Methodist Episcopal Church. Although he became an ordained minister he chose to stay in business with his father. However he continued to preach where needed and wrote over 5000 hymns during his lifetime. “Count Your Blessings” was published in 1897. The lilting melody and simple words give its message succinctly: “Count your many blessings, name them one by one. And it will surprise you what the Lord has done.”

And now it is time for Christmas music. From the fun stuff of “up on the house top“ and Rudolph’s shiny nose to nostalgic pop songs to the beloved old carols, it rings in our ears all through December. I have no intention of trying to choose a favorite. No matter what generation we belong to; no matter what genre of music we prefer, Christmas songs are the background to the holiday in one way or another for all of us.

Most of us have heard the story of the beloved carol, “Silent Night”, written by Father Joseph Mohr in a rush because the organ in his church was broken and the planned music for Christmas Eve would not be possible. He took his hurried poem to his organist Franz Gruber who set it to a simple melody that could be played on a guitar with very little preparation. There is more to the story, but suffice it to say, in the words of the author of the book “Were it not for a broken organ, there would never have been a “Silent Night”.

Yes, the old familiar songs can at times seem hackneyed and well, maybe even boring. However, they were written at some time or other, by someone or other, who needed to say something or other that was important to them. And if we pay attention, they can often become important to us, too.

November 30, 2017

I’ve heard it all my life: Time goes by so fast! Where does the time go? Oh, I wish time would just slow down a little!

And, like most kids, when I was young I wondered what on earth those grown-ups were talking about! Time just couldn’t move quickly enough as far as I was concerned. .

If it was winter I longed for spring and if it was spring I wished we could hurry up and get to summer so that school would be done and if it was summer I was anxious for my cousin‘s visits– well, we’ve all been there, right?

Once the leaves had finished changing their colors and had dropped from the trees, we just couldn’t wait for the holidays. Holidays meant vacations from school. They meant company coming for dinner and a wonderful meal. They meant a pretty tree and lots of colored lights and oh! Yeah! Santa Claus and presents. Wonderful presents. And the time just seemed to crawl by.

Well, that was a long time ago. These days I can’t keep up. I meet myself coming and going, as my mother used to say. The days just fly by.

Wasn’t it just a few days ago when we were watching the Memorial Day parade?. Then suddenly it was the Fourth of July and- then Labor Day – and the first day of school!

And, now, Thanksgiving is over and Santa is hovering over the chimney.

It isn’t as if I have a lot to do. There isn’t a great deal on my agenda for the holidays. Thank goodness! If there was, it would be spring before I got the dishes done.

I read somewhere once that it might have something to do with our metabolism. Our bodies and perceptions slow down as we age and time doesn’t. That makes as much sense as anything, as far as I’m concerned.

In any case, it is the first of December. Snow has been visible in varying degrees for a week or two. The hunters are happy and busy.

I’ve gone into the back of the closet and pulled out the wooden crèches that my husband and I made years ago. And I’m setting them up in the places they have occupied for more than twenty years. The wooden figures depicting the manger and the birth of the Christ Child are special to me for more reasons than one.

When my boys were little the only Nativity Scene we had was lovely, but very impractical to have around kids. The painted figures were hand molded and very fragile. The boys, like most children, wanted to play with them. And although I warned against it, the figures got rearranged many times when I wasn’t looking. In the process over the years the wise men’s robes got nicked, the shepherds lost their crooks and the Babe was dropped more times than I can count. They began to look very much the worse for wear.

It was after my boys were grown that I found a pattern in a craft book for a Nativity made from wood blocks with the figures burned into them. Perfect, I thought. Kids could play with those, rearrange them, drop them or toss them at their brothers and the damage would be minimal. In the process, they would learn the old, old story.

Husband agreed. He cut out the blocks, burned the figures into the wood and I painted them. “Well,” he said, “They do need a stable.” And from scraps that were scattered around his workbench, he built one. I brushed on a quick background.

The result wasn‘t bad at all, if I do say so myself.

Grandchildren came along in a few years and eventually, we made more of the woodblock Nativities for them. “We want them to play with these,” we told their parents, “and not be afraid of doing any damage while they learn the Christmas story.”

So, the first decoration I put in place every year is that original woodblock Nativity my husband and I made — much longer ago in reality than it seems in my heart.

Time flies. It is time to pull out a few more holiday decorations and the memories that go with them.

The first thing I know, it will be –well, Oh, my goodness- a new year is just around the corner.

November 23, 2017

Well, by the time you are reading this the Thanksgiving turkey will be reduced to a skeleton, the pumpkin pie won’t even be a shell and the dishes will be back in the china closet waiting for Christmas.

Even though many folks will be thinking about the list they are preparing for Santa, maybe we can take just a minute or two to make another list. The list the turkey stands for. The list of thankfuls. Mine is quite long, and I’ll bet a drumstick that yours is, too.

I’ll keep it short this time.

I’m very thankful for parents who loved me; who tolerated my stubbornness; who encouraged me, who kept me fed, clothed and were wise enough to pull me up short when I needed it. Which, by the way, was more often than I would prefer to admit.

I am so grateful for my huge extended family who have surrounded me all of my days; who know me so well that I can’t get away with anything , who have stayed friends down through the years and are still willing, most of the time, to admit that they are related to me.

I am thankful for the many opportunities that have been dropped in my path as the years went by. I have realized dreams that at one time I thought were only childish fantasies.

I was blessed for nearly 50 years with a husband who was tolerant, patient and loving. Our children and their families make my life complete. .

I am very thankful for this place where I live. I’m appreciative of its beauty and its simplicity and for the fact that it is rural, friendly and comfortable.

Over the years, my sons have had the rare occasion to visit one or two of the less advantaged countries on this planet. More than once, they have made a point of assuring us that we need to be very grateful for this beautiful nation that we call home; this place where we live.

Thanksgiving 2017 may already be history. But I truly do wake up every morning giving thanks.

There is a gospel song sung by Jeff and Sherry Easter that says it very well:

“There’s a roof up above me, I’ve a good place to sleep.

There’s food on my table and shoes on my feet.

You gave me Your love, Lord, and a fine family.

Thank you, Lord., for your blessings on me.”

Thank You Lord, for Your Blessings on Me written by the Easter brothers.

November 16, 2017

We were a very good match, even though some folks weren’t too sure at first. After all, my Dad used to say that he thought I was born talking. And the guy I married had a strong reputation for being very quiet. Yeah, well. He could keep up with me when it was necessary.

It didn’t take very long into our relationship for us to realize that we both loved to travel. There was nothing he liked better than to get behind the wheel of a car and I was more than happy to ride shotgun with a map in my hands. Yes, a map. No one had heard of GPS when we were young, and OH! Say, but I’m glad.

It began early when, shortly after we became engaged, I was invited to go to Vermont with him where he was helping his father build a house for his aunt. So, early one morning, I established my place on the right in his yellow and black Willys car. The map was on my lap and we were on our way. After all, we had to be in Burlington by supper time. And we were. Our adventures had only just begun.

The summer after we were married he hauled beans downstate for a neighbor and of course, I went along. We traveled all night; came home the next day, grabbed a nap and then did it all over again. Well! We were young. I wouldn’t have missed it for the world.

And so it began. Husband got a job driving bulk milk truck and I rode with him every chance I got. Three boys joined us, all within four short years. As soon as they were big enough, they took turns in the cab along side their Dad.

We farmed the boys out to the grandparents a time or two and took off on a couple of jaunts. With a good tape in the cassette player we could travel for miles before conversation became necessary, even for me. With a borrowed camper and more nerve than knowledge, we took the boys with us a few times.

Later, Husband took a job driving a tractor trailer hauling woodchips and lo n’ behold, it was a sleeper cab. I was working nights and on some mornings, I would ride to the wood yard with co-workers, climb up in the sleeper and within minutes, be sound asleep. He would laugh “I hit a bad bump and wondered if it woke you up. I looked back and could see daylight between you and the bunk but you were out like a light.”

The years flew by. The boys grew up. Every chance we got we took a trip; to Wyoming, to Washington, D.C., to Florida, to Maryland to visit our foster son and after our middle son moved south, several times to Virginia and North Carolina. I watched the map, reminded him of the upcoming exits and sang along with whatever tape was playing at the moment.

Then came the day when we knew that retirement wasn’t going to go just as we had planned. My husband was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s Disease and had to go on disability. After a few months, I quit work to spend time with him. Our doctors said that he was still capable of driving so we decided to grab every second we could.

For two winters we drove to Arizona where we rented a small house. As I always had, I kept the map open on my lap and watched for exits. We talked, we admired the changing scenery and we enjoyed each other’s company.

He had been an avid fan of the TV show Route 66 and one wonderful weekend, we headed out over that famous highway across the Arizona desert and almost into Nevada. Another dream come true.

We traveled to Maine to see our son and family and took my parents to Ohio a few times for a visit with Dad’s sister. We did our best to make every minute and mile count.

The time came, of course, when traveling was no longer possible. But neither of us had any regrets. We had done what we could while we could. Over the years we had managed to visit all but five of these United States; missing only Alaska ,Hawaii and the three on the West Coast.

We had realized our dreams before it was too late.

Yes, we were a good match. He drove, I rode shotgun and now and then, I told him where to go. It doesn’t get much better than that.

November 9, 2017

It happens all the time. “You’re kidding,” someone will say with a grin. “There was a store in Raymond?”

Well, yeah! There was. Actually, there were at least two.

The early settlers were nothing if not resourceful. Once they got some land cleared, a cabin built to shelter their families and some crops planted they began to think of other things.

We know that Daniel Raymond had some sort of ‘hotel’ or rooming house not far from where I live now. After all, new settlers were coming through the area quite regularly by that time, not to mention traders and hunters and, well, the occasional thief.

An intersection formed and homes grew up around it. Small farms were cleared and what became known as Raymond’s Corners began to take shape. Parents began to worry about their children’s education and also, they recognized the need for a church.

The first recorded store in Raymond was built on the northeast corner of the crossroad; the corner of what is now Rt. 49 and Cobb Hill Road. It was probably a family residence, as many stores were at that time. The store would eventually house the Raymond Post Office..

The earliest grave markers in the Raymond Cemetery are those of two children, dated in the early 1840s. More than likely, when a burying ground was needed the area that would eventually become the cemetery began more by chance than anything else.

Approximately 40 years after Daniel Raymond and family first arrived here, according to records, among the cluster of homes that made up Raymond’s Corners there was a store and a cheese factory as well as a roller bolt mill. The first store burned and another was built in its place. (Roller bolts, by the way, were manufactured for use in textile mills, according to notes I have found.)

Parents began by teaching their children fundamentals at home, but eventually a schoolhouse was built. Quite likely, the first one was of logs but in time, a handsome frame building was erected complete with a bell tower. Church services led by local men or now and then by an itinerant preacher were held in the school. Once the funds were available, however, a proper church was built next door to the schoolhouse.

During the late 1890s the C & PA tracks were laid from Coudersport to the Newfield Junction and a small depot was erected in Raymond near the place where the tracks crossed what is now Kidney Road. Folks could flag down the train to catch a ride or to load or unload freight.

I laughed out loud when reading a column in an old newspaper one day. There were those who were not exactly pleased, it seemed, that since the “cars” were rumbling through town twice daily, the local residents were seeing more “strange faces.”

It still amazes me that such a bustling community could arise from a total wilderness in less than a century.

Eventually, of course, things changed. The settlement of East Raymond, later to be named Gold would outgrow her mother village. The depot, cheese factory, school, church and store that were once here are only remembered in fading photographs.

The children have been bussed to Ulysses to school now since the 1940s.

Yes, Raymond once had a store, as well as all the other necessary public buildings that make up a town. This place; the place I like to call “my neck of the woods” was settled by strong and caring and intelligent people who understood the need for social and religious interaction in their community. We have outgrown ourselves several times over and many have moved on. I think those first families who cleared the forest and built the earliest farms and stores and churches and schools and gave their children a home to be proud of would be very proud of us; the ones who still call this place home.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

November 2, 2017

Our Gram

Well, I’m in the fix that I get caught in every now and then. The idea bucket is dry as dust. Nothing whatever is coming to mind. Nothing new, that is.

However, very soon now, it will be the anniversary of the day my great-grandmother, Betsy Lucinda Rogers Williams was born 147 years ago. Good heavens! Nearly a century and a half! I can almost hear her chuckling over that. As I have said many times, she was the best storyteller I have ever encountered and although she didn’t live to see any of my “stuff”, she is the inspiration behind it all. And, so, bear with me, please, while I tell you about her again.

My best memories of her are when she was about the age I am now. She had been widowed for a decade. Not long after her husband Edsil Williams died she realized that she did not want to live alone in the house they had built in the hollow near an ever-flowing spring. So, shortly before I was born, my Dad realized a long-held dream when he and Mom moved onto his grandparents’ farm and into Gram’s house. Even though our mother wasn’t eager to be that far away from a “hard road”, she soon made it a home and in time the old farmhouse was alive with the noise and chatter of the six of us kids born over the next 14 years.

Of course, I thought Gram was old. She wore dresses midway between her knees and her ankles and club-heeled tie-up shoes. Her hair was pulled up into a small white bun on the back of her head and her glasses had wire rims. She stooped a little when she walked or when she was peeling apples or potatoes at the sink. She was old, after all.

Although she visited other members of the family for weeks at a time; her daughter in Wellsville or her cousin in Kane or her granddaughter in Syracuse or maybe just up the road to our grandmother’s in Gold, she always came home to our house in the hollow. Her bedroom waited for her, somewhat impatiently, I thought, just at the top and to the left of the stairs. The room always had a faint odor of Ben-Gay and whatever liniment she was using at the moment for her rheumatism. The mattress on her metal-framed bed rested on coiled springs and it shook wonderfully when she laughed while telling us a story. My sisters and I took turns sleeping with her because we knew she would lull us to sleep with wonderful yarns.

Her stories were simple tales of growing up before the turn of the 20th century. She was born in a house that was gone before my memory but it had stood in a field not far from our home. Her older sister Mary had “gone West” with her husband and son and the family here would only see Mary one more time. Letters from her were infrequent and treasured.

A photo of a cousin of Gram’s hung on her bedroom wall. He had made a good deal of money, so they said, when oil was discovered a few counties south west of us. He drowned in a tragic accident while fishing in Wyoming. His father lived with the Williams’ for a while and the cousin thanked them by having the house plumbed with running water and an indoor bathroom.

A pencil sketch of our house when it was still unfinished, hung over her window in a deep decorative frame. That picture would eventually come home with me.

Gram’s younger daughter moved with her family to Wyoming in the 1940s. Gram went home with her for a year when I was ten or so. I was selfishly furious! It didn’t occur to me until much later that there were others who loved her just as deeply as I did.

One day I got off the school bus in Gold and walked up the road to my grandmother’s house, When I went through the back door I spotted Gram’s trunk that she had taken to Wyoming with her. I hit the stairs running and found her standing in the upstairs hall talking with my grandmother. It is a wonder that I didn’t knock her down when I slammed into her. I learned that day that sometimes we cry the hardest when we are the happiest.

Recently my sisters and I were together and we talked about our memories of Gram. They differ, of course, depending on our ages at the time she was with us. But they make us all smile.

One day, shortly before she died, I told her that I had won an award for an essay I had written at school. She took my hand and said, “Will you write about me someday?”

I’m still working on it, Gram.

October 26, 2017

I’ve been steeped in it all my life. Readers of this column have read many times over about my family’s history and the stories which have always fascinated me. Our great-grandmother, a storyteller of the first degree, delighted in sharing not only her memories but the stories which had been handed down to her by her parents and grandparents.

And she wasn’t the only one. If one of us came home from school and mentioned during supper that there had been a new kid in class today, one of the ‘grown-up’s would ask, “Oh? Well, what was their name?” And dollars to donuts, no matter what we replied, they would look at each other and grin. “Well! He (or she) is some of your relation!”

And, the conversation, while we all enjoyed Mom’s pork chops and gravy or chicken n’ biscuits would consist of unraveling the family connections that made it clear why that new kid was “some of our relation”. And, almost always, there was a story or two involved.

Well, I grew up and got into genealogy at least semi-seriously. I soon realized that, since several of my ancestors were among the earliest settlers in this area, I’m related in one way or another to darned near everybody in what I like to call my neck of the woods.

The dates and names recorded in old family Bibles and on random scraps of paper were one thing. They locked in the times and places. Much more interesting, as far as I was concerned, were the stories.

The teenaged boy who was left stranded alone in the wilderness and lived not only to tell the tale but to build one of the earlier houses in Gold and to raise a family there. The woman, left to her own devices when her husband was drafted into the Union Army who, with her young sons, chopped her way through the woods to a new home over a mile away. Henry Rogers, who, so the story goes, escaped his Confederate captors and made his way home, telling anyone who asked as he passed through enemy territory that his name was “Henry Still.” He wasn’t lying, he assured his mother when he finally reached home. After all, he was still Henry. The woman who left her family here and traveled to what was then, truly, the Wild West. There she would experience bitter winters, a deceptive husband and in all probability, was hustled out of Wyoming by him just in time to avoid the Johnson County War.

And the list goes on.

Recently, I visited with a friend who has not had the privilege of knowing her family history. Some questions brought up by another person set her to wondering and she asked me how she might get some answers. My sister has more ability to do that than I do and thanks to the Internet and a bit of basic information, she was able to bring up details that my friend had never dreamed of knowing.

Our friend was laughing and even crying a bit when I talked with her about it the next day.

“I had no idea all that information was available,” she said. She learned her mother’s date of birth as well as the date of her death. And among other things, she learned the names of her grandparents and places of their burial.

“It makes them three-dimensional,” she said to me. Her only regret? That she had never thought to ask more questions when she was growing up.

Oh, yes! Those who had come and gone before her were finally three dimensional; real people who had lead real lives and had handed down bits and pieces of themselves to make her who she is.

I am so grateful to those of my family who always had a story to tell; who always knew something interesting to flesh out a name; those who gave me the gift of a three-dimensional family. I will never again take that gift for granted.

Ask questions, my friends, while there are still people around you who can answer them. And be patient with repetition. A three-dimensional history is a fascinating thing to discover- and to treasure.

 

October 19, 2017

I don’t remember for sure when I first met Elke Peet. She began coming to our church a few years ago with friends. Her smile was infectious and she always welcomed a friendly hello and later, when she knew me better, a hug. I listened to her slightly accented speech and I observed her obvious joy in life. I knew she had a story.

And, so, I asked her. Her eyes welled up when she told me that she immigrated to this country when she was a child. “I don’t ever want to be anywhere else,” she said.

Elke was born in a farming community near Frankfort, Germany. She spent a good deal of time as a child with her grandmother and when her mother and father, an American soldier, decided to move to the United States in order that he could go to college, her grandmother was heartbroken. She convinced the little girl that she really didn’t want to go to America. There was no sunlight or sky there, her grandmother said. It was all boarded up. And so, Elke stayed behind when her parents left.

As she grew older, however, she realized that the story wasn’t true and longed to join her parents. Finally, when Elke was 13, the decision was made. She would go to live with her father and mother in the United States.

She boarded the huge passenger plane entirely alone. She was leaving her home for a strange land and could not speak English but her mother and father were waiting for her there. When the huge passenger jet approached New York Harbor on July 8, 1961 the pilot circled the plane around the brightly illuminated Statue of Liberty before landing. Elke has never forgotten the beauty of that huge statue. She knew she was home. And yes, there was an open sky and sunlight over the United States.

Her parents took her to their home in Buffalo, NY where her father worked as an engineer for Bell Air.

I asked Elke how she learned to speak English. “By listening,”, she answered. When she began 8th grade that fall her teachers helped her as much as they could. They let her parents know that Elke needed assistance and her father told her that from that time, they would speak only English in their home. Today, Elke speaks eloquently with only a very slight accent.

She became a citizen of the United States in 1963.

The family moved for a time to California but eventually returned to Buffalo. Shortly after Elke graduated from high school her father visited an area near Wellsville, NY and fell in love with the countryside. And so, Wellsville became home to Elke’s family which now included a younger brother.

Although she had intended to go to college, Elke told me, she met a young man named John Peet and quickly fell deeply in love. They were married in 1967.

In time the Peets decided to adopt a child. However, Mr. Peet had been diagnosed with cancer and adoption agencies would not consider them as potential parents. Later, however, Mr. Peet was declared cured from the disease. In 1986, the Peets adopted two Korean children, a sister and a brother, aged 5 and 7 years old.

Elke’s children are now grown. Her son Marcus, lives in Texas. Her daughter Nicole and husband Raz live in Philadelphia and they have given Elke her only grandson.

John Peet died in 2001 at the age of 58. “He was my rock!” Elke says.

Elke is retired now after 32 years at K-Mart. She lives in the home near Wellsville, NY where she and her husband raised their family. Two or three times a week she drives to Gold to join friends and to attend church. Her smile is infectious and I look forward to her hug on Sunday mornings.

Elke did not go back to Germany for over thirty years. She has made the trip four times during recent years, to visit an aunt who still lives there.

However, her home is here; in the United States of America; in Stannards, New York and with her friends in Gold, Pennsylvania. And yes, she assured me more than once, with tears in her eyes. “I don’t want to ever be anywhere else.”

 

October 12, 2017

It is difficult for most folks, I expect, as they zip through the intersection of Routes 49 and 449 to picture that little group of houses as being the bustling community that it once was. I doubt many even consider such a thing.

There isn’t much left these days. No stores. Even the church is gone. However, the people here are the best of the best. And our little town is still the only one named Gold in the entire United States.

There was a time when things were very different. According to a local newspaper, in 1898 Gold had one large store and a small one as well as a feed store. William Clark ran a blacksmith shop and there was a “wood repair and paint shop”. Not to mention, of course, half a dozen gushing springs.

There was a large schoolhouse with sheds to shelter horses when the building doubled as a place to hold local meetings.

A small depot stood on the east side of the road ready to meet the C & PA when it came through each day on its way to and from the Newfield Junction, carrying passengers as well as freight. The water tower stood alongside the track on the west side.

Believe it or not, a hotel once stood on the south west corner of what is now Routes 49 and 449. Built by a man named Pardon Reynolds and his son Edward in 1886 the hotel changed hands several times through the years. Eventually it became, along with a barn, the property of W. H. Hubbard. In 1913, both the barn and hotel burned within a few weeks of each other. Officials became suspicious and made what were called in the news reports “discreet inquiries”. Eventually the owner was prosecuted and convicted of arson.

The Conable family built a cheese factory near the creek that meandered down from the spring on its way to the mighty Genesee River. Charlie Conable made a good living there for many years. He bought milk from the local farmers and sold his cheese to area stores.

A lovely little church was built across from the school during the summer of 1899. While the church was being built, telephone poles were erected and wires strung through Gold; making it possible for news to be “carried at lightening speed.” It was as amazing to folks then as the Internet and cell phones are to us today.

In 1902 the Gold store burned and a new one was erected. It still stands today, although now it is a private residence.

A new two-story schoolhouse was also built in 1902. Classes were held for many years on both floors. My father and his siblings attended the first eight grades there. Students who went to high school were required to go to a near by town, such as Ulysses or Coudersport. The Gold School was one of the last in the area to be “taken up”, not closing its doors until 1947. I attended first and second grades there. When I related that fact to my boys when they were in grade school, one of them rolled his eyes and asked very carefully, “Mom, did you ever ride in a covered wagon?”

The cheese factory was gone before my time. Although we once supported two general stores; each with their own gas pumps, they have both disappeared.

A new church was built a couple of years ago about a mile out of town and the old one was torn down.

And, for more than forty years now, the train hasn’t come here any more.

So it would seem, I suppose, that there is not much left of us. But I beg to differ with that. We have gotten smaller, it’s true. We have to drive a few miles to grocery shop or to fill our cars’ gas tanks. Our kids have been bussed to school for three generations. However, we are still a good and caring community.

Yes, there is only one town named Gold in the entire country. And I am proud to claim her as home.

October 5, 2017

On the way home from getting few groceries the other day I dropped down from Route 49 onto the Pushersiding and stopped to visit my cousin. I have no idea why I don’t do it more often.

As usual, I didn’t plan to stay long. But as the saying goes, the best laid plans of mice and men — or old cousins.

Dick is a few years older than me; just enough older that when he stayed with us during several summers when we were kids he became more like a big brother than a cousin. We share a lot of memories and when we are together, we both enjoy a trip down memory lane.

While he was with us in our home back then, Dick brought the cows from the pasture for milking, helped with the haying and made himself useful to Dad in any way he could. As far as I was concerned, he was there to entertain me and I kept him busy in his spare time.

He grew up. He graduated from high school and soon went into the Air Force. The timing was such that he wound up in a place called Korea where there was a war going on. I didn’t really understand much about that “conflict”. I just knew that I didn’t like the idea that my cousin was so far away from home- and me.

Well.

Years went by. I grew up, too. We both married and had families. These days we are both grandparents several times over and are even great-grandparents. We are both alone.

The conversation doesn’t vary much when we get together. We love to rehash memories.

Both of us grew up with parents; his father and my mother, who were seriously frightened of thunderstorms. “Why is that?” Dick wondered.

Neither of us are sure. The fear seemed to be strong in the entire family.

“Mom used to tell me, “ I said, “that their Aunt Betsey, an unmarried great-aunt who lived with them, was terrified of storms and when one threatened, she would make all the kids sit in a circle in the parlor until the storm was over.” And, we both remembered, the valley called the Pushersiding tends to be a magnet for lightening strikes. There are many tales of them. We both vividly recall the day when several of our grandfather’s milking herd were killed when lightening struck a tree in the pasture near the barn. My mother told of seeing ball lightening roll down the hill back of the one room school when she was a child.

Neither Dick nor I can say we like storms. We endure them, since there is rarely any choice and utter a prayer of thanks when they are over.

Better memories are those of my mother and her sisters getting together to clean Gramp’s house. They would scrub and clean it from top to bottom; reminiscing and laughing the entire day.

We remember Gramp’s ever present pipe and the sweet aroma of the smoke that curled from it. We remember the ritual that Gramp held to every meal, giving himself an injection of insulin to control his diabetes just before he sat down to eat.

We remember Uncle Reed, with his rolling walk, wide grin and the cigarette tucked in the corner of his mouth with the long ash hanging from it; just ready to drop.

We remember “Tidd apples”; winter spies that grew near the farm and the red Astricans, a favorite for pies and eating out of hand.

We remember the train pounding up the valley toward the Newfield Junction; usually with two engines; steam-powered in our earliest memories and later pulled by yellow-striped diesels. The entire valley trembled as the train struggled up the hill opposite Grandpa’s farm.

And we have questions. We wonder if we remember things just as we should. But there is no one left to ask, these days, so our memories hold.

The afternoon flew by quickly. Dick followed me out on the porch as I left to come home.

“Come again, Nets”, he said using my childhood nickname. And I will. Soon, I hope.

September 28, 2017

Everyone is saying it. Where did summer go? Weren’t we looking for the first dandelions just a week or two ago? And now the yard is filling up with colored leaves? How did that happen?

Well.

My Dad and Mom are always uppermost in my mind when the leaves change color and begin to fall. They were married 82 years ago this month.

One late September day Dad borrowed a pair of clean socks from his brother because he had a date with his best girl. He didn’t let on that this date was special. They invited another couple along as witnesses and drove to Whitesville, NY where they rounded up a preacher and got married. They had both turned 21 that summer and they hadn’t told anyone in either of their families what they were up to. It was 1935 – still the in the throes of the Great Depression and no one they knew spent much money on a wedding back then.

That night, they went back to their homes. Dad had to help his father with the farm work the next day and Mom had to get a meal for men who were helping her father with fall harvesting. When Dad’s brother got the news, all he could say was, “Well, my gosh! He got married in my socks!”

They made their home in various rentals for three years. Then, in December of 1938, they moved to Dad’s grandparents’ home on a back road called Spicer Brook. I was born a couple of months later.

The six of us kids, five girls and one boy, grew up with unconditional love, strong discipline, a lot of laughter and music; always, always, there was music. We could harmonize together almost before we could read.

When I was a teenager Dad began digging graves to supplement his income. We learned that what some might regard as a very menial job could be done properly with precision and with absolute respect.

Neither Dad nor Mom were inclined to preach sermons. They simply showed us how we were supposed to behave and expected us to be smart enough to get the message.

One by one we married. I missed their twenty-fifth anniversary party because I had given birth to their first grandson the day before. The family grew fast. Grandkids were welcomed at the farm in the hollow with open arms. Mom would cuddle a baby of any age and say, “I like them best just like this!” Dad would hug them, tease them and tag each one with a goofy nickname. Once the grandsons were old enough, they began helping him in the several cemeteries for which he was responsible. And they learned to do the job the right way; with dignity and respect.

Mom took a job as a nurses aide on the long term care unit of the Cole Memorial Hospital. She soon became recognized and respected for the caring and thorough way she did her job and she received the first Nursing Assistant of the Year award given by the hospital. In her spare time she made wonderful home made butter. After the family was supplied, she had no problem selling the rest to friends at work and it became known as Bet’s Better Butter.

Gradually, they both retired. Nothing made them happier than visits from their ever-growing family. They welcomed great-grandkids, extra kids, in-laws, and as Dad liked to say, a few outlaws.

Now and then, as far back as we can remember, Dad would come in from the barn on a moonlit night, grin at Mom and say, “Looks like a good night for a walk to the spring.” She would just laugh at him and go back to the task at hand.

We celebrated their 70th anniversary in 2005, with a dinner at the Gold Church. Family came; friends came; we ate, we told stories and as always, we sang for them.

Mom left this world for the next one just three months after the party and three and a half years later , Dad joined her.

And so, it is September again. It has been 82 years since that day when Chester Morley and Betsey Young, without telling anyone what they were up to, drove into New York State and got hitched. Some marriages, it is said, are made in Heaven. If there was ever one that truly measured up to that, I believe it was theirs.

Jeanette’s articles go here.