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MY ROAD TO ROTARY
|14 page appendix to Kroch||Additional Family Photos
Two pages of Harris' handwritten manuscript, on display
|Photos from WallingfordText only version of the Book|
|PDF file of a larger section of this first draft of "My
Road to Rotary
| 1948 First Edition/A.
Kroch & Son -
Virginia Military Academy - Iowa Law School '91 - RI soft cover
[text and photographs scanned from a 1948 copy of "My Road to Rotary"]
What the boy loved, the man loves. Gleanings of the boy shape the course of the man.
|Two things seem to me important in my more than
three score and ten years of life'my New
England valley and
the Rotary Club movement. Frequently have the words been heard:
You little thought that Rotary would become the world-wide power for
good that it is today.
Nearly all that I know of New England folks and New England mountains and valleys is the result of observations made through the eyes of a boy. The boy, of course, is myself but so many years have passed since the period of the young boy that the old boy can think of him as a personality apart from himself. Naturally I know the little fellow very well. Yes, I well know of the dreams, mysticisms, impetuosities and rascalities of which he was made. They were peppered with impudence and sweetened with love of the beautiful world in which he found himself and with love for his aged grandparents who made for him a home.
Some folks go to the mountains for inspiration; some for rest. Learned men write of the mountains, poets sing of them and artists paint them. The boy takes them all in his stride. Why should he not? Were mountains made for his restless feet to climb? High though they may be, his spirit is still higher. They are his to triumph over. He is exuberant; he is exultant and his heart over flows with the ecstatic joy of living. The boy is king of all creation, but, however pitiable it may be, boys must grow to be men. It is sometimes said that the boy is father to the man; he leads the man along pathways which his feet have trod. The man can never get far away from the boy. What the boy loved, the man loves. Gleanings of the boy shape the course of the man. The writer of this book has e special reason to be grateful for what the boy taught him. Love of life in the country; the blessings of a well regulated New England home; the importance of education and devotion to high ideals.
The boy taught the man the necessity of being tolerant of all forms of religious and political faiths. He taught him not to be too critical of the views of others, whatever those views might be. The boy taught the man of the joys of neighborliness and friendliness and good will toward all. It took considerable time for these lessons to sink in'the grown-up boy was too busy having a good time'but I am glad to be able to say that eventually the man took the teachings of the boy seriously and tried to extend them to all men.
What is Rotary? Thousands have made answer each in his own way. It is easier to note what Rotary does than what it is. One recently has said, If Rotary has encouraged us to take a more kindly outlook on life and men; if Rotary has taught us greater tolerance and the desire to see the best in others; if Rotary has brought us pleasant and helpful contacts with others who also are trying to capture and radiate the joy and beauty of life, then Rotary has brought us all that we can expect.
Chicago, October, 1945
Paul P. Harris.
There was a child went forth every day; And the first object he look'd upon, that object he became; And that object became part of him for the day, or for a certain part of the day, or for many years, or stretching cycles of years. The early lilacs became part of this child, And grass, and whiteand red morning-glories, and white and red clover, and the song of the phoebe-bird, And the third-month lambs, and the sow's pink-faint litter, and the mare's foal,and the cow's calf, And the noisy brood of the barn-yard, or by the mire of the pond-side, And the fish suspending themselves so curiously below there and the beautiful curious liquid, and the water-plants with their graceful flat heads'all became part of him.
A Tribute to the Author AS I WAS LEAVING SYDNEY on a flying boat for my home in Melbourne, Australia, in January, 1947, I learned that Paul Harris was dead and realized that a great man and a dear personal friend had been taken. Though our homes were geographically on opposite sides of the earth we had been for a quarter century close personal friends.
Paul was a great man. His devotion and dedication to Christian ideals, his unbounded capacity for friendship, his keenness of perception and his uncanny ability to visualize the future, coupled with his genuine appreciation of current problems, made him great. Whenever privileged to be with him I was inspired by the burning enthusiasm which, despite his ill health and frail body, carried him on in his work.
On the flying boat my thoughts kept reverting to my friend and the many personal incidents which stressed his life. I recalled a wonderful week which my wife, my daughter, and I spent with Paul and Jean Harris one summer at Onekarna in Northern Michigan. Paul knew all the folks of the village, called most of them by their first names, and had a cheery word for all.
And there came vividly to my mind one of the lost occasions when I saw him'at his home in Chicago, winter-time with a heavy fall of snow. As I came down fairly early that morning to their little break fast room I saw Paul tramping through the snow to little platforms in the trees. On these he was placing nuts and biscuits for the birds and squirrels. This was a regular job for this frail man whose big heart responded to the needs of all living things.
Yes, the Founder of Rotary was a simple man but one with a great vision peace and a truly neighborly world. To aid in its implementation he traveled extensively, meeting and appreciating men and making friends everywhere he went. He was a normal, lovable human being, balanced, competent, friendly, with a supreme confidence that just such ordinary human qualities would work wonders among men and nations.
Since coming to Chicago this summer I have read the proof sheets of My Road to Rotary's in which Paul Harris has told us the whole story of his life and ambitions. Much of It has to do with his youth but out of his youth came the man. His recollection of life in a small American town is thrilling in itself because of the natural manner in which it is told. The fun, the mischief, the adventure, the recounting of all those delightful things which one meets with in such a location, the loving care showered upon the boy, all make good reading, as do his subsequent travels and experiences. But when the Story is that of the man who gave to the world the great movement called Rotary, the effect of which upon the world can be, by the devotion and loyalty of its members, one of the greatest influences for good for all time, then the reading becomes something deeper and of great import.
Paul Harris, the Founder of Rotary, has gone in the flesh but his life's work will live on forever. The influence of this man is an urge to service and in commending this book I hope that its readers will translate and pass on, by friendly service to their fellow men, the benefits which Paul Harris gave to the world when he founded Rotary.
1 July 1948
ANGUS S. MITCHELL,
President, Rotary International, 1948-49.
Our Arrival in The Valley
Our Farm and Mr. Wynne
Our 14 Room House
Mr. Webster Makes a Dive
The Bells of Wallingford
Buttercup, Queen of The Pasture
My Red-Headed Chum
A Pond Is Discovered
Then Comes Spring
Vermont Maple Syrup
The Last Day of School's
Berry Picking and Trout Fishing
A Christmas Disappointment
Cupid and Bacchus
A Sad Tragedy
A Reunited Family
A Tongue-Tied Feud
The Railroad Station
Our Front Porch
The Debating Society
Entertainment Comes to
An Industrious Community
Grandfather Passes On
Farewell to Grandmother
Five Years of Folly's
A Shingle Is Hung Up
The First Rotary Club
Rotary Begins to Spread
The Architect Finds a Builder
Rotary Serves in Two Wars
We Thank You, Mr. Chesterton
My Valley in These Days
Resting and Visiting
Mountains, Folks, Lakes and Birds
The End of The Journey
Appendix -Rotary's Onward March 305 (text version)
Appendix* - Rotary's Onward March Graphic Display*
* The appendix, created by RI General Secretary Philip C. Lovejoy only exists in rare first edition copies of
"My Road to Rotary," the Rotary International Archives and on Rotary Global History Fellowship.
You will find it here, at the end of this online version, and also the actual pages,
at the link Rotary's onward March 1948.
Chapter 1 "Our Arrival in The Valley"
ONE SUMMER NIGHT of the distant past, three of us, father, brother Cecil, five years old, and I, two years younger, got off the train at Wallingford, Vermont. All was darkness except as it was broken by the flickering light of a lantern held by a tall man I had never seen before. On the delicate film of my consciousness the scene was etched so deep and clear that it can not be obliterated or dimmed while life lasts.
The tall man took my clenched fist in his warm, strong hand which was ever so much larger than father's, with enormous thumbs which made excellent handles for little boys to hold to when going over rough places and so we walked up the street, father and Cecil following. This tall man was my grandfather. It was a solemn procession and the solemnity was emphasized by the awesome stillness and darkness of the night.
Grandfather, father, Cecil and I turned north at the first corner, crossed the road and grandfather opened a gate and we entered a yard. As we approached the side veranda of a comfortable looking house, a door opened and a dark-eyed elderly lady stepped out into the darkness holding a kerosene lamp above her head and peering out into the night. She was father's mother and was destined to be mine as well. Grandmother weighed precisely eighty-nine pounds; never more; never less. It is said that fine goods come wrapped in small packages and grandmother was certainly fine goods.
On that summer night she greeted her son and his two children affectionately but quietly. We gathered in the dining room and grandmother and father talked matters over. I was not conscious of what they were saying but I can plainly see them through the mists which have been slowly gathering for more than seventy years.
Eventually grandmother arose and went into a big pantry, (buttery, she called it) adjoining the dining room and soon re turned with three yellow earthen bowls, a large one for father and smaller ones for Cecil and me. A generous loaf of bread, possessed of virtues beyond any I had ever tasted, soon made its appearance together with a pitcher of sweet, rich milk fresh from the udders of the benevolent old family cow, with which I was soon to become acquainted. Oh yes I nearly forgot the heaping dish of blueberries plucked from tangled bushes which lifted their heads between the rocks on mountain sides, triumphantly offering to hungry humans the luscious harvest which they, in spite of long cold winters, had succeeded in extracting from sour and sterile soil.
Three chairs were drawn to the table; one, a high-chair, survivor of previous generations, was manifestly intended for me, and the feast began. Father and grandmother continued their conversation as we ate while grandfather listened. We boys were hungry and had but one matter to attend to'the matter of filling up.
The banjo clock, hanging on the north wall was amazed at the unusual happenings and pointed its long, scrawny finger warningly at the passing numerals until it finally succeeded in attracting grandmother's attention, with the result that she arose suddenly and said, For the Land Sake, Pa Harris, it's nearly twelve o'clock!'s The banjo clock was in no way responsible for the remission; being both deaf and dumb, it could do nothing further than to point its warning fingers and that duty, as heretofore related, it performed.
There was another clock hanging above the mantel-piece in the adjoining sitting-room. It also was deaf but it was not dumb. While the best that the banjo clock could do in the way of giving audible expression to its thoughts was to emit an entirely meaningless tick-tock, the sitting-room clock could make itself heard throughout the house and it unhesitatingly did so whenever it had anything worth while to say. The sitting-room clock, working in complete harmony with the dining-room clock, had been making a rumpus each and every hour during that eventful evening.
The truth was that grandmother had been preoccupied with the distressing troubles of her son, my father, and in the multitudinous problems which confronted her as a result of them. After her startled announcement, we boys were taken to a bedroom henceforth to be known as our own.
The most conspicuous object which confronted us in our new quarters was an enormous something which had the appearance of a very sick and swollen bed. After having been undressed and put into clean nighties, one after the other, we were lifted high and launched smack into the middle of the distended stomach of the very sick bed and the next thing we knew it was morning and we were wondering how to get out of the predicament in which we found ourselves, almost submerged in the yielding folds of the mattress which, in honor of our coming, had been stuffed with clean, fresh straw, sufficient to provide restful and cooling comfort until the cold nights of autumn would proclaim the coming of winter and the necessity of providing the amazing bed with an entirely new stomach, composed of downy, homegrown feathers to keep us warm during the long, cold nights when winter winds would be howling like wolves around the corner.
How it happened that we three, father, Cecil and I, had so disturbed the serenity of the home life of our early-to-bed paternal grandparents, and how it happened that the most important personage of all young families, our mother, was not of the group, calls for explanation. To satisfy those interested, I will state that economic considerations had made it necessary to divide our family. In other words, father, having failed in business in the West, had taken us boys to his paternal home as a refuge, just as thousands of fathers bad done, and still do, during periods of financial extremity. As our sister, Nina May, was still an infant in arms, our mother felt that it would be too much of an imposition on our grandparents were she to come along. She preferred to carry on as best she could in Racine, a beautiful little Wisconsin city on the shores of Lake Michigan, where we children were born. Mother was a Bryan and the Bryans were proud.
Father had been given a drug store and a house of his own by grandfather Harris, a thrifty New Englander, whose indulgence of his son was one of the reasons why my father found it so difficult to keep income up and expenses down. Having been given so vigorous a boost at the beginning, it was quite natural for father to assume that other boosts would follow as a matter of course. They did for a time, but eventually, grandfather found it necessary to liquidate father's business and to establish a new base nearer his own home where the books could be frequently audited by one familiar with double-entry's bookkeeping'grandfather himself. His books, such as they were, were always in balance. No entries ever had to be made in red.
Little as our elders realized it at the time, all of the events above related, even including the liquidation and closing of father's drug store, proved to be fortunate for us boys. Cecil was to realize temporary benefits and I was to have the benefit of a well regulated, permanent home where nothing was ever either over- or underdone; where ideals were of the highest and education the supreme objective.
While some of the Bryans were disposed to view grandfather Harris' family from what they were pleased to consider a higher plane, they would, I fancy, have freely admitted that there was not the slightest danger that grandfather Harris would ever convert his possessions into cash, leave his family to shift for itself, and fly away to parts unknown in search of gold, pearls, diamonds or other so called valuables as my maternal grandfather had done. It may also as well be stated that it was my frugal, hard-working New England grandfather Harris who made the last days of my more brilliant but less provident grandfather Bryan and his self-sacrificing wife comfortable; and that it was this same grandfather Harris, who, encouraged by his own sympathetic and hard-working helpmeet, Pamela Rustin Harris, spread his mantle of helpfulness over the needy of all his descendants. Even to this day the estate of grandmother still stands open in the records of Rutland county's probate court, one of our family still being a beneficiary of the small remaining income.
There must have been great doings, much confusion and some weeping when our family broke up housekeeping in Racine. It is always a sad piece of business to break up housekeeping, even in cases where the gloom is not deepened by a sense of defeat. In the case of our family, the grief must have been particularly poignant. Everything had been done for my parents and still they had failed. The future held no bright promise; there was nothing to fall back upon except the supporting hands of grandfather and grandmother Harris. It must have been especially humiliating to my father to return to his native village vanquished and with only dim hopes to sustain his drooping spirits.
Father, Cecil and I constituted the vanguard of the refugees; the other members of the family were to come to Vermont after suitable provision had been made for them.
The incidents above related were beyond the understanding of Brother Cecil and myself. No defeatism tortured our souls. So long as we were fed, clothed, kept comfortable and permitted to do very much as we pleased, all was well.
However, we were now in our new home, and sad to relate mutiny broke out the very next morning. She, who soon proved to be Skipper-in-chief, happened at the moment to be lacing my shoes. Not knowing her exalted position in the family, I naturally sup posed her to be one of the crew and refused to do her bidding when she told me to lift my foot. Thinking it high time to put her where she belonged, I said, You are not my Mamma and I won't mind you's The Skipper forthwith called my father to straighten things out which he did with lasting effect, and I did not question further the authority of the little elderly lady who, after all, seemed to have matters well in hand.
Cecil and I promptly and industriously proceeded to explore the wonders of our new home. What I discovered and experienced as the days, months and years went by will appear in the chapters which follow.
Soon after our arrival in Wallingford, grandmother saw that the clothes we were wearing were not suitable for the lives we were to lead and the family seamstress, Margaret McConnell, was soon at work on a hurry-up order. Margaret was the personification of patience, otherwise she would never have succeeded in inducing wriggling, squirming boys to stand still long enough to have their clothes tried on.
The entire outfit for everyday summer wear consisted of waists and pants which were neither long nor short; how far the latter extended below the knee depended on how much material there was on hand; the idea being that if they didn't fit this year, maybe they would next when, presumably, our legs would be longer. Half way between knee and ankle was considered a safe place to leave off, high enough to allow for wading in mud and long enough to bag at the knee according to the prevailing mode. To make suitable allowance for the fact that next year's boy might be anatomically different from this year's boy, called for something in the nature of prophetic vision, and that quality of mind Margaret undoubtedly possessed. Only once did she fail. On that occasion the extension of my legs was shocking and the expansion was also considerable. Had I ever succeeded in getting into Margaret McConnell's creation, nothing but a corkscrew would have pulled me out again.
Our summertime costume of those days included, in addition to our waists and our nondescript panties, broad-brimmed, some times badly torn straw hats. Shoes there were none nor should there have been. I pity the small boy to whom the joy of wading in mud puddles and twisting his toes in the long, cool grass in the early morning hours is unknown. Grandmother knew these things and forthwith emancipated us from the restrictions of city life. Every evening, of course, we had to have our feet bathed in hot water before we were permitted to insert them between the clean, crisp sheets of our beds but that was a small price to pay for the infinite satisfaction of being bare-foot boys.
Whittier must have had a warm spot in his heart for such boys else bow could he have written: Blessings on thee, little man Barefoot boy, with cheeks of tan, With thy turned up pantaloons And thy merry whistled tunes.
John Greenleaf Whittier
Chapter 2 "Our Farm and Mr. Wynne"
THE HARRIS ORCHARD, garden and hayfield were all within one enclosure. The apple trees, currant bushes, etc., respected the territorial rights of the potatoes, beans, peas, lettuce, radishes, turnips, cabbages, beets, etc., and never once overstepped their bounds. The other occupants of the enclosure reciprocated; in short, they were all good neighbors.
The garden demanded far more of the attention of my grand father and his helper, Mr. Wynne, than both of its neighbors put together. It required plowing, planting, fertilizing, hoeing, weeding and potato bug picking all to satisfy the garden. The orchard uncomplainingly suffered neglect. It could have stood a lot of spraying and pruning but the best it could get was having the worm nests burned off when they became too pestiferous for en durance. The hay field gave bountiful crops of sweet timothy and clover for which it got nothing in return but a few wheelbarrow loads of cow manure from the barn yard. The droppings of the hen house, because of their high nitrogen content, were reserved for the garden, and they were not distributed lavishly but just so much to each hill in keeping with good New England husbandry.
It was astonishing how much good food grandfather and Mr. Wynne could get out of our rocky garden, the potatoes alone being enough to justify its existence. We grew ruddy Peach Blows, White Hebron Beauties, Early Rose and, eventually, Burbanks. Old Mr. Wynne devoted all the space assigned to him for the growing of potatoes, tatties's he called them. He had a large family and they needed food. In the autumn he harvested his crop and trundled it home in his wheelbarrow.
He and I were great friends. He used to say that I was getting to be a big boy and when I asked, How big, Mr. Wynner he said that I was knee-high-to-a-grasshopper and weighed about four pounds less than a straw hat. He was an old man and quite bent and he often sat down on his wheelbarrow to rest and smoke his pipe and I often joined him, sitting on one of the handles of the wheelbarrow. As he tamped his tobacco down into the bowl of his pipe, scratched a match and lit up, I knew that I would be welcome and took my accustomed seat.
Sometimes he sat and smoked reflectively and sometimes he talked quite freely in his broad Irish brogue. One day I asked him why he talked so funny and he said that he did not talk funny, that it was I who talked funny and that they would not be able to understand me at all in Ireland. When I asked him why he raised so many potatoes he said that he raised them because he liked to talk with the fairies that were always to be found in the tattie's patches. He used at times to point out some of his fairy friends to me but somehow I never could see them.
There were, however, plenty of interesting things which I could see in the garden all the growing season. In the early spring the lettuce and radishes began to break their way through the soil, harbingers of good things to come. The early peas began to climb the bushes provided by grandfather and the vines of the case knife beans began to climb the poles cut by Mr. Wynne in Pine Grove and planted in long rows stretching across the garden. Previous generations of case knife beans had climbed the same poles in other years and after having been dried and shelled, had eventually found their way into the big iron pot in which they were cooked to a delicious brown, covered with strips of pork, and borne triumphantly, steaming hot, to the dining room table by Delia to gladden the hearts of folks both old and young.
People from other parts of the country sometimes wonder how the humble baked bean has been able to hold its position for generations as prime favorite for Saturday night suppers served along With cornmeal pudding on the aristocratic tables of Boston, but they would not be so much given to wonder if they once had the privilege of eating beans and brown bread as those delicious viands are served in New England.
The beans served on our table could not have been nearly so inviting if grandmother had bought them over the counter of a chain store. Our beans were the product of the toil of Mr. Wynne and grandfather, and therefore they were extra sweet.
As a matter of fact grandfather and Mr. Wynne seemed to be of the essence of all of the edible things which were grown on our miniature farm. The potatoes, cabbages, beans, onions, turnips, beets and even the Northern Spy apples seemed wondrously better when we thought of them as our produce grown on our farm. The milk we drank, the eggs grandfather took from the nests in the barn and the roasting roosters who learned how to strut and crow in our barnyard. All of these things were a part of our very selves. We lived near to nature in those days; we were part and parcel of the universe and in our own quiet enjoyment of things, our lives were fuller than they could have been otherwise.
Mr. Wynne had a pet toad that hopped along ahead of him, snapping up flies and other insects as he went and Mr. Wynne was very careful not to step on him or strike him with his hoe. I think that our toad recognized a certain kinship with Mr. Wynne, any how, he was never far from him. Every autumn our toad disappeared and every spring he reappeared entirely forgetful of the fact that for much of the year he seemed to be nothing more impressive than a badly soiled chunk of ice.
Mr. Wynne with his wheelbarrow, his pipe, his tattles, his toad and his fairies was an interesting person for a little boy to know and then too he was the father of Mike and Jim, two of the best fighters in school and he was also the father of Delia, our hired girl's
Our garden certainly was rocky, especially in the eyes of folks from more favored spots. I was exhibiting it once with considerable pride to a cousin from the West who took the wind out of my sails by exclaiming, Oh, I know what that is, that's your rock pile's
The cow was the principal beneficiary of the hay field although volunteer crops of caraway seeds yielded their spice for the delectable cookies which were eaten between meals by us hungry boys. Sometime during August when the weather promised fair, we had our hay-making. No wisps of grass either in orchard or yard escaped the searching scythe of old Mr. Wynne and when the hay had been cured and all of the windrows had been raked into neat little cocks, along came Ab Harrington with his well matched pair and his capacious hay rick and with the help of old Mr. Wynne, tucked the entire crop away in the hayloft where it could be forked into the chute leading down into the manger for the use of our cow during the winter.Our orchard projected eastward between the Arnold Hill farm on the south and the Alfred Hull farm on the north and the farm mg operations on the two farms were all of interest. On the floor of the barn at the Hill farm, I saw grain separated from chaff by the use of an old fashioned flail, the only one I have ever seen in actual operation.
Alfonso Stafford (father of Fay who later was to become my chum) managed the Hull farm for Mr. Hull and did some of the light work such as raking hay with a light horse-power rake. Old Nate Remington, who had worked many years on the farm, did most of the work with the two-horse team, Bobby and Fannie.The Hull farm barn afforded refuge on rainy days and there were hiding places in plenty, and when we could think of nothing else to do, we could always tease old Nate who regarded us as abominations. Once upon a time, he gave way to his pent up rage and shouted, I'll put the flat hand on ye's which I am sure he would have done had he been able to catch us.
The barn with its hayloft, horse and cow stables, poultry rooms, Wood and coal bins and meat storage rooms was an excellent place In the summer time for us boys to paste pictures of trapeze per formers, tightrope walkers, rifle shots, balloon ascension heroes, clowns and other celebrities of the circus. Our improvised picture gallery engaged our attention rainy days. My mania for collecting pictures still continues.
As long as we kept a cow we continued our small farming operations. Grandmother, not trusting anyone else to make our butter, made it personally. She strained the big pails of milk into pans and put them into the pantry to cool off. In the morning she heated the milk on the stove until a blanket of cream arose. She then removed the cream with her big skimmer and put it aside for churning day. Grandfather provided the power for the churning operation.Devonshire cream, justly famed throughout England, is the exact counterpart of the cream which grandmother skimmed from the milk of our cow. To those who have been privileged to feast on English strawberries served with Devonshire cream, no words of mine will be necessary. From such cream grandmother's butter was made.
The hayfield in our orchard also yielded considerable crops of daisies and brown-eyed susans. They were prized for their beauty and also for their faculty of determining for lovesick boys and girls whether or not their love was returned. The first petal plucked stood for, He loves me's the second, He loves me not's and the last petal told the story to the trembling heart.The yellow buttercups of the hayfield, not to be outdone by the daisies, also laid claim to powers beyond the ken of men. If a little boy wished to know whether or not his sweetheart loved butter, the buttercups would tell. All that he had to do was to place a buttercup beneath her chin and if it reflected yellow thereon, then the adored one loved butter of course. I have tried this device many times, not that I cared a fig whether the little lady loved butter or not. I don't, in fact, recall ever having looked beneath my lady's chin for the tell-tale glow. As I remember, I looked just above the chin at the rose-petal mouth and the glistening pearls within. Oh buttercups, buttercups, accomplices in the sweetest of frauds, would that we could get together again!
Chapter 3 "Our 14 Room House"
ALTHOUGH GRANDFATHER'S house was not large, there were fourteen rooms in it beside pantries and sundry nondescript ells used mostly for storage and a large attic. Of the fourteen rooms only seven were in regular use. There were four guest chambers, three of which were seldom occupied; the fourth, to my knowledge, never. The south parlor was used when we had guests; the north parlor being thrown open but twice during the eighteen years I lived in the house. The first opening occurred during the visit of distinguished relatives from the West, and the second, for grandfather's funeral.
Evidences of good housekeeping were to be seen everywhere about our house. The table linen was always spotlessly clean, and here and there on the surface, a neatly laid patch was to be seen, mute but eloquent testimony to New England thrift and loving care. I never see such patches on table linens without an accompanying flood of tender recollections. They are indicative of the presence of the spirit that counts; the memory of which, cannot be obliterated by the passage of years.
Even staunchly built New England houses may disappear as a result of storm, flood or fire, but memories of homes where love abides, are imperishable. When one looks back over a long period of years, much which once seemed important, fades into insignificance, while other things grow into such commanding importance that one may in truth say, Nothing else matters'sŁ Sacrifice, devotion, honor, truth, sincerity, love'these are the homely virtues characteristic of good, old-fashioned homes.
Grandmother's kitchen was like the works of a clock; the engine of a motor vehicle; the heart of a human being. In the kitchen, the power which controlled the domestic affairs of the house was generated. The kitchen was a hive of industry.
Monday was an especially busy day; all the machinery was put in mesh; even grandfather had his part. He kept the fire under the stationary boiler burning briskly, using only white birch wood which fired quickly and produced a high degree of heat at precisely the right time. Grandfather also kept the reservoir on the back of the stove full of water available for the wash tubs or the boiler as Delia might need. Soft water only was considered fit for washing dishes, for washing clothes on Mondays, or for our tub baths on Saturday nights. Soft water, homemade soft soap, and soft wood fires under the boiler were an unbeatable combination in the war against uncleanliness. The pump at the sink in the kitchen never failed to yield the needed supply of soft water from the cistern and the spout in the summer kitchen was equally faithful in its undertaking to supply all needs of cold hard water for drinking, cooking, refrigeration and sewage disposal purposes.
The kitchen was versatile indeed; it could turn its talents to service as a bakery on bake days, a dairy on butter making days, a butcher shop during sausage making, trying out lard and salting meats. The duties of the kitchen also included a hundred and one unclassified services such as canning fruit, rag rug making, etc., etc.
Of course the kitchen had the summer kitchen to fall back on when its own resources were overtaxed. The summer kitchen was supplied with a sink of its own in which dishes could be washed in case the kitchen sink was being used for other purposes. All the churning was done in the summer kitchen, grandfather supplying what Mr. Jerome Hilliard might have designated as elbow grease.
The summer kitchen was the repository of the rag bag into which all surplus rags were put and held for the coming of the ragman. The rag bag played an important part in our domestic economy as it paid for all brooms, dusters, tin ware and other odds and ends.
The summer kitchen was provided with a coal bin and space for neat piles of wood sufficient for immediate needs. There was, 50.
r as I know, never any jealousy between the kitchen and the e summer kitchen. The kitchen knew that it was the hub of our little universe and the summer kitchen was content to play a subordinate role.
The kitchen was also blessed with two butteries (pantries), the larger of the two opening into the dining room, thus saving many steps. The dishes, all except chinaware, were also kept in the larger of the two butteries; there were also three barrels, one of which contained wheat flour, one buckwheat flour, and the third sugar. Kitchen utensils, eggs and many other household utilities, were kept in the larger of the two butteries.
The small buttery was reserved for milk, cooked meats, fruit and other food which needed to be kept cool. This small buttery was protected all the year round against even the most penetrating rays of the sun. Winter accumulations of snow along the outer wall of this small buttery remained late in the spring after it had disappeared elsewhere, except perhaps from the top of Killington Peak. To grandmother, the larger buttery was always the south buttery's and the smaller one the north buttery's but by what process of reasoning I have never known, as both butteries had been wisely located on the north side of the house.
Of course the kitchen could not have played its stellar role so successfully had it not been for the huge, three-roomed deep cellar which kept bulky vegetables and fruits extra cool even in the summer months. The potatoes of course had to be sprouted when the warm days served notice that the sun had issued its annual proclamation to all living things to come out and get warm.
Our great box refrigeration through which the cold spring water Incessantly flowed on its way to the lavatory played an especially Important part during the period when we had our cow. The butter was made in the summer kitchen, after which it was stored in big earthen crocks and placed in the great box where it was kept cool by the constantly flowing water.
Vermont farmers, who were fortunate enough to have springs near their houses, frequently built small houses over them and
within their walls the dairy operations were conducted and the dairy products stored for use by the family or for sale when accumulated in sufficient quantities. Butter and eggs were sold at the store where the family traded, or, in some cases, exchanged for needed commodities. Cool spring houses with their odors of fresh cream and butter were about the sweetest places there were on old-fashioned farms and how refreshing it was to step into the spring house on hot days in summer.
The water from the spring was generally carried through pump logs to the barnyard where hot, thirsty horses, coming in from the fields, could refresh themselves in contentment and where all other farm animals could enjoy the cool, flowing water. Modem electric refrigerators may be more efficient but they never can match the sweetness of the old-fashioned spring houses of mountain farms.
In the old days many farm women made cheese as well as butter but that practice ceased when the cheese factories came. Vermont green cheese, sometimes called sage cheese, gained an enviable reputation throughout the state and throughout New England. I can still see our cheese maker, Martin Williams, with his mortar and pestle preparing his sage for use in his great vats of curds. It was his custom to mix tender clover leaves with the sage so that it would not taste too strong. Alas! the cheese making industry in Vermont was short lived as it was replaced by the famous Herkimer County New York State cheese long before Wisconsin became the cheese making state of America.
Creameries were the next in order. Cheese factories were turned into creameries and Vermont farmers brought their whole milk and took away the skimmed milk to be fed to their pigs just as before.
The cream was separated from the milk, cooled and placed in large cans which were put into heavy stuffed jackets and shipped by fast trains to Boston or New York where it arrived in time for breakfast. This practice with some refinements still continues and doubtless will continue until the aeroplane changes the present.
order. Most thrifty Vermont farmers have their own cream separators now.
As compared with many New England houses our house is not old, even now being only one hundred years old or thereabouts; that is to say that it is only about as old as the city of Chicago where houses quickly come and go. It is as staunch to-day as when built and, if no untoward circumstances disturb the serenity of its mounting years, it is doubtless destined to be really old, even In the New England sense, sometime in the centuries to come.
To passing automobiles on the Ethan Allen Highway, it is distinguishable by two large letters H.H. worked out in the pattern of its imperishable roof of slate. The letters stand for Howard Harris, my benefactor and grandfather. The house is now owned by Mr. and Mrs. R. C. Taft who have raised a fine family in it.
How the house happened to be built so recently was due to a misfortune which at the time seemed calamitous. The original residence was destroyed by fire one Christmas night. The fire began in grandfather's store which, for convenience, had been built near the house.
Of the days of the reconstruction of the house, I have never learned anything except the fact that the versatile carpenter employed his spare hours, when the weather interfered with his building operations, in making grandfather a pair of fine boots. In conformity with the prevailing fashion they were made to reach nearly to the knees, although shoes would have been far more comfortable and equally serviceable.
These boots were light in weight, very soft and pliable and they served him as best boots for nearly forty years. During that period, they were worn every Sunday and when grandfather was traveling; in fact, on all special occasions and, when he was finally '╦ťaid away, his weary feet were tenderly placed in the soft, pliable top boots made by the versatile carpenter.
Chapter 4 "Mr. Webster Makes a Dive"
ACCORDING TO MORE or less reliable authorities, the fire which destroyed the house and store came about in the following manner. It seems that grandfather's store had its quota of town loafers who gathered evenings, and not infrequently also in the day time. Gossip was most generally on their agenda and almost anyone from the minister down was likely to come in for his panning. These cuspidor artists were no respectors of persons nor was their conversation elegant or edifying; raucous laughter and ribald remarks were quite in order and when there was no one else to play jokes upon, they played them upon each other.
The yarns related were not distinguished for their originality; in fact, the same story was frequently told over and over again, sometimes on one person and sometimes on another. The truth was sometimes accidentally spoken but the practice of speaking the truth was looked down upon. If no one else laughed at one's story, the man who told it always could and did, and that helped some; funny stories sound forlorn and hopeless if no one thinks enough of them to laugh.
Mr. Asa Webster, grandfather's aged clerk, differed from the others; under no circumstance would he laugh at his own story; he stood so straight that he leaned backward in this respect. He generally looked lugubrious and sad when he told a story, very much as if he had a suspicion that someone might doubt his veracity.
Asa Webster was considered the most distinguished liar in Wallingford, a position of which he was justifiably proud. His reputation drew about him a school of embryonic liars very much as Plato and Socrates drew about themselves the budding philosophers of Athens; Wallingford was in fact the Athens of liars. They used to gather evenings at grandfather's store for practice and to profit from Asia's words of wisdom. He, like many other great artists, was temperamental; he could brook no rivalry. Whenever his supremacy seemed threatened by the younger element, it was his custom to cram more wood into the stove until the smoke, or rather until the heat, drove the pretenders out. On the occasion in question, he overdid it; the store and then the house caught fire.
When he was asked how he escaped from the terrible conflagration, Asa is said to have replied that he put on his stovepipe hat and his long-tailed coat and then, after having run a few steps to gain momentum, he dived through the smoke and flame and through a pane of glass out into the open. When some doubting Thomas asked, How big was the pane of glass, Mr. Webster?'s he unhesitatingly answered, seven by nine inches's Some of Asia's best lies were extemporaneous. He was a natural.
Grandfather never rebuilt his store but Asa Webster built a house and store across the street. His emporium was the progenitor of the modern five-and-ten cent store, though his patronage consisted mostly of boys whose maximum expenditures were one cent, not five.
Mr. Webster entered the merchandising field against stiff competition. Beside the general store, the dry-goods store, and the hard ware store, there were several merchants who like himself were specialists. Luther Tower dealt in sweets'candy and honey mostly. George Tower sold lemons, crackers and dried herring. George Edgerton specialized in soda-water, licorice, nuts of sundry kinds and ages, and all-day suckers. Obadiah Makepeace sold a highly specialized line of household necessities.
These merchants were all fine gentlemen and Obadiah Make- peace was a genius in the art of salesmanship. If he ran out of one of his specialties, he generally managed to get his customer to buy another, even though the two commodities might be entirely unrelated. For instance, it was said that one of Obadiah's customers called at his emporium one day for some kerosene oil, and, having run out of that household necessity, Obadiah is said to have answered, I am sorry, I have no kerosene oil this morning, but I have some excellent New Orleans molasses's
Obadiah had a habit of bowing, smiling and wringing his hands as he made such remarks which had hypnotic effects on prospective customers making them want to buy whatever was offered. Even such a switch as that from kerosene oil to molasses seemed not so very remarkable to those who knew Obadiah.
In an emergency such as that above described most salesmen would have run up the white flag; not so Obadiah. Any man, woman or child entering his emporium with a coin in his pocket, was en titled to a run for his money and that is exactly what Obadiah gave them. Not until the door was closed behind the departing customer was the battle given up, or rather, postponed.
It seems a pity that such a gentleman should have had to suffer from so grievous a malady as epileptic fits and it was also unfortunate that they had the effect of transforming this mild, gray- haired gentleman into something resembling a head-hunting Igorot of the Philippines. To us boys, Obadiah's reversion to the elemental constituted an interesting break in the current events of the day.
I remember seeing him running down the street once upon a time apparently in hot pursuit of a fleshy French-Canadian woman, a respectable citizen of our town. It was a torrid day and the fat lady was wholly unprepared for the kind of marathon in which she found herself inadvertently entered but she managed to cover considerable ground in an increditable short period of time after she discovered Obadiah in pursuit. For every masculine yell Obadiah emitted, Angelina let out a feminine scream. If this episode caused me or my playmates anything in the nature of heartbreaking grief, it has escaped my memory. I do remember that we were deeply interested in the race. Angelina was a few steps in the lead; could she hold it? Some imps of Satan manifested their partisan ship by yelling Go it, Obadiahi's, while others manifested theirs by adjuring Angelina to Shake a leg, for the love of Mike's.
As I am writing of times which preceded the invention of the cash register, I have no means of knowing what the average daily take of these specialty stores of Wallingford was; on high days and holidays, perhaps a dollar; perhaps two. On the Sabbath day, everything was locked tighter than a drum.
Illustrative of the occasional prodigality of Vermont young man hood, I remember hearing a farmer boy from Sugar Hill, some what boastfully perhaps, exclaim to George Tower, the purveyor of crackers, lemons and dried herring, What do I care about expense to-day; it's the fourth of July, give me another dried herring's George, in seeming approval of the patriotic sentiment expressed, affected the desired exchange and the one-cent piece was deposited in the cracker box which served as a cash drawer.
Measured in terms of dollars and cents the little specialty stores of Wallingford were failures but their social advantages were beyond price; they afforded their aged owners something to occupy their minds. Tending store was better than moping about the house, nuisances to everyone, even to themselves. Such stores were also of value to the other old men who visited them because they afforded them social outlets. The labor of tending store was negligible; in fact, George Edgerton used to lie on a couch all day long and into the evening, and, if the unexpected happened and someone wanted to make a purchase, George waited upon him as soon as he recovered from his surprise.
Hours meant nothing to such merchandisers; their stores were connected with their houses and the store bell could be heard day and night. No New England storekeeper, aspiring to create a cultural center, needed to languish long in vain desire. A circle of comfortable chairs surrounding a base burner stove and a sizeable cuspidor or coalhod within firing range of the tobacco juice sharp shooters, who took pride in their marksmanship, would lure a coterie of gentlemen of leisure during the winter months as certainly as molasses would draw flies in summer.
There being various stores in which one could loaf without being expected to spend money it was customary for each loafer to make his selection and become one of the dependables. Lee Simonds, for instance, owed allegiance to Edgerton's a then prevalent type of drugless drug store; Alonzo Canfield to Sabin's tin and hardware shop.
Alonzo was a man of exceedingly few words; in fact, I cannot remember of his having said anything, except when someone asked, How are you to-day, Lon?'s, he answered that inquiry with one word and one word only, bilious's accompanied by a wry look and by an expectoration without visible results. I always thought that Lon was trying to spit his billiousness out; he had plenty of powder but no shot. It seemed to me that it would have been better for him to have learned to chew tobacco, then he would have had something to show for his efforts. I think it would have been more satisfactory to his fellow citizens to have seen something coming when Lon went through the motions of expectorating.
My grandfather was never known to spend an hour at any other store than Webster's. Ephraim Hewlett was an habitue of the store of his son Danforth, of whom he was very proud. Roz Sherman was an experienced loafer as were also his nondescript and hungry hounds, although their interest was centered more on the cracker barrel, from behind which they were frequently and unceremoniously kicked. Wallingford boys scattered their patronage about visiting several stores and factories during the course of an afternoon or evening, drinking in the words of wisdom so liberally scattered about. Calvin Townsend's drug store; Luther Tower's candy shop; George Tower's emporium; Ben Crapo's dry goods store; the sash and door factory, big and rambling and redolent of the odor of pine; Harshie Ensign's grocery store; Obadiah Make- peace, sundries, all had their following.
Then there was Charlie Clag horn's livery stable; William Ballot's grist mill; Martin Williams' cheese factory; John Misfire's ox bow shop; Frank Hadley's snow shovel factory; the cider midi; one- legged Mr. Pratt's shop, where wooden overcoats's guaranteed to fit and to give wearers perfect satisfaction (sometimes called coffins) were made; Polite's Johnson's harness shop; Johnnie Adair's tombstone factory; Jim Dolan's barber shop with the shoemaker's shop adjoining; Dr. Eddy's photographic studio and dental laboratory where boys had their teeth extracted without gas; the Wallingford Hotel, run successively by Horace Earle and Lyle Vance for the accommodation of commercial travelers who seldom came and soon went; Joe Randall's and old man Clark's blacksmith shops; Jerome Hilliard's wagon shop, and last and by far the most important of all, the Batcheller pitchfork factory.
All of the above named stores and places played major or minor parts in the economic and social life of Wallingford.
The first building of the fork factory is said to be the oldest of its kind in the United States. For more than one hundred years, it has been known as the Old Stone Shop's It has housed many successive industries since it was used by the Batchellers. During my day, it was known as the oxbow factory. In recent years, it has been converted into the Old Stone Shop Tea-room's and is admired and patronized by many tourists traveling along the Ethan Allen Highway.
Chapter 5 "Church Reveries"
GRANDMOTHER USUALLY took Cecil and me to church with her and well do I remember the prim tidiness of the interior of the old Congregational Church. Grandmother dressed in a lace- trimmed silk gown of a somber color suited to New England Sabbath days. Townspeople, men, women and children alike, walked softly down the broad aisles, slipping unobtrusively into their pews and settling themselves on the drab cushioned seats for whatsoever the minister and choir might have in store for them, or, for a long period of reflection, and, in some instances, sleep.
Whatever else the members did they could not have been guilty of certain of the improprieties of the present day. They would not, for instance, have turned around in their seats and nodded to friends or neighbors. They had to bear ever in mind that they were in the house of God.
Saturday nights we were given scrubbings in the wash tub in the kitchen and on Sundays we had to dress up and go to church and Sunday school. Upon our return, we could throw off unnecessary impediments, put on fresh, clean waists and enjoy ourselves within prescribed limits. We could walk in the orchard and eat apples, currants, black raspberries or such fruits as were in season. We could read books but we could not run and play unless we did so in remote parts of our premises beyond the reach of grand mother's eyes. We could not leave home nor were our friends permitted to come to see us. The latter provision was hardly necessary because our usual playmates were also prohibited from going beyond the confines of their yards.
When our cousins from Rutland were visiting us we could, of course, enjoy each other's company. All New England children were expected to be little grown-ups on the Sabbath Day; the ecstatic joys were for other days. I cannot, however, remember having been bored by New England Sabbaths; they afforded me an opportunity to plan my campaign for the coming six days.
The Reverend Aldace Walker was the minister of our church and his long white beard seemed to qualify him for his saintly role. To this day when one speaks of the prophets of old's there comes to me a vision of Reverend Aldace Walker in flowing dressing gown, pitcher in hand, going to the village pump for his supply of cold spring water. He was loved and revered by the members of his congregation.
Reverend Aldace Walker was eventually succeeded by Reverend Elija Huntoon and he by the Reverend Gamaliel Dillingham, who must have been a very holy man if one were to judge by the length of his prayers and sermons and his solemn appearance. It was the Reverend Camaliel's custom to begin his Sunday morning prayer by asking blessings on all those occupying positions of authority. Beginning with the President of the United States and continuing down through the entire directory of federal and state officials; he even threw in a few kings and queens for good measure. I used to be surprised at the number of notables on his list and at his lavish prodigality in the bestowal of the Lord's blessings. If anyone was overlooked it was no fault of the Reverend Gamaliel, and maybe the Lord would make up for it somehow.
An apostate by the name of Dannie Foley, manservant of Mrs. Ranney and her son, Willie, of New York, who summered in Wallingford, put it in his own way when he said, Why in the name of Heaven don't the Reverend Camaliel say, '╦ťGod bless them all, black, white, green and yellow' and let it go at that?'s If left to his own initiative, Dannie would seldom, if ever, have found his way to the Ranney pew, but attendance at church being part of his job, he had to sit and take it with as good grace as possible. He would gladly have collaborated with the Reverend Gamaliel in the abbreviation of his sermons had he been called upon to do so. I know from what I heard Dannie say that he thought long sermons threatened to wreck the country we all hold dear and that they were more devastating by far than storm or flood.
My own position as I remember it, was a compromise between the e of the Reverend Gamaliel's and Dannie's views, with a gentle leaning toward Dannie's. I cannot say that I remember very much that was said by the ministers of our church during my childhood days. I think their sermons were over my head's but I did enjoy the singing of our mixed quartette who did far better than might have been expected, and, in the quiet and refined atmosphere of that old New England Church, my thoughts may have been raised to a higher plane than would have been the case had I spent my time elsewhere. There was something peaceful about it all and a sense of propriety and well-being.
At times my thoughts rose to exalted heights as I pondered the heroic battles of Frank Nelson, as related in Frank on a Gun Boat's and my heart went out to the good old slave, Cudjoe, in the hair-raising predicaments in which he found himself as related in the thrilling story, Cudjoe's Cave's My only regret was that Providence had, for some inexplicable reason, cast me upon unromantic shores. However, I would make the best of matters for the time being; perhaps someday I would become either a soldier, sailor or a locomotive engineer. I might some day enjoy the privilege of fighting battles and sailing tempestuous seas and then returning to Wallingford all dressed up in clothes with brass buttons to dazzle the eyes of Wallingford's pretty girls, while I appeared to be supremely indifferent and confined myself strictly to the business of being a hero. Indulgence in such mental journeys was in no respect interfered with by the Reverend Gamaliel's sermons; in tact, my flights of fancy seemed stimulated by them, and at times the Reverend Gamaliel played his part in my world of dreamland. In the twinkling of an eye, I could convert our solemn parson into a wild man of Borneo, or into whomsoever else I chose. On the whole the church was a very helpful influence.
Possibly at infrequent times something in the nature of a spirit of reverence possessed me as I sat in the family pew between grandfather and grandmother, although my thoughts more frequently flew away to the hills and my eyes were more frequently fixed on a tree just outside the window than upon the face of the preacher. Sometimes birds came and sat upon the branches of the tree and there made love to each other or quarreled, as their moods might be. They seemed entirely oblivious of the fact that it was the Sabbath day and that the Reverend Camaliel was turning the searchlight of the spirit into the dark recesses of the souls of the members of the Congregational Church of Wallingford; little pagans were they.
There was something distinctly New England in the crisp rustle of the clean, prim dresses of the women, and a fragrance of perfume, sparingly used, was in the air. If cleanliness is next to Godliness, then New England women must be among the elect.
Grandmother's dress was always suitable for the day. Her black silk gown and the few simple ornaments that went with it, seemed especially appropriate on Sunday mornings. It served many years as did grandfather's Sunday suit and overcoat, his Sunday-go-to meetings's so to speak. Did grandmother have a Paisley shawl? She certainly did. So did Aunt Mel and all other women whose husbands could afford them. Paisley shawls were badges of gentility. Aunt Mel also had a sealskin coat; it was given to her by grandfather. I think Aunt Lib also had a sealskin coat which was later given by her to Cousin Mary. That made two sealskin coats in one family. How is that for high?
Grandfather's every day clothes were well sponged and mended though they bore evidences of wear and were faded. His every day overcoat was a familiar sight about town. An older and bigger boy once sneeringly remarked, Here comes old Harris with his mouse colored overcoat's Had I been big enough to do so, I would have smitten him down. No one knew better than I why grand father made his clothes last so long. No one knew better than I that the frugality that characterized his life had a purpose back of it'the purpose of serving them whom he loved.
Grandmother made herself responsible for the tidy appearance of both grandfather and myself on Sunday mornings. One of the familiar and homely sights early in the morning in those days was grandmother giving grandfather's ears and neck a scrubbing with a well soaped cloth and greasing his boots with chicken fat to make them clean, soft and pliable. One of her wrists was permanently lame due to an injury in former years and such tasks must have been difficult, but never once did I hear her complain and grandmother's lame wrist came in time to mean to me a badge of honor.
When I happened to cough during church service, grandmother would hand me a slice of sweet flagroot prepared by her own hand. The sugar coating was a bit too sweet and the root itself a bit too bitter but her kindness left its impression. I have never gotten over my habit of coughing. Spells continue to come at inopportune times, especially in church, and now it is another kind hand that plunges into a reticule and emerges with a soothing lozenge, the hand of my Scotch wife, Bonnie Jean's fourth in order of the balms of John and Annie Thomson of Edinburgh, Scotland.
Toward the latter part of grandfather's life, he frequently fell asleep during the sermon and the droning voice of the minister seemed to aggravate his infirmity. It therefore became my self- imposed task to keep him awake during the service. I could best accomplish this purpose best by folding my legs in such a manner as to bring my toe into proximity to his foot which also was ex tended. My toe frequently touched his a score of times during the course of the long-drawn out sermons and it seems to me now that my toe must have acted from force of habit rather than from any deep-seated conviction that grandfather could find more stimulation in the sermon than in the lovely little catnaps from which I so frequently awoke him.
There were two semi-sacred days, if that term can be used, Thanksgiving Day and Fast Day. Church services were held in the morning on both days at the customary hour. We were told at the Thanksgiving Day service how thankful we should be and why; no mention being made however, of the prospective turkey dinner, the very heart's core of Thanksgiving Day. I thought that at least a passing mention should have been made of the Turkey and Chicken Shoot's going on almost within hearing distance.
For the benefit of those who have never seen a New England turkey and chicken shoot's I will say that in my day, it cost ten cents for a shot at a chicken and twenty-five cents for a shot at a turkey; the birds going to those who succeeded in drawing blood. Certain thrifty Vermont farmers, not hampered by church-going habits, made it a business to market their flocks in this manner and they saw to it that it required exceptional marksmanship to bag a bird. The birds were tied to stakes on a hill side which seemed to me to be miles away. Exceptional marksmen were sure of their birds but they were not permitted to repeat. Others seldom drew blood and it was their dimes and quarters that made turkey and chicken shoots profitable to their sponsors.
Fast Day had slipped considerably from the rigors of Colonial times; in fact, the feasts of Fast Day had become their distinguishing feature. Owing to the fact that Fast Day dinners were served after church service, they were usually good. I heartily believed in Fast Days and thought that their observance should be kept up. Church going on Fast Day was elective in our household and I did not elect to attend.
Chapter 6 "The Bells of Wallingford"
NOTHING was permitted to disturb the serenity of our Sabbath day except for the clanging of the church bell high up in the belfry synchronizing with vigorous pulls by Captain Johnson on a dangling rope. Just who Captain Johnson was, who his progenitors were, or how he happened to be called Captain, I do not know. All that I can with assurance state is that whenever the Congregational church bell rang on Sunday morning, the Captain could always be seen in the vestry pulling a rope which writhed and twisted into serpentine folds and coils and at times almost disappeared through a small hole in the ceiling. The Captain never let it get entirely away although it was sometimes difficult to determine whether Captain Johnson was pulling the rope or the rope was pulling Captain Johnson. In any event, he always made a gallant fight every Sunday morning in the vestry. Just as all seemed lost, he would make a mighty tug on the all but disappearing rope and back it would come again. The Captain's singlehanded encounters with his writhing rope were as thrilling as the legendary maneuvers of the Laocoon Group with their writhing serpents. In fact to little boys they were one of the compensations for
going to church.
There is nothing more likely to cause a church bell to crack up than getting mixed in its theology but the theology of our bell was sound; that is to say, it was a Congregational bell. Its resonant voice rang out twice every Sunday morning. There was the early bell and the late bell. The early bell summoned all persons within the sound of its voice to abandon worldly pursuits and cajoled to church forthwith. It was evangelistic in its fervor; it pleaded deprecated, warned and cajoled. It worked itself into a fury of passionate and wild crescendo. It turned somersaults, cartwheels and handsprings. At times in mad caprice, it threatened to hurl itself from the belfry. It was difficult to associate staid and sober Captain Johnson with such a delirious and unaccountable bell. It must be remembered, however, that Captain Johnson had never been marked for his piety; he never went to Friday evening prayer meetings nor did he partake of the bread and wine on communion Sundays.
The late bell was tolled in well timed strokes; it indulged in no such exuberance of spirit as did the early bell; it was reproachful and condemnatory, far more in keeping with the character of Captain Johnson as we knew him in every day life. Each stroke was a solemn proclamation of what might be expected by folks who failed to repent of their sins and come to church. In the belfry of another church barely two squares distant, at precisely the same minute, another bell began to cavort and go through convulsions of its own, all to the same intent and purpose.
In fact, it aped and mimicked the Congregational bell but it was not nearly so sound in its theological conceptions. It lived in the belfry of the Baptist Church. It must have had a Captain Johnson or his equivalent of its own though who he was I never knew. I suspected that it might be Seward Ainsworth who was organist, choir leader, soloist, Sabbath School superintendent, Justice of the Peace and sundry other things.
One of the most irrational assumptions of the Baptist bell was that salvation depended upon complete submersion and that meant a breath taking sousing of the penitents by the minister in the frigid waters of Otter Creek. Church members and other spectators could sit on the opposite bank and witness the ceremony if they chose to do so and little boys, of course, always chose. It was a thrilling sight to see red bearded and upright Reverend Henry Archibald, stiff and solemn, lead shivering sinners out over slippery stones to where the waters ran swift and deep, plunge them beneath the surface, then lead them, coughing and choking, to shore, washed's as the Psalmist expressed it, whiter than snow's.
All of these proceedings were, supposedly, in keeping with the doctrines of the Baptist bell; at least it can be said that the Baptist bell never kicked up any fuss on such occasions but remained serenely silent throughout it all. In other words it held its tongue and thereby set an example for humans to follow in cases of doctrinal differences of opinion. Whether the Baptist bell held its tongue in its cheek or elsewhere is not known, but in any event its tongue did not wag and that was a blessing. New Englanders know what a mischief-maker a wagging tongue can be.
Chapter 7 "Buttercup, Queen of the Pasture"
Brother Cecil was eventually set up in business of his own; that of driving our old cow Buttercup to and from the pasture. He went at his task bravely. If I were asked to name the most outstanding characteristic of my brother Cecil, I would unhesitatingly answer, courage. His courage never failed him. He took life as it came extracting from each day's experiences the maximum of sweetness and never quailing in the face of danger or disaster.Many years after the events here recorded, Cecil, suffering bodily ailments painfully manifest to relatives and friends, invariably stoutly insisted that add was well. If he knew what fear was, he never admitted it. One of the last things he said to me as his sun was about to set was, "Whatever else may be said of me, no one will ever be able to say truthfully that I didn't enjoy life while it lasted True to the last word and syllable, my brother!
Of all my many sins the one I most regret was the one of striking you, my dear brother. One summer day in Wallingford, in a burst of anger I shot my fist out through the battered hat you were wearing and landed a full blow on your face. You were both hurt and humiliated and your eyes filled with tears but you did not strike me back. I was ashamed and would have given all my small possessions to be able to take back the cruel blow. Thousands of times the scene has come to my memory always with a feeling of sorrow.
So Cecil took the business of driving Buttercup to pasture in his customary stride, although all he had learned of cows during our brief residence in the West was what was delivered at the back door by the milkman, and of that there had never been too much.
Eventually Cecil took to himself a junior partner in the business of driving the cow to and from the pasture. Why he did so I do not know unless it were for the sake of company. In any event, I was given the honor though my faith in the good intentions of cows was shaken by the fact that they had been equipped with formidable horns, a fact not easily reconcilable with the ideals of peace on earth, good will toward little boys.
With this seeming inauspicious beginning, my education in the manners of cows continued until I came to an understanding of them, and so, to love them. To me cows are reminiscent of my childhood days. Pastoral paintings arouse something altogether agreeable in me.
Buttercup was a Hereford, of a breed imported from England and reputed to be more productive of meat than of milk; however, our cow managed to be productive of both. She was larger than any other cow in the pasture, even larger than Jimmy Conley's cow which stood next in order. The cows of other neighbors recognized the priority rights of Buttercup and stood aside while the bars were being let down, giving her the right of way in going in and out of the pasture.
When Buttercup was fresh having given birth to a calf, she used to yield two big pails of rich, foaming milk. Her breath was wondrous sweet; no victim of halitosis she, and she had other good qualities too numerous to mention, most important of which perhaps was that she was truly our own, good faithful Buttercup. Had there been a '"Who's who" in cowdom, I am sure her name would have been given a place at the top of the list. Her soft mooing was sweet music in my ears and had it not been for the outbreak of temper the time she cleaned Jimmy Conley's cow up in a battle for the supremacy of the pasture, I would always thought of her as a true Christian cow. Not that I thought any worse of her for having stood up for her rights; in fact, I gloated over the victory if memory serves me right and I may even have egged her on a bit.
I used to think that Buttercup must have been terribly lonely, pent up as she was in a small stall during the long cold winter months with only one small window to look through and only snow to look at when she did peek out. She did, however, have the satisfaction of knowing that her stall was on the south side of the barn and that the icy winds from the North Pole had thick walls and several tiers of neatly piled wood to sift through before they could touch her thick old hide. The hens and their male escort the rooster were under the same roof and the hens cackled whenever they laid their eggs and the rooster was the best kind of an alarm clock when it came time for announcing the coming of day.
Perhaps Buttercup had a very good time peeking through her tiny window. One of my own most interesting distractions during extra stormy days in winter, was to kneel on the floor in front of one of the sitting room windows, with my nose flattened against the pane, looking out at the falling snow, noticing especially the big flakes. Some of them were of gigantic proportions, completely overshadowing their comrades of the air. How varied their shapes and how lazily they drifted down from somewhere. God only knew where, how silent they were in their flight and their landing and how wondrously clean and white.
When the flakes were falling by the thousands, I used to wonder how long it would take for them to bury us all but when grandmother glanced out of the window, she used to say, "This storm will not last long; big flakes are too lazy to do much damage; it is the small flakes one has to look out for; small flakes haven't much sense; they sometimes pile themselves on top of each other, day in and day out, until nothing short of snow ploughs can dig the roads out". Another one of grandmother's sayings was, "It's a mighty cold day when the bright sunshine can't set the eaves-spouts a-dripping".
Grandfather did the milking as a rule at our home but he was not expert. He could milk with one hand only and his performance was not more impressive than a one-handed piano player. He never used to bury his forehead in the flank of Buttercup as more experienced milkers would have done but sat bolt upright, balanced precariously on his one-legged stool, and holding the pail in his left hand. His position was in no respect impregnable as it left him entirely exposed to the swishing tail, which, in fly time not infrequently wrapped itself around his neck. This interlude, however well intended, was annoying to grandfather though a source of considerable pleasure to the audience of two small boys.
Our barn was the scene of many a performance worthy of a place on the vaudeville stage. One night when tall grandfather was trying to induce, cajole, push or pull Jason, a half-grown calf, son of Betty, Buttercup's daughter, into the barn yard through a very low door, a drama was enacted. Jason, after long having resisted
My Road to Rotary every blandishment grandfather had to offer, suddenly changed his mind and bolted through the door, dragging grandfather in his wake. Had he been a well-intentioned calf he might have seen that it would be difficult for grandfather to negotiate the low door on high but Jason was either unconcerned or else he did not care a fig what happened to grandfather; manifestly he had resolved to throw off all responsibility in that regard. Anyhow grandfather did his part like the true New England gentleman that he was; at just the right moment he ducked as skillfully as any boxer could have ducked the blow of an adversary and both Jason and grandfather came through. Having accomplished his purpose, Jason stopped as precipitately as he had begun and he and grandfather, both with legs spread wide as a safeguard against any eventuality, looked each other over. They had never seen each other in just that light before.
The following morning. Cook, the butcher, led Jason out of the yard; henceforth he would be spoken of as veal; he had been too individualistic for grandfather.
My love of bovine creatures once lured me to the Channel Islands of the British seas, Jersey, Guernsey and Aldemey, in order that I might see the aristocrats of cowdom feeding on their native hills. While on those islands, I learned that in order to get back to the real origin of the species one must cross from the islands to the coast of Brittany where two priestly Orders each developed its own pure and distinct breed of cattle. I learned that when the monks were banished from France, they took their domestic animals with them; one order to the nearest island, Jersey, and the other to Guernsey; still others went to the Island of Aldemey.
The cow population of Guernsey numbers six thousand only but there are hundreds of thousands of Guernseys scattered throughout the world, most of them in the United States. It may be gratifying to my fellow New Englanders to know that Peterborough of the State of New Hampshire is the center of learning in regard to Guernseys and that the Guernsey publication issued in that small Buttercup, Queen of The Pasture city is considered authoritative throughout the world, even including the island from which the animals migrated.
It has always been a source of wonderment to me why it is that only farmers and dairymen appear to be interested in cows. Much has been written of the admirable qualities of dogs and horses, but little attention has been given to the characteristics and personalities of cows. The only book I ever read on the subject designed to be read by laymen, was a story entitled, "The Stalled Ox", by a New England writer who describes some of the laws and regulations recognized as rules of conduct (codes of ethics, if you please) in the relationship of one bovine with another.
During the course of an automobile trip through Wisconsin, I spent a night at the home of a well-to-do farmer, who had a fine herd of Guernseys. He was the son of German immigrants and he loved his cows. It was his custom to take his morning shower bath and shave in a compartment of the bam adjoining the immaculate cow stables. One day he had a radio installed that he might listen to music while performing his ablutions. This he did without having any idea that early morning concerts would be enjoyed by any other creature than himself but it seems that the radio went wrong one night with the result that in the morning the concert had to be omitted. He was aggravated and annoyed, the more so when he discovered that his cows were nervous and fretful and that not until morning music had been resumed did they become contented and willing to let down a full flow of milk.
I might have doubted the story of the German farmer had I not once heard in a lovely pastoral district in Switzerland that on farms where cows are accustomed to whistling milkers, those who have not acquired the knack of whistling need not apply.
Once upon a time, I spent a happy afternoon in the hinterland of Montreux on Lake Geneva, only half a mile from the busy tourist center. It was like stepping back from the twentieth century to the peace and quiet of past generations. Tiny villages where old folks could sit in comfortable chairs near a little center by the village pump where farmers brought their cows and work horses. A half mile further along, there was a tiny village with a milk store where farmers operating the small farms brought their milk in large cans and customers came for it with pitchers.
Not far distant a hay crop was being harvested on a half-acre plot by a man, a boy and a friendly ox. The air was full of the fragrance of new-mown hay and men, women and children were doing things in a leisurely manner seemingly enjoying their work and breathing in the serenity of it all. Peace is traditional in Switzerland and why should it not be? There is nothing more peaceful than a Swiss countryside dotted with big, brown Swiss cows.
An American friend of mine whose business it is to buy and sell cows tells me that cows transferred from one farm to another frequently let down in their production of milk. One Guernsey cow which he had recently sold at a fancy price, had to be returned to the farm from whence she had come. Prior to the sale she had been producing fifty pounds of milk per day, but after the sale she produced twelve pounds only, so the buyer was only too happy to return her to the seller at the purchase price. Upon being returned to her former stall her appetite returned at once and normal production of milk followed. The farmer was glad to get his cow back and declared that he would never sell her again;that if she loved her home that much she was entitled to remain in it for the rest of her life.
The sentiment expressed by the American farmer did not differ greatly from that of the Hindoo farmer who cares for his aged and decrepit cows as long as they live and gives them decent burial when death comes. Oh, the Hindoo idea of the sacredness of the cow is pure superstition, you say. Well, as for myself, I have never been able to define clearly where superstition leaves off and something else begins. As for our old Buttercup, she possessed attributes which folks of our faith designate as purely Christian, as for instance who better than she demonstrated the doctrine that it is better to give than to receive; her milk was almost a complete food in itself. From her own body Buttercup nourished me as a mother nourishes a child; my bone and my flesh was of her munificence.
What did she get in return? A measure of corn meal, green grass from the pasture, hay from our orchard, and a warm stall in which to pass the days and nights of winter; that was all.
For a picture of tranquility and contentment, I know of nothing to compare with cows in pasture enjoying their noontime siesta, lying in the shade of trees bordering on the brook from which they have drunk their fill of clear, cold water. In their own sweet Elysium, with eyes half closed, they rest during the heat of the day with nothing more serious to think about than horseflies and the agreeable pastime of chewing their cud.
When I at times have thought that my feeling towards cows as a symbol of tranquility may perhaps have been overtender, the following words of John Burroughs, America's most loved naturalist, bolster my faltering faith:"All the ways and doings of cattle are pleasant to look upon, whether grazing in the pasture or browsing in the woods, or ruminating under the trees, or feeding in the stall, or reposing upon the knolls. There is virtue in the cow; she is full of goodness; a whole' some odor exhales from her; the whole landscape looks out of her soft eyes; the quality and the aroma of miles of meadow and pasture lands are in her presence and products.
I would rather have the care of cows than to be the keeper of the great seal of the nation. Where the cow is, there is Arcadia. So far as her influence prevails, there is contentment, humility and sweet homely life.
I know nothing whatever of the sacredness of cows but I do know that it would give me a homey feeling if grandfather, grandmother and our old Buttercup were to meet me at the gates of gold.
Chapter 8 "My Red-Headed Chum"
ONE DAY the Harris house was turned into a tumult by the unannounced appearance of our Aunt Sue who hugged Cecil and me and showered us with gifts; bows and arrows, Indian costumes, sweet scented grass baskets, and other mementoes she had brought from the great West. When the truth finally came out, we knew that Aunt Sue had become desperately lonely during her separation from her charges. Hopes of a reunion of the family by some business opening for father having been repeatedly shattered. Aunt Sue could bear the suspense no longer.Aunt Sue (Mrs. Wesley Cavelle) was mother's elder sister who had been widowed by the war between the States, and being child's less she naturally took great interest in her sister's children.
After many discussions, her devotion was rewarded by permission to take Cecil back with her to the West not far from where mother was keeping the home fires burning by giving music lessons and caring for Nina May. The separation was thought of as tempo's rary but it proved to be practically permanent, excepting for a very brief period only of family reunion in Cambridge, New York, and a slightly longer period in Fair Haven, Vermont.
My home was to continue to be with my grandparents in Wallingford; in that beautiful village, surrounded by mountains that needed to be climbed; hills, which in winter held their white bosoms out so invitingly to the sleds of happy youngsters, and in summer echoed with the voices of dashing brooks where shy trout sought cover beneath overhanging banks; in that village graced by winding creek and nearby sparkling lakes; where the crisp frosty air of winter rang with the impact of skates on ice and with joyous shouts laughter; where in summer boys, whose brown and glistening bodies knew not the shame of bathing suits, disported themselves in the clear, cold water. There my home was to be with wholesome New England orderliness, cleanliness, kindliness, thoughtfulness and good living. A lucky boy was I, the second of the three children of George and Cornelia Harris, grandson of Henry and Clarissa Fobes Bryan and great grandson of Reuben and (Huguenot) Olive Chapelle Bryan.
Cecil had fallen into the hands of Aunt Sue and Nina May rested within the warm embrace of mother. There was only one left to enliven the home of the aged couple and that one was I. Many have said, ''What a pity it was that the Harris children could not have been kept together So it was but that was not destined to be.
Mother's courage, determination and physical vigor overcame the handicap of having been born the baby of her family but father, though possessed of intelligence in a marked degree and given a good education, was not possessed of courage, determination nor physical vigor. The ways of the world were too much for him.
Sometime after the departure of Aunt Sue and Cecil a new boy began to creep into my consciousness; his hair was a fiery red and he was of the right sort. I am certain that he was of the right sort because during the many years of our most intimate companionship we never had one serious disagreement. We always stood together in all things; the downs as well as the ups. When punishment and disgrace were my lot, my redheaded friend. Fay Stafford, suffered them with me, though neither punishment nor disgrace would have been visited upon him had there been no Paul.
His older sister tells me that when she also was a child, I used to make my way to their home and lispingly ask, "Can Fay come out to play with me?" We were about the same age he having been born in February and I in April of the same year and generally speaking we were evenly matched. I shall always feel that I was singularly blessed with the companionship of Fay during the formative period of my life. He was the first of a long list of friends who have enriched and sweetened my life, but of them all, there was none better, none more true, than my red-headed boy friend of the granite hills.Just to climb snow clad mountains, not infrequently, was our sole objective; the weather might not be inviting for any other outdoor sport. There was always a measure of glory in the achievement of getting to the top although climbing through snow which had drifted, was always a laborious process.
One Saturday Fay and I determined to climb Bear Mountain, or as far up as we could during the short winter day. I concluded that it would be the part of wisdom to say nothing to grandmother about our objective, so we labeled our expedition "a hike" which might take the entire day. Grandmother had no particular objection to hikes but warned us again about the dangers of trying to climb icy mountains. She said, "If you must climb mountains, boys, do it in the summer time, don't go rambling over mountains in the winter". Fay answered rather gaily, "Well, the mountains are there, Mrs. Harris, and must be climbed and who is there to climb them exscept Paul and me?" Grandmother was not convinced but the joint appeal of two of us was more than she could stand.
Grandmother always had a soft spot in her heart for Fay, and I always thought that she considered him a restraining influence on me. I have seen her stop in the midst of her work frying her delectable "riz" doughnuts, spear one of them with a fork while it was sizzling hot and hand it to Fay on a plate. On the Saturday menstioned, she gave us a sack of fresh doughnuts, bade us be careful and to be home early.
It was our usual plan to go direct east to Bear Mountain, Willie Strong and I having done it more than once, but, for the sake of variety, Fay and I hiked some miles north on that carefree Saturday morning; the climb would be easier than on the more direct route and that would be an advantage there being considerable snow on the ground.
The day promised to be fair and indeed it was so during the Best part of the journey. There was just enough cold in the air to make our ears and noses tingle and when did a New England boy ever fail to experience a sense of joy when the air was cold and his ears and nose tingled?
Not far from the Ed Crary farm, we swung to the east, over a stone and rail fence and into a pasture, then up into the sprawling hills lying in the direction of Bear Mountain. Our glorious expedition was on its way; great explorers were we; our fame would spread far and our names be long remembered. Of the various points of the compass we might have chosen, we chose this one. Why? Because it was one of the very few which was entirely unknown to us. How could there be adventure in tracing a known course? Would Christopher Columbus have endured his suffering had there not been a new world to discover?
So we trudged merrily on our way, singing and shouting as we went along. During the course of the forenoon we saw a dilapidated farm house in the distance, and, working in the barn, an unkempt man and boy. The spirit of adventure caused us to bend our steps in their direction as it was worth while to become acquainted with folks whom we had never seen before.
When we approached within hearing range, we called out and waved our hands. The boy waved back but the man leaned on his fork with which he had been pitching hay to his stock and gazed at us stolidly. Fay shouted, "Good-morning, Sir!" and the man replied, "Good morning, yourself. What ye two doing up here anyhow?" "Oh, just came to look around; any gold mines around here? Might buy one or two". "Nope" said the man, "neither gold mines nor much of anything else worth carrying away. We're poor folks, live on ham sandwiches and snow balls, mostly snow balls in the winter time. Won't ye have a snow ball?" "No, thank you" I answered, "must be on our way". "On yer way where?" he inquired. "Most anywhere," I answered. "Mostly to Bear Mountain, I guess". "Yer better keep out Bear Mountain on a day like this". "What's the matter with a day like this?" I inquired. "It's nothing but sunshine". "Yes, the sun is shinin' right now but there'll be snow afore night. Better turn round and walk towards home, if yer got any".
With that the farmer and his boy resumed their labors while we sat down on an ancient wooden sled and lunched on grandmother good "riz" doughnuts. We then continued on our way toward Bear Mountain not much disturbed by the farmer's prophecy. When had we ever in our lives quailed in the face of a snow storm? We had enjoyed them and exulted in them when they were fast and furious; we were Green Mountain boys; no shiftless farmer could tell us where to get off when it came to snow storms.
So on we went over hill and valley, pasture and woodland but there was no gainsaying the fact that the snow did begin flying through the air in ever increasing volume. By four o'clock in the afternoon it began to be difficult to see our way but we had no fear, not as yet although we did consider the advisability of turning around and finding our way back to the home of the farmer. Eventually we did turn back but by that time the snow so filled the darkening air we could not determine which way was back.
In this dilemma we almost ran into an old wreck of a barn which manifestly had served, at some time, to store, until needed, hay which had been cut in the surrounding pastures. Barns far separated from farm-houses or other buildings were not uncommon in that day.
Instinctively we circled the building trying to find an opening, in which attempt we were soon successful. Inside we found some shelter from the sweeping snow and wind but none from the cold. As the temperature had been steadily falling, we were soon chilled to our bones. A skunk, better clothed than we, slunk out under the sill of the bam, leaving us as far as we could see the sole occupants of the structure.
The question which agitated our minds was whether we would be able to remain in this miserable shack until the storm abated or until daylight of the morrow came. We thought of the worries of the folks at home and about grandmother's remarks about going into the mountains in the winter time but there were other matters far more pressing. Were we to be the subjects of a tragedy and were we writing a chapter destined to be recorded in the annals of our valley. Were we to be victims of one of Vermont's great storms? Perhaps the story would be printed in the schoolbooks in order that boys and girls of future generations might know what becomes of headstrong boys who will not heed the warnings of their elders who know much more than they? Such and many other forebodings filled our troubled minds but the question as to whether we should breast the storm again or remain in our flimsy shelter was our immediate concern. The question would probably have been readily answered had we been sure of the points of the compass and which way would take us back to the house of the farmer far in our rear.
Well advised or ill advised, we did break out into the storm holding each other by the hand in order that we might at least have each other and also help each other through the drifts. Fortunately there was no disagreement as to direction though neither was confident. Although we could see but a short distance ahead, we pressed on and in course of time we came to a steep declivity ahead of us which confirmed our fears that we had completely lost our bearings;we had encountered none such on our route from the farmer's house. Should we now turn back or should we turn in another direction? We finally pressed forward in the belief that we could never regain the farmer's house or even the abandoned bam. We thought we might be more protected from the storm by the trees and hills if we could get down below. We therefore descended the steep slope hanging to the branches of trees and bushes as we made the descent.
When we got to the bottom of the decline, we judged that there was a frozen brook before us because of the formation of the bottoms and the lay of the land. We crossed the brook and being somewhat sheltered from the wind, we could see that there was a long strip of land bordering on the brook. Could it be a road and if so where would it lead? Sustained by hope, we clambered up the steep side of the stream, sometimes through deep snow-drifts and sometimes over rocks which held their heads above the submerging snow.
When we were surely on level ground, we looked up and down the level strip and resolved to follow it as far as we could, walking down the slope rather than up. Imagine our relief when we found that a small, flat bridge extended across the bed of the small brook, making it certain that we were traveling on a road lined with tree clad hills. It was a strange land to us but human habitation must be found not far distant from the road. Continuing our laborious course we came to a watering trough, a re-affirmation of faith in our belief that we were on a road. For some minutes we stood by the watering trough, blessed evidence of the existence at some time or other of men and thirsty horses.
I stood for some time surveying our surroundings; there was much about them that seemed familiar and yet I could not recall them. Suddenly a transformation took place with stunning effect; the hitherto strange and unknown land was changed to a familiar scene. With joy ringing in my voice, I shouted, "Oh Fay, this is the Gulf Road". I knew then that we were within four miles of home and that I knew every step of the way.
We could not lose our way now. Steep hills on both sides marked our course and the frozen waters of Roaring Brook were near at hand. Could we breast the storm and struggle four weary miles through the snow? We could and we would; courage had come back to us. Far down in the valley was the love, light and warmth of home.
We were painfully conscious of the fact that we were not the only sufferers from our unhappy adventure. I knew how anxiously grandfather and grandmother would be waiting. Had grandfather known in which direction to look for us he would ere now be on his way with lantern in hand and Fay's father, mother and sister were, without doubt, anxiously waiting for him.
We made our way carefully along, stopping often to rest and turn our faces away from the storm in order to gain breath for further efforts. Each step had to be high in order to disengage the foot from the ever deepening snow. Those who know what it is to wallow through deep snow will appreciate the struggle which was before us. One factor favored us'we were New England mountain boys and our muscles were hardened by climbing hills for the joy of coasting down. Snow held no terrors for us, it was our friend and we loved it. So we made our way through the night, the whiteness of the snow making our surroundings less awesome though there was neither moon nor star to light our course. In places the gulf narrowed to the width of the road and the boughs of the evergreen trees, weighted with snow, extended nearly across the roadway impeding our progress.
It seemed like an age before the curve in the road told us that the old sentinel. White Rocks, was standing watch over our valley only a mile or so on our left. We could not see White Rocks but we could sense their benign presence and felt the better for knowing they were near. The course narrowed perceptibly as we rounded the curve. There was only sufficient width for the road and Roaring Brook, under the frozen waters of which speckled trout hibernated and awaited the spring freshets to set them free.
Soon all fears were banished by the recognition of shadowy outlines of the houses in which farmers and their families were slumbering throughout the long winter night. Then we passed the school and came to the village stores though the last light had been extinguished at an earlier hour. We turned the hotel corner, passed Judge Button's house and there before us was my blessed home. Lights in the South parlor window proclaimed the fact that grandmother, grandfather, and Delia were all sitting up and anxiously waiting. We stumbled against the kitchen door which was promptly flung open before us and grandmother's arms were open to receive us as she fervently uttered the words, "Thank God, it's the boys. They are home.
It was only the work of a moment for grandmother and Delia to strip the wet garments from our shivering bodies. Grandmother as usual in all such circumstances took command. "Don't stand round here doing nothing, Delia. Put plenty of birch wood into the stove, throw the dampers wide open and give us a rousing hot fire. Get out the yellow wash tub, Pa, and fill it with hot water and I will put plenty of mustard into it. Get round the comer and off with your underclothing, boys. Get me the ginger bottle, Delia. Ill make some hot ginger tea. Put some coals in the bedpan. Pa, and warm Paul's bed; we will put both boys in it. The main thing is to keep them warm and perhaps we can sweat out the freezing effects of this storm".
Grandfather made haste to fill her orders and then drew his boots on and lighted his lantern preparatory to going out into the storm. "I'll run over to Phon Stafford's," said grandfather "and tell him to come over and get Fay". "It's a bad night to go out. Pa," said grandmother. "Of course the Staffords must be told but mark my words. Pa, Fay shouldn't go out of this house to-night. He has had enough fighting snow drifts and snow storms for one night. We'll see about taking him home in the morning".
So Fay and I slept together that night as we had done many times before. Our toes tingled with the heat of the mustard and our bodies sweat from the heat of the ginger inside. This was Fay's last adventure in winter mountain climbing. He developed a fever in the night and in the morning of the day following, his father took him home, put him to bed where he remained for several days. He was forbidden by his father from participating in further adventures of this kind.
Chapter 9 "Parental Peculiarities"
MY RECOLLECTIONS of my father during the period he remained in Wallingford are vague. On rare occasions on Sunday afternoons he took fee for long walks and frequently on week days we went to the mountains to pick raspberries, blackberries and blueberries. Once we went trout fishing, a glorious adventure. Once in response to my oft repeated importunities he took me to Fox Pond to teach me to swim.
I had never been in the water before and my joy turned to fear as I felt the chill. Father, annoyed perhaps at my change of front, picked me up and threw me headlong into the water.
I remember that I opened my eyes when beneath the surface and found myself in a strange, green frightful world. I was glad eventually to find myself on dry land and scrambled quickly into my clothes. I never asked father again to teach me to swim and I never see the place of my adventure without thinking of my first swimming lesson and of my sadly worried, silent father, who, under different circumstances, might have been a splendid companion.
Later in more congenial and carefree company, I was soon plunging into deep green waters and exploring the wonders to be found there "on my own," and with the infinite satisfaction of knowing that, with the exception of Cecil, no other member of the family knew that I had become an amphibian.
I unexpectedly came upon father in the woods one day when I was playing "hooky" and he promptly cut a stick of the appropriate size and gave me a good tanning. On another occasion when I was indulging in the grand old game of running away from school, I came dangerously near him. I saw him but he did not see me and I slithered away to safety, exulting that the gods were with me for once.
Father used to pace back and forth on the garden walk and, while he seldom spoke, I am sure that he was thinking deeply;that he yearned to find ways and means to restore his self-respect and the esteem of his relatives and friends and also of his family. The great question was: How could he earn the necessary money? Grandfather could not be expected to provide the herewith indefinitely.
During this period father turned to invention. Among other things he invented a newspaper holder to be hung on the wall; a '┬ólamp chimney cleaner, and a device intended to protect railroad companies against misappropriations of cash fares paid by passengers to conductors. None of his inventions succeeded in bringing him the millions he sought, so he tried other means. Once he was a traveling salesman; at another time, he was a worker in a toy factory in Mechanicsville, Vermont; at other times he wrote articles for newspapers, but nowhere did he find success.
Some of father's newspaper articles were printed and won considerable praise; they won few dollars however. The publishers were willing to print them so long as they cost nothing, but not longer. Even in the midst of his tribulations father preserved his sense of humor and not infrequently made use of it not only to provoke laughter but also to gratify his inner craving to get back at a world which had used him so inconsiderately. When a certain newspaper published one of his long and capably written articles without tendering compensation, I heard him say, 'Thank God, he didn't charge me for advertising space's Father's articles covered a wide field. Nothing seemed entirely beyond his reach, history, politics, philosophy, religion, geology and science in general, all were in his line and although he took most naturally to humor, it was of an iconoclastic order; he was a master of invective. Whether father specialized on geology during his college days or whether he took the subject up later, I do not know but he wrote long articles on that subject.
On Sundays with Mr. Cal Higgins, he took long rambles in the hills. Mr. Higgins, who in common with others who ran trip hammers in the factory, became very deaf later in life but he used to love to tell me of his long walks with father and he never tired of telling me about the time father bet ten thousand dollars that he could outdistance Mr. Higgins in rolling stones down the mountain side. Father lost the contest and told Mr. Higgins that, unfortunately, he did not happen to have ten thousand dollars in his pocket that morning but that he would give Mr. Higgins a good, five-cent cigar instead. The offer was gladly accepted and the ramble continued.
One summer afternoon when grandfather, grandmother, the hired girl and I were living alone, I was walking along the principal street in the village, a scant block from home when I saw a lady crossing the street. She was leading a child and carrying a satchel. She had evidently come from the railroad station and was advancing toward me. I had never seen so beautiful a lady nor one so well dressed. The nearest approach I had ever seen was a neighbor name Ann Simonds whom I greatly admired. The strange lady's presence was so overwhelming that I experienced a sensation I had never known before. I was suddenly ashamed of my torn hat, my soiled waist, my patched trousers, and, most of all, my bare feet. I was sorely embarrassed as the lady came forward, looking me searchingly in the eye; I stood spellbound and speechless looking into hers. She inquired, '╦ťAre you little Paul Harris?' Astonished that the beautiful lady knew me by name and swelling with emotion, I stammered, "Yes, Mam," whereupon she took me in her arms and passionately kissed me and her face was wet with tears. The words she spoke are emblazoned on my memory. There were, 'Then I am your mamma, my darling Paul' Vague memories of someone very like the lady who had taken me in her arms began to take shape but they were still dim and distant. Then the thought burst upon me that this must be the very lady grandmother referred to when she concluded our evening prayer with, "God bless papa and mamma forevermore" Here was my mamma at last. She took my hand in hers and I led the beautiful lady and my sister, Nina May, to the only home I knew, my New England home.
How long mother remained in Wallingford I cannot remember;it seemed not long. Sometime during her visit she gave me a bouquet of lilies of the valley. I know not where she obtained them but lilies of the valley since that day have seemed to me the purest of flowers, a fitting symbol of mother love, and they are always asso'sciated in some indefinable way with the beautiful lady whose presence so thrilled me that midsummer day in Wallingford.
The chronology of events in the lives of our family are lost to me. The main objective in the lives of both my parents was to assemble their children under one roof and to feed and clothe them. One attempt to establish a home was made in Cambridge, New York, but proved a failure. I was left alone much of the time, mother being away giving music lessons. The life which had come to me unbidden seemed not worth while; heavy clouds which hung over me seemed at times to engulf me; there was no silver lining to them. Sometimes, to be sure, they parted for an instant and permitted the love light to shine through; that was when mother had time to fold me in her arms and utter sweet words of affection. Conditions must have seemed hopeless to both of my parents. Mother put up a courageous fight, worthy of the daughter of her schoolteacher mother, Clarissa Fobes Bryan, and worthy of her Huguenot grandmother. Olive Chapelle Bryan.
One dark night a man whom I had never seen before drove up to the door in a sleigh. He was elderly and bearded. Mother addressed him as Mr. Hitchcock. When I meet anyone by the name of Hitchcock, I connect the name with the elderly bewhiskered man with his sleigh and buffalo robes and the drive of that winter night. On that memorable night, Mother, Mr. Hitchcock and I got into the sleigh, the buffalo robes were tucked about us and we were soon gliding over the moonlit snow. Where we were bound for I did not know until I eventually heard mother say, "Mr. Hitchcock, this little boy is going to his grandpa and grandma to live".
Our sleigh ride terminated at the railroad station. A curtain has been drawn over what followed but it is fair to assume that mother put me on board the train in care of the conductor and that I arrived in Rutland in due time. I was probably met by grandfather or grandmother or both, taken aboard the same train that father, Cecil and I had taken on that ineffaceable first night, the nine miles intervening between Rutland and Wallingford were passed in the customary time, and I slept that night in my comfortable bed in the blessed home of my grandparents. I was back to the home of freedom and plenty; no more would I suffer want.
Back in Cambridge a mother's heart was furiously beating. A second time she had been driven to the realization of the fact that, even with her courageous assistance, it was impossible for father to keep the family together. It must be admitted that housekeeping was not congenial to mother's nature while giving music lessons was. Her income from her music lessons was insufficient at times to provide one and occasionally two maids and to help feed the family in time of need. She was a firm believer in keeping up appearances at all times and the way she spent money was perfectly scandalous in the eyes of her frugal New England mother-in-law. The extravagances of father were less conspicuous than those of mother but certainly more personal. Cigar bills and kindred expenses could hardly be considered necessities of life. However no one with a knowledge of the facts could have spoken of father as a good provider; in fact that honor to grandfather for whom there was no escape. Grandfather simply had to be a good provider or the clock would run down.
As I grew older grandmother and I used to have heated arguments as to who was most to blame for the unhappy condition in father's home. One day grandmother said, Your mother is very wasteful, Paul; some women can throw more food out of the back door with a spoon than their husbands can put in the front door with a shovel. Your mother seems to me to be that kind of a woman, I am sorry to say. The idea of her keeping a servant and sometimes two of them when your father was having all that he could do to supply necessary food for her and the children.
Grandmother's remark brought on a storm of anger; manifestly, it was easier for her to see mother's faults than her virtues and she seemed utterly oblivious of father's faults. With considerable asperity, I answered, "Mother kept help in the kitchen so that she could go out and give music lessons. We would have starved to death if she hadn't". "Oh no, it has never been that bad, Paul," grandmother said, "and the first duty of a mother with six children is to stay at home with them; whatever else may happen, that's where her place should be. If she will attend to her family, things will come out right somehow. I have seen many cases where it has worked. Providence seems to take care of widows with children. Pa never would have let them suffer if things were going right in the home, and, more than that, your father would have done much better in his work if he could have had the inspiration of a good, well-regulated home. That would have been much better than gewgaws, or anything else money can buy".
Way down in my heart, I couldn't help feeling that there was something in what grandmother had said. The leaven of my grandparents' philosophy was working. I could clearly see that happiness, contentment and peace depended more upon orderliness, thoughtfulness and kindliness than upon genius, spasmodic effort or keeping up appearances. However, mother had been wonderfully courageous and father could hardly have claimed that virtue. What kind of a prodigy mother would have had to be in order to have filled the expectations of grandmother, is difficult to imagine.
Chapter 10 "Rapscallions"
WHEN MALE HUMANS turn the corner from childhood to boyhood changes take place, biological of course but diabolical as well; at least it seems so to unprejudiced observers. Even loving papas and mammas frequently doubt whether, after all. Junior has the makings of a preacher in accordance with their cherished hope, or whether Junior's talents are not better suited to some other vocation, gangster or racketeer perhaps. In some cases doting parents come to see that their chief concern is not to educate Junior but rather to keep him from educating them.
Jerome Hilliard, the wagon maker, who was undoubtedly our best authority on terminology, not even excepting Mr. "Polite" Johnson, whose conversation was more elegant but less expressive, used to call our gang "rapscallions," and one must admit that the term seemed to fit.
Rapscallions have undergone great changes during recent years and yet, in principle, they are about the same. The clowns in the circus made certain patterns of carefree, joyous living which rapscallions of my time most naturally followed as long as impressions remained fresh and vigorous, but the circus came but once a year. During the remainder of the year rapscallions had to cut up their own didos, or get along without them, which of course was unthinkable.
In my day we had to make our own "funnies;" we had to be our own playwrights and actors and furnish our own applause as well. Old folks used to think it was our legs that set us running about so but I am here to say that our self-starters were not always in our legs; if our legs had been cut off entirely we could have started ourselves just the same. Our arms, hands, toes, eyes and ears were all capable of throwing the machinery into gear.
Boys are not the only creatures which develop propensities for mischief; it is the same instinct which makes puppy dogs chew up straw hats. Boys and dogs understand each other; there is a spiritual affinity between them; they think the same thoughts, experience the same joys and even speak the same language up to a certain point. Of course boys, having no tails to wag, have to resort to other means of expressing their joy.
Every town and village in our beloved land has its rapscallions. One sees them, followed by dogs, cavorting around village streets, chasing each other through barns, stores, factories and flower gardens, climbing trees, telegraph poles, jumping fences, frightening old men, women, horses, cows and hens'yes, they are rapscallions and one had best give them right of way.
Rapscallions know a lot of things not learned in home, school or church. When Junior at the dinner table, or elsewhere, gives papa and mamma the benefit of some of his advanced thoughts, mamma gives papa a nudge or a troubled wink and says, 'Where in the name of conscience do you suppose Junior got that?" and papa has to admit that the question is too much for him.
I can tell where Junior gets the low-down on things in your town Senior, he gets it from his brother rapscallions. Rapscallions know many things of which their elders have not even dreamed, rapscallions never take anything for granted whether it refers to the works of man or God.
For instance: Rapscallions know, and even grown folks ought to know, that trees talk to each other in a language of their own. In the early autumn of each and every year, the trees of the mountainside get their heads together and make elaborate plans for the annual grand pageant they expect to stage in October to gladden the hearts of the good folk who live in the valley.
Each tree according to its species is assigned its part. The mighty oaks, with such help as the sumacs may give in touching up the low comers, agree to supply the deep wine color admired by all nature lovers; the beech trees, the elms and the birches supply miles of yellow and red; the maples are never confined to any one color; they are permitted to run riot with everything they have in their paint pots, red, brown, wine color, yellow, green and what not. All the trees of the forest place their trust in the maples to do the right thing when it comes to painting the forests in the month of October just before the leaves wither and die.
The rapscallions of our valley were fortunate indeed; nature was bounteous in its distribution of trees on the mountainsides. They are of many varieties and the hand which is so lavish in its gifts is also painstaking in its care. After the seed has once taken root in the rock bound soil it seldom fails to give a good account of itself. Rain and melting snow supply a dependable supply of moisture and the bright sun brings the frost out of the ground in due time. Folks from other parts frequently wonder at the perseverance of seeds in their search for suitable abiding places between boulders or in crevices between different parts of the same boulder. Well, we must remember that the seeds are aided and abetted by the winds, rains, snows, ice, and, in the case of the hickory, beech, walnut and oak trees, our four-footed friends the squirrels playing their parts. Within their respective spheres, the birds, bees, ants and innumerable species of microscopic creatures conspire and combine to keep nature's economic scheme in balance and to make it possible for men to live and enjoy this beautiful world.
The pines, spruce hemlocks, firs and cedars on hillside and mountain give cheer the year round; in the winter they contrast their greenery with the whiteness of the snow and assure folks that all is not dead.
In our valley the maple trees were the most common and at the same time the most useful of the trees. The maple is a good shade tree; under its protecting cover rapscallions lie on green grass and dream to their heart's content. It makes good hard timber and fire wood and yields its sap for the delectable syrup and sugar in the spring and it lights up the mountain with its blaze of autumnal glory.
The mightiest of all trees is the oak; it bends to storm only grudgingly notwithstanding the fact that, except for its deeply sunk tap root, it is shallovv rooted; some of the roots being only partially under ground.
Most majestic are the elms. None compares with them to border the highway or driveways of dignified homes. Many think the wide spreading beech the most picturesque and beautiful of all. Artists find themselves lured by the fascinations of the beech tree. Some of the species of willow bend gracefully in the wind, and rapscallions favor them because the soft buds known as the pussy willows are harbingers of spring and also because whistles can be made of the young shoots if one knows how and all honest-to-goodness rapscallions do know how.
To some lovers of nature the white birches are symbolic of purity as are the shy lilies of the valley in the village gardens down below. The mountain ash is beautiful as well as useful as are also the hickory, butternut and the black walnut trees. Even the horse chestnut plays its part; it provides ammunition for the sling shots of rapscallions.
Rapscallions sometimes wonder why God takes the clothes off the trees in November at Just the time folks put extra clothes on. One never would think of shearing sheep in autumn; spring is the time to shear sheep. It's a shivery sight to see trees in the winter time as stark naked as rapscallions themselves are when they dive into Otter Creek in the good old summertime. It is a blessing, however, that the leaves of trees do not have to be buried in the ground as folks are; they are raked up by rapscallions and banked behind planks against the foundations of houses to keep the folks inside snug and warm while the cold winds blow.
Oh, for boyhood painless play, Sleep that wakes in laughing day, Health that mocks the doctor's rules, Knowledge never learned of schools.
Of the wild bee's morning chase, Of the wild flower's time and place, Of the tenants of the wood;
Flight of fowl and habitude, How the tortoise bears his shell,
How the wood-chuck digs his cell, And the ground mole sinks his well;
How the robin feeds her young, How the oriole's nest is hung;Where the whitest lilies blow,
Where the freshest berries grow, Where the ground nut trails its vine,
Where the wood grape's clusters shine;
Of the black wasp's cunning way, Mason of his walls of clay,
And the architectural plans Of gray hornet artisans!
For, eschewing books and tasks, Nature answers all he asks;
Hand in hand with her he walks Face to face with her he talks,
Part and parcel of her joy, Blessings on thee, barefoot boy!
John Greenleaf Whittier
|We rapscallions of the
Wallingford chapter had to keep ourselves posted as to everything
going on about town. The barber shop the post-office and the railroad
station were important centers of information. In one way and another
we learned all the important railway news up and down the line; even
the names of the brakemen and the engineers were known to us. We knew
whether they chewed tobacco or not and if not, why not. It gave the
rapscallions a mighty good feeling when they happened to wake up in
Chapter 11 "A Pond is Discovered"
AS I THINK of the days of my boyhood, winter sports and pleasures seem more thrilling than those of other seasons. We boys never had a dread of the so-called, "shut-in" season; in fact, there was none so far as we were concerned. Under one pretext or another, we would manage to get out into the snows and storms. I cannot ever remember having wished that a blizzard would let up; I always wished that it would continue to pile the snow higher and higher until all signs of the world we knew would be obliterated and a new, strange and fantastic world would take its place. All New England boys who have been reared in the country or the small village appreciate the ecstasy of being "snowed in". To me Whittier's "Snow Bound" is and ever will be the most bewitching of all poems:
So all night long the storm roared on;
The morning broke without a sun;
In tiny spherule traced with lines
Of nature's geometric signs,
In starry flake and pellicle,
All day the hoary meteor fell;
And when the second morning shone,
We looked upon a world unknown,
On nothing we could call our own.
Around the glistening wonder bent
The blue walls of the firmament.
No cloud above, no earth below- A universe of sky and snow!
The old familiar sights of ours
Took marvelous shapes; strange domes and towers
Rose up where sty or corn-crib stood,
Or garden wall or belt of wood;
A smooth white mound the brush pile showed,
A fenceless drift what once was road;
The bridle post an old man sat
With loose flung cloak and high cocked hat;
The well curb had a Chinese roof;
And even the long sweep, high aloof,
In its splendor, seemed to tell
Of Pisa's leaning miracle.
|Weird and fantastic shapes assumed by old friends, hitching posts, rail
fences, well sweeps or what not, required introductions anew as if we
had never seen them before and where drifting snows had been piled into
embryonic mountains they had to be climbed and christened by the
dauntless explorers. From the high rails of half-submerged fences,
somersaults had to be turned into the air and landings had to be made on
our feet or on our backs on the soft cushions of dazzlingly white,
feathery snow. Over the fences, across fields, pasture lands and
meadows, we had to make our way. Struggling through deep drifts of snow
was laborious exercise; we panted for breath; our bodies were wet with
perspiration and our faces aglow with the health giving exercise. What
mattered it if our boots and our coat sleeves did fill with snow packed
hard by our struggles; we could sit down in the snow and wrest our boots
from swollen feet and discharge the excess burden; take wristlets off
and shake them; give our ears a hasty rub or two, and then on again to
overtake our intrepid leaders if we could.
How the sun shone, not infrequently blinding us as its light was reflected by the myriad crystals. Here and there a scolding squirrel could be seen high up in a tree top congratulating himself perhaps on his hereditary virtue of conservation and on his store of sweet hickory nuts, saved for just such occasions. Here and there a rabbit path crossed and re-crossed itself; not so much because bunny feared impending evil as it was because bunny enjoyed the fun of throwing farm dogs off the track in case they happened to be looking for trouble. Here and there a chickadee voiced his jubilation.
In course of time we made our way home to steaming hot dinners and then hastily started out on new adventures. On Saturdays and holidays, we could pursue our courses indefinitely with never a thought of school, home, church or anything else of a worrying nature.
Here and there across the dazzling landscape an industrious farmer might be seen digging his way out to the highway with the aid of a sturdy pair of oxen or horses and a home-made snow plough. If such scene presented itself, or if, perchance, a locomotive with snow plough attached were to appear along the railroad track, the expedition would change its course. Such activities had to be investigated to make certain that they were being conducted with efficiency and dispatch. This was before the days of the rotary snow plough. Ploughs were forced through drifts by sheer power, and, when halted, there was nothing for the engineer to do but to back up, get a flying start and plunge in again. Considering the heavy snow falls and the lack of modem equipment, it was astonishing how quickly normal schedules were restored. The snow crews knew their business and through the heavy storms they worked day and night. It was a joy to walk down the track where the snow crew had driven its plough through the drifts and piled up walls of white along the track. Another thrilling sight was to see the first train come through after the storm registering the domination of man in affairs mundane.
Sleep? Oh, how we slept the night after a storm, but not always was our slumber dreamless. We sometimes dreamed-hoped and prayed, perhaps-that rain might fall during the early hours of the night and that the rain might be followed by a frost during the early hours of the morning so that when we got up we might find another thrill-that of the crusted snow.
Winter had so many charms that substantial enjoyment was to be found even in anticipation of them. Thanksgiving Day was always celebrated in our home. Uncles, aunts, cousins, and later, father, mother, brothers and sister were assembled to enjoy the feast of stuffed turkey and cranberry sauce with its succulent accompaniment of chicken pie. After dinner it was customary for the young people to go to the pond to see how the ice was forming and to speculate as to how soon the skating could begin. We skipped stones over the thin ice and enjoyed the strange, weird music which broke upon the frosty air as a result of the impact.
One day to our everlasting amazement we discovered a new lake, at least one we had never seen before, although in the summer we had walked over every foot of the land now covered by water. There it was nestling in the woods, two islands in the center. Columbus could not have been more delighted with his discovery. Why we had never seen or heard of it before, we could not imagine. We eventually learned that it was the result of heavy autumn rains and that it was known as "Little Pond" to distinguish it from what we knew as Fox Pond. In other words, Little Pond was simply a basin surrounded with mountains and hills. In the summer the basin was dry and in the winter it was partially filled with water. How such a gem of a lake had failed to escape the eyes of Wallingford grown-ups, was a quandary. I suppose the reason was that it was tucked away in a fold of the hills where grown-ups seldom had occasion to go even in summer and in winter never.
In fact, Little Pond had almost managed to escape the eyes of us rapscallions. In the summer it was nothing but a dried up muck hole in the center of a hayfield. The muck hole was made by the owner of the land who used the soil, made up of decomposed vegetable matter, to reinforce less favored fields. During the years subsequent to our discovery, when the muck hole began to fill up in the autumn, we boys inspected it frequently in anticipation of joys to come. The two islands were covered with bushes and constituted excellent ambush for Indians, highway robbers, bandits, escaped prisoners or whomsoever might be seeking refuge. We adopted Little Pond as our own and loved it more than any other; it was our discovery.
Dear Ladies of Wallingford: High have your praises been sung for having rechristened Fox Pond, "Elfin Lake" to gratify your esthetic natures, but why, I pray you, did you stop there? Would not "Lake of the Fairies," or "Lake of the Witches," have added a touch of delightful mysticism to Little Pond even if it does dry up in the summer? Perhaps it did not dry up in the summer; perhaps the fairies spirited it away to gladden the hearts of other little boys in some faraway spot in fairyland. However I am sure that neither witches with their brooms nor fairies with their wands could have so stirred things within me as did my first sight of magical, miraculous Little Pond. If the souls of departed boys have wings, they must hover over that sheet of mystical frozen water at about the time the moon takes its great lantern in hand and steps over the top of Bear Mountain to light the pathway of boys who have shouted themselves hoarse, skated themselves weary, and are Oh so hungry! as they wend their way over Joe Shum's Hill and across Anderson's bridge, to the light, warmth and love of home.
One Christmas morning, I found in the chimney corner a brightly painted sled with a picture of a reindeer painted on the seat. It was the gift of my father then working in a toy factory in Springfield. That was the most joyous of all the many joyous Christmas Days of my boyhood.
During Christmas holidays, my cousins Mary, Eddie, Mattie and John Fox frequently spent the entire period with us. All hands were up in the morning before the break of day and the rising sun found us well wrapped in heavy jackets with tippets protecting our necks, wristlets protecting our wrists and mittens our hands against the cold and snow. We wended our way to Little Pond or Fox Pond as fancy might lead us. Once "Inky" Ballou and I skated almost to Rutland on Otter Creek, our progress being slow because of frequent interruptions caused by shell ice where water flowed too rapidly to permit Jack Frost to do a good job of solid ice construction.
Frequently as we boys and girls trudged along the roads to the frozen lakes and ponds, we heard the baying of hounds on the mountainside in hot pursuit of fox or rabbit. How their voices rang out in the quiet winter air. They were so distant that we could not see them even when they came out of the wooded parts of the mountainside into the open where, in summer, cows grazed between rocky outcroppings and where prickly blackberry and raspberry bushes laden with luscious fruit waited for transfer to cups and pails of industrious boys and girls.
Indeed we did not need to see the hunt; we could picture it in our minds. We knew each and every hound in the pack. They were "Roz" Sherman's hounds and we knew that "Roz" and his companions were not far behind. It was jubilee time for the keen-scented, loudmouthed long-eared songsters. All summer long they had been kicked about as they slunk around the hotel and grocery stores in search of stray bits of food. No one had respect for "Roz" Sherman's hounds, a fact of which they were painfully aware. Dismal howls emitted in village streets were the result of kicks from men and stones thrown by boys. "Roz" Sherman's hounds completely lost their self-respect in the summertime but with the first snow, they became kings of creation as with yelps and howls they chased four-footed wild creatures to their lair, or to within gun shot of the slow-footed humans lagging far behind.
If the weather was cold as was usually the case, our caps or toques were drawn low, and if perchance, in spite of all precautions the ears of some member of the party were frost bitten, as shown by the tell-tale whiteness, a well known remedy was quickly applied a handful of snow briskly rubbed into the ailing member until circulation was restored.
Upon arrival at the pond the first step was to strap our skates on securely and speed away across the ice to gather deadwood to build a fire before which we might toast our backs, faces and sides each in turn. During the extra cold winters the ice was eighteen or more inches thick and therefore safe for skaters as long as the kept away from the great holes where the ice cutters were gathering their crop.
The rumbling and grumbling coming from the pond would have frightened youngsters unfamiliar with the strange sounds. The only explanation I have ever heard for these sounds was that they came from air imprisoned beneath the ice; I have never heard such sounds except on mountain lakes. We boys scoffed at the air theory and preferred to think of the sounds as the voices of gnomes, protesting to the Devil perhaps for having shut them so tightly beneath the thick ice of the pond.
Occasionally fast trotting horses matched their speed on the smooth surface of the pond where a half-mile straightaway had been marked out but our greatest joys were those of our own imaginations; wars were fought with savage tribes of Indians; wolves were killed and skinned; and vast continents explored.
At noon we hastened home to appease the hunger gods which were rioting within us in spite of the ample breakfasts of wet browned and buttered buckwheat cakes, hot from the griddle and generously baptized with maple syrup straight from the mountain side.
Grandfather bought his maple syrup, fifteen gallons at a time and his buckwheat flour by the barrel. Both purchases required endless investigations, samplings, etc. Buckwheat cakes with crisp fried potatoes on the side constituted our breakfasts all the year round.
After dinner we went at it again and not until darkness of the brief northern winter day was beginning to fall was the last skate un-strapped and the day's outdoor job finished.
Chapter 12 "Then Comes Spring"
UPON OUR RETURN to the village, after the day's outing was over, our visiting cousins were always confronted with a serious question. Where were they to take supper? Their Uncle Ed and Aunt Lib Martindale had their latch strings out for their nieces and nephews. They had no children and our folks had but one, a rapscallion by the name of Paul. There was more prospect for merriment in the Harris home and that was a factor to be considered; it gave the Harris home the edge, so to speak. The common sense thing, of course, for my cousins to do was to ascertain which house was to have the best supper and unless Aunt Lib could show good reasons to the contrary, the honors would be ours. When we arrived home Cousin Ed would ask the question, "What you got for supper, Ma?" and when the answer was given, he would scurry through the back yard to Aunt Lib's and put the same question to her.
There was one thing, which when offered, always overcame all advantages and predilections, and that was corned beef hash. When that toothsome dish was offered, all bets were off. It used to seem to me that my cousins would gratefully have accepted an invitation by Satan himself if corned beef hash had been on the bill of fare. Had it been left to me, I would have filled the cellar knee-deep with corned beef hash on the first intimation that my cousins, the Fox boys and girls, were coming.
Our cellar was well stocked with good things and the cold storage room in the barn was stocked with foods which had to be kept frozen. When the winter season had advanced far enough so that steady cold could be relied upon, grandfather bought from a farmer one-half of a bog and one-quarter of beef. Some of the hog went into salt pork, lard, ham and sausage and some of the beef was corned. Every inch was used. Pig's ears made succulent souse and pig's feet were an excellent relish and the pig's curly tail was the most delicious tidbit of all; it would fairly melt in one's mouth, The residue from the trying out of lard was called scraps and they were almost too rich even for the stomachs of boys. Whatever remained of the pork and beef was hung in the store room and frozen stiff for daily consumption during the winter season.
We had chickens and eggs from our henhouse and vegetables from our garden. Apples, pears, currants and berries from the mountainside together with small quantities bought at the grocery store were enough to sustain us until the butcher, the fishman and the hulled corn man came on their rounds. I almost forgot the chunk of dried beef and the salt codfish that adorned the walls of the cellar stairway. Both were hard enough to knock a man cold if used for that purpose, but in the hands of New England housewives they became food for the gods.
After a day on the ice followed by a hearty supper, we began our games on the dining room table. Old maid, authors, logomachy, dominoes and checkers. Then for the evening there were butternuts in plenty from our aged but still productive trees, a step only from the summer kitchen door, and there were hickory nuts the fruits of Saturday forays in the mountains. Forays is right for we frequently helped ourselves to the storcs, accumulated by squirrels, which we found in hollow trees. Robbers? Maybe, but remember it was this same breed of four-footed rascals who helped themselves to butternuts from our trees.
There were Gilliflower, Baldwin and Northern Spy apples and Flemish Beauty pears from our orchard, and, if all these were not enough to save us from starvation, there was corn to pop, molasses candy or fudge to be made and maple syrup to be waxed or grained as taste might dictate, or mixed with butternut meats to make the tastiest of all maple-sugar candy.
After such matters had been attended to and the heads of the younger children began to droop, grandmother would say, "Children get off to bed, there are other days coming you know". So away to bed and dreamless slumber we would go in preparations for the events of another day.
As the winter advanced pastimes changed to suit changing conditions. The turn of the year ushered in the real winter. Heavy falls of snow opened up opportunities to catch rides on sleds of indulgent farmers returning to their farms on the mountains after having delivered their loads of four-foot wood; jubilant precursors of the modem hitch hiker were we. To the stout legged farm horses it mattered not whether we were on or off and even our bobsleds with their long connecting boards added little to their burden. The bobs, or traverses as we called them, were to us essential because of the return trip down the mountain, the return being the principal lure.
When the snow was packed hard or turned to ice the descent was in the nature of a parachute jump. Sometimes we arrived at the bottom of the mountain right side up; at others, after long leaps over "thank-you-marms" and slews at curves, we were spilled along the road, a jumble of excited laughing boys.
In case anyone happens not to know what a "thank-you-marm" is, I will explain that it is a big bump in the road something like the take-off on a ski jump. No mountain road was complete in my day without its "thank-you-marms". When tired farm horses drawing heavily loaded wagons up the mountains needed rest and breathing spells, they could relieve themselves of strain by pulling over a "thank-you-marm" to the level spot in the road on the up-hill side. There was always a "thank-you-marm" at the watering tough half way up the mountain side where horses could rest an extra long time and drink their fill of the cold, sparkling spring water contained in a trough made from a log hewn out to fit the needs. On hot summer days watering troughs and "thank-you-marms" were to tired farm horses previews of Heaven.
When coming "lickety-split down a mountainside in a buckboard or buggy with your sweetheart by your side, if you do not slow up when you see a "thank-you-marm" before you, you and your sweetheart will find yourselves thrown high in the air. In this event if you are born and bred Vermonters, you will, as you straighten your hats on your heads, ejaculate, "Thank-you-marm". To foreigners this may seem a very silly piece of business and easily avoidable, but to Vermonters of my time those words would come out to the accompaniment of uproarious laughter, in spite of all we could do.
"Thank-you-marms" served also another purpose dear to the hearts of boys; in fact, we never could have gotten along without them in the winter time. When "Sabe's" Hill, short for Sabin's Hill, was coated with ice, it was the sportiest hill by far in our part of the valley. Its descent was long and steep and it was abundantly supplied with "thank-you-marms , one of which was glorious indeed. Our sleds were no high spindly affairs such as were used by girls or sissified boys. They were built from rock maple, braced and riveted like battleships. They were provided with runners made from hard, round steel which gave them springiness as well as endurance. At no point did these marvelous creations stand more than six inches above the hard packed snow.
It was a sight to see a daring and skillful coaster take off from the top of a hill. He would grasp his sled by the seat, one hand forward, the other aft. He would then run briskly forward to the brink of the hill to gain momentum and then spring high into the air carrying his sled with him. While still in the air he would stage an amazing contortion, and when the runners landed on the ice the rider would be seen lying securely on his left thigh, his right foot dangling like a rudder on the rear, his hands unchanged in position, his shoulders crouched low with his head between the runners almost skimming the ground.
Who is that taking off? By crackeyl it's wild Bill Rutherford on his homemade sled. He is flying like a bullet toward the big "thank-you-marm" opposite Martin Williams' house. Up he goes high into the air. "Betcher he jumped forty feet". "Now he's past the cheese factory; now he's out of sight". Well, that is one thing "thank-you-marms" are good for. Beside giving tired horses a chance for breathing spells, they give little boys a chance to see daring coasters at their glorious best.
If neither skating nor coasting conditions were such as to appeal to us, mountain climbing was in order, or leaps from cliffs into deep banks of snow. High up we discovered especially fine views of my beautiful valley in its white blanket of snow and of other mountains far beyond. Sometimes we climbed over the top of a mountain and down into an unfamiliar valley; exploration was the charm of mountain climbing through deep snows; we found ourselves in new, thrilling and fanciful worlds. These events occurred long before skiing became popular; that sport would have added much to the joy of our adventures.
On bright days millions of dazzling snow crystals sparkled in the sunshine and on cloudy days, other delightful pictures were revealed; it mattered little what the weather was, joy was always to be found.
Some of the recesses of the forest were like great cathedrals and the tall spruce trees with their branches bent to the ground by their burdens of snow, were like titanic vestured monks bowing low. The white birch trees which some poet has designated, "white angels of the forest" hallowed the scene with their chaste and modest presence.
The unearthly quiet was broken at times by the cawing of a crow lazily circling in the sky above or by the drumming of a cock partridge as if he were proclaiming the sanctity of the forest cathedral and warning against the intrusion of apostates. Who better in tune with the Infinite than they?
Every pine and fir and hemlock
Wore ermine too dear for an Earl
And the poorest twig on the elm free
Was ridged inch deep with pearl.
|We were occasionally rewarded materially for our efforts by the
discovery of that rare product of the forest, genuine spruce gum; but we
stood not in need of material rewards; they are temporary at best. Our
greatest reward for our labored climbs through drifts up the mountain
was imperishable. The indefinable enchantment of the awesome silence of
the mountains still lives and brings peace to tired nerves and assures
us that beneath the mystery of human existence there is something
When a frigid night followed a warm bright day in winter, a new glory awaited us in the morning; that of the crusted snow strong enough to support us with our sleds, skates or improvised toboggans made from barrel staves. Hills and mountains were the equivalent of scores of toboggan chutes. From the top we could glide to the bottom with amazing speed and when the snow was deep enough to cover stone walls and rail fences, over them also we sped.
Sometimes we made snow shoes of our barrel staves, fastening them to our boots with leather straps, and made the descent, or as much of it as we could without mishap, standing erect. However, mishaps were more the rule than the exception and the last part of the course was generally covered in an ungainly sprawl. The victim was usually greeted with raucous guffaws by the onlookers but it was all taken good naturedly as a matter of course. If the weather continued cold enough, and the sun shone not too brightly, the crust remained all day and possibly other days to follow; but whether the duration was brief or long, we were always prepared to meet with exuberant spirits any changes dame nature might make. Even when the mountains were coated with solid ice, we could chop holes for our moccasined toes and make precarious ascent to the top.
I shall not soon forget the time a companion, who was climbing in advance of me, lost his toe-hold and came hurtling past me like a streak of light subject to no law except the law of gravity which claimed him as its own and flung his helpless body over a precipice far down below. In tenor I worked my way down the side of the mountain fully expecting to find his mangled remains. Imagine my relief when he emerged in sight; merciful Providence had covered the rocks at the foot of the drop with a blessed protecting blanket of soft, deep snow.
It required a deal of persuasion to induce grandmother to permit me to go coasting in the evening. To her mind all the sins of the universe were committed under cover of night. My plea generally had to be reinforced by that of some of the older children in whose discretion she had confidence. Moonlight coasting parties were delightful but the old moon really had to shine if I was permitted to go out. Of course the girls were included in the coasting parties, and on one occasion I experienced a thrill such as never agitated me before. Though I made no mention of my emotion, it was clear that deep down within me there was something more than a mere casual regard for a certain plump, fair-haired, brown-eyed little lady whom I managed to get seated next to as we were about to take off from the top of the hill. I entertained fond hopes that my sentiments were reciprocated, but I had no means of knowing, it being the case that her adoration, if any, was as mute as my own.
The possessory passion had gotten a grip upon me, and, in the secret of my innermost thoughts, I welcomed the fact that I had a girl of my own. Her residence in our valley was brief. Where she came from; what Wallingford family she was connected with, I do not know but it was the sweet and appropriately named Josie Lilly who first set my heart to palpitating. Josie was only one of a procession of comers and goers who spent periods of varying duration in our valley; most of them came unheralded and left unmourned, after having caused mere ripples on the surface of our everyday lives.
Sometimes we climbed into the mountains to see the French-Canadian farmers cutting down trees for firewood. It was a sight to see the tree crash down after the vigorous strokes of the axeman. They could make the trees fall just where they wanted them to fall. The skill with which they could lop the branches off with a few strokes, then saw the trunks into just the right length, split them and convert them into cord wood which they piled along the pathways convenient for loading on the low ox drawn sleds, was wonderful to behold. Riding down the mountain sides on the wood sleds was a dangerous though exhilarating sport; the sleds carromed against the rocks and stumps but eventually arrived at the bottom right side up.
Whatever else may be said of our French-Canadian immigrants, none could deny that they were the most colorful of all of our newcomers in New England. Whether they were joking or talking seriously was always a matter of conjecture. Their strutting pomposity and stories of impossible achievement were unique, take them as one would. It remained for William Drummond, a Scotsman to immortalize the French-Canadians in his book of rhymes, "The Habitant". We youngsters were always sure of one good laugh at least when we made for the forests on the mountainsides where our own "Habitants" were cutting their wood.
Chapter 13 "Then Comes Spring"
NOT INFREQUENTLY one hears old timers say, 'There are no winters now such as there were in my boyhood days". Those words express my own feelings but statisticians tell us that the difference is more imaginary than real; that the days of extreme cold and heavy snow-falls impress themselves deeper than others on our memories. However I do know that when the sleigh-bells began to be heard in early winter, they were generally quite common until the spring freshets announced the fact that winter had, "brokenup". We endured or enjoyed, as the case might be, the severe cold when the thermometer at the post-office indicated sub-zero. The ice crops on our ponds and lakes was generally satisfactory. In Montreal and Burlington, Vermont, the street-cars ran on sleds instead of wheels during the winter.
When visited by icy blasts from the Polar regions, it was exhilarating to see the ruddy faces of boys and men of the countryside, the men with ice laden moustaches and whiskers rubbing their ears, swinging their arms and stomping their feet to restore circulation to tingling toes and fingers.
The red-hot stoves in school-houses and other public places were gluttons for coal and chunks of maple wood but they were good friends of boys and men. They were frequently completely surrounded by lively, healthy happy folks chaffing each other and swapping yams as to the extremity of the cold spell and speculating as to the probabilities of its long continuance, which we boys hoped would be forever.
During severe spells the frost on windows assumed fantastic shapes, completely obscuring the view outside. Long, thick icicles, the result of intermittent freezes and thaws, hung like grim specters to the eaves boughs, and occasionally they snapped off as a result in changes of temperature and fell to the ground with a crash. Woe betide the boy or girl who is cracked on the head by a mammoth icicle falling from an eaves bough at the wrong time.
When the warming sun of early spring began to melt the snow in the mountains, the brooks and rivers became swollen to their brims, not infrequently submerging the meadow land, and during the first cold night every spot in the village capable of holding water became a skating rink. We could find ponds suitable for skating in yards and gardens and in the ditches along the roadside; in fact almost anywhere.
One might wonder as to how rapscallions could find pleasure in wading in mud puddles or on the edges of brooks swollen by the melting snows of the mountains. Well, to begin with, one must have imagination. To the rapscallions of my New England Valley, brooks were not brooks, they were great rivers, the Niagara, the Amazon, the Mississippi or whatever we pleased. The mud puddles were lakes of enormous proportions; and both rivers and lakes afforded us opportunities to try out our new rubber boots.
The deafening roar of Roaring Brook was a reminder of the fact that the spring floods had come. Grandmother used to regale us with stories of the great flood of a year long passed, when Roaring Brook and Otter Creek had entered into a conspiracy to drown all the folks in our valley, good, bad and indifferent, before some resourceful Yankee Noah could spring up and go into the ark building business and thereby thwart the purpose of the unholy alliance. The conspiracy, because of failure on the part of the conspirators to pull together, failed as everything fails when the co-operative spirit breaks down. Just what was the matter, I do not profess to know; grandmother never told us. It is possible that boisterous Roaring Brook wanted to monopolize all the honors and that the customary peaceful Otter Creek would not stand for it and kept on carrying everything that Roaring Brook and all of its ilk had to offer down to Lake Champlain and dumping it unceremoniously into that capacious reservoir. However, folks in our valley were not oblivious of the rowdy nature of Roaring Brook nor of the fact that it wished them no good.
We were always ready for the coming of spring with its lush green grass, sweet scented lilacs, apple blossoms, trailing arbutus, dandelions and veritable lakes of yellow cowslips, with their broad green leaves. The dandelions and cowslips, properly cooked, provided our tables with a welcome change, and, though we knew nothing of such things at that time, replenished our supply of vitamins, which had been depleted during the six months of ice and snow. Provided with shoe knives and pans for the dandelions and water pails for the cowslips, we went gaily forth for the harvest of edible things.
Even before the dandelions and cowslips had sprung up from lithe cold earth, water-cress was green along the flowing brooks. Parsnips, planted in the fall and imprisoned in their icy tomb during the winter, managed somehow to gather nourishment from the cold soil and were all the sweeter for their hibernation. Horse-radish roots which had been planted by grandfather years ago in an out-of-the-way corner of the garden, were waiting for the spade before the frost was out of the ground.
Thrifty New England housewives made their own soap for clothes and dishwashing, floor-scrubbing and other cleaning purposes. Soap making was a homely ceremony which we boys looked forward to. It had its place in the domestic economy. It saved considerable expenditure and cost nothing except planning and labor. No wonder that New England pots and pans were clean and that floors shone.
When the bright warm days began to come regularly, the soap making ceremony began. Grandfather would place a barrel on a big flat stone which had for generations been the center of soap making rites, fill the barrel with wood ashes, then pour water in on top of them, letting it seep down through the ashes into a drain cut in the flat stone which led into the big iron kettle placed on the ground below. When the water had all run through it would be baled back into the barrel to course its way through again. Each time it would become redder and stronger and when it was strong enough to float an egg, it was ready to receive the pans and pails of fat which had accumulated during the winter. Vigorous stirring of the lye and fat mixture resulted in the emergence of the good, clean soft. soap. It was brown in color and soft in texture; of strong but not unpleasant odor; it could be lifted by hand from the container in quantities to suit.
One of the joys of springtime were the long walks which George Sabin and I took after supper. When the roads were muddy, the railroad provided the only dependable footing. George, who had learned to smoke early in life, used to puff his pipe vigorously as he told me of the wonderful contrivances he had read of in Popular Mechanics and elsewhere. He was a big boy and he had an enormous head with no vacant space in it.
He also was given to reminiscing and he always embellished his reminiscences with a wealth of detail which made them seem very plausible indeed. For instance, in telling the story of his fall from the flat roof of the oxbow factory, he explained that it was the result of his losing his grip on the nut of a large bolt on the roof to which he had been clinging while trying to clamber over the cornice from a stationary ladder. Nothing could have been more natural; his fingers slipped off the nut and down he came. Fortunately he was able to get his feet out of the way and to land in a sitting posture on a ten foot beam which happened to be lying, providentially, on the ground. It was as easy as landing with a parachute. When I remarked that it probably knocked the breath out of him, he nonchalantly answered that it probably would have had he not held his breath. When I reminded him that his tactics were just the reverse of that of cats under similar circumstances, he answered, "Exactly. Those fool cats will get their legs broken sometime".
The rush of business in the tin shop during the winter was the result of the accumulated orders for sap buckets to be used in maple sugar making in the spring. George could turn out an amazing number of tin sap buckets during the winter months; his output ran to seven or eight hundred all made by hand; he kept up his school work as well. The tin shop turned out good work but no time was lost in either orderliness or cleanliness. The floor was carpeted with scraps of tin and other debris. George used to say that his father calculated on sweeping the floor and cleaning up about once every ten years but that they usually were too busy.
During the summer months Sunday School picnics were held in the not too far distant woods, and, upon rare occasions, railway excursions were planned to points of interest far, far away. They were memorable affairs. Once we visited potteries at Bennington, and once, glory of glories, we went to Lake Bomoseen near Hydeville, twenty-five miles from home, where a little steam yacht had been engaged to take the most venturesome out on the expanse of water in order that they might gain first-hand information as to what seafaring life was like and thus become more appreciative of the sacrifices which were being made by our missionaries in the South Sea Islands and other distant parts.
The baskets provided by the ladies for picnics and excursions were capacious and stuffed with toothsome sandwiches and scrumptious chocolate and cocoanut cake, even cream puffs at times.
In the winter oyster suppers and New England dinners took the place of the festivals, picnics and excursions as money makers to support the less alluring activities of the church. Occasionally the ladies of the Congregational church used to get up what they called a "hard times dinner". George Sabin, who thought much about his food and could appraise a dinner as well as anyone, said that times were hard but he thought they were not that hard-referring to the dinner. However, hard times dinners were money makers for the church as the ladies could contribute almost everything. We rapscallions considered dinners, picnics, excursions, etc., far more important as Christianizing influences than foreign missions or any other questionable enterprises.
The changing affairs of community life demanded our attention. When old Mr. Clark the blacksmith died, a younger man, hailing from I know not where, arrived in town to continue his business. His name was Peck. His bulging muscles provoked our admiration and prepared our minds for the leadership which he promptly assumed.
Mr. Peck had a battle-scarred, veteran fighting cock which he exhibited with pardonable pride and offered to match him against any bird in the county. Up to that time, it had never occurred to me that our old rooster whom I had named Methuselah, might, in his advanced years, become a famous fighter and thus reflect credit both on grandfather and myself.
The matter was soon arranged and another boy and I captured Methuselah and took him to Peck's for the encounter. Not having any available money for a purse, it was agreed that the fight should be for glory and that the reward should be the championship of Rutland County, the title which Peck's rooster was supposed to possess.
When we saw the two opponents together, I would have bet a million dollars on grandfather's representative if I had possessed that much money. Methuselah was inches taller and heavier by far. His plume was of variegated colors. Though his ancestry was unknown, he had the characteristics of a Plymouth Rock, for'd his midscuppers and of a Buff Cochen aft. When Methuselah got his first look at Peck's spindle-shanked and dissolute bird, he emitted a guttural sound like a laugh which seemed to say, "So this is what I have got to lick! Well, turn me loose".
After a few minutes of fighting, Peck's rooster began sagging in the knees and Methuselah gave him what seemed to be his coup de grace. Peck's rooster laid himself down and passed out, or at least seemed to pass out. Methuselah crowed and flapped his wings. I yelled to Peck, "your old spindleshanks is dead," to which Peck replied, "not by a long shot. He is only taking a little nap; didn't you see him wink at me? That means that he will wake up in a minute or two and give your old bird the trimming of his life".
Peck's prognostication proved to be more accurate than mine. Three times Peck's bird laid himself out apparently dead to the world; after each round there seemed nothing left but the funeral ceremony. Methuselah indulged in the customary wing spreading and crowing jubilation, in which we joined in spirit, but three times the corpse came to life and started in fighting where he had left off; he didn't seem to know anything else. His third resurrection was discouraging to Methuselah but he plucked up courage and killed the game cock once more, only to see him arise again undaunted.
At this point, Methuselah began to be a bit groggy and to luff a bit to the sou-west. He seemed to have lost interest in the fight and seemed to be trying to fix his mind on more agreeable matters.
If the truth must be made known, Methuselah was in reality a "passafist;" he might be drafted, as he had been, for belligerent purposes but he never would have enlisted voluntarily. Peck's game cock may have sized Methuselah up as that kind of a soldier; at any rate he won but it seemed to me that he did so under false pretenses, rising from the dead so many times. Methuselah was an honest rooster and he could not stand for anything crooked so all we could claim for him was the honor of being runner-up for the championship of the county.
I never told grandfather how near his rooster came to being champion; in fact, I concluded not to mention the affair to him at all. Several weeks passed before Methuselah got back to normal so that he could overcome the habit of veering sou-west when he approached grandfather for his meed of corn.
Peck was not the only newcomer to brighten life in our community. One whose name I cannot recall, entered a class in our school. His outstanding characteristic was his mastery of expletives - particularly those of a profane order. His profanity flowed trippingly from his tongue and he had not been with us two days before he launched a campaign to get up a baseball team. His formula was very simple; we must have a blankety-blank good pitcher, a blankety-blank good catcher and a blankety-blank good everything right down the line, and that would make a blankety-blank good baseball team. Not knowing anything about it ourselves and our blankety-blank newcomer seeming to know all about it, we left it to him but he quit school and the town before a week had passed without a blankety-blank word about where he was going.
Chapter 14 "Vermont Maple Syrup"
WHEN SPRING WARMED the maple trees sufficiently the sap began to flow, and Vermont farmers who were fortunate enough to have sugar bushes, began preparations for sugar making. Harvesting the maple sugar crop is a combination of hard labor and spring festival; more of labor than of festival. John Burroughs called sugar making, "that fascinating half-work and half-play pursuit".
Those who have been initiated into the rites of sugar making approach the ceremony with an attitude of mind peculiar to it. To begin with, the flow of sap in the maple trees is one of the first harbingers of spring. It is in the nature of a proclamation that winter with its short cold days and long cold nights is giving way to the influence of the sun. When the sun shines brightest, the sap flows most freely. On warm sunny days when the cold of the night has been dispelled by the rising sun the sap runs into the spout and drips into the pail in fast succeeding drops as if in gratitude for the warming rays and in haste to do its part.
Though Vermont farmers issue no engraved invitations to village boys bidding them to their sugar bushes and to help themselves to sap, sugar and syrup to the fullness of their capacity, it is well understood that sugar-making time is the farmer's one prime opportunity to relax the customary and necessary rigor of his thrift and establish himself in the good graces of the boys. The spring vacation was the period of treks to the sugar bush. In rubber boots we waded through every swale along the valley road; then over the fence we went and up the mountainside while the sun shone as if to make up for lost time.
When a snowfall came late in March, after winter snows, except patches that had drifted into protected places, had melted away, folks used to call it the sugar snow. That was the equivalent of saying that Providence had caused the fall of snow in order to make it good sledding in the sugar bushes on the mountain sides so that the farmers could collect the sap with less difficulty. The sugar snow was supposed to be the last of the season but it did not always prove to be so; it often had to yield that honor to other light falls of snow coming as late some years as the middle of April.
Newly fallen sugar snow enabled rapscallions to study the ways of the little wild creatures of the hills and the valleys. Here, one would find the cautious footprints of a woodchuck; there, the halting, irregular print of the browsing rabbit, and sometimes even the many gaited fox would have left the prints of his soft pads upon the snow. The partridges and crows left their own private brands on the white sugar snow and the delicate tracery of the feet of tiny field mice could be seen almost anywhere as they emerged from their covers of tangled grass and crusted snow. There were squirrel tracks beyond number but they were not of much interest because, high up in the branches of the trees, one could see the impudent creatures themselves and hear them scolding and watch them chasing each other in spirals up the trunks of the aged oaks and beeches to the dismay of redheaded woodpeckers and chickadees searching for their breakfasts.
Occasionally a blue-coated, brown-breasted bluebird could be seen, and, not so frequently, a precocious robin high up in the treetop making observations perhaps as to the weather and giving pre-auditions of the songs he was to sing when lovemaking time came. Lazy crows, high in the air, cawed either in felicitation as to the change God had made in the weather, or in derision of the humans creeping along the surface of the earth far down below.
Perched on outcropping rocks, we feasted our eyes on the panorama spread before us and then we made search for the sweetest tree, frequently wastefully emptying the buckets of solid ice formed during the night in order to get at the extra sweet residue left in the bottom of the bucket. Vandals indeed we were during sugar-making time. It required approximately forty gallons of sap to make one gallon of syrup so there should have been no sap wasted upon the ground.
In compensation for stolen sweets, and other things to follow, we helped the farmer to gather the sap, lifting the buckets from their spouts and pouring the contents into capacious hogsheads on the low ox-drawn sleds for transportation to the sugar house, either to be boiled down in huge iron kettles, according to the old process, or separated in gigantic rectangular pans, according to the then new way of making sugar. Sugar making was a night and day occupation for the energetic fanner; sap had to be gathered in the day time but the boiling down process or the evaporating process could be done as well at night. The period during which sap flows is not a long one and ambitious farmers owning and operating sugar bushes have to make the most of it.
The supply of wood with which to keep up the fires was near at hand. The lusty farmer, skilled in handling an ax, could, with amazing speed, fell dead trees and cut the trunks and limbs to suitable size for use in the sugar house for keeping fires hot beneath the huge pans of liquid sweetness. The swift, sure stroke of a well-sharpened axe in the hands of a farmer in the sugar bush, was fascinating to wide-eyed boys from the village; no missed strokes were respectable; the blade had to fall within an infinitesimal fraction of an inch from where it had fallen on the preceding stroke. To fall on precisely the same spot would be to miss the mark, as would also a stroke too far from the landing place of the preceding stroke to permit of the slicing off of a good clean chip. The examination of a tree that has been felled by an experienced woodsman reveals true economy of effort; no slovenly workman he. The blade is swung high and at the apex of its flight, it pauses for an instant, and then descends in a graceful curve to its mark.
Sometimes when tramping through the woods, one is startled by a whir of wings and the flash of a bird descending from somewhere in the sky. The curve described at the end of its flight, when landing on the edge of its nest or elsewhere, is very like the flight of the blade of an axe in the hands of an experienced woodsman; it is poetry of motion. Many farmers make their own axe helves evenings in the winter, fashioning them to their respective tastes and as delicate in balance as the bow of a violin.
The sleds were built low to keep the center of gravity down and thus avoid upsets when they were drawn over huge rocks and down precipitous declivities in roadless forests. How to get between, under, or over trees and rocks, involved the solution of geometrical problems possible only to the minds and practiced eyes of New England sugar bush farmers.
I have seen sleds with hogsheads full of the sweetish liquid, after herculean tugs by whiplashed but patient oxen, come hurtling down a rocky declivity in a manner which threatened to break the necks of the oxen in their wooden yokes and yet I have never seen one of the hogsheads upset or one of the oxen injured. The runners of the sleds were made of tough wood instead of iron or steel and could be hauled over rocks or turf or through snow or water with almost equal facility.
Improved methods have done away with much of the drudgery of sugar making and oxen are seldom seen in the sugar bush now. One more picturesque feature of former days has vanished into the past.
The maple tree is a worker of miracles beyond the ken of man. Who understands the force which draws the sap against the law of gravity up to the billions of chemical laboratories at the tips of tiny branches?
I have heard folks ask whether the tapping of the maple trees, and the drawing off of great quantities of sap, injured the trees as the pine frees of the south are frequently injured by drawing off their sap for the manufacture of turpentine and rosin. So far as I have been able to learn maple frees are never injured by their annual tappings; nature seems to have made provision for them. They give sap much as cows give milk; the sap is the milk of the maple tree, not its life blood.
I remember well the struggle for supremacy between the old-fashioned boiling down process and the modem evaporating process of making syrup. The old-fashioned product was much darker than the new, differing somewhat as buckwheat honey differs from honey gathered from sweet clover. My own preference was for the old-fashioned syrup; it seemed sweeter and heavier. The process of sugar making and syrup making has been greatly improved in recent years. The sap goes in at one end of the evaporating pan, passes automatically through successive chambers and passes out the other end as pure maple syrup.
Cousin John Fox married the daughter of a pioneer in the manufacture of sugar-making equipment and the business still continues. Farmers as a rule prefer to make payment for their equipment in maple syrup and that makes it necessary for the manufacturer to dispose of the product. The Rutland company and another company in St. Johnsbury divide most of the honors as purveyors of pure Vermont maple syrup.
Graining syrup and waxing it were processes dear to the hearts of the boys and girls of my day. To grain it, one heats the syrup and then whips it in a saucer with a fork until it becomes hard and white. To wax it, one pours the hot syrup on hard-packed snow where it stiffens into a delicious stickiness and can be picked up with a fork. Butternut maple candy was another product of the sugar-making period in the good old days. Oh, me! Oh, my!
Maple syrup was an essential for the enjoyment of buckwheat cakes-maple syrup and plenty of butter. Grandfather was fond of the combination, and so was his grandson. Grandfather personally attended to the procurement of the buckwheat flour and the maple syrup for use in our house.
After having taken infinite pains in selecting the flour and the syrup, grandfather didn't permit all to go for naught due to a preparation of the cakes not in accord with his ideas on that subject. I heard him say to grandmother one morning at the breakfast table
"what's the matter with the buckwheat cakes, Ma? They don't appear to be up to snuff this morning!"
"I don't know that there is anything the matter," grandmother answered. "Delia fried them just as usual except that I put a little baking soda in them. I thought they were getting a little sour".
"Sour!" exclaimed grandfather. "That's just what they are supposed to be. Take the sour out of buckwheat cakes and they might as well be thrown to the dogs as far as I am concerned. That's what distinguishes buckwheat cakes from other cakes, their sourness. To preserve the sourness is just why we carry the batter over from day to day, isn't it?"
"I suppose it is," admitted grandmother. "Well, I'll have them made just as sour as you want them, Pa-sour as pickles if that's what you want".
"Buckwheat cakes never could be too sour for me," said grandfather. I agreed with grandfather in that. If there is anything that will spoil buckwheat cakes and make them look as if they had an attack of jaundice, it is baking soda. The above conversation settled the matter of soda in our buckwheat cakes.
Chapter 15 "The Last Day of School"
IN MY BOYHOOD we did not have to depend entirely upon imported talent for entertainment; some of it was home-grown and of the best; Caleb Pennypacker for instance. Caleb was the son of Jonas Pennypacker, a hard working man who never smiled. Caleb was nothing that his father was and everything that his father was not; he never worked and he always grinned; in fact, his face was wreathed in grins from morning until night and his grin begot grins on the faces of others. He enjoyed the distinction of being the "grinniest" and the naughtiest boy in town. There was little room for melancholy in Wallingford as long as Caleb lived there. He viewed the world as a huge joke and all he had to do was to unleash it and that duty he gladly performed.
To us younger fry perhaps the most conspicuous of Caleb's varied skills and accomplishments was the knack he had of converting himself into a sore-eyed old man through the simple expedient of turning the upper lids of his eyes inside out where they would remain until he willed it otherwise. This amazing transformation, he could accomplish in a twinkling and folks who saw it for the first time never knew whether to laugh or to cry. The exercise of this remarkable faculty was an excellent way of relieving the tedium of school life. Whenever the teacher became too serious, Caleb could relieve the tension by turning his upper eyelids inside out. For this voluntary contribution, he was frequently ferruled but he was never cured of it. Naturally all of the boys envied him and did their best to follow his noble example but none succeeded. When Caleb left school turning eyelids inside out became a lost art.
Naturally there were other boys who made contributions of an extra curricular nature to school life. George Marsh could make his ears wag as a horse wags his ears in fly time. It was a grand accomplishment and always brought down the house. "Inky" Ballou could make his knuckles crack like a pistol shot. Such contributions are entitled to honorable mention but the only one to really shed lustre on the Wallingford school was Caleb in his inimitable performance of turning his upper eyelids inside out.
When school was in session, some of the trustees made unexpected calls in order to inform themselves of the progress being made. When Trustee Charles Congdon called, he was generally expected to make a speech and he always lived up to expectations. He invariably closed his remarks with a poem which he considered appropriate. I heard it so often, I remember it now:
"As I walked by myself I talked to myself, and myself said unto me:
'Beware of thyself, take care of thyself, for no one will care for thee'".
Whenever I saw him coming into the room I had difficulty in restraining myself from arising and greeting him with the words of this poem.
Mr. Congdon was, however, a fine old gentleman. Among other things, he rented saddle horses at twenty-five cents per hour to those who could afford that luxury. I enjoyed the inestimable privilege of hiring a saddle horse from Mr. Congdon once upon a time. Where I got the necessary twenty-five cents, I do not remember, though so important an event should have stamped itself upon my memory as did the experience of finding a silver ten cent piece in a pile of rubbish back of Ben Crapo's store. The fact that I found the ten-cent piece was not the wonder; the wonder was that some Vermonter must have lost it without publicizing his calamity; he may, of course, have gotten it dishonestly. Sometimes boys served as temporary hitching posts for farmers with business to transact at the grocery stores; it was easier to throw the reins to a boy than to hitch and unhitch. On taking up the reins again, he would say, "Thank you, boy; some day I'll give you a quarter, the first one I find rolling up hill". That was the nearest I ever came to earning a quarter as a hitching post.
On the first day of May it was customary for the school teachers to take their charges into the woods to gather May flowers and trailing arbutus and to welcome the migratory birds to their northern homes. Once a Maypole was erected in the school yard and we danced and frolicked around it in the manner of another age.
Decoration Day was another celebration which took place at end of May. We decorated the graves of the soldiers, who had died in the Civil War, with spring flowers and we placed a small flag upon each grave. Civil War Veterans dressed in full regalia, led the procession to the cemetery where patriotic speeches were made. Our veterans made a very brave showing; Harlon Strong, our Sunday School Superintendent, Martin Williams, the cheese-maker, Mr. Thomas, the paper-hanger, all looked particularly well in their uniforms and our hearts swelled nearly to the bursting point when the Congregational church quartette sang, "We deck their graves alike to-day with springtime's fairest flowers," and again when the Hartsboro drum corps played. "John Brown's body lies mouldering in the grave "Yankee Doodle" and other patriotic airs. Deaf as I have become to many shallow forms of emotional appeal, my toes have tingled and tears have come welling into my eyes when our few remaining Civil War Veterans came limping by in recent years.
Joy bells surely rang in our hearts in the springtime; like frisky lambs we cavorted and, like tumblebugs, we turned somersaults and handsprings without regard for life or limb. One day Fay's father, who had been watching us from a distance, shouted, "Remember, Boy, your neck isn't long enough to splice".
Early in June came the long awaited "last day of school". The air in the school house is heavy with the perfume of gorgeous red, pink and white peonies. The girls are arrayed in new summer finery; the boys stiff and uncomfortable in their best Sunday clothes. Grand orations have been carefully committed to memory during long evening hours at home and nothing except the dread bugaboo, "old man stagefright," is likely to interfere with their delivery. There is no getting away from the fact that "old man stagefright" is a factor to be reckoned with. He begins his work early; long before the great occasion. During the quiet hours of the night he is on hand to prod his helpless victim. Can anyone imagine worse fortune than waiting for his name to be called on the program of the 'last day of school?" One after the other, earlier victims have been called upon; they have taken their place on the platform, tremblingly waged battle with the "old man," and returned to their respective seats either in victory or defeat.
Then comes the last name on the program. There is nothing to sustain the victim except the thought that it will be over soon, and the glorious long vacation that appears like a beacon-light ahead. A cold sweat stands in beads upon his brow; from somewhere in the distance a voice is heard. What is it that it says? "Paul Harris will now recite 'The Polish Boy'". I arise and step forward, "old man" close by my side. Soon another voice is heard, loud and brave- whose is it? Great Scott, my own! I have a vague feeling that the three of us, "The Polish Boy," "old man stagefright" and I are making quite a job of it but I am not sure of that fact. A lady in the front seat is having considerable trouble with her new hat and seems little concerned with the stirring events taking place on the platform; Thank God, she doesn't have to be reckoned with! I wish they all had new hats to fuss with; anything to take their minds off me.
Eventually the last word rings through the packed schoolroom and Paul Harris returns to his desk amidst salvos of applause. The Polish boy is forgotten and the "old man" buried, not to be resurrected until one year hence, when in due course of events there will be another 'last day of school".
The professor closes proceedings with appropriate remarks; touches his desk bell for the last time, and I slither away through the jam of mothers, fathers, sisters, and brothers, out of the suffocating atmosphere of the peony-scented room, out, out, where I can get a breath of uncontaminated air; and hasten to the swimming hole; oh, the swimming hole; glorious, carefree vacation time has begun.
Oh, for boyhood's time of June
Crowding years in one brief moon
When all things I heard or saw
Me, their master, waited for.
-John Greenleaf Whittier.
Vacation days were anxious days for grandfather. One day he asked me to go with him to the barn. Arriving there we seated ourselves, he in the wheelbarrow and I in the swing and then he said:
"Paul, I want to talk with you about your future. It is a matter of great concern to me. I wonder at times if I am doing right by you. It is my observation that growing boys should have daily work to do and I feel that boys who are taught to work have a great advantage over boys who have nothing to do except play. You do nothing but race from morning till night, Paul. Now there is not much work about this place except what I do myself but what I want you to do is to study a part of each vacation day and the best time to begin is right now".
He drew from his pocket an ancient spelling book, yellow with age, and began to pronounce words for me to spell. This experience was repeated several times during the summer and upon such occasions it was my custom to dawdle lazily in the swing, which had been dedicated to other purposes, and to spell as best I could, although I fear I did so with unconcealed resentment. The swimming hole cried out its invitation to a plunge and my mind was tortured with fears lest the gang break up before I could report for business. If such a thing happened, my day would be ruined; nothing could compensate; nothing perhaps except a fight, a flood, a fire or a circus. I did not, however, forget grandfather's words.
The thirst for learning is a New England characteristic. From New England it was extended throughout the United States. Senator Justin S. Morrill, the father of the land grant bill, was a Vermonter. By virtue of his efforts agricultural colleges were established in every state in the Union.
I had no objection to reading assuming that the reading be something sensible; I did not consider Pilgrim's Progress nor Plutarch's Lives in that category. Indian Pete and similar stories in the Youths Companion fired my imagination and let to further explorations in the field of literature. However explanations in nature's great out-of-doors were more attractive.
Living among mountains as I did, most naturally mountain climbing was in my line. White Rocks, near Wallingford and Killington Peak not far from Rutland challenged my attention. My experience in climbing these two heights inspired me in later years to greater undertakings in the Rockies.
The ascent of White Rocks began over boulders which had been wrested by storm, frost and perhaps earthquakes, from the perpendicular face of the mountain above them. Some of the lichen-covered rocks were fifteen or more feet in diameter and the surfaces of many of them bore the graven initials of generations of visitors, some of them distinguished in business or the professions. J. T. Trowbridge, the writer of boys' stories, once lived in Walling-ford and his initials appeared among others.
After the boulder region had been passed, the climb up the precipitous face of the mountain began. It would not be considered even worthy of mention by an Alpine climber, but to the tyro it was a climb. I know of but few who have undertaken it but to me it was one of the things that had to be done. I think that I experienced more satisfaction the first time I climbed White Rocks than I did from climbing Pike's Peak years later. I had looked forward to it since the day grandmother decided that I was too young to accompany a certain old gentleman on an expedition to White Rocks which he intended to make for the purpose of gathering rare specimens of lichen. Some day, I hoped, I would be big enough and strong enough to do the job. The top of White Rocks had a romantic interest not shared by other spots of the Green Mountains and one reason why I wanted to climb to the top was because it was there that Captain Kidd was supposed to have buried his chest of gold. How Captain Kidd happened to be in the vicinity of White Rocks calls for more explanation than I am able to make.
Still another reason why I was anxious to make the climb was to obtain the unsurpassed view of my valley. In the summer time, nothing was to be seen of the houses in the village from the top of White Rocks as they were hidden in the foliage, nor could more than a brief glimpse be had of the winding creek. However, beyond the village and nestling at the foot of West Mountain, Fox Pond (excuse me, Elfin Lake) could be seen sparkling in the sun. Hot and perspiring as I was, it seemed to cry out to me. I never failed to resolve to go to the lake for a refreshing plunge immediately upon my return to the village but I do not recall ever having carried out this resolution; by the time I arrived home the coolness of the evening made the water seem less attractive and besides I was tired and I had a lot of miscellaneous business to attend to when the gang gathered for the evening's tryst.
How inviting the swimming hole was on hot afternoons as we got our first glimpse of it through the woods. Some unregenerate youngster yells, "Last one in is a... etc., etc.," and off we start at high speed, stripping our clothes off as we run and into the water we plunge like so many bull frogs. Happy Days! Happy Days!
There are many other spring-fed ponds set like gems in the hills and mountains surrounding Wallingford; Shrewsbury Pond, Tinmouth Pond, and the two Sugar Hill Ponds, sometimes called Spectacle Pond because of their resemblance to a pair of gigantic spectacles. Griffin Pond was high up in the mountains east of Danby and its waters were cold enough to be inviting to brook trout which, because of the depth of the water, were of a high color ranging from pale pink to salmon.
There were also the much larger lakes, Bomoseen, St. Catherine and Dunmore, and, in a longer radius Lake Champlain and beautiful Lake George. No one objected to the term 'Lake" being applied to these larger bodies of water except a few die-hards who continued to speak of Lake Bomoseen as "Castleton Pond".
Anyone desiring a broad view of the surrounding mountains and hills, lakes and ponds, would do well to climb Rattlesnake Mountain near Lake Dunmore, select the highest tree and from its topmost branches survey the county as far north as the Canadian border.
Chapter 16 "Berry Picking and Trout Fishing"
IN THE EARLY SUMMER there were wild strawberries to be picked. Raspberries, blackberries, blueberries and finally huckleberries followed in turn. Berry picking on the mountainsides was work and it was not always easy to find boys willing to undergo the hardships except the boys from the poor families who needed the money which could be realized from selling the fruit from door to door. Some of these boys were interesting companions, and spurred on by their mothers they could be depended upon to be on hand at an early hour and thus insure a good day's pick. Even in the long summer days, they would call for me before daylight and we would be well up the mountain when the early morning train from Rutland began to creep along the Otter Creek valley far below.
It was always a matter of wonder to us to observe how long it took the whistle of the train to reach our ears after our eyes had discerned the faint puffs of smoke making the announcement of the fact that the sound was on its way.
Fog generally followed the course of the creek; we had not been conscious of its presence while we were in it but viewed from high up the mountain it was clearly defined.
No part of the day is so entrancing as early morning; so full of hope and expectation. If one would see the pageantry of sky and cloud, let him go to the mountains at daybreak and breathe in the charm of it to the accompaniment of the songs of awakening birds and the fragrance of the wild rose.
Each berrypicker was provided with both pail and cup, the latter remaining buttoned on the suspender until the picking got under way. When the accumulation of berries in the pail justified the change, the pail was placed in the shade of a convenient growth of ferns and the berries were then picked into the cup and the contents emptied into the pail at convenient intervals.
The strawberries grew mostly in the foothills where the soil was slightly sandy. They were much smaller than garden strawberries and much sweeter. It required perseverance to pick even one quart of field strawberries but they were appreciated because of their scarcity.
Raspberries and blackberries followed the strawberries as the season advanced and they, in turn, were followed by the low-bush blueberries which grew in abundance on Green Hill, where the sour, rocky soil produced other things sparingly. Somehow the roots of low-bush blueberries, along with wintergreen and ferns thrived on the sterile soil of Green Hill, and other vegetation begrudged them not their sole occupancy. In return for such privileges as it enjoyed, the soil on Green Hill produced blueberries which were really blue and wonderfully sweet. Blueberries have now been domesticated but not so successfully, it seems to me, as the strawberries and the raspberries; some of the sweetness has been lost in the effort to increase the size.
The huckleberries were the last in the march of the seasons. They were larger and darker in color than the blueberries and lacked some of their flavor but they grew more abundantly and the bushes being high they were more easily picked. One can strip high-bush huckleberries directly in the pail and a good picker can fill a water-pail, holding ten to twelve quarts, in the course of a day. They also are content with small favors so far as soil is concerned; in fact they are even less demanding in their requirements than the blueberries. They grow among huge boulders at the bottom of White Rocks. No berrybushes are so prodigal in their giving and so modest in their demands as the huckleberries of the Vermont mountains.
Grandmother used to smile sweetly when I brought home my day's pick of huckleberries but I must admit that I was not entirely free from self-interest; I had grandmother's luscious pies in mind. While neither of my grandparents asked me to go berrying or even suggested it, grandmother never failed to express a genuine pleasure when her tired, sunburned, barefooted grandson made his appearance with a pailful of cleanly picked berries fresh from the mountainside.
When I was a child, father, yielding to my importunities, took me trout fishing one day, with the result that the virus got into my blood. From that day on, every mountain brook has had its fascination for me. Every likely pool beneath rock, log, or overhanging bank has been a challenge and I have yet to see a more thrilling sight than that of trembling, bending rod and glistening trout as it emerges from its cold, dark lair, dances aloft for a moment in the sunlight and then falls upon rock or bank my captive.
I have yet to see any more beautiful living creature than a brook trout. Note the perfect symmetry of outline and the delicacy and variety of its colors. Its mottled back varies in accordance with the color of the bottom of the stream and the water in which he has made his home; the darker his surroundings, the darker he is and therefore less easily seen by his enemies. Trout-fishing boys and men admire the rich red of the belly fins, but far exceeding all in beauty is the delicate coloration of the flanks of the creature with its crimson spots encircled with rings of azure blue. No artist, painting on Dresden china, could equal the shading of the multicolored sides of this creature of the cold sparkling streams of the New England mountains.
Why should men and boys find such joy in the capture and killing of so beautiful a creature as a brook trout? Our congenital instinct, I imagine; something we may get over in time. Not so very long ago, beautiful song birds were slaughtered for their flesh and their feathers. We have outlived that savagery and now think of such creatures as our best friends, delightful to listen to and to behold.
Perhaps our beautiful friends of the mountain brooks will come into their own some day; there are signs of it already. We don't often hear men speak of the number of brook trout they have "killed" in a day; modern fishermen no longer kill for the sole purpose of killing. It is not good ethics among sportsmen of this day to take from a stream more fish than they have use for.
Calling at the public library one day to ask for books on fishing, the librarian surprised me by asking, "which do you want, philosophical or practical?" The question amused me so that at first I laughed outright but eventually when I had thought the matter through, I answered, "I expect the book I am looking for is what you would designate as philosophical".
I had figured it out right. The practical fisherman is one who is interested primarily in "the kill". To the philosophical fisherman, the catch is only a part of the story, a very small part likely. He is interested in the great outdoors; he places first the opportunity to commune with nature and to partake of its healing power. He can follow a stream or sit in a boat as the case may be without the slightest sense of loneliness; he is the philosophical fisherman. Isaac Walton was one. He taught the religion of the outdoors and did more to popularize fishing than any other man in history. What delightful vistas of thought he opened up to the delectation of his own generation and generations yet to come. Professor Henry Drummond was a philosophical fisherman. Oh yes, in a humble way, that's the kind of fisherman I have been.
The brook trout are not only the most beautiful of creatures, they are the most shy and intelligent of fish. Men love to match wits with them and a sophisticated brook trout wins against all except the most experienced.
In the business of outwitting brook trout, long-bearded Ed Sabin, the tinner, and 'Peg-leg" Pratt, the coffin-maker, knew no superiors. They were individualists pure and simple and while their technique varied greatly, the results were the same-they caught the trout. Ed placed his catch in a creel while "Peg-leg" would cut a crotched stick from the underbrush, cutting one side close to the crotch and leaving the other side long enough to accommodate the expected catch when strung through their gills. "Peg-leg" ordinarily was slow in his movements but his return from Roaring Brook was always a march of triumph; his head was held high and his peg leg played a staccato tattoo on the board walks of the village. As a rejuvenator, trout fishing takes high rank.
As was the case with berrypicking, my fishing excursions began before the light of day. What mysticism there was in those early morning hours; all the world was mine. Even grandfather, early riser though he was, had not thought of stirring. I used to make my way quietly down the cellar stairs to the swinging shelf, on which I would generafly find a platter of brook trout, the result of a previous day's fishing. They had been rolled in corn meal and fried in buffer and even though they were cold, they constituted a fine breakfast.
Then I would take the chunk of dried beef which always hung in the cellarway and from it cut several sizeable slices, my only provision for lunch. I abhorred impediments and early discovered that a tiny package of dried beef washed down by cold water from the brook, supplied the necessary nourishment.
I'm a merry mountain brook
Hiding in some shady nook
Babbling, laughing all day long
Running, dancing with a song.
I'm as free as winds that blow
Little care I where I go
Only let me have a run
Splashing, tumbling all in fun.
An obstruction in my path
Simply makes me swirl and laugh
Nothing stops me as I flow
Over rocks to pools below.
Birney C. Batcheller.
Child's Brook was my favorite; its source was a spring well up in the hills at the foot of White Rocks. The water near the spring, being protected from the summer sun by huge boulders, trees and bushes, remained frozen the year round and was locally known as the "ice bed". Within half a mile of the "ice bed," I could begin fishing the icy waters of Child's Brook. Creeping through the undergrowth in the wooded stretches and through the long grass bordering the brook in the pastureland, I would let my bait float down into promising holes. Sometimes the results were disappointing; in spite of my efforts to conceal myself from the vision of the trout, the shy creatures had seen me. All I had seen was a flash upstream or downstream like a streak of light, a slight muddying of the water where the belly fins, serving as feelers, had stirred up the bottom of the stream.
Then again hungry trout would rise to my bait one after the other, several perhaps from the same hole. I can still feel the thrill of it; the desperate last second of resistance and then the catch.
It was my custom to fill the capacious pockets of my jacket with ferns and mint gathered along the brook and to bury each captured trout in my thus improvised crypt, there to remain until I arrived home when I would cast the entire conglomeration into a trough of crystal spring water, and proceed to separate the trout from their clinging shrouds, preparatory for cleaning, gloating the while at each prize and recalling the very hole from which it had savagely risen to strike the bait.
When the sun had risen to a position directly overhead, I would rest and, in the shade of spreading friendly beech tree, enjoy my simple luncheon while luxuriating in the view of the valley, the music of the brook, the aromatic fragrance of the mint, the soft breezes from the mountains an occasional butterfly of gorgeous colors flitting without apparent purpose from place to place, honeybees gathering sweet nectar from the wild flowers of the mountainside, and the rustle of the long grass bending gracefully in the wind.
What sweeter music than the song of the brook. A friend of mine, whose photographs in the National Geographic magazine have brought joy to millions of readers all over the world, told me that once while traveling in the mountains with the two great naturalists, John Burroughs and John Muir, he came upon Burroughs lying on his side on the floor of an old and seldom used bridge. Upon inquiring as to what he was doing, the grand old man replied, "listening through this knot-hole to the music of the brook". Some hear sounds to which others are deaf. Few indeed enjoy to the fullest the senses of sight, hearing, smelling and feeling. What a privilege the companionship of these two men, who styled themselves, "the two Johnnies-Johnnie of the birds and Johnnie of the mountains".
After lunch with knees planted on convenient rocks and hands on others, I would let myself down and drink from the icy water. The brook increased in size as it continued its course down the hillside, through the meadow and into Otter Creek. The trout increased both in size and sophistication as they entered the broader waters. Neither brook nor creek was famed for large tout, even half-pounders being exceptions. The two largest I recall having been taken from the steams in our neighborhood were two pounders. I saw one of them and greatly envied the fortunate captor.
I became fairly proficient in the art of angling as time advanced but never to compare with Mr. Ed Sabin or Mr. 'Peg-leg" Pratt; they could catch trout in any brook however bad its reputation might be. No brook was ever fished out to them and they always fished alone.
I usually finished my sport late in the afternoon and returned to the village, a tired but happy boy, after my adventure in solitude. If there were sick folks in the village my catch was shared with them; grandmother would have the trout crisply cooked and done up in a snowy napkin and I was never too tired to make deliveries.
Grandmother had her other charities as well and in those, I was her willing messenger. Many a basket and many a pail of delicacies I have taken at her behest to the sick and needy. Two aged sisters, one of them stone blind, both serene in their afflictions, were regular recipients of grandmother's bounty and they always greeted me with a smile and sent their messages of love and gratitude to grandmother.
Chapter 17 "A Christmas Disappointment"
GRANDFATHER, who had always been so provident and had worried so much about the improvidence of his son and daughter-in-law, feared above all things that I too might develop spendthrift habits. In one way and another, he tried to encourage me to save, his first step being to start an account for me in the Rutland Savings Bank and to exhort me to make it grow. I did not follow his advice very strictly but somehow, the account did grow, grandfather spurring me on.
I remember that one deposit was made as a result of an experience with which I was not at all in sympathy. It happened on a Christmas morning. It had been my custom to hang up my stocking Christmas Eve, with the expectation that I would find it stuffed to overflowing in the morning and that there would also be sundry packages lying around too large for admission to the stocking.
Trembling with excitement, I crept out of my bedroom before daylight, made my way across the dining room and felt my way to the mantel in the sitting room. I found the stocking right where I had hung it but to my unutterable amazement and disappointment, it hung limp and empty so far as I could see. My sobs soon brought grandmother to my side and she told me to feel again in the stocking; to thrust my hand away down deep. I did so and extracted a tiny package, which when unwrapped proved to be a five dollar gold piece. Had it been a rock, it could not have been more meaningless and again I broke down and sobbed. I had been expecting the customary books, skates, a watch perhaps, popcorn, candy and other things beyond even my own lively imagination; if Christmas was to be anything less than an introduction to fairyland, it was to be nothing at all.
Later in the day after many conversations between grandfather and grandmother, grandfather said to leave the matter to hun. Under his orders, I hung up my stocking again and waited a reasonable time for Santa Claus to make a return visit. Eventually, I again made my way to the mantle, and, with many forebodings, reached my hand down deep into the stocking and what did I find? Another five dollar gold piece. Shades of my grandfather! Another five dollars! It was more than human nature could bear and I set up a howl in tune with the disappointment within me.
Grandfather declared that he had gone his limit so grandmother took matters in hand again, with the result that the good things, all that I had dreamed of and more, were realized. Grandfather did not withdraw his gifts; the two bright five-dollar gold pieces were added to my savings account; a good day's work for a youngster who had not long since passed his ninth birthday.
Strange to say, in spite of my lack of enthusiasm for saving, the account grew to fifteen hundred dollars before I became of age. When eventually my savings became subject to my disposal they were expeditiously put to use. I am glad to be able to say, however, that I used most of them to pay obligations of my father's family, of which there many and of a pressing nature.
Thus ended all likelihood of my becoming a millionaire. As a matter of fact, I don't believe grandfather would have had me be one. He was known even in our village where thrift was the order of the day, as a frugal man. The few spendthrifts of the village might have thought of him as miserly, although I have never heard that characterization of my grandfather.
He was indeed extremely saving; he could not bear to see anything go to waste, not even a pin or a piece of string; he had a place for everything, but it was all to a high purpose, one typical of the New Englander of my day. He wanted to help all of his children and grandchildren to become self-respecting and independent men and women. He believed that the best way to accomplish this purpose was through the encouragement of thrift and the provision of the best possible educational advantages. I often wondered how he could see so clearly the advantage of a good education, his own opportunities having been so limited. He aimed to keep his own records and those of his son, my father, clear and to provide educational advantages for his grandchildren, so far as his means permitted and so far as their ambitions prompted them to go.
So much can be truthfully said of my careful, saving New England grandfather. I can also say, that notwithstanding my distaste for lectures and the "do's and the don'ts" of which there were not many, and notwithstanding backslidings too numerous to mention, I absorbed the substance of my grandfather's teachings.
One of the strange characters in Wallingford in my time was a man whom we knew as "Doctor Ainsworth". He lived in the hills not far from the "ice bed". Though he was not a graduate of any school of medicine, he sometimes prescribed for ailing country people who were even less informed than he. His panacea for all human ills was said to be buckshot. If a patient survived after having taken buckshot internally, he was supposed to be immune henceforth from all ailments, except perchance buckshot externally applied. While much is known of the external application of buckshot to human beings, dogs, wild beasts, etc., "Doctor Ainsworth" was, so far as I know, the sole repository of knowledge pertaining to its internal application.
The "Doctor's" tall, gaunt, alert figure was a familiar sight in our community. His eyes were bright and piercing and he carried a cane. How old he was none, perhaps not even he himself, knew. His house was on a seldom traveled road and he might have been designated a hermit.
With all the above qualities in his favor, his greatest glory was reflected from a far more luminous personality, his sister. She was all lustre, though personally known to but few of the folks of our valley. She was a clairvoyant and as such she had made a name for herself in Boston.
While that city was then, as now, one of culture and on that account spoken of as the "hub of the universe," its people were not well versed in the occult. That science was as definitely the long suit of "Doctor Ainsworth's" sister as buckshot healing was of the "Doctor" himself.
Her method was simple. When consulted by anxious Bostonians on perplexing problems of health, love, finance or the status of departed loved ones, she merely went into a trance and comforting words of wisdom soon flowed from her lips. She became known as "Sleeping Lucy" and her fame spread throughout the land.
To signalize her success and in order to do something for the village of her nativity, she gave Wallingford folks a special trance which the citizens might henceforth think of as exclusively their own. On the occasion of this special trance "Sleeping Lucy" revealed a fact neither known nor suspected up to that time. She told the world that Captain Kidd, before the memory of living man, had visited our valley in search of a suitable repository for his ill-gotten but long famed chest of gold. When his eagle eye lit upon White Rocks towering in the distance, east of the spot where the "Doctor" and his famous sister made their home, he realized at once that there on the top was the very place. There buried deep in the ground it would be safe from the prying eyes of inquisitive man. The Captain, being a man of action, planted his famed chest in the ground on the top of White Rocks.
It might be said that the story of "Sleeping Lucy" belongs not to truth but to fiction. Some folks in my valley count it as libelous and as insinuation that they are a simple-minded people which of course they are not. Personally I cherish it as a legend like the legends of Norway which rise above prosaic facts into the rarer atmosphere of poetical fancy. Nations are enriched by their legends.
There was a "Sleeping Lucy," that much we know and many of her followers believed that it was nothing for her to rise from mundane affairs into realms unknown to ordinary mortals, and someone having knowledge of this gift may have hung this yarn about Captain Kidd upon her; where facts leave off and fiction begins, I neither know or care.
I will admit, however, that the story of "Sleeping Lucy" and Captain Kidd was one of the reasons I wanted to climb to the top of White Rocks; that I might poke about among the crevices of the rocks in case something might have been overlooked by the gold diggers who came in the wake of the Captain. Even a paltry hundred doubloons or a thousand dollars might come in handy. So I figured.
The truth of the adage that mistakes will happen in the best regulated families was demonstrated one summer evening on our hired girl's day off when grandmother happened to be absent from home making a call upon a neighbor. Grandfather had been left in charge of the house, a duty which he did not relish and which he was seldom required to do. Now it was not unusual for Mrs. Hudson Shaw to call at our house for the purpose of obtaining a cup of yeast. "Borrow" was the term used although neither Mrs. Shaw nor grandmother had the remotest idea that the yeast was ever to be returned. This gentle fiction always pertained in transactions when yeast was the commodity concerned. One was expected to return monkey wrenches, screw drivers, etc., but in the case of yeast there was no return tide. As a matter of fact, if Mrs. Shaw had ever come into our yard with a cup of yeast and said, "Here is the cup of yeast I borrowed from you last Wednesday, Mrs. Harris," I very much doubt grandmother's being able to survive the shock; grandmother was not very strong.
On the occasion mentioned, it was grandfather who did the honors. Gallantly responding to the request of Mrs. Shaw, he got the innocent looking brown jug of yeast from its shelf in the cellar and proceeded to remove the strings with which grandmother had secured the cork in place. Suddenly there was an explosion and grandfather's head seemed to have been blown completely off and a huge globe of putty in its place. Not one feature was distinguishable. Not being experienced in the ways of yeast, I set up a howl as any little boy might have done in being thus summarily deprived of his only grandfather; to be sure, grandfather and I had disagreed at times but that was no reason why he should have had his bead blown off. What part Mrs. Shaw had in bringing about the ghastly spectacle, I did not know but I regarded her with considerable suspicion. Mrs. Hudson Shaw had always been spoken of as a nice old lady and she was the mother of my dear Professor Will Shaw but the fact still remained that the moment she crossed our threshold trouble began. Four bulls and a catamount could not have done more to break up good housekeeping than Mrs. Hudson Shaw and her cup of yeast.
The first intimation I had that possibly grandfather had not come to an untimely end was when the globe of putty turned in the direction of Mrs. Shaw and deliberately and clearly enunciated the familiar word, "Pshaw7 That word was the nearest semblance to profanity that grandfather had ever been known to use. Sadly and solemnly, and I thought reprovingly, the globe of putty looked at Mrs. Shaw very much as if to say, "Now, see what you have done with your everlasting, 'may I borrow a cup of yeast?' This ought to be a lesson to you, Mrs. Hudson Shaw. I have always tried to be a good neighbor and I think I am a good neighbor but this thing is being run into the ground. Henceforth, Mrs. Hudson Shaw, you can go hang for all I care".
I think that grandfather was thoroughly ashamed of his thoughts but so far as I know, not a word percolated through his mask of yeast. Anyway from that day until the day of his death, I never saw grandfather with a jug of yeast in his hand, and whenever grandmother brought her yeast jug through the kitchen I noticed that grandfather always had some important business to attend to in the wood shed.
There is, however, no great loss without some small gain and I am sure that grandfather and I were nearer to each other after that episode and understood each other better. When grandmother returned from her call she found me asleep snuggled up in grandfather's lap with my arms clasped around him. I had no intention of ever letting grandfather get away from me again; at least not unless grandmother was present and as for Mrs. Hudson Shaw, I would scream bloody murder if I ever saw her enter our gate with an empty cup in her hand.
Chapter 18 "Cupid and Bacchus"
NEITHER OF MY grandparents were given to attending social affairs. Neighbors called on grandmother and she would pay return calls. Aunt Lib Martindale called frequently and I am sure that her calls meant much to grandmother. I remember Aunt Lib's fleshy figure as she rocked slowly back and forth relating the news that had come to her ears, and, when grandmother would in turn relate some tid-bit of information, Aunt Lib would show her appreciation by an ejaculation which sounded like "Y-ee". Whether "Y-ee" is a contraction of something else or whether it is a noun, pronoun, verb or adverb, I do not know but I have heard a lot of "Y-ee's" in my day. Aunt Lib also had a nervous habit, affliction I think it might be called, of repeatedly closing her eyes tightly and then opening them wide. I used to want to ask her why she went through that performance but restrained myself for grandmother's sake. She used to wear a little shawl over her head as she came through the path connecting the Martindale home with ours. During the call the shawl always dropped so as to protect her neck and shoulders.
The doings of the Fox children, my cousins, of Rutland constituted the principal topic of conversation when Aunt Lib came to our house. It seemed to me that the eligibility of every young man in Rutland was canvassed by my grandmother and Aunt Lib in their quest of a suitor for my cousin Mary when she became of marriageable age. Any young man who had ever touched his hat to our Mary was marked a potential suitor and put on the list for gentle panning or blessing as the case might be. I possessed a mental "Who's who" on all of them and could have enlightened them if they had consulited me about their chances of capturing cousin Mary.
One after the other, grandmother and Aunt Lib married off the several children of the Fox family; set one boy up in business, the other in a profession; married the girls off, and launched them all on distinguished careers, while I, sitting on a stool beside grandmother, took it all in and lent their conclusions my moral support.
To be sure errors in their reckonings revealed themselves; little Johnnie did not follow in the footsteps of his father and become a doctor as the board had planned, and faithful and self-sacrificing cousin Mattie, nearest to me in age and my favorite, deferred the announcement of marital vows until long after we had given up hope.
Failures in prognostication weakened my faith in the infallibility of the strategy board, but I felt myself greatly edified in witnessing its skilful maneuvers. It was like seeing a game of chess between the great masters, my dear cousins being pawns in their hands.
While the doings and prospective doings of the Fox children were the chief topics of conversation they were not the only ones. Sometimes certain villagers were honored by specific mention but I cannot remember that Aunt Lib ever had a hired girl anywhere near the equal of our Delia or Mary in the news-gathering business. Aunt Lib was greatly handicapped in this respect; Delia and Mary were unrivaled, better than some newspapers I have read.
To Aunt Lib however go my thanks for having given me my first impressions of neighborliness; it was good, old-fashioned neighborliness unspoiled by frills; the kind which continues year after year without break and always a beneficent influence.
Vermonters are famed for their frugality, and our valley had its full share of frugal folks; among them was Mrs. Abigail Coleridge
-Aunt Abbie we called her. Aunt Abbie once became afflicted with rheumatism which confined her to her bed. Someone advised her to take Hood's Sarsaparilla and Aunt Abbie soon had an ample supply. In order to avoid the high prices of Calvin Townsend's retail store Aunt Abbie bought a dozen bottles at a wholesale drug house in Rutland. Whether it was due to the virtues of Hood's Sarsaparilla or some other cause-a change of weather perhaps-her rheumatism quickly cleared up.
Eliza Huntoon, a neighbor who chanced to drop in one day, saw Aunt Abbie taking a liberal dose of Hood's Sarsaparila though she was running about the house chipper as a sparrow. The neighbor inquired of Aunt Abbie: "Why do you continue taking medicine, Aunt Abbie? You are entirely recovered from your rheumatism, aren't you?"
"Yes," answered Aunt Abbie "but I paid seventy-five cents a bottle for that Hood's Sarsaparilla and you wouldn't expect me to throw it away, would you, Eliza?"
The next house south of ours was that of Judge Button, a refined and educated gentleman, who had served as County judge at Rutland for many years, continuing however, during his encumbency of office, to live in Wallingford. During the latter years of his life he filled the position of Justice of the Peace in Wallingford. The Judge heard petty cases of misdemeanors and the trials were at times a circus for us boys. The most common offenses were drunkenness and fighting and the dramatis personae were pretty much the same folks all the time.
Bob Rutherford was one of the most frequent customers. Bob played shortstop on the baseball team and played well when he was sober enough to see the ball; he had his eccentricities and stuck to them come weal, come woe. He was ill one day and a friend advised him to take a teaspoonful of Hostetter's Bitters. Bob took the teaspoonful and then announced that it was his opinion if a little was so good, much would be better and so he drank the whole bottle. We expected to see him expire but he grew more hilarious with each succeeding swallow, and when he topped off with an even pound of honey which he bought at Luther Tower's candy shop, we concluded that if he were ever to die someone would have to kill him, which several citizens would have been glad to do.
Every' month or two, when Bob felt sufficiently prosperous, he would take a jug and start for the New York State line, twenty-five miles distant, where thirsty pilgrims from prohibition Vermont, were wont to go to slake their thirst. Bob always began his return trip with his jug full and arrived in Wallingford with it empty. Having had twenty-five miles of joyous inebriation, he was ready to work in anyone's hayfield at the customary wage.
Vermont was a prohibition state and the law was frequently evaded but Vermont villages were cleaner and more orderly by far than border towns in New York State. New Yorkers residing in the border towns used to claim that the reason why they could not keep their towns clean and orderly was because they were visited by so many "bums" from the state of Vermont.
Judge Button, who at the time presided at the court of justice, was exceedingly deaf and very solemn. Witnesses always had to speak loudly which they seemed willing to do, especially the contestants and their lawyers. There were no regularly admitted lawyers but Mr. Elija Brewster and Mr. Charles Congdon acted as such. Elijah Brewster was recognized as one of our most distinguished citizens, a versatile gentleman, something of a farmer, something of a capitalist and a politician as well. During political campaigns he played an important part and for Fourth of July orations, his services were indispensable. To use a hackneyed expression, Elija Brewster could "make the eagle scream". Under his capable leadership, we fought the battles of Bunker Hill, Bennington, Saratoga and Yorktown over again. We couldn't help wondering how many lives would have been saved and how wonderful it would have been, if the British could have had Mr. Elija Brewster to deal with.
While Mr. Brewster specialized on events of the Revolution, he was no tyro on the events of the Civil War; in fact, it was clear to all who heard him orate that Elija was a war horse and that it was a pity he was born too early to fight in one war and too late to fight in the other. His speeches were inspiring; they made us swell up until we almost burst. We felt that the United States could and probably should, pick up all the nations of the earth and crack their heads together. We knew that one American was the equal of ten of any other nation; that in fact, America was just America and that all the rest of the world was plain rubbish.
We also learned that America had always been entirely right in its contentions and that its opponents had always been entirely wrong; anyone who thought otherwise was a traitor to his country. How it happened that our country had always been such a paragon of virtue was a matter of conjecture. Mr. Elija dealt in "facts," not in theories. What he said was simply and definitely true; no one who loved his country could fail to recognize its infallibility in all things.
I do not know which of the two, Mr. Brewster or Mr. Congdon, knew the most law; in fact, it was claimed by many that neither of them knew much law and that Judge Button was the only person in Wallingford who knew law and the Judge was very deaf. However, Mr. Brewster and Mr. Congdon looked very learned and folks opined that things could not go very far wrong while Judge Hutton sat on the bench.
Deaf or not deaf, the Judge knew how to separate the wheat from the chaff. When at concert pitch, Elija Brewster's voice trembled with emotion and his hands shook as if he were afflicted with palsy. It always seemed to me that Mr. Brewster had a great advantage in this respect. He made us all feel lachrymose at times but I felt that he might have saved some of his tremolo so far as Bob Rutherford was concerned, and that it might have been just as well to have given Bob a bottle of Hostetter's Bitters and a pound of honey and turned him loose.
Bob, after a fight, used to look like a well-pounded beef steak but even so, he always seemed uplifted after hearing Mr. Brewster speak so well of him and cry about him so. Getting drunk and fighting were about the only spiritual outlets Bob had; he never went to church nor to the Friday evening prayer meetings in the little red chapel. Probably we all had something in the nature of a spiritual uplift or awakening when we heard Mr. Brewster explain the high moral tone of Bob 'Rutherford's fights; I mean all of us except Mr. Congdon. He was an old campaigner and not easily moved by such doings and besides he was on the other side of the case, and it was to his interest to look as if he didn't believe a word Mr. Brewster was saying and that he considered him a fraud anyway.
Judge Button always listened respectfully to eveiything the witnesses and the lawyers had to say however foolish it might seem to other people. The Judge's very presence spread a mantle of dignity over all the proceedings in the little frame building where he held court as Wallingford's Justice of the Peace.
No one ever thought of talking "out loud" or laughing, and men and boys took theft hats off without being told to do so. In fact Judge Button never issued any orders of any character to anyone that I can remember; everyone instinctively tried to act as near as possible as Judge Button acted during a trial of cases in his courtroom.
There has to be an end of all things both good and bad and, in course of time, there came an end to Judge Button's tenure of office. The good, upright old Judge went to bed one night tired and worn out and he never arose again. A hush fell over the little village when folks learned that Judge Button had passed on. The doors of the little office were locked for some time. The villagers had not realized how important a part the little office had played in the drama of community life.
I imagine that even Bob Rutherford missed the little office. What was the use of getting drunk and fighting if he must be deprived of the very heart and soul of the entire enterprise-trial in open court before his fellow townsmen. It was not easy for a great and temperamental artist like Bob to be pushed off the stage; to the folks of Wallingford, Bob was Edwin Booth, Joe Jefferson and Nat Goodwin combined when it came to dramatics.
There was no resident sheriff in Wallingford but Mr. Harvey Congdon, brother of Mr. Charles Congdon, was Constable and when tramps entered the village all one had to do was to send a boy to find Mr. Harvey Congdon. He was old and frail and toed-in considerably but even so, he was the best croquet player in Wallingford. Reverend Mr. Archibald, the Baptist minister, was runner-up.
Whenever Harvey Congdon caught a tramp, it was his custom to say to him, "Come along with me". There were no further preliminaries; these words having been spoken, he took his prisoner by the arm and led him to the village limits. Upon arrival at this point he performed the brief but impressive ceremony of looking the vagrant searchingly in the eye as if he feared he might forget him if he ever returned to Wallingford.
Harvey Congdon had a habit of spitting furiously whenever he became agitated. We townspeople knew all about that and thought nothing of it as several of our best citizens indulged in that practice. I have never seen Mr. Harvey Congdon administer what might be termed his, "bums rush," but I have often thought that his way of spitting right and left must have been disconcerting to strangers; they must have been glad to get beyond his range.
The Clarenden folks used to say that Mr. Harvey Congdon dumped more vagrant tourists on them than all the other constables in the county, though all Vermont constables were liberal in that respect; tramps had to walk too fast for their enjoyment of the scenic wonders of our beautiful state.
Chapter 19 "A Sad Tragedy"
FOX POND WAS NOT without its tragedies; one of Wallingford's most beautiful young ladies, beautiful in character as well as in person, met her death in the waters of the pond. She was much older than I but she seemed particularly near to our family because she had once lived with grandmother. In those days in New England, it was not unusual for refined and educated young ladies to do housework when there was no other demand upon their time. Their social status was in no wise affected and the presence of such a person in the home was a social as well as an economical advantage.
Nancy was dark-eyed, tall and willowy and would have graced any position in which she might have found herself. She was loved and admired by the townspeople both old and young and a dark shadow fell upon the community when she left us. She had suffered as only the refined and cultured can suffer until she could bear it no longer.
One night she arose from her bed and went out, down the familiar road, across the creek bridge, on up the hill, through the woods, then down the slope to Fox Pond, the scene of many a happy picnic in former days.. Slowly and with a determination one would hardly have thought her capable of, she waded out into the cold water to a depth not much above her knees, then fell forward face down and deliberately held herself in that position until she died; the water was not deep enough to drown a child who cared to live. In the morning a searching party easily found her.
The perseverance of Nancy in her determination to take her own life, was a subject of conversation for many years. One never heard words of condemnation; they were words of deep sorrow. The folks of our valley had suffered a great loss. Nancy had always been a sweet influence in our community.
Folks recalled the fact that one after another those nearest to her had been taken; first her father, then her mother and then her kindly and handsome brother, Neil, who died of tuberculosis while still a young man. After the shock of these bereavements, her whole affection was centered on her younger sister, Lizzie; Nancy simply had to have someone on whom to lavish affection, and most naturally she turned to Lizzie.
There was little social life in our community, most of the young men having gone west in search of larger opportunities. The two Gleghorn girls found employment, as many other refined and capable New England young ladies had done, working in the shirt and collar factory of Troy, New York, sixty miles south.
The thought of our Nancy and our Lizzie working by the side of foreigners was disturbing but the Gleghorn girls needed the money and after all, such employment was a break in the monotony of everyday home life in Wallingford and they could come home occasionally.
The combination was broken up soon by Lizzie being called upon to take charge of the home of an aged neighbor and Nancy continued her life in Troy alone. It's a long story, that of the passing of Mr. Frank Miller and his having made Lizzie the sole beneficiary under his will. All of these events seemed quite natural to Nancy and she was happy in Lizzie's good fortune. The great shock caine when Lizzie married and Nancy realized that her one remaining prop had been removed; Nancy henceforth was to be alone.
This was more than she could bear; there had always been someone she could serve; now there was none. Nancy was not the kind of young lady to live without purpose, so, as has been related, she got out of bed one night and made her distracted way down the creek road to the pond.
Stories of the migration of ambitious young men to the western country are full of romantic and interesting incidents. They went from farms and villages out into the unknown world, equipped with good principles and a willingness to work. Throughout their wanderings they were sustained by the hope of success and their
determination to render good accounts of themselves. Few of the home folks give even passing thought to the Nancys and Lizzies who have been left without prospects of becoming mothers with families of their own. In rare cases young men who have attained success do return to pick up the threads of youthful romance, but, as a rule, new romances take the place of the old, and those who return bring with them their families.
In a few cases, New England young ladies of courage and determination have taken matters into their own hands and joined the trek to the western country. Some of the New England girls who struck out for themselves became school teachers and few returned to New England. In one instance, a far seeing and philanthropic migrant who had been successful in the West, chartered a ship and took a load of marriageable young women all the way around Cape Horn to Portland, Oregon, into the outstretched arms of waiting suitors.
In another instance, the founder of a great system of restaurants which extended throughout the Southwest, advertised in New England for young women of character who desired to make permanent homes in the West. This progressive employer of hundreds of young ladies, seemingly against his own interests definitely urged his help to marry whenever suitable opportunity presented itself. To be employed as a waitress in one of the excellent Harvey eating houses along the line of the Santa Fe railway soon became a satisfactory assurance of respectability and many happy marriages followed.
If our winsome Nancy had known of such opportunities, she probably would not have waded to her death that night in Fox Pond. No one could have presided over a home with greater dignity and charm nor have been a better mother than Nancy.
In case there is any to whom the term, "hired girl" is not familiar, I may say that in rural New England of my day, the hired girl was not the equivalent of the city maid; she was an institution; she wore no cap or other indication of servility. While waiting on table, she did not glide noiselessly and speechlessly about surreptitiously purloining a half-emptied plate and substituting another either half-full or empty. When she entered the dining room from the kitchen, everyone knew she was coming; she made no attempt to conceal her presence. When she planked her ground grippers down, one had a feeling of security-no cinderella slippers were they. She considered herself a member of the family and to all intents and purposes she was. After having landed her cargo of corned beef and cabbage, boiled dinner, pork and beans, or whatever else might be on the bill of fare, she took her place at the table, and, in due course of time passed her plate for a helping which had to be geperous.
In compensation for the customary amenities, she delivered tidbits of local gossip, stored up for the occasion. She could give the "low-down" on almost anything. Her antennae extended in all directions and it was marvelous how much she was able to scoop in.
She had a superlative sense of dignity which she yielded to no one, it mattered not what the occasion. For example, a New England housewife once asked her "Biddy" to wear a cap and gown while serving distinguished guests from the city. Biddy's answer was prompt and unequivocal, "It is wanting me to make a fool of myself that ye are? Stick that bonnet on your own head and that purty apron on your own body. Bridget Moriarity will have none of them".
A city house maid is no more like a New England hired girl than a horse chestnut is like a chestnut horse.
Our Mary and the Stafford's Myra had an organization of their own. They used to get together evenings and talk things over; what was not known by one or the other of them, was not worth knowing. Their gleanings gave spice to table talk. There was never lack of matters to talk about at our table and Mary or Delia as the case might be, contributed their full share.
Neither allegiance to the Congregational church nor allegiance to the Republican party caused my grandparents to be narrow either in their religious or their political views. I can never recall a time when we were without an Irish Catholic girl in our house and the garden was always worked by Mr. Wynne. I can also in truth say that I never heard my grandparents speak in disparaging terms of either Catholics, Jews, Democrats, or of members of other races or devotees of other faiths.
I early learned the essentiality of maintaining a mutually satisfactory understanding with the hired girl, and, although there were no formal treaties executed, there were certain strict canons of correct practice which were always observed. Among other things it was understood that neither should inform on the other. This was mostly in my favor as I seldom had anything on the hired girl but she frequently had considerable on me. When grandmother displayed her unfamiliarity with affairs of common knowledge in the community, it was not necessary for me to sit trembling in my chair; a wink across the table by the hired girl was sufficient assurance that all was well.
When, by chance, I happened to stumble into the kitchen one night and saw Delia sitting in the lap of Pete, her sweetheart and prospective husband, I stumbled out again reserving my wink for a more appropriate occasion.
Tender recollections these-my heart swells with pride as I recall the rigid observance of the niceties of our face-saving treaties; no mere scraps of paper they-Ah no! As long as Delia and Mary lived, it was my custom whenever in Vermont to call upon them in commemoration of the faithful performance of their duties in our household. Both raised children and had grandchildren in plenty. I do not think of them as having been servants but rather as having been members of our family.
Although we had no hired man who sat at the table with us, I well know the species and know that they also were independent in character. They did not work for a wage merely; they worked to accomplish a task and the task had to be sensible. Tell a New England hired man to transfer a pile of stone from one corner of a field to another and he will do so willingly; tell him to take the stones back again and he will do so grudgingly but tell him then to transfer them somewhere else and it will be up to you to find another hired man to carry out your wishes, if you can find one sufficiently unprincipled. There must be common sense in everything a New England hired man is required to do. New Englanders abhor waste whether it be of time, money or energy. Perhaps that is why their poorhouses remain tenantless, or nearly so, much of the time.
I suppose that there must have been an official poorhouse in our county but I do not remember seeing it or knowing anyone who lived in a poorhouse. New Englanders have always had an antipathy against paupers except those who were in that state through no fault of their own. The laws of most of the New England States at one time disfranchised paupers, probably on the theory that if they could not manage their own affairs, they would not be likely to make substantial contributions in the affairs of state.
In the early days, in New England, it was the practice to sell the services of paupers at public auction. The pauper went to whomsoever would pay him the highest price for his services and the employer henceforth became responsible for his welfare. The institution served its purpose well enough to justify its existence in the opinion of the majority of the voters for many years. A certain percentage of citizens, unable to manage their own affairs to the satisfaction of the public or to their own satisfaction, were willing to work and experienced a goodly measure of relief from worry and anxiety in the transfer of their burdens to the shoulders of other men more capable of bearing them.
All went well in the cases of the employers who were true to their trusts; those who were really interested in the welfare of their workers, but that much doubtless could be said for slavery. Good masters in some respects were better than none but slave owners were not always good masters, and it is equally true that employers of pauper labor in New England were not always true to their trusts. Moreover there was in the New England institution a suggestion of serfdom, which of course was repugnant to men and women born and bred in that part of the United States frequently spoken of as the "Cradle of Liberty".
The only case of pauper labor that I have ever heard of in My Valley was the case of Nathan Remington, whose services were sold to Mr. Alfred Hull; the relationship continued throughout the life of Mr. Hull and throughout the life of his widow; nothing short of death could have terminated it.
There were not many who came within the hired man class; that is, there were few who habitually worked on farms belonging to others. Farmers and their sons managed to do all the work of their farms except during haying time possibly.
When a villager needed a man for a particular job, he could usually find one suited to the requirements. There were a few elderly men who had no regular employment and who were glad of the opportunity to earn a little extra money. Some, who did not care to work for anyone and everyone in need of help, would work for some particular person whose ways they understood and approved. Mr. Wynne was always glad to help grandfather out and Randall Nourse helped Mr. Ed Martindale quite regularly. What, if any, other source of revenue Randall had, was not known to the public. He occupied rooms in the basement of Alphonso Stafford's home, and what, if any, cash he paid for the privilege was unknown. Perhaps he paid nothing. Alphonso Stafford may have considered him a protection against fire, burglary, etc. At any rate, Randall belonged to a class of Wallingford citizens who lived respectably and well on an income incredibly small. That is where characteristic Vermont frugality came in.
Mr. Justin Bacheller was the only villager who had a bonafide year-round man servant but Mr. Bacheller was a lover of fast horses and John Catle knew how to exercise and train them and there was not the slightest servility in his service; he was one of the citizens of our village.
Chapter 20 "A Reunited Family"
THE AFFAIRS OF my father's family were always at boiling point. It seemed a great boon when grandfather bought another drug store for father. This one was in the town of Fair Haven, about twenty-five miles from Wallingford. The family was reassembled and in due time, grandfather bought a good home for us. All seemed favorable; father's optimism and enthusiasm knew no bounds. We were taken in by the best people in town; we children went to church and Sunday school and took our places in the village school.
Father worked hard and spent his leisure hours with the family. Sunday afternoons he assembled us around the Chickering piano that grandfather had bought for mother. Father led the singing although he knew not one note from another; there were no more ups and downs in his bass voice than there is in a bass drum but nevertheless he kept ponderously on in his exuberance of spirit. When unfamiliar with the words of a hymn, father used to extemporize; one never knew when he started a hymn where he would finish up but he used to enjoy it because of its effect upon mother. For example, he would sing:
"The mistakes of my life have been many
The sins of my life have been more, But thank Cod, I am no knocker".
The last line being his own, he sang it with gusto.
Quite true, my dear father, you were never a knocker. Your list of friends included all sorts and conditions of men and you were as free from religious and political prejudices as any man I have ever known, except perhaps your father, my grandfather, from whom both you and I inherited tolerance. And then there is another thing about you, my dear father. It happened long after the years of which I have been writing; in fact, long after you had left Vermont. I refer to the latter period of your life when you were living in Denver. Mother was, at the time, sadly broken; she was totally blind and helpless and then came the great transformation of your life. You waited on mother so tenderly all of those latter years; lifting her from her bed and placing her in her wheel chair. I remember so well how patiently you fed her with a spoon; how you hung on her every word and became her abject slave and when she passed away, you tried so bravely to face life without her. You expiated all shortcomings of former years.
Father resolved to be very economical when he took up life in Fair Haven; he devised a system of barter and exchange; he used to swap cigars for liver, tongue and tripe which he liked very much. Mr. Powell, the butcher, was a prodigious smoker, and there being very little demand for liver, tongue and tripe, the exchange seemed to be mutually profitable. Father carried his system of barter and exchange all down the line. He even used to hire horses and surreys from Mr. Hyde, who ran the livery stable, and pay for their use in ten cent cigars. We had many happy rides Sunday afternoons because of father's system of barter and exchange. He would swap cigars for anything anyone had to offer whether he needed it or not. He never seemed to figure that his cigars cost him anything; it was alright with father so long as he didn't have to pay cash.
In course of time, a new crop of children began to arrive, Guy, Claude and Reginald came in turn and Aunt Sue, who came to live with us, got back into her stride raising mother's children. Guy died in his boyhood. Claude gave his life in his country's service in the Philippines at the turn of the century. Reginald survived, became a member of the faculty of the University of Wyoming, served in the U. S. Army during World War I, and now resides in California.
Father worked in the garden during the growing season and raised abundant supplies of potatoes, strawberries, grapes, chatting occasionally with the Catholic priest who lived on the adjoining property. Father figured that his garden produce cut down the cost of living greatly.
So long as father continued to devote his best efforts to his drug business and mother continued to devote hers to the home, things went on fairly well but when father began to turn back to his old weakness, inventions, and mother turned the housekeeping over to hired girls while she gave music lessons, led church choirs and Welsh choral groups, things did not go so well. Sometimes there was plenty of good food to eat and sometimes the cupboard was almost bare; it was either feast or famine.
Seeing the drift in the direction of the rocks, grandfather gave father timely advice but father smiled indulgently, convinced that grandfather was in his dotage at last. He invented a potato bug poison in competition with paris green; he named his concoction london purple but paris green continued to be the favorite. He also invented a physic and gave it the name of august flower and since he had no guinea pigs to use for experimental purposes, he used to practice on us children.
His experiments with chemicals resulted in several explosions severe enough to rip the buttons from his vest and spot his clothes beyond recovery. In business affairs and in domestic affairs, the tragedy of Racine was being enacted all over again; it was as if neither of my parents had learned anything whatsoever from the unhappy events of former years.
We three older children were kept in school. The principal was a tall, angular, rawboned man with deep-set severe eyes. His name was Ichabod Spencer. He never stood erect but had an habitual slouch which created the impression that he was in constant readiness to pounce upon someone, innocent or guilty. His attitude struck tenor to the hearts of all children within his jurisdiction. He was a natural born sleuth and was likely to shuffle into our room almost any time of day. He wore a long black coat and trousers which bagged at the knee. I don't recall ever having seen the vestige of a smile on his face. Corporeal punishment was a factor to be reckoned with in the public school of my day and Ichabod Spencer seemed to enjoy administering severe floggings. There were plenty of rooms in the building beside the school rooms where he might have indulged himself, beyond the sight and hearing of the innocent children, but it was not his practice to use them. The brutal punishment was always administered even in the presence of the tiniest of the children. In one case a child was so shocked that it shrieked in agony and had to be removed from the room. A boy, in another case, was so frightened and stunned that he could not bear food on his stomach for a week.
In major offenses it was customary for the teacher to send a boy for Professor Spencer who always appeared with alacrity, bearing his customary rawhide whip. There was a little Welsh boy in our department by the name of Harry Parry; he was an incorrigible. In his case Professor Spencer wasted no words. He used but two sentences, one, 'Harry Parry, come forward" and, "take off your coat, sir". Then amid the boy's shrieks, Professor Spencer rained the cruel blows on, while the pallid faced children trembled in their seats.
If Charles Dickens, before writing his Nicholas Nickelby, could have seen Professor Ichabod Spencer, it would not have been necessary for him to create the character, Mr. Wackford Sqeers. Professor Spencer was the incarnation of the immortal headmaster of the Dotheboys School, and Harry Parry, an American equivalent of poor Smike.
New England, unfortunately, had no Charles Dickens to throw a floodlight of publicity on the abuse of authority in schools but educational methods were undergoing great changes on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean.
My experience in the school dominated by Professor Ichabod Spencer was to me, "the last ounce that broke the camel's back". I could put up with mismanagement in the home and in father's business affairs but the incubus of Professor Ichabod Spencer was too much to bear.
However, our home at Fair Haven had to be given up and other arrangements made. Eventually father and mother took up residence in Colorado and remained there until summoned to the Great Beyond-mother in 1920 and father in 1926.
My home in Wallingford was still open to me and for the third time in my brief history, I took refuge in its calm and repose. My experience in Fair Haven greatly increased my sympathy for grandfather in the shadow which enshrouded him during the closing years of his life.
I anxiously noted the effect of father's letters on grandfather. After reading them, he used to sit for hours in his arm chair, sighing audibly and his sighs at times seemed much like sobs; his sadness depressed me; scalawag though I was, my heart was full of pity for grandfather, the bearer of so many burdens.
At times grandfather and I enjoyed little confidences although the initiative was always mine. While grandfather never said a word about his feelings toward me, he had a way of looking wondrously tender at times.
As he advanced in years, it became increasingly difficult for him to care for himself; sometimes he asked me to shave him and I responded as best I could. At other times he asked me to adjust his truss. I cannot recall his ever having asked me to do the chores but when he was driven back into the house one day before completing his job of shoveling the path through a heavy snow, I slipped out the back door, picked up his shovel where he had left it and cut a clean path through the high drift which had confronted him and then scurried along to the post-office.
One day as I was sitting in his lap, he told me that he could not expect to be with us much longer. When I asked him how long, he replied, "at the very outside, ten years" I then inquired, "do you want to live, grandpa?" and he answered resignedly, "Oh yes, I want to live".
And so it is with men and with all creatures from the tiniest insect in the air to the mammoth fish in the sea, they all cling to life; manifestly Providence did not intend to make the passage from this world too easy or inviting.
I wondered how death must seem to one who must soon face it; would it seem so terrible as it did to me? Grandfather had nothing to say on the subject; I had done pretty well to get him to talk that much. Had I been less tempestuous in nature and less interested in the amazing things I was finding in life, I would have looked well to it that I added nothing to grandfather's burdens, but I am sorry to relate that my affectionate outbursts were not so frequent as they might have been and that most of the time, I was just a boy well tuned to fun and mischief and to little else.
Despite all my misdemeanors and not infrequent relapses into savagery, there was a warm spot in the heart of grandfather for his erring grandson. One day when I was at my worst, grandfather told Mary Foley as she was working in the kitchen at her pots and pans, "that boy will make his mark in the world".
Many long years after grandfather's death, there came to me a small well-preserved leather covered memorandum book containing a brief summary of his financial standing on the first of January each year beginning with 1826 and continuing until 1888, the year of his death. Inscribed without date on one of the pages were the words: "For Ma and Paul". It was an eloquent testimonial of the careful planning and self-denial which made his benefactions possible.
Grandfather always had much time in which to think; some folks I knew didn't have to do much thinking in order to talk, thinking and talking to them being disconnected processes. With grandfather it was different; it required several minutes even to say, yes or no," and he had to do a certain amount of hemming and hawing before he could get those words out and even they were qualified and buttressed by "perhapses," and "may-bees," and "like enoughs," which would have taken the starch all out coming from anyone except grandfather.
I soon learned that grandfather used these words as extra safeguards against trouble in case his "yes or no," proved to be in error; it was like throwing the brakes on when coasting down a steep hill. When folks got to know grandfather well, they took his "yes" and "no" as the copper-riveted low-down on the subject and it didn't make any difference how many "perhapses," "may-bees" and "like enoughs" he threw in.
While Vermonters in general were not so conservative in speech as grandfather, moderation was customary. We shall not forget the classic story of Silas and Obadiah. Si was trying out his new automobile and as ill-luck would have it, he ran over his friend Obadiah. In consternation, he stopped his car and sang out, "Did I hurt you, Obe?" The latter propped his head up on his arms and answered, "Can't say as you done me any good, Si".
Most children have the advantage of the teaching and example of their parents; few have the advantage of the teaching and example of their grandparents as well. The philosophy of their parents, as a rule, becomes their philosophy. I consider myself doubly fortunate in having had the opportunity of choosing between the careful, orderly methods of my grandparents and the disorderly though well-intended, methods of my parents; I could never have been so appreciative of the home of my grandparents had I not lived at times in the home of my parents.
A dear friend of mine used to say that every well regulated home should have one ceremonial meal each day at which all members of the family could be expected to be present and participate in the discussion of events and plans for the future; he contended that ceremonial meals were incomparable as character builders. Our supper was our ceremonial meal if such a term could be applied to so simple a repast; at any rate, it was at the supper table in my grandparent's home that we talked things over. Grandfather used to sit in his arm chair at the supper table paring microscopically thin slices from a small piece of hard cheese or a doughnut and it was at these times that he gave voice to some of his finest epigrams.
I have spoken before of his unusually large thumbs. The wags of the day when grandfather ran a country store, used to say that he could make a barrel of molasses spin out much farther by grasping his quart measure with one of his enormous thumbs inside; the more thumb there was, naturally the less molasses. While the quip was of course sheer calumny, grandfather did have big thumbs and they showed to their best as we sat at our supper table talking things over; there was something eloquent and convincing in grandfather's thumbs.
Chapter 21 "A Tongue-Tied Feud"
GRANDFATHER, with his abiding sense of tolerance and his custom of speaking no ill of men or of nations would seem to have been particularly immune from the hatred or even the dislike of neighbors, and so, generally speaking, he was. The most critical thing which men could in truth charge against grandfather was that he took little part in village affairs. His inability to express even his most deep-seated convictions clearly and convincingly was responsible for the fact that he left such matters to the eloquent speakers like Mr. Joel Ainsworth of whom there were several ready and willing to express their opinions on any and all public matters, whether such opinions were matured or spoken offhand. Grandfather would pay his taxes and perform all public duties which did not overstrain his faculty of speech. At the first indication of rancor or even of spirited debate, grandfather would silently glide away. To put it in other words, grandfather disliked controversy of any character.
With such mentality, grandfather would seem to be the last person in the world to be party to a feud; and yet there is no gain-saying the fact that he was party to a feud which began long before my time and was not terminated during his life. Who was the other principal in this unhappy affair? The very person with whom he most needed peace; his next door neighbor, he whom we called Uncle Ed, the husband of Aunt Lib.
Uncle Ed unfortunately also was tongue-tied in the face of controversy. If these two worthy New England gentlemen could have talked it out, or even shot it out, the feud might have ended short of the death of either of the principals but that was not to be the way of it. Nearly half a century passed; the fire smoldered but never once burst into flames.
Grandfather met Uncle Ed almost daily on the streets of Wallingford but no sign of recognition was ever passed. Grandmother and Aunt Lib, during the course of Aunt Lib's daily calls, at times spoke of the feud and sometimes speculated as to the cause of its origin but all was to no avail. Aunt Lib once said: "How on earth it could have happened is beyond me. Edwin has Mr. Harris to thank for everything he has in the world today". But even grandmother and Aunt Lib were utterly helpless in the matter; the feud had to continue its relentless course. Neither grandfather nor Uncle Ed even mentioned the name of the other. Uncle Ed vented his spleen at times on my father and on me but never a word about grandfather. It was as though grandfather had never lived.
Both families derived their supplies of drinking water from the same spring in the foothills and one common line of pumplogs carried the water to the coupling boxes on our property where the water was diverted to Uncle Ed's house and to ours. On occasions an ancient pumplog sprang a leak and the supply of water stopped. This was a calamity to both families and brought both grandfather and Uncle Ed post haste to the coupling boxes to locate the leak. On such occasions it was necessary for the two tongue-tied neighbors to work-sometimes frantically-together and it was astonishing how much they could accomplish without a word being spoken. When the job was done grandfather picked up his tools and Uncle Ed picked up his and they departed for their tool rooms in their respective barns, Uncle Ed in the meantime spitting quite furiously as many Vermonters do when they have bad tastes in their mouths. I used to imagine that Uncle Ed could happily have tried his crow bar or his pick axe on grandfather but that would have been against the law and Vermonters are law abiding folks.
While grandfather was a .listener more frequently than a speaker, he did sometimes break silence.
During one of our supper-time conversations across the table, grandmother asked grandfather if he had read a certain article it "The Springfield Republican" on "Our American Way of Life".
He answered, "Yes, I read it, every word of it and I want Paul to read it".
He stopped there and probably would have pursued the subject no further had not grandmother continued.
"I suppose you liked it, Pa; it is much as I have heard you talk'
Grandfather answered thoughtfully, "Yes, I liked it and I don't see how any American could fail to like it. I think we all appreciate our privileges but we don't know just why we appreciate them and "The Republican" has told us why. It is good to live in a country dedicated to equality of opportunity for all. The Republican says some of the other countries are dedicated to the direct opposite of that. They are dedicated to the plan of special privileges. In such countries a few people have the privilege of education which is denied to others and naturally the few become the ruling class. In America we believe that the benefits of education should be enjoyed by all who care for them so that all may have a voice in governmental affairs and there will be no need of ruling classes,
Then grandfather turned slowly to me and looked long and searchingly at me, then added these words:
'That's the reason Paul, why I am so anxious that you have a good education. I can help you; I will help you, perhaps, may-be like-enough".
When grandfather finished with these words, I knew that the die had been cast; that I was to go to college, perhaps, may-be, like-enough.
It has been said of Lincolns Gettysburg speech that most of the editors of contemporary newspapers considered It a failure and Lincoln himself considered it to be so. Years passed before it became recognized at home and abroad as the greatest speech ever made in the English language.
Well, grandfather's speech was a Gettysburg speech to me, though grandfather doubtless considered it a failure and many years elapsed before it began to bear fruit.
Upon another occasion much later, grandfather made another speech during the course of another ceremonial supper which served to influence if not to define my future course in life. On that occasion, also, it was grandmother who rang the starting bell.
"Pa, Aunt Lib says there's talk of electing Lawyer Lawrence to be Judge in Rutland. I told Aunt Lib I guessed that would suit you alright. I know you think a lot of Lawyer Lawrence, but what you don't know about lawyers, Pa, would fill a book. You have never employed a lawyer in your life either to prosecute another man or to defend yourself".
"No, I never have, Ma, nor do I expect to but I have read every word the Rutland Herald has ever printed about Lawyer Lawrence and I think he is worthy of any honor they can show him".
"What have you read about Lawyer Lawrence, Pa, that makes you feel that way about him?"
"Enough to make me conclude he is different from many of the other lawyers. He always seems interested in justice. He don't make a lot of high-falutin arguments in order to keep in the public eye. He is sparing of his words but every word he does speak is listened to by both judge and jury respectfully".
That was not a very long speech compared to others I have heard but it was very convincing to the youngster sitting at the supper table and listening in with wide-open ears.
During the year of 1896, I took up the practice of law in Chicago and I tried to be the kind of lawyer that Judge Lawrence and grandfather would have liked me to be. As Chairman of the Committee on Professional Ethics of the Chicago Bar Association, I tried scores of cases of infractions of the Code of Ethics by unscrupulous members of the Bar.
But to the boy in Wallingford there were other vocations then more attractive than the Law. To be a locomotive engineer had the glory of sitting on a throne and ringing a bell. On the other hand for a talking job there was auctioneering for example.
Vermont farmers were tenacious. Having once gotten a grip on a place they could call home, only the direst of calamities or death could break it. In our valley as elsewhere there were occasional auction sales and they most naturally were of interest to curious boys. The most fascinating feature was the jargon of the auctioneer; some of it was sensible and some of it was senseless, the only requisite apparently was that it be continuous. The senseless part of course was of the most interest to boys. It was a wonderful display of linguistic ability with its twitters and burrs, its whistles and slurs, and still not a thing said that had any meaning to anyone. I used to think perhaps that its purpose was to make the farmers laugh and so keep their minds off the fact that they would be in danger of spending some of their hard earned savings if they didn't watch out. Anyway such performances met with our approval and we used to twist our own mouths into unrecognizable shapes emulating the example of the smooth-tongued auctioneer. I thought seriously of taking auctioneering up as a profession in case grandfather objected to my becoming a locomotive engineer, soldier, sailor, conductor, brakeman or maybe a spy.
The auctioneer mixed considerable business with his comedy and his efforts did not cease until almost every object which could be classed as salable had changed hands. To the sold-out householder, however, no matter how successful the sale may have been, it was a tragedy and the hollow jokes of the auctioneer were often more mockery than humor.
Every article no matter how dilapidated, from the baby carriage to the old family clock, had its story that reminded the survivors of the patient devotion and sacrificial frugality of some hardworking father and mother in days gone by. It seemed a cruelty to lead the domestic animals from their familiar home and even the inanimate objects-chairs, books, tables, sewing-machines and churns-seemed to share in the sadness incident to the breaking up of a loved home.
Chapter 22 "The Railroad Station"
WALLINGFORD was composed of Main Street (now called the Ethan Allen Highway), River Street, School Street, Depot Street, Sabe's Hill, Mill Lane and a half dozen less important lanes leading hither and yon, affording out-of-the-way places where some folks could live and others could make snow shovels, or bows, cheese, cider, etc. Grandfather's house was on Main Street.
The most interesting place in Wallingford for boys having nothing to do was the railway station, which we termed the "depot". Interest arose to great heights twice a day, once around a quarter past eleven in the morning and once at half-past four in the afternoon, when the north-bound passenger trains went through. The morning train was sure of a goodly number of passengers from Wallingford to Rutland nine miles north. While it was not called, "the shoppers special," generally speaking that was what it was. Most everyone living in Wallingford had to go to Rutland once in a while. "Up to Rutland" was the expression used though Otter Creek obstinately continued to flow from Wallingford to Rutland and never from Rutland to Wallingford, as far as I know.
Local grocery stores enjoyed most of the patronage of the village, but Rutland dry-goods stores, boot and shoe stores and clothing stores captured the best of the trade in their respective lines. Mail order houses were unknown. Passengers on the quarter past eleven train, could return on the three o'clock freight train, which carried one passenger coach, otherwise they were compelled to wait for the night train leaving Rutland at ten thirty in the evening, which was considered a giddy thing to do.
The afternoon train north was known as the mail train and it was patronized by few of the villagers. Something unusual had to happen to justify going to Rutland so late in the day. Scandals arose very easily in our valley. People going to Rutland on the quarter past eleven morning train planned to get to the depot ahead of time in order to make certain that they did not miss the train. Early arrival also gave them an opportunity to exchange shopping news and tidbits of gossip on Wallingford affairs.
A bench ran the full length of the south side of the waiting room which was warmed in winter by a coal stove and, My goodness! how that stove could heat. Harlie Morgan was the station agent; he and his wife lived in comfortable quarters between the waiting room and the freight warehouse, all being under one roof.
In addition to free living quarters, Harlie was paid a salary of six hundred dollars a year and permitted to make whatever he could on the sale of coal to Wallingford folk. In return he was supposed to be on the job day and night, to receive and send telegraph messages for villagers, and more particularly, to receive instructions from the train despatchers, which were communicated by him or his assistant to the conductors of trains passing through. The Bennington and Rutland Railroad, having a single track only, the lives of its passengers depended upon the accurate work of the dispatchers and of station agents along the line. Harlie customarily had an assistant who worked without compensation other than the privilege of learning the railroad business including telegraphy. Upon his assistant fell the duties of keeping the station warm and in good order, delivering telegraph messages to villagers and bags of mail to the post-office, assisting trainmen in the loading and unloading of freight and express, making out waybills and otherwise making himself useful. When he had become sufficiently proficient, the assistant also received and sent messages.
There was always an air of excitement about the station just before the arrival of the two most important passenger trains and the excitement increased to a grand crescendo as the locomotive hove in sight around the curve. We knew the names of all the locomotives, "Green Mountain Boy," "Green Mountain Girl," etc., etc., and many were the speculations as to which one could run the fastest but they all presented brave fronts, as, rocking from side to side, they rounded the curve and dashed across the bridge spanning Roaring Brook. The engineer sitting jauntily in the cab window seemed to experience justifiable pride in the stir he was creating. Anyhow, with a clanging bell and tooting whistle, the "quarter after eleven" and the "half-past four" dashed in, paused a moment or two for loading and unloading and dashed out again, leaving Wallingford folks to their own devices in the matter of finding ways to pass the time.
Of the two mentioned trains, the half-past four was the most interesting because of three personalities presented to our enraptured view. One was the engineer heretofore mentioned. Another was the resplendent John J. Parrish, conductor, who, in his immaculate gold-braided uniform and white double-breasted vest, presented a figure; he did indeed. In a popularity contest had the choice been left to the unmarried ladies in villages along the line between Bennington and Rutland, "John J". as he was familiarly known, would have led in a walk.
To us boys, however, the most scintillating personality was a slim young brakeman by the name of Thompson, who gave us daily thrills in an exhibition of consummate grace, agility and in skill in throwing himself, sometimes with lantern in hand, aboard the last car of the swiftly moving train as it left the station. Why did trainman Thompson wait for the last car before boarding the train? He might of course have boarded one of the others with little or no danger; in fact, he might have boarded any of them before the train had gotten under way but where would have been the glory? Even fat and pompous John J. could do that much; as a matter of fact, he did. No, trainman Thompson had no intention of letting John J. capture the show. Besides he owed something to the open-eyed hero-worshipping youngsters of the villages along the line.
Almost any of them would have rather stood in the shoes at trainman Thompson than to have been President of the United States.
I forgot to mention that the four-thirty carried a Pullman Palace Car (palace car, mind you) and we derived considerable satisfaction in studying the faces of the strange creatures who rode in them-millionaires perhaps. Later I knew a Middlebury college student who had ridden in one of them from his home in Ludlow. When he landed at Middlebury, he yelled to the assembled collegians, "Hi fellers, I came down in the palace car," after which he was always known as "Palace Car Dick".
Once we saw a strange looking man and we all wondered who he could be. George Sabin said that he guessed he must be a Democrat, at least he looked like one. We wondered how George knew what Democrats looked like, for, with the exception of Danforth Hulett, our one Democrat, he had never seen any, but George was a great reader of Popular Mechanics magazine and we never questioned his judgment on anything.
After the drop of the final curtain in the daily drama at the Wallingford depot, a reverential silence possessed the youthful audience. To have broken the spell at once would have been desecration. Slowly and silently we turned our faces eastward. One privilege only remained; that of carrying the mail to the post-office and awaiting the distribution of the same. Anti-climax? Yes, but someone from somewhere might have written a letter, or possibly some kindhearted advertiser may have responded to the earnest and oft repeated appeals for advertising picture cards. Possibly the Youths Companion might have come with its continuation of the story of "Indian Pete" which ran serially in that magazine. All of these things failing, there was still the comforting thought that the train would come through on the morrow at half past four and once again the curtain would rise on Wallingford's daily "movie" to the increasing wonder, inspiration and envy of boys.
The stores of Wallingford were good places to fall back on for rapscallions having nothing to do. There was always something going on in Danforth (Dannie) Hulett's store; it was the emporium of the village. At Hulett's a little of everything could be found. Farmers' overalls and jackets, agricultural implements, leather and rubber boots, galoshes, umbrellas, household utensils, crockery and a limited line of dry goods and other odds and ends occupied the front part of the main floor. A huge coal stove, surrounded by chairs and a generous cuspidor, cheered and warmed the entire first floor.
The rear part of the main floor was given over to groceries, sugar, flour, crackers, cheese, butter, eggs, molasses, vinegar, pickles, prunes, raisins, sardines, mackerel, oysters, herring, apples, oranges, California grapes packed in sawdust, etc., etc. In the store room in the rear, there were barrels and bags and boxes of bulky goods which could be rolled or trucked or carried into the main store as needed. Piles of codfish, salted to a degree that they could easily have stood on their tails if they could have preserved their balance, lined the rear of the storeroom.
Along one side of the store were the scales where wagons, loaded or empty could be weighed, and in later years a butcher shop was opened in the basement. Hulett's was, in fact, the one indispensible store in the community. It did not exist by virtue of the personality of its owner. Danforth was a strange, silent man. Big, handsome, swift moving and polite Fred Stafford was the front man but even he had no time for banter with customers. The store was a successful merchandising establishment. From it developed the big Combination Cash Store of Rutland, in which Fred Stafford was partner.
One of the most memorable features of Hulett's store was the variety of pleasant odors which greeted our nostrils; the molasses, the vinegar and pickle barrels, and the boxes of prunes all shed delightful aromatic aroma throughout the store and even the rubber boots and cracker barrels had their own distinctive though less pleasing odors. The codfish and the boxes of herring in the store room kept up the odoriferous tradition.
Oh, yes! we rapscallions in common with the regular patrons of Hulett's helped ourselves from time to time to crackers with a thin slice of cheese, prunes, etc., etc., as the idea occurred to us. I do not remember ever having been chased away from the cracker barrel, the prune box or the other places which we patronized; it must have been the policy of Huletts to figure rapscallions as necessary nuisances.
And then there were those tobacco-juice sharpshooters who frequented some of the stores. Of course, the great majority of gentlemen of leisure in our valley knew nothing of the joys of tobacco chewing; they made up for the lack in some other way. Those who were addicted to the filthy habit had a strange attraction for rapscallions. Bull's-eye shots at distant cuspidors by those who could handle a quid of chewing tobacco always won the admiration of hero-worshipping boys. I have seen some fine examples of such marksmanship.
So-called Indian tobacco grew in abundance in the pastures and we rapscallions used it as a substitute, thinking that we might possibly educate ourselves up to the point where we might use the genuine article, but all efforts failed and I never knew of any high record of marksmanship achieved by users of Indian tobacco, though one of our gang could expectorate quite a distance by squirting the juice between his teeth. Unfortunately, he came of a family that was not highly respected and we considered his chance of shedding lustre on our community rather slim.
Wallingford had its quota of those who made their living without the aid of factories, stores, offices or other tangible evidences of their existence. In other words, we had some who made their living by the exercise of their wits.
To the traveler along the creek road between Wallingford and Rutland, Galusha Haversham, with his flowing sidewhiskers was a familiar sight. His nose was so wondrously long that it constituted a picture in its own right, and on his black silk neck-tie, he sported a diamond cross of dazzling brilliancy. No, Galusha was not a millionaire as some might suppose; he sold pianos occasionally, but, according to the best obtainable evidence on the subject-Galusha himself-what pleased him most was to soak the other fellow in a trade. No one ever outwitted Galusha. Call him a slicker and his eyes would twinkle with pride; call him a hypocrite, well that was another matter; such characterization would have been a reflection on his professional pride.
The blood of the Yankee trader surged in his veins; wooden nutmegs and basswood hams were not in his line; that worthy enterprise was monopolized by Connecticut Yankees, but Galusha was with them in spirit, the idea being to do the other fellow and to do him first.
Galusha had a flair for horse-trading. It mattered not to him whether defects were latent or patent. Galusha could get away with murder when it came to trading horses. His smile and easy assurance dispelled doubts; it was an honor to be hornswoggled by the Great Galusha. Oh yes, he was strong on pedigrees. The more dejected a nag was the greater the need of an impressive pedigree. Galusha could always fill the need and he did so with convincing solemnity.
Galusha knew all of the horse-traders up and down our valley. One after another, he took them all on, and one after another he took them all in. In the highest degree, he was resourceful. When seemingly cornered, he could always find a way to squirm out. For instance, when one of our best known citizens charged Galusha an outrageous price for a fine colt he had been raising and refused to take less, Galusha closed the deal at our well-known citizen's figure on condition, however, that he be permitted to make payment by his promissory note.
Our well-known citizen chuckled with glee when he saw Galusha leading the colt out of the barnyard. He experienced a thrill of seemingly justifiable pride. He had hornswoggled the Great Galusha and he would be considered the shrewdest horse-trader in Rutland county henceforth. When, however, he examined the promissory note, with thoughts of discounting it at the bank, he discovered the fact that it was made payable "at the maker's convenience" and our well-known citizen realized that payday on Galusha's promissory note would never, never come. He had made Galusha a present of a colt, Among other accomplishments he possessed Galusha was a wizard in doping ancient horses up so they acted like colts. The only inhibition he had was against trading horses on Sunday. Being of Puritan stock, he customarily observed the Lord's Day by refraining from trading horses, unless perchance, too good an opportunity presented itself; in such event he sometimes restrained his piety within reasonable bounds.
Though he never operated in gold mines or gold bricks, he firmly believed in the principles which the "get-rich-quick" gentry espoused. Some folks from other parts wondered how it could be possible for descendants of the Pilgrim Fathers to be so heartless and deceptive in the course of horse-trading; the point is, that folks from other part do not understand the spirit of such transactions.
Trading horses and other commodities was a sport relished by both parties however the deal might turn out. In horse-trading, deception is a natural and honorable part of the game. When a boxer feints in order to throw his opponent off guard, no one worries about the deception; it is a part of the game. The horse traders and the boxers are both interested in one thing-administering the final wallop; that's what counts.
So Galusha continued in his own inimitable way, soaking this one and that one but always apparently as guileless as a new born babe.
Chapter 23 "Our Front Porch"
GRANDFATHER'S LIFE lacked the inspiration of fellowship and he thereby suffered a great loss; fellowship would have enriched and sweetened his life. However, grandfather must have had certain resources within himself. He never spoke of being lonesome. During the summer days, he spent some of his idle hours out of doors wherever he could be most comfortable. The front porch was a favorite resort during the morning hours and he preferred to sit on the porch floor with his back against the house. Why he never kept a comfortable chair on the porch, I do not know. Probably it would have seemed too much of an indulgence; he preferred to sit on the south edge of the floor of the porch. Sometimes his left foot was on the ground and sometimes it was stretched out along side its lifelong partner on the porch but whatever variations there might be in the matter of posture, the spot where he sat down was always the same; he was never known to sit on the north edge of the front porch. I wouldn't have believed my own eyes if I ever had found him sitting there.
How closely grandmother was tied to her home duties is evidenced by the fact that during the eighty years of her life in Wallingford, she never found time to visit the "Cascades," one of the sights of interest located less than two miles distant from the house in which she was born.
Knitting stockings and other garments to protect her grandson against the rigors of New England winters, was grandmother's relaxation from her more arduous tasks. While she was more given to talking than grandfather, she could not have been said to be talkative.
She said little of her forebears but I do remember hearing of an Uncle Bucklin, who, like Joseph of old, during a period of famine divided his corn with those in need. When a friend advised him to save his corn for the use of himself and his family, he said, 'No, if everyone else is to starve, we might as well starve with them".
While I was still a child grandmother's half-brother Bill came back from the West in the last stages of consumption and as the doctor would not permit him to smoke, he went to Webster's store where village loafers gathered evenings and smoked their pipes until the air was blue; great-uncle Bill derived much satisfaction out of thus having outwitted the doctor but his victory was but temporary. A bed was soon placed in the south parlor where grandmother nursed him. One morning in great agitation she called Mr. Harvey Congdon who lifted the bedclothes on the bed of great-uncle Bill, thrust his hand beneath them, then turned to grandmother and whispered the words, "Yes, he is dead".
The front porch played very little part in our lives, although on especially pleasant evenings in summer, grandmother would draw her chair out and sit there rocking and viewing the parade of villagers walking or driving past our house. Sometimes cows were driven home from pastures along the village street by the children of our neighbors.
Whenever grandmother did sit on the porch, I usually sat on the marble step leading up to it because I knew it was to be a period of relaxation; it meant that she had cast aside household cares for the time being. An evening on the front porch was as exciting to grandmother as a trip to Europe would be to some folks I have known. With a crocheted shawl thrown round her shoulders to protect her frail body against the evening chill, she rocked slowly in her cane-seated chair, talking quietly of times long since past and serenely viewing her garden of old-fashioned flowers planted by her own hands.
Once in a while a passing neighbor, seeing grandmother sitting on the front porch, would break his journey for a little chat with her and, on less frequent occasions, neighbors would make a planned call; neighborliness was at its best whenever grandmother sat on the front porch.
There were certain friends almost certain to call; they were the hummingbirds. In fact grandmother had extended them all a blanket invitation, written in the only language hummingbirds know, the language of long-petaled flowers.
Years before grandmother had planted a honeysuckle vine which twined itself around the two posts which supported the porch. The hummingbirds viewed the honeysuckle vines as exclusively their own, as indeed they were. Neither other birds nor bees could reach down deep enough into the flowers to extract the sweetness held in the long slender cups.
Grandmother and I spent many happy evenings on the front porch witnessing the comings, the feastings and the goings of the tiny, swift-winged hummingbirds and in noting their marvelous skill in flying backward and forward or from side to side, or standing stock-still in midair while they harvested the nectar from the honeysuckles.
The hummingbird that hung
Like a jewel up among
The tilted honeysuckle horns.
-James Whitcomb Riley.
One evening Mr. Joel Ainsworth called and grandmother had me bring him a comfortable chair from the parlor. Mr. Joel Ainsworth was a distant relative by marriage and one of our most respected citizens. In addition to his other activities, he operated a small farm back of his house on the highway. He raised vegetables sufficient for the use of his family and produced eggs and milk enough to supply his own needs and a small surplus to sell to neighbors. We were, at one time, among his milk customers. Mr. Ainsworth was also county surveyor and insurance agent; a very versatile gentleman indeed.
As soon as Mr. Ainsworth had seated himself, grandmother said, "I am always glad to see you, Joel, and particularly glad to see you at this time. I understand that you have been interesting yourself in the candidacy of Mr. James A. Garfield for President. I thought that I would like to get firsthand information as to how you stand on the question".
"Well, Pamela, nothing could give me greater pleasure than to let you know where I stand. I am interested in James A. Garfield because he seems to me to be another Abraham Lincoln, or as near like him as any man could be. Of course there never has been and there never will be another Abraham Lincoln. I have a notion, Pamela, that the best character builder is adversity; at least that is the school that some of our greatest Americans graduated from- the school of adversity. A man who can work himself up from nothing to a position of high honor is the man for me. James A. Garfield, like Abraham Lincoln, was born in a log cabin and he had to depend upon his own resources. He had a mother of splendid character who established his ideals. He did the rest".
After a pause, he continued, "Oh, I don't mean, Pamela, that it is impossible for a man born with a silver spoon in his mouth to rise to distinction but the man who has never known what it is to be waited on has the best chance," and at this point, Mr. Ainsworth tapped the floor very convincingly with his gold-headed cane.
"I quite agree with every word you have spoken, Joel," said grandmother. James A. Garfield had to work hard on his father's farm and he had nothing but strong hands, a courageous heart and good home teaching to pull him through. Then there's another thing. He had ambition, if he hadn't he never would have gone out into the world to fight the best of them. I like all of his experiences, walking the towpath, teaching school, studying law, working his way through college, going into politics. It seems to me that he expected even then to become President of the United States someday, and thank God, I believe he will. He is typically American, I believe".
Joel Ainsworth and grandmother shook hands with an extra strong grip when they parted that night and as for me, I felt that Mr. Ainsworth was going home far too soon.
From then on, I was for James A. Garfield. Maybe sometime, I might get a job on the towpath of the Erie Canal and, as stranger things had happened, I might even become the President of the United States instead of a locomotive engineer as I had planned.
Grandmother's journeys to the front porch were grand occasions, so delightful that I wished they might be extended indefinitely but she had duties to attend to and things beyond number to think about so, ninety-nine per cent of the time, we lived behind the front porch. Yes, in the rear of the north and south parlors. In other words, we were very much shut in; particularly so in the winter when snows hampered the movements of all except boys.
The passers-by were few and on bleak stormy days they dwindled down to the vanishing point. It seemed to me that it would have added something to our sense of comfort at least if we could have looked out from the warmth of our south parlor at the few hardy and courageous neighbors, who, in spite of biting winds and pelting sleet, struggled through the storm to the post-office or store. However, there was only one member of our family who was ever known to complain of loneliness and that one was the least circumscribed of all, a boy named Paul.
During my earliest years in Wallingford, Mr. Asa Webster's store and house were directly across the street from our house. His store was a gathering place for certain old gentlemen of the neighborhood, and not infrequently, three octogenarians, Mr. Webster, Judge Button and grandfather were to be seen on the porch of Webster's store chaffing on current events and bantering each other on their growing infirmities. Mr. Webster, however, did most of the talking. He spoke mainly of his own exploits of former years, how fast he could run and how high he could jump. He attributed his physical prowess to his strict regimen of daily exercises. It had been his custom to run a mile and split a cord of wood each morning to get up an appetite for breakfast. In those early days, when possessed of youthful vigor, he could spring so high into the air that he could easily crack his heels together three times during the interval of going up and coming down-at least, so Mr. Webster said.
When it was manifest that Mr. Webster was in a reminiscent mood, grandfather used to lean his long-backed chair against the store front hook his boot heels on the lower rung, grasp his long staff firmly in hand, ready for any emergency.
Judge Button, having spent many years on the bench where he had heard many strange tales, customarily cupped his ears and inclined his body gently toward Mr. Webster as if fearful that he might miss some essential part of the testimony.
It was customary for the Judge and grandfather to refrain from making comments during the course of such recitals. Coarse laughter and ribald remarks were conspicuous in their absence. Both auditors assumed the appearance of deep solemnity, in fact, they seemed lugubrious at times. So far as the writer knows, no formal code of correct practice had ever been adopted; there was no need of one; they all knew their respective parts and played them. In his heart of hearts, both Judge Button and grandfather knew that Mr. Asa Webster was not only an infernal liar but that he was also proud of the fact.
The nearest approach to a comeback that I remember was when Mr. Webster in a burst of pride, after relating one of his great exploits, challenged grandfather to walk him a race to Clarendon, three miles distant, and return. Grandfather accepted the challenge.
Grandfather was very close mouthed about his coming marathon with Asa Webster; even grandmother had no intimation of the great event; everything, with one exception, went on as usual, the exception being that grandfather began to indulge in long, daily walks. Grandmother, later on, recalled the fact that grandfather seemed to be undergoing quite a change in his habits; instead of his usual afternoon siestas on the front porch, he began to take long walks in the country. Whenever grandfather took these long walks, he took his staff with him. It was too long to be called a cane but somehow it suited his needs; perhaps he viewed it as something in the nature of a companion. In any event, during the days preceding the marathon, grandfather hiked many a mile in company with his staff.
It was very unusual for grandfather to make changes in his daily program and grandmother was at a loss to know how it had come about. She knew however that grandfather would mention the matter whenever he thought it necessary to do so.
All we ever heard of the events of the race was what dribbled through by way of Mrs. Button and her daughter Ellen. From that source we learned that the marathon had taken place. The two octogenarians started out to round the church in Clarendon. The Judge, in the meantime, sat on the porch of Mr. Webster's store and acted as timekeeper and referee. It was agreed, so it seems, that each contestant had to continue to the end regardless of whether he was winning or losing.
It also leaked out that grandfather started out slowly but with measured step; Mr. Webster was well in the lead; his step was springy and his spirit exultant. Eventually he began to hear grandfather coming with measured step from behind. This was very harrowing to the nerves of Mr. Webster. According to the underground report, grandfather rounded the church first and met Mr. Webster as grandfather was on his return to Wallingford.
Grandfather spoke not a word but Mr. Webster shouted to his speeding opponent these words, "You don't seem to care much about good company, Harris".
When Mr. Webster returned, grandfather and the Judge were waiting for him on the porch. The Judge took a look at his watch but made no announcement; both he and grandfather looked very solemn indeed; solemn as two great owls.
Grandfather said, apologetically, "I'm afraid I tired you all out, Webster. I should have stopped to visit with you but I just happened to think that my hens were out and I was afraid they might be scratching in the Judge's garden".
Gone were Mr. Asa Webster's anecdotes of his great athletic accomplishments. No longer did he amaze his auditors with yarns of his bone crunching encounters with bears and tigers. Grandfather and the Judge came to the sad conclusion that they had, so to speak, killed the goose that laid the golden egg; Mr. Asa Webster never was himself again.
In course of time, Mr. Justin Batcheller, one of the partners of the Batcheller Fork Company, wanted to build a fine home on the ground then occupied by Mr. Webster's store and house, and, thinking that the price might be boosted if the name of the prospective purchaser became known, he asked grandfather to make the purchase for him. Grandfather complied, buying the property in his own name for three thousand dollars. The house and store were moved elsewhere and a fine residence built in their place. When grandmother realized what had happened, she said, "Why, Pa Harris, look what you have done; you have cheated yourself out of the only loafing place you have ever known". And so he had; he never found another.
Chapter 24 "The Debating Society"
SO FAR AS SCHOOL was concerned my shift back to Wallingford was opportune. The school in Wallingford was to have a new principal, Professor Shaw. I cannot remember ever having heard him called by any other name, nor can I remember anyone's having spoken of him as an intimate friend though he had been brought up in Wallingford. We knew that his given name was Will and that he had worked at manual labor for a time in one of the cities to the south of us to earn money for his higher education and that he had eventually graduated from Middlebury College, where he was known as the most powerful man in college.
When he became principal of the Wallingford school, he was twenty-six years of age. His salary was six hundred dollars a year. He was high-principled, vigorous, handsome, well dressed-a perfect specimen of young manhood. He walked between his home and school on exactly the same schedule, year in and year out. I can see him now as he passed our house, his Latin textbook in hand, shoulders thrown back, chin thrust forward and looking neither to the right or left. He seemed the very opposite of Professor Ichabod Spencer with his shuffling gait, bristling eyebrows and malevolent deep-sunk eyes. Professor Shaw loved boys and he seldom had to use the rod of correction.
The debating society of the Wallingford High School was the inspiration of Henry Lincoln ("Inky") Ballou, the first and only President. There was every reason to believe that it would have continued its valuable services to society for generations to come had it not been for one untoward event. At its first meeting one of the members conceived the idea that the deliberations of so august a body ought to be in secret session in order that members might feel that they could express themselves fully and without regard to what effect it might have on their future political aspirations should they happen to run for Congress or for President of the United States.
Another member said that in order to accomplish the desired purpose, it would be necessary to have the members take an oath of secrecy and allegiance. In the final analysis this meant that all members, old and new, would have to be initiated if we were ever to get anywhere with Inky's" idea. So the next meeting was set aside for the purpose of initiating each other in the sacred rites. During the intervening weeks, the members naturally spent most of their time figuring out what they would do to each other when the time came.
To all intents and purposes, the debating society was already extinct; nothing of it remained but the joint and several resolution to do each other up nice and fancy on the great night of the initiatory ceremony.
When the appointed evening came round, the members were divided into two squads, those who, for the time being were supposed to be members, and those who were to be candidates. Some chose to be candidates, reasoning that it would be best to have their initiation over with as soon as possible so that they might concentrate on what they would do to the others when their time came.
After the candidates had been excluded, the board of strategy held a powwow and decided upon their maneuvers, which were simple enough. The lights in the school room were to be put out and the candidates were to be admitted, one at a time. The candidates were to be blindfolded and informed as to the solemnity of the undertaking and told that it would be necessary for them to go through a trying and horrible ordeal to demonstrate their fitness for membership. Albert Mandigo was the first candidate and he was not long held in suspense as to the nature of the ordeal. One of our most distinguished members had been elected Chaplain and another as Undertaker, and, as soon as Albert had been suitably blindfolded, the Chaplain administered the last rites, ending with what we thought to be a beautiful prayer. I cannot recall the exact wording, but I remember that he ended every sentence with the brief imprecation, "God have mercy on his souls".
The Undertaker then informed Albert that every provision had been made for a suitable interment; that all details had been attended to and that even if he came apart during the trying ordeal, each part would be picked up and all put together again insofar as they could make the parts match.
At this point Albert informed the committee on admissions that he would have to be going home; that he had promised his mother that he would be home early and that he had already overstayed his time; that he would come down some other night for the rest of the ceremony.
To this arrangement "Inky" Ballou, the lord High Executioner replied with an emphatic, "NO," that no reprieve could be granted except by the King, and that, unfortunately, the King had died a week ago Thursday.
Without further admonition Albert was seized by the slack of his pants and the scruff of his neck by the two powerful hands of the Lord High Executioner and rushed around and around the darkened hall with a speed at which he had never traveled on his own feet before, and, in the meantime, "Inky's" trusty knights and nobles thrust baseball bats, stove pokers and other impediments ad lib between his flying feet punctuating their efforts by groans, shrieks, maledictions and imprecations in which the candidate unreservedly and wholeheartedly joined.
Candidate Albert was the one and only candidate initiated into the debating society of the Wallingford High School. When the Lord High Executioner went into the anteroom for candidate number two, he found nothing but a row of empty chairs; the candidates, having heard too much of what was going on inside the hall, had left for parts unknown.
When this discovery was announced, Albert the only certified and bonafide initiate, put up a dismal howl. Up to that point he had been sustained through his agony of bruised shins and strained back by the thought of what was coming to his fellow candidates. Now he found that he had been manhandled by the members. betrayed and deserted by the candidates; life was no longer worth living. Some of the members held with him and some against him but none found satisfaction in the thought that the day of his own initiation must Inevitably come if this thing was kept going.
Eventually President "Inky" arose and said, "I move that this debating society of the Wallingford High School be adjourned sine die". What "sine die" meant, none, with the possible exception of the Lord High Executioner, knew, but all except Albert voted in the affirmative and thus perished a noble cause.
Spelling was given much study in the Vermont schools of my day and some of the students were exceedingly good while others were exceedingly bad. Among the good spellers was George Hitt and among the poor spellers was 'Inky" Ballou., though "Inky" was excellent in everything else.
To make amends for his deficiency, "Inky" devised the plan of sitting next to George in the spelling class so that George could covertly prompt him. George became "Inky's" crutch, as it were, much to "Inky's" advantage on all occasions save one. "Inky" never studied spelling any more but became entirely dependent on George. In course of time, George became curious to know just how far he could lead "Inky" off the track. The opportunity was not long deferred. Professor Shaw pronounced the word, "Mississippi" for "Inky" to spell and George realized that his time had come; the word was full of possibilities. We had been In the habit of spelling the word sing-song fashion, "Mis-sis-sip-pi" so George, in order to throw "Inky" up In the air, changed the order and began, "Mi-double s, i-double s, i-double p. 1" "Inky" followed him slavishly to the end of the word but George continued on, syllable after syllable in endless succession. How far he would have gone no one knows but eventually George ran out of ammunition and "Inky" sank into his chair exhausted.
"Inky" was always loyal to his friends as was evident one day when someone spoke of the Mississippi. "Inky" remarked, "By Jimminy, that's a hard word to spell; if it hadn't been for George, I surely would have flunked when Professor Shaw asked me to spell it".
A few years later "Inky" became the crashing right guard of the Amherst football team and still later, he became a Congregational minister. In that capacity, he made his mark in the world hut I am not quite sure that he could spell the word, Mississippi, even now; I wouldn't bet on it.
During the autumn the political fever broke out and on years of Presidential elections the fever rose to high pitch. There was really no necessity of exciting Wallingford people over politics for Danforth Hulett, the son of Ephraim Hulett, was the only Democrat in town. Danforth was one of the leading merchants of our village and later one of the leading merchants of Rutland.
All that I knew of him was that his father always spoke of him as, "My boy, Danforth' and that Danforth wore a cape instead of an overcoat, picked his teeth with an ivory toothpick with a gold clasp, never spoke to anyone about anything except business, and always voted the Democratic ticket. He was fairly well balanced on everything except politics but in that respect only he had a curious and incurable disorder of the brain. Certainly there was little hope of showing Danforth the error of his ways.
His Excellency, Governor Redfield Proctor, made a political speech in Wallingford during one presidential campaign and all Wallingford, with the exception of Danforth Hulett, went to the station to meet the great man. The men waved their hats and cheered as the Governor stepped from the train, tall, stately, with flowing beard, high silk hat and frock coat. The East Wallingford band, swollen to eight pieces, struck up "See the Conquering Hero Comes,"
Governor Proctor had much to say about the protection of home industries, particularly the growing of sheep and the manufacture of woolen cloth. He said that Vermont hills and mountains were well-adapted to sheep raising; that Vermont farmers had formerly raised sheep in plenty but that sheep raising had been killed by the importation of cheap wool from Australia. He said that the many fast flowing streams furnished unlimited power for the manufacture of woolen cloth but that this industry had also been put out of business, except for the few mills which managed to exist on the manufacture of cloth from imported wool.
The torch light procession which followed Governor Proctors speech was a magnificent affair as most anyone would have admitted. The torches were sent down from Rutland and after being lighted were placed in the hands of Wallingford Republicans; when the supply of men ran out boys were substituted; any boy, the size of a peanut and upwards, was entitled to the privilege of carrying a torch.
The East Wallingford band led off with two men abreast of each other but on different sides of the road and the spaces between were filled with boys carrying torches, so that the eight members of the band looked more like eighty and the noise they made sounded like eight hundred.
The last feature of the procession was a boy leading a sheep, the sheep looking as if he were not in sympathy with the demonstration and wishing that the boy would lead him in the opposite direction; Jerome Hilliard said that maybe the sheep was a Democrat and naturally objected to marching in a Republican torchlight procession. The sheep bore a placard which no one seemed able to read until finally a reporter for The Rutland Herald said that it read, "I am a forlorn, helpless and almost extinct animal known as a 'Vermont sheep. Please help Vermont sheep".
When Danforth Hulett was asked what he thought about it he said he thought the best way for Vermonters to help Vermont sheep was to stop buying woolen goods made in England and smuggled over the Canadian border.
The political rally and torchlight procession was pronounced a great success and we all felt that we had done our best to show Governor Proctor that we were behind him to the last man and boy; it must have made him feel very happy indeed.
New England has always been proud of its Town Meetings at which matters of public interest are discussed. All tax payers and everyone else so far as I know were permitted to air their grievances. The modern Town Meeting of the Air, listened to by millions of people is an adaptation of the New England Town Meeting.
The Wallingford town hall of my day was not a credit to the community but through the generosity of public-minded citizens, Wallingford now has a suitable building where the meetings are held. Mr. Addison Stone, who was Moderator for many years, would have graced any legislative assembly of the country.
New England's reputation for probity in the administration of public affairs is, partly at least due to its system of holding town meetings, and where such a forum exists, the opportunity for betrayal of the public trust is minimized. Airing matters of public concern is stimulating to the thought processes of the citizens but the immediate objective of the founders of the institution was to increase the efficiency of administration through obtaining the collective judgment of the citizens.
In the final analysis we American people get about what we are entitled to in the administration of public affairs; neither graft nor any other form of political corruption can exist if the citizenry are sufficiently interested to keep themselves informed and I know of no better agency to spread information than though some form of the New England town meeting.
New Englanders are always keenly interested in matters of national importance. I shall not forget the hot summer day when the news of the assassination of President Garfield was shouted through the village. While such announcements are always a shock, in the days of my youth they possessed us and filled every cranny of our lives. The most important space in the newspapers was devoted to reporting the details and amplifying the facts, sometimes in flights of imagination according to the temperaments of the newspaper editors.
I well remember the precise spot on the Ethan Allen Highway where I stood when the cryer ran through the village shouting, "President Garfield Assassinated! President Garfield Assassinated!' It was a warm summer day, Just after dinner; all was quiet save for the hum of bees and other insects with practically no movements except the dust raised by the flying feet of the cryer. I stood transfixed; rooted to the spot as it were as I tried to grasp the significance of the event. Could America survive now that President Garfield was dead! Slowly I regained my equilibrium and made my way home to carry the sad tidings to grandfather and grandmother.
Chapter 25 "Entertainment Comes to Town"
WE HAD OUR fair share of unscheduled diversions in Wallingford. Occasionally an aged French-Canadian came into town leading by a halter a huge brown beast, a bear, which wore an appropriate muzzle. The man by resorting to certain artifices of his own, would make the bear go through the steps of an ungainly dance and sometimes man and beast would engage in a wrestling match which had some of the appearances of reality.
The Canadian kept up a running jargon addressed to the bear as the show proceeded. Only one of his phrases sticks in my memory; it was, 'Turn around, sir," and each time these words were spoken the animal did actually turn around, although I was never quite certain that the bear understood the words, in fact we boys could hardly understand them ourselves. We noticed however that simultaneously with the speaking of the words, the man skillfully threw a loop in the rope halter around the neck of the beast thereby making it uncomfortable for him not to turn around. We thought It probable that the bear understood the rope better than he understood the words.
Not infrequently an itinerant peddler who dignified himself by the name of "Doctor" used to come to the village to sell Kickapoo liniment alleged to be a sure-cure Indian remedy for rheumatism. Anyone afflicted with rheumatism had only to buy one bottle of Kickapoo at the very reasonable price of one dollar and his troubles would soon be over. In order to draw crowds, the doctor extracted teeth without pain and without charge. An express wagon lighted by a torch constituted his salesroom and also his dental laboratory. The doctor was the arch enemy of both rheuma tism and pain from toothache and most folks suffered at times from one or the other or both. It made one feel sad to see the sufferers line up to avail themselves of the free services of the "doctor". Whatsoever he may or may not have known about the merits of Kickapoo as a remedy for rheumatism, he did know how to pull teeth. Whether the process was painless as was advertised, or painful, as it was ordinarily supposed to be, was never made known to the public. There was, however considerable suspicion afloat that the pain was there as usual but perhaps it was not so severe a pain to thrifty New Englanders as the pain of having to pay out fifty cents, or perhaps even a dollar, would have been. The "doctor" had repeatedly stated that it would not hurt in the least, a point which he kept on maintaining in stentorian tones even during the operation. It would have come with poor taste for any of his patients to have denounced him as a liar, and, misery loves company anyhow-others were standing in line.
When the "doctor" had accumulated his customary impressive display of molars, cuspids, incisors, etc., the pay business of the evening began. The theory was that the "doctor" had made a sufficient demonstration of the fact that he could make quick disposition of human ailments. If he could deal with such dispatch with offending molars, it stood to reason that rheumatism had little chance of eluding him.
The sales of Kickapoo were fast and continued until a late hour. From the "doctor's" remarks, we judged that Kickapoo was one of the world's greatest wonders; so far as the United States was concerned it was the greatest; Niagara Falls and the Yellowstone had their following but for real grandeur one had to fall back on Kickapoo. Kickapoo never slept; from morning until night it was ever at work for humanity. The small price of one dollar per bottle was in no sense compensatory; it was merely a necessity that the great work continue.
When the "doctor" finally packed up and left town, his stock of Kickapoo had been greatly depleted but he took along with him a fine accumulation of hard-earned Vermont dollars.
Not infrequently a negro minstrel show came to town. The end men were so funny that it took a week to stop laughing. Walllingford was also invaded from time to time by itinerant theatrical troupes. One played "Uncle Tom's Cabin" with its judicious mixture of merriment and sorrow. Had it not been for Marks, the lawyer, and his inevitable "umbrella," we might never have recovered from the sorrow occasioned by the deaths of Little Eva and Uncle Tom. Marks interpolated one laugh between every two sobs.
On one grand occasion, Tom Thumb, or someone pretending to be that famous character, came with several other dwarfs, men and women, and put on a show-and how those diminutive creatures did dance. I almost lost my heart to one of the tiny women who looked so pretty and danced so gracefully.
Nearly every year we were entertained by a troupe, traveling under the name of "The Guy Family," father, mother and several children of various ages, the youngest being little more than an Infant. Each member of the family had his or her specialty suited to sex and age. It was a clean and wholesome show and welcomed on each recurring visit.
Punch and Judy shows occasionally dropped in unannounced. They were sure to attract crowds composed mostly of boys who were drawn to the scene as flies are drawn by molasses. One man and a few trappings constituted the entire show but what laughs the antics of the irascible Punch and the much-pummeled Judy did bring forth. What has modem comic opera to compare in humor with the resounding cracks of the staff of Punch on the head of Judy.
Occasionally jugglers, sleight of hand performers and fakirs in general held exhibitions on the village square summer evenings.
The grand splurge of the year, more dazzling even than the County Fair in Rutland, was circus day. The fever began early in the summer when the advance agents splattered fences, barns and every conceivable place with huge and gaudy signs depicting hair-raising performances on the flying trapeze, bareback riding, somersaults, single, double and even triple. Stately ladies, apparently entirely unafraid, cracked their whips at the snarling beasts in lion cages. There were elephants aplenty in size all the way from the ungainly little fellows, tagging along with their mothers, up to Jumbo, the mightiest beast on earth, whose hide hung loosely on his frame like an ill-fitting suit of clothes or a rug flung over a clothes line.
When the big-three-ringed circus in Rutland was in prospect, Wallingford rapscallions scrimped and saved, ran errands, worked in hayfields or wherever else employment could be had, in order to make certain that they would have money in plenty for railway fare to Rutland, reserved seats in the big tent, also for the sideshow and for ice cream, peanuts and popcorn and a little extra for whatever might pop up at the last moment.
After the delirious day had spent itself, it was a worn and weary lot of Wallingford folks, both old and young, and other folks from further the valley who piled aboard the ten-thirty train with its extra coaches for transport to their respective stations and to their homes and life-saving beds.
Wallingford was much like a deflated balloon the day following circus day, and in fact, several days came and went before our little community got back to earth again. Even then horizontal bars sprung up in back yards; flying trapezes festooned trees; haylofts were turned into arenas for tumbling; and the facilities for straining backs and breaking bones were increased beyond measure.
The County Fair at Rutland was and still is a notable affair, drawing visitors even from adjoining counties. A variety of events gave sport lovers desired thrills. There were races between trotting horses owned by residents of the county and driven as a rule by their owners; baseball games; athletic contests, including races between hose cart teams of firemen of the different towns.
These races in the day of volunteer firemen were spectacular events. The prizes which frequently were expensive went to the team which in the shortest time ran the prescribed distance and completed the coupling of the hose with the hydrant in preparation for extinguishing the imaginary fire.
Competition in this event was so keen that it was not unheard of for local sportsmen to secretly subsidize fast runners from other towns and enter them under fictitious names. Where was there a town of sufficient size that did not have its hose cart team? The practice runs of such teams, in preparation for the important event, afforded their fellow citizens pleasurable excitement and stimulated their civic pride to the point of affording financial assistance and offering modest bets in case citizens of other towns with competing teams might happen to have a few dollars to lose,
The usual quota of licensed shows, hurdy-gurdys and balloon ascensions, bands and drum corps, vied with each other and strutting drum majors caused feminine hearts to palpitate.
In the main, however, the Rutland County Fair was what it was purported to be, an agricultural display where farmers could see the finest available exhibits of registered horses, cattle, sheep and hogs and equally fine exhibits of apples, pears, pumpkins, squash and cheese, both the delectable green cheese and the ordinary Vermont cheese.
I never think of the Rutland County Fair without thinking of the annual visits of Charles Harris of Brattleboro, his wife and daughter Lib, and the old mare that hauled the ancient buggy back and forth. The County Fair was a grand occasion to Uncle Charles. He attended it religiously and made dazzling reports of its events to us as we sat at the supper table.
Uncle Charles' real relationship to us, I do not know, but it must have been remote. He always called grandfather, Uncle Howard and he stoutly averred that he expected to continue his habit of paying us his two weeks annual visit as long as Uncle Howard lived. To grandmother and perhaps to grandfather also, Uncle Charles' statement was more of a threat than a promise but there was nothing that one could do about it.
Uncle Charles had a long beard, and, while visiting us, he always wore a stovepipe hat and a Prince Albert coat. Had he set out to make of himself a living picture of the conventional Uncle Sam, he could not have done it more effectively.
Uncle Charles must have believed in large families; anyhow, he had one, fourteen boys graced his board and eventually his prayers were answered in the coming of a girl, Lib. Whatever Lib may have been to others, to Uncle Charles and his fecund helpmate she was the crowning glory; after her birth the fountains ran dry. One can only speculate on what might have happened if Lib had not arrived when she did; I imagine they might have kept on trying and several more sons might have arrived; when Vermonters have a purpose in mind, they are not easily discouraged.
After the last fork of hay had been pitched into the hayloft in the autumn, the old mare's nose was turned in the direction of Wallingford, sixty miles distant, and the annual trek was begun. None was more conscious of what was up than the old mare herself; she knew every mile of the journey and was given her head; she never failed to draw up at our driveway gate before nightfall. When the opening of the gate apprised grandmother that the annual bombardment was on, she always ejaculated with manifest spirit, "For goodness sake, here comes Charles Harris".
For Uncle Charles the annual visit was the high spot of the year; his letdown from farm duties was a jubilee of itself; his high spirits engulfed the house and the village as well; no one was unconscious of the fact that Uncle Charles had conic to town.
On the precise day set for the termination of Uncle Charles visit, the old mare was hitched up at the break of day and goodbyes having been said, they departed as they had come-Uncle Charles, his wife, Lib, the old mare and the aged buggy.
I generally opened the driveway gate and saw them off, waving my hat to them as long as they were in sight; the old mare heading south on Ethan Allen highway, turning the School street corner easterly bent. There was Uncle Charles, whip in hand, sitting bolt upright, his stovepipe hat set firmly on the back of his head and a determined look on his face. Good-bye for another year, Uncle Charles.
Chapter 26 "Dr. George"
WHILE MY LIFE in our valley was devoted mainly to grand adventure and mischief, I did have serious moments at times. It was difficult for me to determine what was right and what was wrong; some things that seemed to impress folks as sinful, did not impress me that way at all. I had my own theories of right and wrong which probably would have shocked the minister had he learned of them.
I am sure I would not have been left in such a quandary if the folks of Wallingford had been divided into two camps; the good and the bad. If all of the good folks had been church members and none of the bad folks had been church members, the solution of the problem would not have been so difficult, but, so far as I could see, the situation was badly mixed.
On one hand there was old Mrs. Page, a saint outright. It was her lot to suffer cursing and other forms of persecution by her husband, the profane and irascible Captain Page, beyond what would seem to be the limit of human endurance. Manifestly, she was sustained by a sublime faith. I frequently saw her bent figure passing our house on her way to church. A smile which was beatific lighted her pinched and blanched face. If she could have been taken as truly representative of church members and the old Captain taken as truly representative of pagans, the solution of the problem would have been easy. Eve7 sensible and well-intentioned person in Wallingford would have joined the church.
Unfortunately for me in my troubles, those two were not truly representative in their respective classes. There was a heap of good and considerable bad both within and without the membership of our Wallingford churches.
While Judge Hutton's faith had never, to my knowledge, been subjected to any such day in and day out strain as old Mrs. Page's faith was, he seemed to have a sustaining philosophy which served him well during the emergencies of life. The Judge was one of a considerable number of good folks in Wallingford who supported the church but never became members. None seemed to care to discuss their reasons for not entering the fellowship of the church and I surmise that it would have been difficult to get them into an argument on that subject
As Fay Stafford and I grew older, we were frequently called upon to act as pallbearers at the funerals of infants and young children, the prevalent idea being that it was appropriate that the young bury the young. Possibly the grief of bereaved parents was softened somewhat by the presence of children.
We boys took the task seriously, and in one case we showed our appreciation of the kindness of Mr. John D. Miller, a bereaved father, who had lent us books to read and who always greeted us with hearty and familiar salutations, by cutting evergreen twigs and branches from the mountain frees and lining the sides and bottom of the dark grave so that it would not look so cold, cruel and forbidding when the body of his only son was let down to its final resting place in the frozen soil of the village cemetery.
One after the other, I fell victim to the ailments of childhood, mumps, measles and scarlet fever. We had three old doctors in the village, although one younger man could have taken care of all the cases. New England doctors belonged to one or the other of two schools. They were either allopaths who prescribed big doses or homeopaths who prescribed small doses.
To the "Homeops" the "Allopaths" were queer; to the "Allopaths" the "Homeops" were ridiculous. To administer a dose of medicine so small that it could be lifted on the point of a penknife, was the practice of sorcery in the eyes of "Allopaths". Once having selected one's school of medicine, it was customary to stick to it, come weal, come woe. It was much like joining the church. "Once a Baptist, always a Baptist" was frequently said, and, with equal truth, it might be said, "Once an Allopath, always an Allopath".
We were definitely and incurably allopath, and fortunately we had an allopath doctor right In the family, Dr. George Fox of Rutland. Dr. George was the husband of Aunt Mellie, my father's sister. Uncle George was called Doctor George to distinguish him from his brother, Dr. Bill, who lived and practiced in Wallingford. Dr. John, who died before my time, was the father of Doctors Bill and George, and faithful old family doctors they all were. Dr. John was a son of William Fox, a farmer who moved to Wallingford from Dorset.
William bought a farm bordering upon a lovely sheet of water. Neither of the parties to the transaction cared much about this sheet of water but it was eventually acquired by William, the purchase price being a barrel of gin and for many years it was known as Fox Pond. Lovers of the present Elfin Lake will be ready to conclude that the purchase price was not excessive.
Doctors Bill and John did not monopolize all of the practice in Wallingford. Dr. Hitt and Dr. Noble had their shares. Dr. Bill, Dr. Hitt and Dr. Noble, each weighed well over two hundred pounds and their buck-boards were bent nearly double at times bouncing over country roads.
We enjoyed a special feeling of security in having a good doctor in the family. I was taken severely ill one night. Suddenly the room I was in began to whirl around me. The next thing I knew was that I found myself tucked into an improvised bed in the sitting room, not far from the coal-burning stove. Uncle George was sitting by my side and looking anxiously into my eyes. He had driven his well known and faithful Billy over the snow covered road to minister to my need. Uncle George and Billy were a faithful team and their beneficent influence extended over the whole countryside. I am sure that Billy sensed his responsibility, as he was always ready to have his harness put on either night or day and to struggle through drifts of snow during the fiercest of New England storms.
Uncle George's practice grew and it soon became necessary to get another horse to help Billy out and it was then that Fanny came. It took Billy some time to reconcile himself to the presence of Fanny but they eventually became good friends and he always whinnied her a welcome when he heard her coming into the driveway. In the heyday of his practice, Uncle George kept a hostler to take care of the horses and to accompany him on night drives, but that did not continue long.
To sick folks it was like receiving a bill of health to see bay Billy or brown Fanny turn into their yards with grey beaded Doctor George holding the lines. Calls on members of our family were, of course, without charge but that meant nothing to Uncle George. Some uncles with children of their own to make provision for, might have viewed with disfavor my intrusion into the home of their well-to-do father-in-law, but not so Uncle George. Never once did he either directly or indirectly manifest disapproval of my addition to grandfather's family.
Under Uncle George's skillful and devoted attention, I was soon on my feet. Successive ailments brought me down considerably as I had never been a robust child, but the perfect regulation of affairs in my adopted home, went far toward making amends for a rather poor start in life.
I was destined to learn more of Billy in later years. While visiting in Rutland once in the winter, I had an experience I shall never forget. It lingers in my memory because of the opportunity afforded me of observing the good understanding between Uncle George and Billy and Uncle George's dependence on Billy to carry him through.
Uncle George received a telephone call from a patient in Menden who was desperately ill. The call was received rather late In the evening. While he was getting ready, he noted my interest and to my joy, said, "Would you like to come along, Paul?"
The night was cold and dark so I was provided with every safeguard to make certain that I would not contract a cold. The fall of snow was light at first but increased rapidly as we proceeded on our journey. The hot soapstones at our feet were comforting and we wrapped the buffalo robes tightly about us. As we approached the mountains the storm increased and it was difficult to see far ahead. Billy was going along without urging and he needed none; he had a job to do and he set about doing it. Not until we actually got into the mountain road did the storm assume menacing proportions. I was sure that Uncle George was worried although he tried not to betray it. We could see nothing of the country road after we had turned from the highway; whether we were in it or out of it was a matter of conjecture. Billy stopped of his own accord to regain his wind and Uncle George stepped out of the sleigh, waded through the snow to Billy's head and slipped the check rein off to allow him the full use of all his forces. Billy seemed to appreciate Uncle George's thoughtfulness and when Uncle George patted his neck, he turned his head and affectionately snuggled his muzzle under Uncle George's arm. How we got to a point where we could see the bright lights of the house, I do not know but when we finally did get there, we were met by a man with a lantern who directed our course to a protected shed where Billy was blanketed and fed.
After Uncle George had performed his professional duties and spoken words of encouragement to both man and wife, we backed Billy out of the shed and started our trip back home. When the time seemed suitable, I inquired of Uncle George how he had managed to find his way along the country road, and he answered, "I didn't find it, Paul. I couldn't see a thing no more than you could. That was one of the times when I have to leave everything to Billy. I have put him into a good many tight places but he has never yet failed to pull me through. Billy is all heart. That's why I chose him for this job. He is not so strong as Fanny but he throws everything he has into his work. Yes, Billy is all heart's After that night what could I do but give Billy a place in my affections second only to our Buttercup.
Chapter 27 "Firewood"
BUYING THE YEAR'S supply of wood and having it cut to suitable size for use in the various stoves, was as thoroughly systematized by my grandfather as buying the years supply of pork, beef, wheat buckwheat flour, maple syrup and peaches. In fact everything done by grandfather was well thought out and systematized. He had no grudge against middlemen; he had, to an extent, been one himself, but he believed in buying in large quantities and from the producers whenever it was practicable to do so.
Grandfather's purse was a chamois skin pouch, fastened by a long thong of the same material which he wound many times around it. Much time was required to unwind the thong and the process gave grandfather opportunity to change his mind about spending the money, if prudence so dictated and a last minute reflection sometimes saved the day. To grandfather, unwinding the thong of his purse was equivalent to working out the combination of a safe by a modern businessman-a moment of grace.
He bought his wood both hard and soft from the French-Canadian farmers having wood lots on the mountainside. He paid approximately four and one-half dollars per cord for four-foot wood delivered In our back yard. A cord of four-foot wood was the equivalent of three cords of wood cut to stove size, as it is now sold.
The purchase was made in early winter and deliveries were to be made whenever the sledding was good. Before the winter was far advanced, the farmer's ox team and low sled piled with four-foot maple, beech, spruce, pine and birch wood, made its first appearance and the wood was neatly piled on the rise in front of the barn. This procedure continued until grandfathers supply of eight cords or thereabouts had been delivered. The piles were then measured by grandfather with meticulous care In the presence of the farmer, and, if all was as per specifications, grandfather and the French-Canadian farmer repaired to the kitchen, the farmer stomping the snow from his high felt boots before entering, and the final ceremony was performed.
They did not sit down; they stood by the side of the kitchen stove, grandfather resting his arm on the hot water reservoir at the rear of the stove. A few words of a pleasant nature on commonplace subjects were exchanged, the farmer, in his broken English, doing nine-tenths of the talking. When the psychological moment arrived, grandfather, slowly and deliberately, reached into the pocket in the northwest corner of his trousers, pulled out his chamois skin purse and the process of unwinding began.
I used to think that even the French-Canadian farmer derived a certain degree of edification and inspiration from the ceremonious way in which grandfather 'paid off". If the amount involved had been a million dollars, the pay-off could not have been conducted with greater ceremony, dignity and impressiveness. I do not recall having seen other Vermonters equipped with grandfather's device to guard against reckless expenditures but metaphorically speaking, when it came to a question of dollars and cents, it took most of the Vermonters of my day a long time to unwind.
During the days of my early childhood, the sawing of the wood was done by little old Mr. Rutherford, working with a bucksaw. It was a long-drawn out process which lasted most of the rest of the winter. As the years advanced, Mr. Rutherford and his bucksaw gave way to a circular saw driven by horsepower. The horse, which was old and scrawny, contributed his share by walking up hill all day long on a treadmill. The saw shrieked as if in protest against the use to which it had been put, but nevertheless the bucksaw was hung on a peg for a long rest. All parties concerned, except the horse, profited by the change.
After the wood had been sawed to stove length, it had to be split to stove size and that is where another French-Canadian came in. For want of a name which home folks could pronounce, he had taken the name of Benjamin. Mr. Benjamin had the trunk and shoulders of a gorilla and an axe in his hands was like a child's toy though murderous in its effect on birch and maple. He seldom had to strike twice in the same place; the chunks fell into suitable sizes as if by magic.
Both grandparents had a high sense of responsibility in connection with the guidance of their volatile, mischief-loving boy and I gave them ample grounds for discouragement. My mad pranks caused neighbors to shake their heads dubiously; the prevailing opinion was that nothing good could come of them.
Grandfather, for two reasons, continued to do most of the chores. First it was the easiest and surest way to get them done; and second, to assign them to me was the hardest and worst way to get them done, Only a few odd jobs were left to me. Picking apples, pears, currants and gooseberries were in my line, and, in early spring, the firewood which had been thrown into a huge. shapeless mass by Mr. Benjamin, had to be wheeled into the barn and placed in neat regular piles which would stand the inspection of grandfather; that was my job. Five or ten wheelbarrow loads per day and a few extras on Saturday, served, in course of time, to reduce the pile but spring was well advanced before the last stick of firewood was kicked from its jacket of ice, given a ride in the little red wheelbarrow into the capacious barn and carefully piled ready for use in the kitchen stove when its turn, came.
The tiers of softwood used for kindling and for quick and temporary fires were in one place, and those of hardwood for use in continuous fires were in another.
Woodfires were used to heat water for cooking, washing in the brick encased boiler on wash days, and Saturday night baths in washtubs and for heating the kitchen. Not far distant from the wood piles in the barn was the coal bin where most of the winter supply of coal was stored.
During the winter, every morning after breakfast grandfather would emerge from the house with full ash pans and empty coalscuttle. He would empty the coal ashes in an out-of-the-way place and the wood ashes in the smoke house for use in making soft soap in the spring.
Grandfather would then proceed to the barn, fill his scuttle with coal, feed the hens and gather their morning's lay of eggs which he would place in his ample pockets, load his left arm with wood, part soft and part hard, pick up the scuttle of coal, and then make his way down the gentle slope to the house,
Later in the day, he made a second and perhaps a third tip to the barn,. These chores doubtless contributed to his physical well-being and he continued them until the time of his death in his ninetieth year. Did grandmother try to dissuade grandfather from continuing his daily tasks? She did not; she knew how much they meant to grandfather; she knew that they were wholesome stimulants even in his advancing years.
Our smokehouse being of a capacity far beyond our needs and our supply of corncobs being short grandfather made a deal with Mr. Sinclair Cruickshank whereby the Cruickshank hams were hung in our smokehouse and Sinclair kept the smudge continuous during the curing period.
Mr. Sinclair Cruickshank was one of the picturesque characters of our community. In memory I can see him now with his broad-brimmed hat pinned up on one side like that of a peasant of the Tyrol, mincing along the street with his basket of corncobs hung on one arm and his steps bent in the direction of our home and smokehouse. Folks used to say that Sinclair wore corsets and painted his face to make himself look beautiful.
When the smoke from the final basket of corncobs had died down our hams were taken to the basement. A slice of this ham, in company with a half-dozen golden brown eggs fresh from the nests, fried to taste and basted from time to time in its own delicious fat, was delicious. To one brought up on New England home-cured ham and migrating to parts where they know not of its virtues, the contrast between what is served when he orders ham and the memory of the ham of his boyhood is enough to bring tears to his eyes.
Grandfather's eating was always abstemious. His regimen was the result of years of experimentation. At no meal did he eat very much and at supper, he was particularly careful. A typical evening meal might consist of a cup of weak green tea, so weak that it was almost colorless; a piece of cheese and a doughnut or a part of one. I am aware that modem dieticians would raise their hands and shoulders in horror and declare that grandfather's supper was the worst he could have selected; that mince pie only could have been worse. Such authorities would have to be reminded of the fact that grandfather never ate fresh cheese or doughnuts; both had to be aged to the point of being almost as hard as the proverbial brick; that grandfather then cut off microscopic slices and munched them slowly and carefully. Have I not yet proved my case? Well then, I will shoot my last bolt, one that I have been saving: Never during all the years that I lived in grandfather's home did I know him to suffer one day from coughs, colds, indigestion, constipation, insomnia or other malady and never did I know him to take a pill or a spoonful of medicine of any character; not even grandmother's catnip tea. Grandfather never needed the professional services of Uncle George until the time of his last illness. Grandfather was his own doctor and none could have been better. Mary Foley used to say that he could have eaten and digested tacks as easily as some folks eat raisins.
Fancy a man in his ninetieth year, wearing a double truss, shoveling the snow from his sidewalk long before daylight, and you have a picture of grandfather as I knew him in the years preceding community snow ploughs, automobiles, radios, yes, and of bath tubs, excepting the wooden wash tub which made its appearance every Saturday night behind the kitchen stove.
It was not the custom of New England families to lavish affection on each other; none was lavished on me by grandmother excepting the good-night and good-morning kisses and the nearest approach grandfather ever made to manifesting affection for me was to permit me to climb into his lap and rub his wrinkled and beard stubbled face with my soft and loving hand. These visitations of mine came most frequently when I heard grandfather sighing, and sometimes sobbing, after having received a particularly discouraging letter from my father. These were memorable occasions for grandfather and me. They doubtless served to raise grandfather's drooping spirits and they also served to make amends for many acts of insubordination of the unruly youngster who was sitting in his lap.
For some reason grandfather never seemed to worry very much about me or my future; he seemed to think that I would manage to get along somehow without having to be sent to jail or to the poorhouse (either or both), although the slope of the road I followed at times seemed to be leading in the wrong direction.
New England restraint also manifested itself in the relationship between grandfather and grandmother. To have kissed his diminutive wife or to have caressed her in public would have been beyond his understanding and hers. Never was he known to address her as Pamela; never was she known to address him as Howard. In the intimacy of the home, she addressed him as "Pa" and he addressed her as "Ma," but it never went beyond that. Even to their next door neighbor, they always spoke of each other as Mr. and Mrs. Harris. Devotion, however, was manifested in undemonstrative ways. For instance, in the ever to be depended upon cleanliness and orderliness from cellar to garret, bringing a satisfying sense of peace, comfort and well-being.
Grandfather never indulged in arguments with anyone on any subject. He would suffer a grievance rather than argue about it. Grandmother used to tell of an experience in Boston which Illustrated this characteristic of grandfather. It seems that, contrary to his usual custom, he had taken grandmother to Boston with him on one of his buying trips. As they were walking on a busy street a drunken man staggered against grandfather, assuming a belligerent attitude as he did so. Grandfather, sensing the situation at once, bowed with a courtesy far beyond usual and said, 'I beg your pardon, Sir," and then hurried along on his business.
My grandparents attended and supported the Congregational church of which grandmother was a member. Devotional exercises were not practiced in our home though grandmother read her bible regularly and at stated periods, the minister called. His visits were never mentioned. One day I happened to be passing the half-opened door of the south parlor and observed both grandmother and the minister on their knees; he was talking to someone, God, I presumed. Anyhow, there was something within me which said, "This is grandma's hour; I must tread softly; she must not be disturbed".
Chapter 28 "An Industrious Community"
MY VALLEY WAS largely self-sustained In the days of my boyhood. The meadowland near the creek was fertile and good for farming and the surrounding hills provided an abundance of pastureland. Most of the small industrial plants in Wallingford existed by virtue of the supply of usable timber in the near-by mountains. There the fork shop found its supply of ash for the handles of the pitchforks-for tails as they were called.
The snow shovel industry used the white ash grown in the mountains. The wagon shop used both hickory and ash in the manufacture of its product and tough oak for the hubs of the wheels. Chopping bowls, used by housewives in the preparation of the delectable corned-beef hash and mince meat for pies, were made from maple found in the mountains.
Old one-legged Mr. Pratt, the coffin-maker had an ever available snpply of spruce and pine. The sash-and-door factory had to have pine. The hemlock trees provided bark to tan hides and the cedars provided shingles and posts. Vermont hillsides and mountains produce the very best marble and granite quarries in the entire world. Brick-making was once an industry in Wallingford but it passed out, along with hat-making, and the lime kiln operates no more.
During my day the Batcheller fork factory was owned and operated by three of the sons and one son-in-law of the pioneer Batcheller. The oldest of the Batcheller sons had alienated himself from his brothers and associated the Batcheller name with a rival enterprise which proved unsuccessful; the remaining brothers stuck together and were successful, illustrating the fable of the wise father, his sons and the bunch of fagots.
The Batcheller Fork Company employed a hundred or more men; the employer-employee relationship was noteworthy and in many respects would compare favorably with the advanced concepts of the present period. While in the manner of their living they approached the aristocratic order, in the conduct of their business the Batchellers were democratic to a point which some would have considered extreme. It was customary in New England in that period to reserve the soft jobs in factories for the sons, grandsons and relatives of the proprietors, and they were generally educated with that point in view. The Batchellers were no exception insofar as giving their children the best educational advantages in technical schools or other institutions according to their choice, but there they parted with traditional practice. Sons were entitled to jobs in the factory if they wanted them but that was as far as special privileges went. From that point on advancement depended strictly upon their own merits and ambitions.
I recall no instance of any son or grandson being stepped up into positions of authority or management. They seemingly preferred to continue to work at a bench or some other place, drawing precisely the same pay as the men and women working beside them.
Of course there was never a strike in the Batcheller factory. Employees were not organized there or elsewhere in that day but I doubt whether it would have been possible for an organizer to have made headway In the Batcheller shops. The democratic spirit and the unvarying fairness of management would have constituted obstacles difficult to overcome, All were friends and neighbors without rank or distinction. The same formula rigidly adhered to would work wonders I am sure, even today.
Long after my time the business of Batcheller's was absorbed by the American Fork and Hoe Company of Cleveland, a concern of national importance which was in a position to make larger use of the facilities of the Batcheller company. Wallingford suffered no loss; on the contrary It gained by the change. The new manager took up residence in Wallingford, having bought my boyhood home, where he has raised a fine family. His interest in the affairs of the community was largely responsible for the advanced policy of the company so far as concerned its Wallingford plant.
Its most important civic contribution was the beautiful New England Inn erected on the site of the old Wallingford Hotel. It is widely known as The True Temper Inn, "true temper" being the trade mark of the company applied to all its products which includes farm and garden equipment, golf sticks, fishing rods, skis, toboggans, snowshoes, etc. The Inn is located on the Ethan Allen Highway, the third building, or the second house south of my boyhood home.
The Inn put Wallingford on the map at once as a summer resort of the better class. The atmosphere is in keeping with the best New England tradition. One traveling by automobile through the New England states owes it to himself to pay The True Temper Inn a visit. There is much of interest to be seen in My New England Valley.
Many strong men have gone out from the rocky hills of New England to play important parts in the affairs of the world, Vermont soil lacks the fertility of western farm lands but, perhaps for that very reason, New England has been extraordinarily productive in strong men.
One raised to the hardships of life on rocky Vermont farms and inured to the rigorous climate, could hardly fail to give a good account of himself under more favorable conditions. It is said that Vermont in proportion to its population, has a larger representation in "Who's Who in America" than any other state in the Union.
Wallingford contributed its share to Vermont's quota of outstanding men. J. T. Trowbirdge, writer of stories for boys, lived in our valley for a time. Phil Emerson became a Federal Judge In Utah, Jeff Southerland, a Chicago lawyer, served as assistant corporation counsel of that city for many years. Aldace Walker, Jr, has heen Chairman of the Interstate Commerce Commission; Nate Rounds, manager of a St Louis mercantile house. Birney Batcheller, whose home was opposite ours, was the inventor of the Batcheller pneumatic air tube for the transmission of mail beneath the streets of great cites; the city of Philadelphia adopted the Batcheller tube. He was also the inventor of other devices. He still lives in the old home, writing books, poems and articles on scientific subjects. He has written a real history of Wallingford. Birney was just enough older than I to exclude me from his list of personal friends, though his juvenile experiments in mechanical contraptions aroused an awesome respect within me. He, Hiram Fales and I are about the only "Old Boys" left.
The list of Wallingford notables would not be complete without the name of Will Coleman who came from the most barren and rocky farmland in the township of Wallingford. Will's part of Wallingford was called Hartsboro. Why Hartsboro was given a name of its own, was a problem. If the statement that the noses of Vermont sheep have to be sharpened so they can reach between the rocks for their nourishment is true of any locality, it must be true of Hartsboro although I do not recall having seen Hartsboro farmers engaged in that occupation.
There being no school in Hartsboro, the boys and girls of that locality came to ours, The seven or eight miles per day on foot whetted their appetites for learning as well as for the food they carried in their dinner pails.
John Gainey and Will Coleman always came together and they were muffled up almost beyond recognition as they traversed the stony, mountainous road on cold winter days. Both stood high in their classes. Upon graduating, John returned to farm work but Will resolved to go into business.
The usual course for Wallingford young men who desired to enter business was to gain experience in one of the local stores, and then perhaps, more experience in a larger store in Rutland, the county seat, and then, if successful, to seek more important openings in Troy, Albany, New York or Boston. The hop, skip and jump policy was not suited to Will; he resolved to get a position at once with some important company in Boston. He saved up enough money to pay his fare to the New England metropolis, one hundred and sixty miles distant and to pay his board in a cheap boarding house for a few days.
Upon his arrival in Boston, he at once began a canvass of the important business houses. Fortune directed his steps to the largest establishment in the world engaged in the manufacture of shoe-making machinery. After gaining admission, he asked to see the president of the company, which request, of course, was denied, at least to the extent that it was possible to deny such a young man. His persistence finally won him a hearing.
After he had stated his case, the president told him he would see that his name was placed on the waiting list but Will informed him promptly that this proposal was not acceptable and that he needed a job right then and could not wait. Somewhat aghast at Will's insistence, the man of affairs asked him if he knew his way around Boston, to which Will answered, "No," explaining that he had just arrived in town, His curiosity aroused, the president asked him how much he expected to be paid for his services and Will answered, "Fifteen dollars and I am worth it".
The big man then informed the raw, gangling boy from Hartsboro that Boston was full of experienced boys who would be glad to work for four dollars per week. Will then said something to the man high up that has become historical in the records of Boston's big shoe-making industry; they were, "Fifteen dollars per week is my price and I will not work for less but I will tell you what I will do. You put me to work and if at the end of a week, you feel that you have not had your money's worth, you needn't pay me a cent".
Will got the job; the only one he ever had occasion to ask for; all other jobs came to him and they were all jobs with the same company. The last post he occupied was that of general manager for the company's entire European business with headquarters in Paris; that position he occupied for many years.
I can vouch for the truth of the story above related. One of the officials of the company, having learned that Will and I had gone to the same school in Wallingford, thought that I might be interested, so, at some inconvenience to himself, he looked me up during the course of a visit to Chicago and told it to me. Needless to say, I was much interested. Will's story seemed to me a classic, and in order that I might be exact in my statements, I checked up with him the next time we met in Vermont. Will Coleman has passed to his reward. As I review his life from beginning to end, it seems to me that both as boy and man, he was typical of the New England character taken at its best.
Some of the young men who went out from our community to tattle with the world failed in this fight; some were driven back into our little valley looking the worse for wear. Even the least successful, however, had wondrous tales to tell of the strange sights in distant parts and such prodigal sons were always sure of interested audiences, particularly audiences composed of small boys. A few of our migrants were middle-aged or even elderly, most of that class having been assured of jobs by former migrants from out valley who had proven themselves able to make good in their efforts to transplant themselves.
Among those who left us was a staid and sober merchant by the name of Hiram Chapin. It was a surprise to everyone that 'Hi" had ambition and romance enough to embark on a momentous adventure. His going was a matter of great interest to his fellow-townsmen but what tongue can describe the glamour of his return. He came back to our valley on the back of a mustang, driving before him a herd of mustangs not yet broken to saddle. He was dressed in wild west fashion with broad-brimmed hat and bandana around his neck and altogether, he was a sight to behold. We boys were proud of him and it gingered up our enthusiasm for the West. Some of us who had been looking forward to being soldiers, sailors or clowns in the circus, revamped our plans and began training for the business of being cowboys. If a humdrum druggist like Hiram Chapin could make such a hero of himself within six months or thereabouts, what might not be expected of real, red-blooded rapscallions, like ourselves, for instance.
Chapter 29 "Grandfather Passes On"
AFTER I HAD COMPLETED my work in the Wallingford High School, I felt prepared in mind for further adventures in the educational field. Grandfather was sympathetic with my ambitions and very willing to back them up with financial assistance. How he ever managed to see enough in me to justify his confidence and support, I cannot imagine; it seems to me as I look back that there was little to justify it.
I think that Mr. Jerome Hilliard, or almost any other respectable and unprejudiced citizen of Wallingford, would have been willing to enlighten grandfather on the subject if grandfather had sought advice but he did not seek advice. The good folks of Wallingford might believe that grandfather was betting his money on the wrong horse if they chose to do so; that was their privilege; he had ideas of his own on that subject and he was willing to back his judgment with cold cash.
Grandfather had a profound faith in education, and the least and perhaps the most, that could be said in my favor, was that I possessed an inquiring mind.
Of one thing I am sure, deep down in my heart, I treasured an abiding love for grandfather; perhaps he suspected that much. My multitudinous misdemeanors notwithstanding, I never knew grandfather to show signs of annoyance when I threw myself into his lap and caressed him as he sat sobbing beside the sitting-room stove. I am sure he knew I sympathized with him in his grievous troubles.
The faith of my grandparents was put to even more severe tests during the years which followed. My records in Black River Academy, Vermont Military Academy, the Universities of Vermont and Princeton, left much to be desired. The time-honored curricula of the period had little meaning for me. Literature, philosophy, history, the humanities and social sciences would, I am convinced, have meant much. As things were, I gained most from extra-curricular activities especially those spiced with insubordinations and outlawry.
There were also certain personalities among the educators with whom I came in contact, that left their profound impressions on my mind; Major Spooner at Vermont Military Academy; Professor Petty (dear old "Pet!"), at the University of Vermont, and above all, Doctor James McCosh, who was President of Princeton several years prior to the incumbency of Woodrow Wilson. I was privileged to take logic and psychology under this famous educator from the Universities of Edinburgh, Glasgow and Belfast. "Jimmie" was loved by everyone, and more than that, I always thought he looked and acted like grandfather. From his habit of poring over books he was even more bent than grandfather but he had the same type of aquiline nose and his hair was silvery white.
On my first day in Princeton, I was taken to the home of the venerable president by Professor Huss who introduced me. President McCosh did not rise from his chair but he extended his hand to me, at the same time inquiring, "And did ye come here to have a good time?" Somewhat embarrassed by the question, I still had enough wits about me to answer, "No, President McCosh, I came here to study". He pressed my hand quite firmly and said, "Ah, that's right, me By".
One cold winter day while at Princeton, I received a telegram from Uncle George, reading, "Come home at once if you want to see grandpa alive". I knew Uncle George well enough to know that every word of his sad message was justified and I took the first train to New York and there transferred to a train leaving for the north country.
A cold, dreary landscape confronted us as our train made its way up our valley and a funeral procession made my forebodings more acute. It was coming on night as my train arrived at Wallingford. Only one person stood on the platform, a boy named Preston. To him I went in haste as I propounded the burning question, "Do you know how my grandfather is, Bert?" He stammered a bit as he spoke the words, "I am afraid your grandfather is dead, Paul".
Most of the story of grandfather's illness and death was told me by grandmother and others who were present. I know that it is true because it could not have been untrue. If you know folks well enough, you will know what they will do under certain circumstances.
That winter had been the hardest on record throughout the north and east and the record has never been equaled since. In New York City, the North River froze over completely and many courageous New Yorkers fought their way across in order to be able to say they had done so. Snow piled up as high as the eaves troughs and traffic was stopped on the railroads for several days. Folks who had failed to stock up on foodstuffs had to go hungry but there was no shortage of food in grandfather's house. Whittier's "Snow Bound" was outdone entirely and those who had thought of that masterpiece as a fanciful exaggeration had to make new reckonings. Grandfather certainly worked hard that year to keep the path to the front gate and the brick sidewalk in front of the house clear of snow but it was a losing game, as none knew better than grandfather. Snowstorms were always a challenge to him; there must have been a sporting element in his nature and he permitted none of his neighbors to get the better of him. Long before daylight while most of the folks of our village, both old and young, were still in bed, thinking of the tasks before them, grandfather's snow shovel could be heard scraping the snow from the walks.
There were times when grandmother viewed grandfather's determination to keep up his outdoor work through the storm and blizzard with considerable apprehension but he waived all protests aside in a manner well understood by grandmother. The best that she could do was to make sure he was well wrapped up to guard against the pelting snow or sleet and then to let grandfather have his own way about it. Occasionally grandmother would go into the cold, south parlor and peer through any break she could find in the coating of ice on the window to see how grandfather was getting along.
Once in my memory grandmother spoke to Uncle George about it; he listened to her patiently until she had finished and then remarked, "Pa's snow shovel is about the only medicine he takes, isn't it, Ma?" to which she replied, "Yes, I suppose so". and grandfather was left to prescribe for himself come weal, come woe. Whether his days would have been more or fewer had he been content to sit behind the sitting-room stove when the furies of the northern winters raged, no one, not even Uncle George, wise, kind doctor as he was, could have told.
In the days before I left home nothing could have given me more exhilaration, more real pleasure, nor have been better for me than a bout with the snow-drifts after my return from my before daylight journey to the post-office, or even before I took that journey. Most naturally I did not fuss with grandfather for the privilege of shoveling the snow. I knew, intuitively, as Doctor George knew, and in fact as grandmother deep down in her heart knew, that grandfather never could have enjoyed his cat naps in his big arm chair as he did without first having done his morning chores.
He had given up his horses, cows, and the heaviest of his labors in the garden, the hayfield and the barn, but his household chores he would yield to neither man nor boy.
Grandfather did not say these things; it was not his custom to talk such things over; it was not necessary to do so. When he pulled on his boots, tucked his trousers into them, put his mittens on his hands, his wristlets on his wrists, his tippet around his neck and went to the woodshed for the snow shovel, one could readily understand that the snow was to be shoveled and that grandfather was the man to shovel it.
Grandfather's snow shovel was a sort of symbol to me; a symbol of courage and resolution. If our family ever adopts a coat of arms, it should be a snow shovel-but not a snow shovel couchant for grandfather never permitted his snow shovel to lie down on him, but a snow shovel rampant, ever ready to do its part.
Upon arriving home I learned that one morning after grandfather's return to the house, a severe cold seemed to have gotten the best of him, growing steadily worse as the day advanced. He went to bed at the usual time and slept through the night but, contrary to his custom, he did not wake up at the usual hour and grandmother noted that he was breathing heavily. For the first time in more than sixty years of married life, grandmother got up, lit the light and called the hired girl who started the fire in the kitchen stove, shook the coal stove down and cleared out the clinkers.
Grandfather continued to sleep and grandmother's anxiety continued to grow until she could bear it no longer. As soon as daylight came she sent a telegram to Uncle George who, upon receiving it, harnessed one of the horses and set out through the deep snow for Wallingford.
Both Billy and Fanny had a way of reading Uncle George's mind and they could tell from his manner whether or not it was an emergency; they were angels of mercy at such times. Considering what had to be encountered, Uncle George made his appearance in our yard in a brief period of time. Stepping into the house where, after removing his great overcoat and the arctics from his shoes and exchanging a word of greeting with grandmother, he went directly to grandfather's bedside and examined him anxiously.
After a brief pause, he turned to grandmother and said, "Pa has a touch of pneumonia but I have hopes that his rugged constitution will pull him through; we shall see; the crisis will probably come tonight".
Aunt Lib dropped in during the course of the forenoon, Uncle George having called at the Martindale home returning to Rutland. Owing to the fact that no path had been shoveled between the back doors of the two houses, Aunt Lib had come to the front door which was unusual for her. Ellen Button managed to make her way to the side door during the day and Justin Batcheller and other near neighbors who had seen Uncle George's cutter in our yard came to make inquiry. All were extremely solicitous and spoke in low tones; there was no comment on the doings of the villagers as was customary during neighborly calls. They looked solemn but very kindly as though they were all of one family sharing grandmother's anxiety. All near neighbors called during the course of the day. Ellen Button, who had recently buried her father, the good old Judge, called several times bringing such things as she thought might be acceptable and she spoke soft, tender words of consolation to grandmother.
Later in the day Uncle George came again from Rutland bringing Aunt Mellie and after he had looked at grandfather again, they all took chairs in the dining-room and talked in low voices. They had never seen Uncle George in just the mood of that moment; he was even more sympathetic than usual but there was a serious look in his kind blue eyes.
Later in the day he sent telegrams to father and mother and all other near relatives. Father and mother came as soon as they could get through. It was a blessed thing to have relatives and good neighbors at hand; I do not know how grandmother could have gotten along without their sympathy and counsel. As it was, she did wondrously well considering the fact that during a period of sixty years she and grandfather had been one and inseparable; not a thought had she failed to share with him.
Grandfather's breathing was less labored but fainter and Uncle George held out no hope. The passing was not long in coming. He never regained consciousness; his tired old heart simply ceased to beat. A good husband, father and grandfather and a true New England citizen had gone.
An undertaker from Rutland removed the body to the north parlor, a room never opened but once before during the days of my boyhood. There grandfather rested when I arrived. The room seemed icy cold as indeed it was until near the hour of the funeral when the coal stove in the sitting room and the soapstone stove in the south parlor and the kitchen stove were all driven to the limit of their capacity in order to keep their respective quarters warm and to send their combined surplus heat into the north parlor which had no stove of its own.
Although grandmother had never been what one would call a managing person, she arose to the emergency and did her full part. Her desires in all matters were respected and followed to the letter.
The funeral services were simple. There were no flowers other than the potted geraniums always kept in the kitchen and dining room windows. Standing in the front hallway between the two parlors, the minister spoke appropriately of the life of grandfather and the Congregational church choir of three singers, Harlan Strong, tenor, Cal Hilliard, soprano and her widowed sister, Mellie Cleghorn, contralto, sang, without accompaniment, "Lead, Kindly Light" and other familiar hymns as they had done scores of times before.
Though two of her children and many of her grandchildren were present, it was grandmother's wish that I sit by her side in the back seat of the first sleigh as we drove to the cemetery and to lean upon my arm as we made our way along the path which the sexton had shoveled through the snow to our family lot where the grave had been dug deep down to a point below the frost line.
The family lot was enclosed by a cast-iron fence, the name, "Howard Harris" being wrought in the gate. Grandmother held up wonderfully well at the grave and upon our return home, and in fact, at all times during the ordeal.
I think it was upon the suggestion of my mother that it was decided to have grandfather's will read while the relatives were present and I was the one selected to read it.
The will provided that the estate was to be divided into three parts; one-third to Aunt Mellie outright; one-third to Uncle George in trust, father to have the income throughout his life; and the remaining third to grandmother to dispose of as she pleased including any provision she might wish to make for the continuation of my education.
The will was something of a surprise to neighbors who had thought that grandfather would put me on an equal basis with Aunt Mellie and my father but the only dissatisfied legatee was my father who chaffed at the trusteeship, contending that it was not necessary for anyone to exercise lordship over him in his own affairs and that went for Uncle George in particular. Uncle George was not happy over the arrangement but resolved to carry on as long as he could endure it, which proved not to be long. Years later, Uncle George, in an effort to defend himself against charges made by my father, showed me his book of accounts and wanted to explain its entries. I merely said, "Close your book, Uncle George. No explanations are needed". One of the most honorable and conscientious men I have ever known was my Uncle George.
The humiliation of being singled out as an incompetent hurt father grievously. Grandfather had sensed it all and that was why he sobbed as he sat in his arm chair beside the sitting room stove during the latter part of his life.
Chapter 30 "A Farewell to Grandmother"
AFTER THE PASSING of grandfather, I finished the year at Princeton and then returned to spend the summer in the home with grandmother. As might be expected, she was pensive at times. I knew that she was terribly lonely but I did not know it from anything she said; it was more from the things she did; she wandered about the house at times as if in a maze.
On occasions she would ask me to walk with her in the orchard as the sun was sinking low; grandmother always loved to see the sun as it sank behind West Hill; she spoke of the changing colors of the clouds from pearl to pink, to roseate hue and then, to fiery red.
"That's a grand panorama, Paul. Could anything be more majestic? It's the work of a kindly and omnipotent hand. Sunsets always give me a feeling of comfort, repose and confidence. Nothing ill can come from the hand of one who loves beauty so and brings it to his children".
She seldom spoke of grandfather though I knew that over and above all of her words was the ever-present consciousness of him. On one occasion she did speak of him as we were walking down the path in the orchard together. As near as I can remember, her words were:
"I feel that I have been fortunate, Paul, far beyond my due in having had the unwavering love of your grandfather for more than sixty years. No woman can be blessed by anything to compare with the love of a good husband, the father of her children. Our lives haven't been easy; in fact, it has been a constant struggle from beginning to end and we have had our full share of sorrow. We lost three children and they were all very dear to us. We used to wonder at times whether anything in life was worth while but there were still duties and tasks to do; there were the living as well as the dead. There can never be anyone so near to a woman as her husband. My thoughts have been Pa's thoughts and his have been mine. It seems to me that part of me is living and part of me is dead".
"Paul, I wonder at times if you realize how much you meant to Pa. At times, it used to seem to him that his life had been a failure. As you know, he had high hopes for your father. He spent money freely for his education and his disappointment almost broke his heart. And then you came to us quite providentially and Pa fastened all his hopes on you. Paul, you must not fail him. Work hard and live honorably for your grandfather's sake".
After another lingering look at the fast fading color in the west, grandmother turned and I followed her down the hallowed pathway to our house.
This is not primarily a story of grandfather and grandmother except as it serves to illustrate the character of the folks who lived in New England during the days of my boyhood, and, to a considerable extent, the character of the folks who live there still. It is not primarily an autobiography, though the facts revealed were seen through my eyes. The eyes of most of the companions of my boyhood have long been closed in death.
Instead of returning to Princeton in the autumn, I began a year's employment in the office of the Sheldon Marble Company in West Rutland. All I had to do was to get up at 5:00 AM., breakfast, walk a mile to the office, attend to all the stoves, sweep and dust in readiness for the arrival of the officials and office men, and then do my day's work with the others-and find things to do when not told. Before the year closed I graduated from office boy to more important positions. It was a valuable experience. After that it was grandmother's decision that her grandson should go west to study law.
During my last days in the valley, I had a feeling that I was standing on the threshold of life and that the future was all uncertainty. Would I be able to cope with the destitution and privation which I must inevitably encounter or would I be driven back, bruised and beaten as my father had been?
There was this difference between my father's case and mine; there was still a home in which my father could find shelter; in my case, there soon would be none. The old home, sacred to the memory of grandfather and grandmother, was before long to be closed never to be opened again as a home for our family. Grandmother was to spend the remaining days of her life in the comfortable home of her daughter, Aunt Mellie Fox, Uncle George and their family.
My father was dependent on the trust created by grandfather and such further assistance as might be given him by grandmother. Quite clearly the time was not far distant when I would be on my own.
Perhaps the saving clause in my grandfather's will was that which left me to my own resources, except for some little help from grandmother. I did not regret it; my life was to be an adventure; what more could a live, energetic boy have asked. I have always felt considerable pride in the fact that grandfather felt I would be able to take care of myself. My inheritance was far more enduring than money could have been; the munificence of my hard-working, self-sacrificing grandparents gave me the advantage of a formal education in preparatory schools, college and the university but far more important they gave me the advantage of their example in their well-ordered home where love abode.
I think I inherited something of grandfather's broad spirit of tolerance. Grandfather was an ambassador of good-will in the eyes of the youngster who sat at his table during his impressionable years; he never spoke evil of any man nor of any man's religion or politics.
My year of work passed quickly and the day so long anticipated came at last. Grandmother and I were entirely alone except for the presence of an elderly woman who had taken most of the housekeeping cares from the worn and weary shoulders of grandmother. For one reason and another, it had been planned that grandmother and I were to spend these last few hours together, possibly because Aunt Mellie and Uncle George knew that grandmother would prefer it that way. They were to drive to Wallingford later in the day, lock up the house and take grandmother with them to return no more.
It was early in the month of September and the morning was bright and cheerful although our hearts were heavy-laden. The parting hours were spent in the dining room; grandmother and I sat on the horsehair sofa facing the table, where for years we all had eaten good wholesome food, and where, long before my time, father had eaten his meals.
The banjo clock hung on the north wall where it had been for at least three generations and we were within hearing of the sitting room clock not far away. In fact there had been no change in the dining room since the night of the feast of bread and milk and blueberries, served to father, Cecil and me years ago.
While the kitchen was the center of the house so far as activities were concerned, and the sitting room the place for rest, reading and reflection, it was the dining room where important discussions took place; the dining room was the scene of the alpha and omega of my New England home life.
When grandmother could control her emotion, she said:
"This seems not new to me, Paul; I have lived it over and over again. I have even thought of what my last words should be but they have all gone from me now. I must not, however, talk about myself; it is of Pa and his high hopes for you that I must talk. You do know, Paul, how Pa's thoughts centered on you, don't you?"
I answered, "Yes, I am conscious of it and I hope that I shall not prove entirely unworthy of his trust but he has set a high mark to live up to".
"It is indeed a high mark," she resumed, "but you are capable of living up to it; you must, Paul. I know how anxious you are to see the world. Pa and I talked that over and he was not opposed to it if you can accomplish it without neglecting your studies. Where there's a will, there's a way, Paul, and you will have to work it out.
It won't be easy but it can be done. The night you and Cecil and your father entered this house is still as fresh in my mind as if it were yesterday. Some folks said that we were making a great mistake in assuming the responsibility of raising you, Paul. We were getting along in years and had already raised a family. You may have heard some such talk, Paul," looking at me inquiringly.
I answered, "Indeed I have, Grandma, indeed I have and I thought that it was probably true".
"There's not a word of truth in it, Paul. Banish it from your mind; instead of shortening our lives, I think it has lengthened them. Folks who have raised families and seen their children go out into the world are generally pretty lonely. When the fountains of love dry up there isn't much to live for so your coming to us seems now to have been Providential; we had to have someone to lavish affection upon; there were worries enough, of course, but that is life. I have thought sometimes that it may have been an injustice to you to have been tied up here with two old folks; children need brothers and sisters to round out their lives; however you soon found companions of your own selection and that helped some.
With these words grandmother had told me all that had been pent up in her heart.
Glancing up at the banjo clock, I was alarmed to note that the hands pointed to eleven o'clock; I had fifteen minutes only to catch my train. When I arose to go, grandmother, for the first time in her life, so far as I knew, burst into a flood of tears. I threw my arms about her frail body and said, "Never mind, Grandma, I shall be back to see you soon". Her answer was a shake of her head; she spoke no words.
On my way past the home of Judge Button, I stopped to tell Ellen to please go in and comfort grandmother and that service she was more than glad to render.
Around the corner, down Depot street and alongside the white fence where the shadows of grandfather's lantern had danced in fantastic figures, down to the railway station, prim and tidy as it had always been, I made my way. There was the usual flurry of excitement as the eleven-fifteen train came in and went out. As I went with it my heart was tumultuously beating as familiar objects faded in the distance. I was alone and terribly lonely. Grandmother was the last guard; the key would soon be turned in the door.
I received frequent letters from grandmother, all of which have been carefully preserved. She kept me posted as to the events in her new home. For instance; Cousin Mattie was enjoying a trip to Europe in the company of good friends and the incidents of her travels were of great interest to grandmother; it was wonderful to have a granddaughter in Europe; grandmother had never thought of such a thing and Mattie would never be the same girl again after having had a trip to Europe. She wrote also of the kind thoughtfulness of other members of the family; everything was being done for her comfort.
One year and one month from the date of my departure from the old home, I, then a student in the law department of the University of Iowa, received a telegram from Uncle George stating that the spirit of grandmother had flown in the night. There had been nothing to indicate that the time was near; grandmother simply went to sleep and did not awake.
I did not return for the funeral but father, mother and other members of the family were present. According to the current issue of the Rutland Herald:
"A small funeral party drove down the Creek Road to Wallingford with the mortal remains of Pamela Harris, widow of the late Howard Harris of Wallingford and mother of Mrs. George Fox of this city. The attendance was limited to members of the family and near relatives. No more beautiful day could have been selected; the colors of the mountainsides had arrived at the point of perfection as the funeral party wound its way along the valley of Otter Creek to Green Hill cemetery in Wallingford where the remains were laid beside the body of the husband of the deceased.
The Herald extends sympathy to Mrs. George Fox and her family and such felicitations as may seem proper because of the fact that the closing chapter of the long and beautiful life of her mother was written on one of Vermont's most beautiful autumn days".
So grandmother was returned to the soil from which she sprang; it would have seemed a desecration to have laid the bodies of grandfather and grandmother anywhere else, All of her life and the best part of grandfather's life had been spent in the valley. Their children were born and brought up there and there three of their children had died. During the days of her childhood grandmother had tramped over the hills in and above Green Hill cemetery; she had picked buttercups, daisies and spring violets on Cemetery Hill and in its protecting soil the bodies of generations of loved ones had been laid.
The small family lot lies on the hillside not so far up as to be beyond hearing of the tinkle of water as it falls from the ever-flowing fountain in Cemetery Pond. In this lot, the bodies of Frances number one and Frances number two, as well as the bodies of the eldest daughter, Mary Reed and her husband, had been laid.
Grandmother seldom spoke of past bereavements; possibly I never would have known of Frances number one and Frances number two had it not been for their graves in the cemetery lot and two tiny leather shoes which I discovered in a drawer of the kitchen table; grandmother's thoughts were mostly centered on her every day duties.
On all sides of the Harris lot there were the lots of our neighbors, the Martindales, Buttons, Munsons, Childs, Batchellers, Scribners, Hills, Kents, Ballous, Ainsworths, Marshes, Millers, Townsends, Newtons, Coles, Staffords and scores of others whose names were well known in our valley. Yes, Green Hill cemetery had a rightful claim to the bodies of grandfather and grandmother; to have turned deaf ears to it would have seemed unjust. Our valley was grandmother's idea of Paradise.
Grandmother believed in the resurrection and, it always having been difficult for her to meet strangers, it would be a great blessing to be surrounded by home folks when the horn of Gabriel sounded. A most welcome sight to grandmother on the morning of resurrection day would be Judge Button with his little gray shawl thrown over his shoulders and his customary salutation, "Good morning, Mrs. Harris; this is going to be a fine day".
I have frequently tried to picture to my mind the events of that October day. The funeral procession moving slowly down the valley, along lazy, winding Otter Creek, lit up by the flaming colors of the hillsides and mountains. I have recalled the last view which our folks had of the mortal remains of grandmother almost as vividly as though I had been present. I could see grandmother's worn hands lying on her breast and the never-to-be-forgotten swollen bone of her lame wrist, her supreme badge of honor. Nothing which manicurists and beauticians have ever been able to accomplish with the hands of mothers and grandmothers has ever seemed comparable in beauty with the artistry of love and duty as wrought on grandmother's worn hands and lame wrist. Of the eighty-nine pounds which composed grandmother, every pound and every ounce was dedicated to loving service, the ingredient which makes home life sublime.
For more than fifty years the warm spring suns have brought back to life the grass and wild flowers in the little cemetery lot; summer suns have brought them to maturity and autumn winds have in due course directed to the graves of grandmother and grandfather myriads of maple leaves which also had spent their life courses and needed only a quiet place to lie down and rest. The icy blasts of more than a half-century of winters have sent snowflakes by the millions to form downy blankets to protect the graves of grandfather and grandmother.
More than sixty years the aged couple had carried their rugged cross together; so long, in fact, they could not have done without it; they did not loathe it, they loved it. A merciful Providence had arranged that grandmother was to be the one to bring up the rear guard; there were so many little things to be done and grandmother was the one to do them. Grandfather would have been helpless without her and I doubt whether he would have lived the year out. Scores of times during each day he would have reached his trembling hand out for her, forgetful of the fact that she had gone, and scores of times each day the wound would have been reopened. No, it was a blessing that big, strong grandfather went on ahead and that little frail grandmother remained to finish up the odds and ends that had to be attended to.
When Thoreau saw the woodsman's axe destroying the forest, he exclaimed:
"Thank God, they cannot cut down the clouds!
"There are some eternal things that the destructive powers of men, in all their fury, cannot destroy. To think on these things is to achieve an inward quiet and peace even in a war-torn world. The stars still shine. The sun still rises and sets. The mountains are not moved, Birds sing. Little streams dance merrily on their way. Flowers bloom and give off their perfume. The world goes right on being an everlastingly beautiful place.
"There are indestructible qualities of human spirit, too.
Mother love is immortal and though crushed to earth it will rise again. Courage and sacrifice glow with a new light in the midst of the black-outs of hope. Faith gallantly rides the whirlwind sweeping the earth.
"You cannot cut down the clouds! The spirit of man cannot be destroyed! The finest things of life are immortal . . . they will survive!"
Chapter 31 "Five Years of 'Folly'"
AS I SADLY WENT ON with my university studies, awaiting news of grandmother's funeral and reflecting upon the scenes and events of my boyhood, I felt homesickness as few of my age would have felt it. I longed for the quiet orderly home in the valley and the loving solicitude of my grandparents. I dreamed of my Vermont mountains, and when I eventually saw those of the West tears welled to my eyes.
"I am homesick for my mountains
My heroic mother hills,
And the longing that is on me
No solace ever stills".
While enroute to Iowa a year earlier the boy from a Vermont village had spent a week in Chicago where the unrest and wickedness of the bustling Western City possessed him with a weird fascination. It was all so different from his Valley. But he sensed something vital in it all. It was a place to study the ways of men. Was there some place to which men flocked? If so, what was the attraction? What were the underlying motives which influenced the lives of men? Why were some good and other bad? Why did some make sacrifices? Did they pay? If so, how? Why were others wasteful in their physical, mental, and moral resources? What did they get out of it? Was there wisdom in grandfather's precepts-or was he simply a well-meaning but deluded old fogey?
During his first year in Iowa the boy read law in the office of St. John, Stevenson and Whisenand in Des Moines; but when the summer months came he spent them at Lake Okaboja where be fished and enjoyed outdoor life in general, reading law when there were no more urgent demands upon his time,
In the autumn he entered the law department of the State University in Iowa City and graduated in June of the year 1891. In the Iowa University he encountered conditions quite different from any he had met before. The students were older than those in the University of Vermont and at Princeton. Most of them came from Iowa farms and many had taught school as a means of raising the money necessary' to the completion of their education. They were earnest men who had, for the most part, passed their play period. The atmosphere was wholesome and groups of law students frequently spent their evenings in their rooms, conducting quizzes and discussing the theory and practice of law.
As the writer now looks back at his experiences in the various educational institutions, he is prone to question himself as to what, if anything, he got out of them; what, if anything, was there to justify his grandfather's sacrifices and hopes? Was it worthwhile?
The best thing that the writer got from his experiences in educational institutions came from his contacts with other students. In scholastics he cannot lay claim to have gotten much except, perhaps, a love of good books by writers of many lands.
During his last days at the University of Iowa the boy had one absorbing interest and that was to know the ways of men; those of his own country first and then the ways of the men of other countries. But could he accomplish his purpose? In his heart of hearts he knew it was a mad adventure. It would be a serious matter to violate the rules of conventionality. All of the other members of his class would be sane and sensible. Every one of them would be practicing law in a town of his choice within sixty days of graduation. Folks back home would think that he had gone stark crazy.
At that juncture an incident occurred to bolster his faith.
One of the lecturers on the commencement program of his graduating class, a practicing lawyer who had graduated from the University ten years earlier, stated that it might be a wise plan for each graduate to go first to some small town and make a fool of himself for five years, after which he could go to the city of his choice and really begin his practice. (pages 216-217) Additional information
This advice resolved all doubts in the mind of the boy; he would set aside five years to make a fool of himself, not in any small community but in all parts of the world to which he could manage to make his way. What an adventure! After having had his fling, he would hang up his shingle in some great city, Chicago perhaps, and settle down and be regular. So the boy embarked on his fool's errand and never once turned back. His sustaining hope was that his absorbing interest in folks at home and abroad would carry him through.
Why did races of men differ so in their ways of life? He had read much literature in university libraries by English, French, German, Russian, and Scandinavian writers but his curiosity was whetted merely. Only visits to foreign lands could satisfy his desires to know the ways of men.
In the accomplishment of his ambition it was necessary for the boy to accept any and all forms of service, whether of hand or brain. He walked many hundreds of miles in the mountains and he tramped the streets of great cities. He slept in the open country and in cheap city quarters, and even went hungry at times. Thousands of times his thoughts drifted back to his Valley and the comforts of his grandparents' home. When hungry, what in good conscience did he think of most frequently? It was not the buckwheat cakes smeared with butter and maple syrup, nor ham and eggs, nor New England pork and beans . . it was something he really thought very little of in his boyhood days . . it was his grandmother's "riz" doughnuts. Sometimes, when ill in distant lands, it was grandmother's catnip tea or hot foot baths and her tender solicitude that haunted him.
While his few remaining dollars lasted hunting and fishing in the northwest was a grand vacation. Before long he arrived in San Francisco, his money spent. He was on his own at last. A college friend doing newspaper work on The Chronicle, owned by M. H. De Young, got him a job as a reporter on that paper with payment only for what one could produce but times were hard and competition was keen. Another reporter also near the bottom of the list on The Chronicle was Harry C. Pulliam from Louisville, who later became president of the National Baseball League.
Harry and Paul became chums and decided to work their way through the state of California. Within three days they were doing manual labor on a fruit ranch in Vaca Valley. After making a "stake" there, they set out from the Calaveras big trees on a three hundred mile hike across the Trailless Mountain ranges. They explored now famous but then little known Yosemite Valley. Their next engagement was in the raisin-packing industry in Fresno. Finally they landed in Los Angeles where Paul became a teacher in the L. A. Business College.
After nine months in California Paul's next location was Denver, Colorado, where he demonstrated his versatility by "play-acting" in a stock company at the Old Fifteenth Street Theater. This adventure attracted more publicity than he desired. He received letters from old friends who were sure he had "gone wrong". He climbed Pike's Peak and convinced himself that the stride, which he had developed in the Green Mountains and tried out in the Sierra Nevadas, would also work in the Rockies. He got a position on the reportorial staff of the Rocky Mountain News where he remained until he got a chance to try the life of a cowboy on a ranch near Platteville, riding the range alone frequently for days searching for stray cattle. Returning to Denver he worked on The Republican where he encountered some of his San Francisco newspaper friends drifting back eastward.
Florida was another land of romance which appealed to Paul and as the fortunate beneficiary of a railroad pass he landed in Jacksonville and became night clerk at the St. James, the best tourist hotel in Jacksonville at that time. He found the hotel business prosaic and soon left it to become a traveling salesman through Florida for George W. Clark who dealt in marble and granite, a business of which Paul had gained a slight knowledge while working for the Sheldon Marble Company in Vermont. George Clark was a great influence in the life of the vagabond. Employer and employee soon became fast friends. Years later George organized and became the first president of the Jacksonville Rotary Club.
In March 1893 Paul departed for Washington to observe the inauguration of Grover Cleveland as President of the United States. While there he had a temporary job on The Washington Star. From there he went to Louisville to which Harry Pulliam had returned, hoping Harry could get him on The Courier or The Commercial. This hope was dashed. So Paul got a position with another marble and granite house which gave him the opportunity to travel through Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia, and Virginia.
On arrival at Norfolk, Virginia, he resigned his position and took the boat for Philadelphia. From the period when Tom Brown of Rugby had first won his admiration down through the days when the pen-folks of Dickens, Thackeray and Scott had held him captive, Paul had longed for a sight of the British Isles. For this he was willing to endure any hardship. In the want-ad column of a Philadelphia newspaper he found a notice that cattlemen were wanted by a Baltimore house making a shipment to England. Before dawn the following day a ship was plowing the seas and the young man who aspired to learn something of the practical side of life was on board. It was a rough voyage. The privation and suffering on that ship were unbelievable. The food scarcely deserved to be called that. The crew and the cattlemen included some of the most depraved and vicious characters one could imagine. It was a most trying experience.
Liverpool and its suburbs were all Paul got to see before he had to return on another ship of the same line. Great was his disappointment at not being able to see London and he resolved to endure again even such hardships that he might visit the British metropolis. The return voyage was not so bad-but no mattresses, blankets or eating utensils for the cattlemen. "Scouse" composed mostly of potato and water, with sometimes small fragments of meat, and mouldy sea biscuits constituted the principal food. Vermin were plentiful. Immersions in cold sea water were frequent.
While waiting at Baltimore for another and better ship Paul walked to Ellicott City and soon found opportunity to exercise his muscles in a hayfield. It was heavy work for him. He did the best he could at it but soon shifted to chores around the farmhouse in exchange for his board and lodging. A job in a corn-canning factory paid him $1.50 a day. While on this job he learned to his delight that another cattleship of a better line was soon to sail. Returning to Baltimore he got a job as sub-foreman on the "Michigan" whose destination was the Tillhury docks in the Thames about thirty miles from London. Oh happy day!
Paul and a friend he had made on board were soon walking the streets of London gazing at the Houses of Parliament and all the famous places of history and fiction. However, the best accommodation they could afford was a cheap boarding-house in the Whitechapel district although this was a locality of exceptional interest to the embryonic sociologist from Vermont. As the ship returned via Swansea for cargo Paul improved the chance to see something of Wales.
Arriving back in the United States Paul immediately took the train to visit the 1893 World's Fair in Chicago. Enjoyment of that beautiful Columbian Exposition was a happy interlude in his vagabondage. There he found confirmation of his faith in the future possibilities of that fascinating metropolis. He had enough money for train fare and no more. He found and became the guest of a college friend who was working at the Fair. One day when entering the Vermont building to his astonishment he observed his cousins, Ed and Mattie Fox of Rutland, inspecting the exhibits. Instantly Paul turned on his heel and left the building. The impecunious young man was in no mood to reveal himself to his relatives.
One city of all American cities was alluring; it was New Orleans, differing in so many respects from other American cities. How to get there was the question. It might be stated at this point that throughout his travels Paul stole no rides; he either paid his fare or worked his way and he always carried luggage. He was always willing to undertake any kind of work by which he could earn a livelihood and he always gave the best that was in him and if he failed it was because of physical or mental limitations and not because of indifference. Borrowed money was always repaid.
A loan from his college friend in Chicago got him to New Orleans. While there he discovered a want-ad for "a dozen men to pick and pack oranges in Plaquemine parish". The next day a gang of men including Paul, crossed the Mississippi river and were on their way to the grove and warehouse of S. Pizatti in the delta not far from where the Father-of-Waters empties into the sea. The business of picking, packing, boxing and shipping proceeded satisfactorily for several days. But suddenly a storm blew up. It became a hurricane and a tidal wave. Paul and his fellow orange-pickers in the darkness of the night waded and swam through the swirling waters carrying women and children from their homes to the one place of safety-the Pizatti warehouse. Then with axes and crowbars thcy endeavored to cut the dike to let the waters into the river. When the storm subsided the top of the levce was covered with dead horses, cows, hogs, hens and birds. That coast storm of 1893 took hundreds of lives and the property loss was enormous. Although many years have elapsed the horror and suffering of that episode still remain in the memory.
A return was made to New Orleans. Efforts to find employment on newspapers was fruitless. There was much to see and study in that historic city but the avidity of the traveler's longing for adventure had somewhat slackened. His thoughts turned to the cordial hospitality of his friends in Florida,
Paul's old position with the marble company in Jacksonville was still open to him and he returned to it. George Clark gave him territory over which he had not yet traveled. He covered the Southern States, Cuba and the Bahamas Islands. His visits at the home of the Clarks in Jacksonville were truly high times. The employer and his salesman were most intimate of chums. After a twelve month period Paul notified George of his intended departure. George said; "Is there nowhere else you care to go?" Paul answered: 'Yes, there is one more place but I doubt your willingness to send me". "Where is it?" inquired George. "Europe," said Paul. Two weeks later the wanderer was once again on the high seas, under orders of his employer-chum to visit the granite-producing regions of Scotland and the marble-producing regions of Ireland, Belgium and Italy for the purpose of making arrangements for buying the products of foreign quarries.
The writer could enjoyably consume a great deal of space in the relation of wonderful months spent in Great Britain, Ireland, France, Switzerland, Italy, Austria, Germany, Belgium, and Holland. As a visitor in the home of S. A. McFarland of Carrara, Italy, Paul was the recipient of courtesies little to be expected from comparative strangers. Among other things Mr. and Mrs. McFarland insisted on lending him funds with which to extend his travels on the Continent. The loan was accepted, and repaid in due course.
Upon his return to his native land the vagabond spent several months in helping George Clark in a subdividing and building project near Jacksonville and then turned his sights northward to Chicago. George pleaded with him to remain in Jacksonville, saying among other things: "Whatever the advantages of settling in Chicago may be, I am satisfied you will make more money if you remain with me". To this Paul replied: "I am sure you are right but I am not going to Chicago for the purpose of making money; I am going for the purpose of living a life".
Paul knew little of New York City and desired to learn something of the great eastern metropolis before settling down in Chicago. George made one more manifestation of his friendship by recalling his New York manager to Jacksonville and putting Paul in temporary charge of the New York office.
You were a real friend, George Clark, a grand and generous friend!
Chapter 32 "A Shingle Is Hung Up"
THREE MONTHS SHORT of the period of five years allotted to his fool's errand the vagabond arrived in Chicago ready to take up the practice of law. His boyhood was past. Travel and work are maturing experiences. Frequently after men have turned their backs on every other opportunity of gaining wisdom they gain it through toiling over the stony, tortuous, uphill pathway of experience.
At last my life settled down in earnest during the early spring of 1896 when the sap was in the maple trees back in my valley.
The vision of a world-wide fellowship of business and professional men had not yet come; there were experiences of a different nature yet to be had; but a wonderful foundation had been laid. Is it any wonder that an impressionable mind which had found so much good in the midst of evil, so much friendliness in places that might have been barren, so much reason for confidence and faith in business men, should be receptive to such a vision?
Chicago was experiencing hard times. I had anticipated hard times but I could not see how they could be harder than the period of my vagrancy; I considered myself a specialist in dealing with hard times. I made my meager resources stretch as far as I could but to get started in the practice of law was more difficult than I had expected it to be. To "hang up my shingle" was a simple matter and while I had not expected it to attract many, on the other hand I had not thought that it would be completely ignored; so far as I can remember, the immediate results were zero.
I spent considerable time about the Courts in order to familiarize myself with their practices and I read law cases and precedents into the late hours of the night but as for clients, there continued to be none. I conferred with other young lawyers but learned little of benefit to myself; some of them had means of their own; some had influential relatives and friends and others, like myself, were struggling. How I managed to get a small law practice started, which eventually grew into a partnership and later other partnerships of which I was always the head, is a long story and I need not go into it here, but, in course of time the wheels began to turn, at first slowly then more rapidly. In due course I became a member of the Bar Association, the Press Club, the Bohemian Club, and was active in the Association of Commerce.
However, after five years of folly it was difficult at first for the boy, now a young man, to settle down and become wise. He was dreadfully lonesome particularly on holidays and Sundays. He pondered the question of finding a way to increase his acquaintance with young men who had come to Chicago from farms and colleges, who knew the joys of friendliness and neighborliness without form or ceremony but it took a long while for his thinking to produce results.
The impulse to review the scenes of his boyhood became pressing and I finally set a day for my departure. Uncle George, to whom I owed so much, met me at the railway station in Rutland and drove me to his home in a phaeton drawn by a successor of bay Billy. Uncle George was still continuing his practice but his heyday had passed; he was taking things easier at last. The impressive enclosed station had burned and in its place had been built an unimpressive open station. The voices of the porters of the three leading hotels, the Bates House, the Berwick and the Bardwell, extolling the merits of their respective hostelries in stentorian tones and bewildering jargons, were conspicuous in their absence and Merchants Row and Center Street were like streets of Goldsmith's deserted village to the young man from Chicago.
Cottage Street where Uncle George's house, three storied with mansard roof, was located was not nearly so wide as I had pictured it. The welcome extended me by Aunt Mellie and Cousin Mattie was genuine though subdued. Many changes had taken place in the Fox family; the ring of laughter was no longer heard and most of the children had gone out from the family roof. Uncle George spent hours on the side veranda away from the street apparently indulging in meditation; he was as kind as ever but seldom spoke except in response to remarks of others.
When I mentioned bay Billy, however, he did show interest and said, "I have owned many a horse in my day, Paul, and I can't recall ever having had a bad one but the nearest thing to a human being I have ever seen in horseflesh, was Billy. He had as much affection as any child and much more obedience; he had ideas of his own but he was not headstrong. He would follow my orders even though he knew they were wrong but not without manifesting his disapproval. It was not difficult for me to read his mind, though not so easily as he read mine. Eventually I got to the point of taking his judgment in preference to my own unless there were some facts in the case which he didn't know. I wouldn't trust Billy to treat any patients of mine, but as for matters within his jurisdiction, he was generally the final word".
Cousin Mattie and I drove to Wallingford the day following my arrival in Rutland. We took the Creek Road and every turn of it was reminiscent of days of long ago. It was the same road over which the family funeral party had taken the remains of grandmother that October day; the same road I had tramped frequently. As we approached Wallingford landmarks became more and more frequent. We passed the Jay Newton, the Robert Marsh and the Hudson farms, the fork factory, the fair grounds, the Catholic church, the Hull farm house, the Stafford house, and finally drew up before the old home, the beloved home of my boyhood. Of course we visited the cemetery next and spent reverential moments by the graves of our grandparents.
Within a day or two I had taken up quarters in the Inn at Wallingford and was renewing my acquaintance with old friends and familiar places. My Sabbath School teacher, Anna Laurie Cole, was my most efficient and available assistant in my efforts to build a bridge between the pulsating present and the dreamy past; happily she still lives and still constitutes my connecting link between the two periods.
One after another I visited favorite spots. The swimming hole in Otter Creek near the covered bridge where naked youngsters had disported themselves within plain sight of passing vehicles, plunging from the rocks into the creek, not so much from a modest desire to cover their nakedness as from a more immodest desire to impress passing home folks with the belief that they were imps of Satan turned loose. I was sorry to note that new growths of underbrush had intruded themselves in places, which in other days had been reserved for the use of the feet of graceless youngsters. In other respects, Otter Creek had not changed.
Next in order was Fox Pond of the glamorous past. In summer, autumn, winter or spring, Fox Pond was the piece de resistance, except when it had to give way to the even more romantic charms of Little Pond.
The "ice bed," Childs' brook, hillsides and mountains all were visited in turn. During the days of my visit to the valley of my heart's desire, I had ample opportunity to bring back to memory incidents of my boyhood which had been obscured by the turbulent events of the years which followed. In moments of quiet reflection on hillside and mountain, I looked down into the valley through which Otter Creek flows so peacefully and during such tranquil moments, I was astonished at my resemblance to the boy out of whom I had grown; amazed at times in the realization of the fact, how few changes had taken place. Fundamentally, I was the same. The two old folks whose bones were resting peacefully beneath the soil of the cemetery down in the valley, had fashioned me as definitely as an artist could fashion clay. Their ideals had become my ideals and the process had come about so gradually and so naturally that neither grandparents nor grandchild were aware of it. Surely I had fallen far short of living up to these ideals but the ideals were still there. The principles of my grandparents had been made crystal clear; they could not have been made more clear if the words integrity, frugality, tolerance and unselfishness had been carved in gargantuan letters on the bare face of majestic White Rocks.
There were moments while indulging myself in daydreams on the mountainside when my conscience rebuked me for not being up and doing; so many things needed to be done in this busy world and there was so little time in which to do them, and then the thought came to me that perhaps men had to dream and where could there have been a more lovely dreamland than this very mountainside.
One day while resting from my climb on the top of a stone and rail fence which separated two pastures, I looked down the mountain, beyond pasturelands where cows were grazing, to the meadowland along the creek where the hay crop was being harvested. The click of the mowing machine was sweet music to my ears. The frugal farmer was rhythmically swinging his scythe along the borders and in the corners to save the few remaining wisps of timothy and clover with voluntary crops of daisies and buttercups thrown in. The hired men were loading cured hay of previous cuttings on hayricks for transfer to barn lofts for use during the long winter months when deep snow would blanket the meadows and bring nitrogen to the soil to maintain its fertility. I was too far up the mountainside to enjoy the exquisite odor of the new mown hay but I drank in the peace and tranquility of the scene and stored it up in my museum of happy memories.
I recalled the fact that somehow many of my dreams had come true. I had visited the land of Tom Brown of Rugby and Oxford; the land of Shakespeare and Dickens; Burns and Scott; I had realized the witchery of the Lakes of Killarney, the glory of the sunset on the Alpine Mountains and the soft shading of Italian skies.
These and many other wonders in many countries I had been privileged to see, without the aid of grandfather but at the cost of years of unstinted toil, danger and even hunger at times. Perhaps dreaming is not so bad if one dreams good dreams and makes them come true; all too soon my vacation would be ended and I would be back in the grind again.
Chapter 33 "The First Rotary Club"
BACK IN CHICAGO it was still necessary to eat humble pie but my appetite remained good. Week days, though they brought me many disappointments, had one advantage-business kept me from thinking about myself. Sundays and holidays were my days of sorrow, I could go to the downtown churches Sunday mornings, but during the long Sunday afternoons I was desperately lonely. Oh, for the green fields of my New England Valley and the voice of a kindly old friend! Strolls through city parks were far from satisfying; there was too much artificiality, and among the thousands of strollers there was not one familiar face. There is no place like a city park on a Sunday afternoon to feel one's loneliness; the very presence of so many strangers accentuated it more than boundless expanses of land and water could have done. Even the music of excellent bands failed to dispel my gloom. My truant thoughts drifted back to the scenes of my boyhood; the swimming hole by the covered bridge over Otter Creek and many other sacred places; I was at times inundated by tidal waves of memories of rambles with friends over hills and mountains.
There were certain spots in the Chicago parks which reminded me of my valley but they were frequented by so many other persons that they gave me little repose. Some Sundays, I went farther out into the country but even there tranquility was lacking. All-day excursions across Lake Michigan by boat gave me temporary relief but afforded no escape from the crowds; in fact, the boats were always loaded to their capacity with men, women and children. I took my scanty meals at German, Scandinavian, Italian, Greek, and Hungarian restaurants. I made acquaintances but not real friends. Chicago beaches swarmed with bathers and picknickers and played their important parts in the recreational life of hundreds of thousands of city toilers. All praise to the indefatigable efforts of unselfish men and women responsible for the establishment of parks and playgrounds to which all could have access without price. Everywhere there were people but nowhere a familiar face.
To me one essential was lacking, the presence of friends. Emerson said, "He who has a thousand friends has not a friend to spare. In my earliest days in my adopted city, I had neither the thousand nor the one.
Betterment in human affairs comes through travail. Someone first has to visualize the need and suffering clarifies the vision as nothing else could. I saw the great need of human companionship as I never could have seen it without such experiences as above outlined. Perhaps it was part and parcel of the cosmic scheme; surely it was made apparent to me that men must have the companionship of those of their kind.
The thought persisted that I was experiencing only what had happened to hundreds, perhaps thousands, of others in the great city, came to me. I was sure that there must be many other young men who had come from farms and small villages to establish themselves in Chicago. In fact I knew a few. Why not bring them together? If the others were longing for fellowship as I was, something would come of it.
One evening I went with a professional friend to his suburban home. After dinner as we strolled about the neighborhood my friend greeted by name various tradesmen at their stores. This reminded me of my New England village. "The thought came to me why not in big Chicago have a fellowship composed of just one man from each of many different occupations, with no restrictions as to their politics or religion, with broad tolerance of each other's opinions? In such a fellowship could there not be mutual helpfulness?" Paul Harris, Page 230
I did not act upon my impulse at once; months and even years passed. In the life of great movements it is necessary that one man who has faith walk alone for a time. I did walk alone but eventually in February 1905 I called three young business men to meet with me and I laid before them a very simple plan of mutual co-operation and informal friendship such as all of us had once known in our villages. They agreed to my plan
"Silvester Schiele, my most intimate Chicago friend, and one of the three who first met with me, was made our first president, and has been a constant member. Gustavus Loehr and Hiram Shorey were the other two but they failed to follow through. On the other hand Harry Ruggles, Charley Newton, and others who were quickly added to the group, with hearty zest joined in developing the project". (by Paul Harris, page 231)
We grew in numbers, in fellowship, in the spirit of helpfulness to each other and to our city. The banker and the baker, the parson and the plumber, the lawyer and the laundryman discovered the similarity of each other's ambitions, problems, successes and failures. We learned how much we had in common. We found joy in being of service to one another. Again I seemed to be back in my New England Valley.
At a third meeting of the group, I presented several suggestions as a name for the club, among them Rotary, and that name was selected as we were then holding our meetings in rotation at our offices and places of business. Later, still rotating, we held our meetings at various hotels and restaurants. Thus we began as "Rotarians," and such we continue to be.
I took no office of any character during the first two years of the Chicago club but I nominated the officers and my judgment was generally followed in the administration of the club. As I look back at it now I must have seemed very dictatorial at times. If so it was because of my devotion to the undertaking. The third year I was elected president and my ambitions then were-first, to advance the growth of the Chicago club; second, to extend the movement to other cities; third, to intensify community service as one of the club's objectives.
That was the genesis of a great movement, the name of which is familiar to many who read this book. From that humble start has grown a present fellowship of a quarter-million business and professional men. Rotary has made itself at home in seventy different countries; in truth it is said that the sun never sets on Rotary.
My reward has been exceedingly great. To have friends all over the world is a great blessing. To know that these friends are also friends of each other is a satisfying thought. The salutation, "Good Morning, Paul!" which gladdened my heart in boyhood days in my valley is now the greeting of my fellow Rotarians and continues to be sweet music in my ears, whether it be spoken by rich or poor, young or old.
To the members of the small group which came together in the big city of Chicago, Rotary was like an oasis in a desert. Their meetings were different from the meetings of other clubs in those days. They were far more intimate; far more friendly. All hampering and meaningless restraint was thrown off; dignified reserve was checked at the door; the members were boys again. To me, attendance at a club meeting was very like being back home in my valley.
The original concept of Rotary has expanded; its ideals have been formulated; its objectives have been set forth; but intimate and informal fellowship remains a vital element in its structure. Sir Henry Braddon has said:
"One way in which Rotary develops the individual is in preserving the boy in him. Deep down in the heart of every good fellow there is a boy, a boy whose outlook on life is rather wonderful, unspoiled, with no prejudice, no intolerance, with keen enthusiasm, ready friendliness. It is a sad day for a man when the boy can be said to have passed away. As long as a man keeps his mind resilient, his nature open to friendly influences, he will never grow entirely old. Rotary encourages and helps to develop him by keeping the boy alive in him".
Several of the original Rotarians had been raised on farms and the majority of them were country or small town boys who had gravitated to the big city. While not self-made men they were in the process of making and most of them had made sufficient progress to justify the assumption that success in considerable degree was to be realized in the future. Some had received the benefits of college education-more had not.
They helped each other in every way that kindly heart and friendly spirit could suggest. In the main the efforts were directed to helping each other in business; helping each other to attain success. They patronized each other when it was practical to do so, exerted helpful influence, and gave wise counsel when needed. Some realized business advantages, others did not. All realized the advantages of fellowship.
As the membership of the Chicago group increased we had a cross-section, so far as it went, of our city, each member representing an honorable calling different from all others in the membership, each viewing it as a special privilege to be selected as a representative of his vocation and appreciative of his responsibility incident thereto,
It is not the purpose of Rotary to make social, religious or racial composites of its members. Rotary brings business and professional men differing in social status, religious beliefs, and nationality together in order that they may be more intelligible to each other and therefore more sympathetic and friendly and helpful.
In January 1908 two new members were added to our ranks, then over a hundred strong-Arthur Frederick Sheldon and Chesley H. Perry, both of whom were destined to make their contributions to the movement, It developed that these two men had met several years before when Sheldon, as the head of a book-selling outfit, had invaded the Chicago public library where Perry was a member of the staff and sold him a set of history volumes. Talk about carrying coals to Newcastle! Not long after that Sheldon founded a school of salesmanship based on the idea that successful salesmanship depended upon rendering service and that no transaction was justified unless both parties thereto benefited by it. Sheldon was a natural for our group. He was no Kickapoo Indian medicine vendor. Wherever the English language is spoken, Sheldon students are found. The writer has been pleased to find many among Rotarian leaders abroad. For the Edinburgh convention in 1921 Sheldon was selected by the program committee as the one best qualified to interpret to British Rotarians the ideal of service as understood in America. The invitation was accepted and those who heard the message say it was as of one inspired.
It is conceivable that Rotary might have been born under sunnier skies, in a climate more equable, and in a city of mental composure; but on the other hand many will contend that there could have been no more favorable birthplace for such a movement as Rotary than paradoxical Chicago where fifty years ago the battle for civic righteousness was being so fiercely waged. The forces of righteousness were then rallying. Chicago was emerging. The close of the old, and the first decade of the new century brought the beautiful Columbian Exposition, the establishment of a great university on a beautiful parkway, an expanded public library, the beginning of a great association of commerce, magnificent museums, a fine symphony orchestra, various civic improvement organizations, Jane Adams' famous Hull House and other neighborhood settlements- and Rotary.
There could have been no time more opportune than the beginning of the twentieth century for the genesis of such a movement as Rotary, nor any city better suited than virile, aggressive, paradoxical Chicago in which to nurture it. The ills with which Chicago was afflicted in those days were also prevalent elsewhere in the country. Generally speaking, business was in a bad way. Practices were not in accord with high ethical principles with respect to consumers, employees or competitors. Community spirit was at a low ebb almost everywhere. It was time for a change for the better. It had to come.
Out of America's unrivalled metropolis of the Middle West came Rotary, out of a great social maelstrom where racial, political, economic and religious extremes met, clashed, and ultimately merged into a semblance of homogeneity. Even today the melting pot is still boiling furiously in Chicago and patriotic citizens are still endeavoring to cast wholesome ingredients into the pot in full faith that the final product will be delectable. In 1905, in the City by the Lake, Rotary was one scene in a drama that was being enacted. The dramatis personae of that scene were men of the ordinary walks of life; business and professional men. While perhaps lacking qualities that would have distinguished them from others of their kind, it may nevertheless be said that they were fairly representative of what in common parlance would have been termed "the better element".
Chapter 34 "Rotary Begins to Spread"
THE INVENTOR of the first Rotary club was more conscious of its deficiencies than anyone else. He rejoiced to see it expand to helpfulness to others outside the membership of the club, He dreamed of similar clubs in other cities.
Rotarians and other folks as well sometimes think that Rotary advanced from city to city and from country to country very much as Topsy grew. That it developed of its own accord and without effort on the part of anyone. No, Rotary has not grown by virtue of the fact that a suitable formula had been devised; it has become world wide in its influence because of the untiring effort to extend it.
My relations with my friends of the Chicago club constituted a remarkable illustration of the binding power of Rotary. Notwithstanding the fact that Rotary had come to mean to me something very different from what it still meant to some of them, our friendship remained unaffected.
The Doubting Thomas's were ever present. There's but one way to convince a Doubting Thomas and that is to do the thing he says can't be done and on that basis the Doubting Thomas who said it would not be possible to organize Rotary clubs in any city other than Chicago became convinced that it could and should be done.
It was disappointing to me but most of my fellow Chicago Rotarians refused to be stampeded into my "Rotary Around the World" phantasy. Nothing is more disconcerting than the blank look of friends to whom one's hopes are unintelligable. I soon learned that the best way to get things done was to do them myself.
So I proceeded to address myself to the task of getting Rotary Clubs started in cities throughout the United States. In this work circumstances required that the effort be made by correspondence. My classmates in the three universities, Vermont, Princeton, and Iowa, and friends I had made in my five years of vagabondage were my natural recourse.
It was a long and frequently a painful grind; there were headaches and heartaches in plenty, but there were also periods of joy and elation. And all the while I was trying to keep up my law practice.
Three long years passed before the first victory was scored. To find the right man to organize a Rotary Club in a given city was not easy. Manuel Munoz proved to be the right man to carry the message to San Francisco. He had been my room mate in the Del Prado Hotel in Chicago and was fairly well versed in Rotary. While on a business trip to San Francisco, then rebuilding after its earthquake and fire, Munoz interested Homer Wood, a lawyer, and put him into correspondence with me. The result was that in November, 1908 we had our second Rotary club. As if that were not enough, alert San Franciscans organized Rotary club number three in Oakland, club number four in Seattle, and club number five in Los Angeles. New York and Boston were next and other cities followed. Some of the Doubting Thomases were won over and joined in the extension work.
And so it went on from city to city and eventually from country to country and my five years of vagabondage served me in good stead. After all, I was only leading Rotary over trails I had already blazed.
Had my leadership been more skillful or my plans more definitely worked out in advance, I doubtless could have secured the full cooperation of Chicago Rotarians and gone forward with a solid front. As a matter of fact, my conception of Rotary was undergoing evolutionary processes, almost revolutionary at times. I had preached the doctrine of carefree fellowship. I had been freest of the free, gayest of the gay, my voice had lead in song and laughter. Members were satisfied with that order. Now was something quite different. In this dilemna, it seemed easier to organize new clubs with new and progressive thoughts than to reconvert old members.
Our success in the United States inspired us to project Rotary over the boundary line into Canada. After two unsuccessful attempts the right man eventually was interested and the first club outside the United States was organized in Winnipeg, Canada. Other Canadian cities followed Winnipeg's lead.
Flushed with success, we then felt that it was of vital importance to get things started in Great Britain and of course, London was the choice of all cities. To win London to the movement was a grand objective and in course of time, the opportunity opened up.
My friend Arthur Frederic Sheldon had a representative in London and was soon to visit him. Rotarian Harvey C. Wheeler of Boston had his business located both in Boston and London. It was not difficult for Sheldon to enthuse his representative, E. Sayer Smith, and with the cooperation of Wheeler, the Rotary Club of London was organized. Wheeler became its first president. There are seventy fine Rotary clubs in greater London now and the total number of Rotarians in that city exceeds the number of any other city in the world.
Having gotten their hands in. Sheldon and Smith went to Manchester and duplicated their London achievement. I was pluming myself on having initiated the first two British Clubs when Secretary Perry and I learned that Stuart Morrow, an Irishman who had learned about Rotary while travelling in the United States, had upon his return to Dublin proceeded to organize a Rotary club there. He had already moved on to Belfast. Needless to say we contacted Morrow at once and authorized and encouraged him to continue his labors in Edinburgh, Glasgow, Birmingham, and Liverpool. The five hundred Rotary clubs subsequently developed in Great Britain and Ireland have been a bulwark for the movement.
The Latin American countries were next to occupy our attention and we soon interested an American business man who had business which took him to Havana, Cuba. He was a man of high ideals and much ability and though he spent some time for Rotary in Havana he was entirely unsuccessful and returned convinced that Rotary was an Anglo-Saxon idea that could not be understood or accepted by other races, but two members of the Tampa, Florida, Rotary Club, Angel Cuesta and John Turner, subsequently proved that my emissary to Cuba was mistaken and those who have been privileged to become acquainted with our splendid Latin American Rotarians of today know how erroneous his conclusions were. Cuesta and Turner organized a good club in Havana, Cuba, and Cuesta, pleased with his success, made a trip to his native country, Spain, and organized a Rotary Club in Madrid; the first club on the continent of Europe.
Angel not only financed his trip to Spain but before leaving gave a substantial sum of money to further community service in the city of his nativity. Having accomplished his self-appointed task, Angel returned to his adopted country with never a word of his exploits except as the facts were drawn from him. This man knew not what he had done. He had opened up both Latin America and Europe for Rotary.
Heriberto Coates of Montevideo learned of Rotary while on a visit to the United States and went home to develop Clubs in Montevideo, Buenos Aires and other South American cities.
Fred Teele, an American civil engineer gave up an eighteen thousand dollar per year position in Mexico, after having served as president of the Mexico City Rotary Club, to accept a five thousand dollar job spreading Rotary in Europe on the foundation laid by Cuesta and others who had sown the seed in France, Holland, Denmark and other countries. Teele's labors culminated in the opening of an office of the R. I. secretariat in Zurich, Switzerland.
Two Canadian Rotarians, "Jim" Davidson of Calgary and Col. J. L. Ralston of Halifax, gave their time gratuitously to open up Australia and New Zealand. Rotary had by that time become prosperous enough to pay their expenses. Some years later Davidson undertook the organization of clubs in Southern Europe, Egypt, India, the Straits Settlements, Siam, China, and Japan, thus completing the round-the-world chain. He worked without compensation other than the expenses of himself and wife. This trip of the Davidsons took three years. Jim left America with full understanding that he had not long to live. He lasted until the completion of his task but died soon after his return.
While the cases mentioned above are conspicuous examples it may in truth be said that many thousands of Rotarians of high standing in business affairs have given of themselves generously in the cause of Rotary. The gratuitous work of devoted Rotarians in widening the sphere of Rotary's usefulness has been amazing.
Everywhere in North America Rotary Clubs came into existence by the hundreds and the thousands. Professional organizers were unnecessary. Every club had the impulse to pass on to other cities the idea which it had found so beneficial in its city. Clubs were grouped into districts and local Rotarians were elected annually as "district governors". They accepted the responsibility for extension in their districts and for the further advancement of Rotary's objects and practices. They and their colleagues, the governors of districts in all parts of the world, have been and always will be the great unifying and steadying force of Rotary.
While the record of extension is one of the most interesting chapters in Rotary history, the development of its ideals and practices has gone on apace. Deeds preceded the written word. After service had been rendered in manifold forms, the word "service" with all its varied meanings and implications was written in the Rotary plan. Rotary expanded from a local group, gathered together in the city of Chicago for mutual advantage and fellowship, to an organization of international vision and unquestionable nobility of purpose.
Hundreds of small cities and towns, all but dead so far as civic consciousness was concerned, took on new life after they organized their Rotary clubs. Clean-up campaigns were inaugurated, Boy Scout troops were given leadership and support. Boys bands were organized. Languishing chambers of commerce were revived and new ones started. Boys camps were established. Rotarians were more than propagandists; they frequently constituted the entire working force. Those who could not contribute money, contributed labor. Rotarians in small towns became jacks-of-all-trades during the construction of camps. Anyone who could drive a nail could qualify as a carpenter, while druggists and grocers became bricklayers and plumbers when occasion demanded. The women served appetizing lunches and eventually won for themselves the endearing term of Rotaryanns. There never had been such doings since barn-raising days.
Those who had stoutly maintained that it was sheer idiocy to assert that Rotary was destined to make itself at home throughout the civilized world finally had to lower their colors; and yet that was my prediction at the first convention of Rotary Clubs held in Chicago in 1910, and again at Convention number two held at Portland, Oregon in 1911.
My contribution to the international scope of the movement came as the direct consequence of my five years of romantic vagrancy. How otherwise could I have had the vision of Rotary Clubs in
London, Paris, Rome, Berlin and other cities throughout the world? Some other person might have had the vision but not I.
There is wisdom in the expression, "There is nothing new under the sun". Perhaps the most unique feature of Rotary is its so-called classification plan by which membership is restricted to one representative of each business and profession, but two centuries before the conception of Rotary a social club existed in London the membership of which was based on vocational classifications, and Ben Franklin organized his "Junto" in Philadelphia on the classification plan. Many years ago "La Societe des Philantropes," with its headquarters in Strasbourg, France, was almost identical with Rotary in its idealism and purposes. Needless to say that knowledge of these organizations of the past did not come to the attention of the founders of Rotary until long after its birth.
The question is often asked; "Why do Rotary clubs limit membership to one man from each distinct business or profession?" Because our experiment has proved in operation that it makes for congenial fellowship, obviates business and professional jealousies, encourages mutual helpfulness, stimulates pride in the dignity of one's occupation, and broadens one's mind and sympathy with regard to the accomplishments and problems of other occupations.
There are many organizations the membership of which is confined to one profession or trade. Such organizations play exceedingly important parts in the modern world. They enable men of a given trade or profession to come together to exchange ideas and experiences and to discuss problems of common interest. No one thinks of them as exclusive, though they exclude all not engaged in their particular profession or trade; their success depends upon their so doing. An association of surgeons does not admit to their membership a manufacturer or a merchandiser. The success of the organization and its promise of usefulness depends upon its exclusion of men not versed in the science of surgery.
And while it is true that a surgeon can gain much from contact with his fellow surgeons, one who has social contact with surgeons only would become a dull fellow. He needs the broadening influence of contacts with those engaged in other professions and business undertakings. He will obtain such contacts to a limited extent in his church and social club, but the church and club are not organized to fill the particular need. If one is admitted to membership in a Rotary club, he will enjoy the broadening influence of contact with men of all vocations.
And it must not be overlooked that being a Rotarian imposes upon a man an obligation to carry into his trade association the ideals and precepts which he holds as a Rotarian. He should endeavor to make them appreciated and get them accepted by all in his line of business.
The writer is a member of the American Bar Association, Illinois State Bar Association, the Chicago Bar Association, and for two years had the honor of being chairman of the committee on professional ethics of the latter, a member of other committees, a delegate of the Chicago Bar Association to the International Congress on Comparative Law at the Hague, and a member of the International Committee of the American Bar Association. All positions afforded remarkable opportunities to carry the Rotary ideal of service to his profession. There are between eight and nine thousand lawyers in the city of Chicago, and the Chicago Bar Association has been doing titanic work in raising the standards of practice. Nearly three hundred lawyers have been made to walk the plank because they would not observe the canons of good practice.
Incidentally I was honored not only in being asked to serve at the Hague Conference but also by the fact that America's greatest legal scholar, Dean John H. Wigmore, was one of the two other representatives of the Chicago Bar Association. Dean Wigmore's body now lies in Arlington Cemetery in Washington but I am proud of my association with him at the Hague where a deep and lasting friendship was begun.
Chapter 35 "The Architect Finds a Builder"
"The creator must have thought well of Rotary. I was worn and weary and discouraged at times. It seemed providential when the third year of the Chicago Club there came one who, more than all others, has labored to make the dream come true. What Rotary would have done without him no one knows. I am sure much credit has been given to me for work done by him. While Chesley R. Perry associated himself with enthusiasm in the activities of the Chicago club, it took some time for him to become interested in the extension the movement. When he did, I found him a helpful partner.
The conversion of Ches to "World Around" Rotary came about in a peculiar way. An incoming president of the Chicago club, not being in sympathy with the 'World Widers' appointed Ches chairman of the club's extension committee thinking thus to spike the guns of those in favor of the wider viewpoint which he considered irrational and visionary. [in a 1952 article Harry Ruggles, the 4th president of Rotary discusses his concerns about extension
I realized the necessity of doing one of two things, either losing entirely the sympathy of the Chicago club or converting the newly appointed chairman of the extension committee to the broader viewpoint.
So it came about that I called Ches by phone one Sunday when he had ample time to talk. During the course of the interview, Ches asked me the question: 'Why do you think, Paul, that the Chicago club is as nothing compared with what you have in mind?'
I don't know how I answered but I considered the situation desperate and fired all of my broadsides in defense of my idea. Ches said little at the time but what he did say was enough. When I hung up the receiver, I felt convinced that I had won a friend to the cause. Shortly thereafter he and I, with the help of others, planned the formation of an association of the then existing clubs. Ches took the laboring oar in outlining and organizing the first convention of Rotary clubs.
Some of my fellow Chicago Rotarians had been helpful and encouraging. They saw possibilities in our own country but none seemed to visualize the possibilities of a world wide movement. The clubs organized in other cities were more helpful in developing a wider philosophy. They had a fresh outlook on the situation.
Chesley Perry seemed to be able to grasp and to fairly evaluate all essential features; he embraced Rotary intellectually as well as sentimentally. Never again was it necessary to fight the battle alone; Ches was always beside me or in front of me. He was definitely in the fight". Page 244 Paul Harris
That first Rotary convention (of delegates from sixteen clubs) was held in the Congress Hotel in Chicago in August 1910. Chesley Perry was chosen by the delegates to preside over their sessions. A constitution and by-laws were drawn up and adopted. The delegates spent many hours discussing the meaning and potentialities of Rotary. The attendance at that first convention was less than 100 but twenty years later when the 21st Rotary Convention was held in Chicago observing 25 years of Rotary over 11,000 men and women were in attendance.
At the conclusion of the first Chicago convention I was elected as the president of the Association which had been formed, and Chesley Perry was chosen as its secretary. At the Portland Convention in 1911 I was re-elected as president for a second year and at my request Ches continued as secretary. At the 1912 convention in Duluth I retired from active service and was honored by being made "president emeritus" of Rotary International. For a third time Ches was elected secretary and his annual re-election became a matter of course until he retired in 1942.
That Ches Perry and I have been able to work so well together surely has been a great blessing to the organization. Has it perchance been due to the influence of Rotary upon us? Every worker who gives himself to a worthy cause is bound to realize some of its benefits.
Ches always pushed me to the front; confining his efforts largely to work at his desk where he served throughout the years, taking few vacations. His day was not an eight hour day; he generally could be found at his desk far into the night. Through such devotion he built up his fine staff of workers at Chicago and at other quarters throughout the world. If I can in truth be called the architect, Ches can with equal truth be called the builder of Rotary International.
Headquarters was developed on very democratic lines. We never considered our fellow workers as employees; they were associates rather. All were addressed by their given names regardless of the importance of the part they played, and to them all the secretary was "Ches" and I was "Paul".
No one could by the widest stretch of the imagination say that Ches and I were chums in the usual acceptance of the word. When we met in the office, I saluted him with "Good morning, Ches," and he answered: "Good morning, Paul". But we seldom went to lunch together. Often I would have hailed the opportunity to spend an hour with Ches at noon time talking over the happenings of the day but that was not to be. Ches took a light lunch in his office and continued his work without material break of thought.
Ches had his idiosyncrasies and I had mine. Some things were natural to Ches, others were natural to me, but something more important than mere chumminess was growing up steadily throughout the years; that was a genuine affection born of respect for each other.
Something of the same character developed in the minds of new international presidents and directors of the movement. They missed the effusive welcome which they had expected but found something far better. New officers approached their tasks with apprehension. Could they make good? They were well experienced in Rotary in their home cities and districts but service as president or membership on the board caused nervous apprehension. All of this generally disappeared as the days went by. Sitting beside the president at the board meeting was a man, the international secretary, always ready to be called upon but never obtrusive; a gentle touch here and there, a skillful mention of some guiding principle. All doubts in their minds soon disappeared. When the meeting closed all felt that with the compendium of information ever at hand in their secretary no failure could come to the administration.
When in 1942 it became rumored that Ches was going to retire as Secretary of Rotary International the air was full of conjectures as to what would happen to Rotary arid what would happen to Ches. Phil Lovejoy, a native of Portland, Maine, a graduate of the University of Michigan, and a past president of the Botary Club of Hamtramck, Michigan, who had been first assistant secretary for the preceding twelve years was everyone's choice for the office of General Secretary and was duly elected. The trains did not run off the track as feared by many. Phil knew his job. He is ably supported by Lester B. Struthers as assistant general secretary. Les has been in the organization for over twenty years.
In his retirement Clies returned to activities in the Chicago Rotary Club, first in committee work, then as director and vice-president, and last year as president of our Club of 770 members. Like good wine he improves with age.
Headquarters is not only a marvel of efficiency, but it is also Exhibit A of Rotary doctrines. The staff, consisting of 150 earnest and happy workers, are gathered together in the large room of the board of directors for a meeting Monday after lunch, approximately once a month. Smiling General Secretary Phil Lovejoy presides. A song in which all join brings a sense of relaxation. Then Secretary Phil runs rapidly over the affairs of the preceding month and of the month to come, interjecting a bit of humor at appropriate places. The result is that each member is educated in the purposes of the movement; that every associate realizes the importance of his or her particular part in the world-wide organization.
To facilitate the extension of Rotary throughout the world, and give service to established clubs, a secretariat was early established in London, England; some time later secretariats at Zurich, Switzerland, and Bombay, India, were established under the supervision of the General Secretary. These offices have rendered fine service to the clubs in Britain and Ireland, Europe, and Asia.
In 1911 we authorized Secretary Perry to edit and manage a magazine for Rotary which has grown into a most important factor in the advancement of the movement and in the maintenance of solidarity among Rotarians. It also is welcomed by libraries and schools, and frequently quoted by other publications. For several years "The Rotarian" has been under the able editorship and management of Leland Case, and its Spanish language edition is well handled by Manuel Hinojosa.
The extraordinary progress of the Rotary movement has, most naturally, necessitated the expenditure of large sums of money but it has all been provided by comparatively small annual dues contributed by the members of all Rotary clubs who have wanted to make it possible for men of other cities and other countries to learn about Rotary and be given the opportunity to share in its blessings, and in turn contribute to its further development. The financial policy has always been conservative and sound; go as far as you can with what you have at the moment. There is a substantial surplus in the treasury available for all emergencies which can be foreseen by prudent and farsighted men.
Though the annual budget of today may seem large, it is nothing compared to what it would necessarily be were it not for the fact that thousands of Rotarians, not alone in America, but throughout the world, are giving their best efforts in the interest of the movement without any compensation other than the satisfaction they find in advancing a movement which to them holds great hope for a better world, a neighborly world.
Once during the early years of the movement, Secretary Perry came to my office in Chicago to introduce the two splendid Canadian Rotarians who had been commissioned by Rotary International to establish Rotary Clubs in Australia and New Zealand. They expressed a desire to meet me whom they termed the "Founder of Rotary". I gratefully accepted the honor but suggested that perhaps my part had been overemphasized. Ches answered for my callers and said: "I suppose that Rotarians come to see you, Paul, in about the same spirit they go to visit the source of a great river".
I have often thought of those words; they constituted a high compliment paid in the form of a beautiful anology. I accepted the compliment as it was intended, but does the great river have its flow from any one particular spring alone? No, the great river is the sum total of the contributions of hundreds, perhaps thousands of little brooks and rivulets, which come tumbling down hillsides and mountains, singing as they go, eager to cast themselves into the channel of the great river.
Well, that is like the growth of Rotary. It has become great because of the self-sacrificing contributions of thousands of Rotarians of many lands.
There followed me in the presidency of the Association a long line of devoted and able Rotarians who have given the movement great life, poise and character. They have come not only from the United States but from Canada, Mexico, England, France, Brazil and Peru. Each president has had associated with him other able men who as members of the board of directors, committeemen, and district governors, have come from scores of countries. Each year's administration has made and is continuing to make its important contribution to the extension and development of my early conception of a world wide fellowship of business and professional men united in the ideal of service. Club officers and members have made many helpful contributions. Yes, indeed, the great river of Rotary is the sum total of the contributions of many.
Rotary International has been extremely fortunate in many ways but especially in its selection of presidents. It would require many volumes to record their contributions to the movement, to estimate their loyalty, their devotion, the sacrificial spirit they have so splendidly manifested, and to adequately describe the leadership they have given to the movement. Here I can but pay them the tribute of presenting their names:
1912-13-Glenn C. Mead, Philadelphia, Pa.
1913-14-Russell F. Greiner, Kansas City, Mo.
1914-15-Frank L. Mulholland, Toledo, Ohio.
1915-16-Allen D. Albert, Minneapolis, Minn.
1916-17-Arch C. Klumph, Cleveland, Ohio.
1917-18-E. Leslie Pidgeon, Winnipeg, Canada.
1918-19-John Poole, Washington, D. C.
1919-20-Albert S. Adams, Atlanta, Georgia.
1920-21-Estes Snedecor, Portland, Oregon.
1921-22-Crawford C. McCullough, Fort William, Canada.
1922-23-Raymond M. Havens, Kansas City, Mo.
1923-24-Guy Gundaker, Philadelphia, Pa.
1924-25-Everett W. Hill, Oklahoma City, Okla.
1925.26-Donald A. Adams, New Haven, Conn.
1926-27-Harry H. Rogers, San Antonio, Texas.
1927-28-Arthur H. Sapp, Huntington, Indiana.
1928-29-I. B. Sutton, Tampico, Mexico.
1929-30-M. Eugene Newsome, Durham, N. Carolina.
1930-31-Almon E. Roth, Palo Alto, Calif.
1931-32-Sydney W. Pascall, London, England.
1932-83-Clinton P. Anderson, Albuquerque, N.Mexico.
1933-34-John Nelson, Montreal, Canada.
1934-35-Robert E. L. Hill, Columbia, Mo.
1935-36-Ed. B. Johnson, Roanoke, Va.
1936-37-Will H. Manier, Jr., Nashville, Tenn.
1937-38-Maurice Duperrey, Paris France.
1938-39-Geo. C. Hager, Chicago, Illinois.
1939-40-Walter D. head, Montclair, N. J.
1940-41-Armando de Arruda Pereira, Sao Paulo, Brazil.
1941-42-Tom J. Davis, Butte, Montana
1942-43-Fernando Carbajal, Lima, Peru.
1943-44-Charles L. Wheeler, San Francisco, Calif.
1944-45-Richard H. Wells, Pocatello, Idaho.
1945-46---T. A. Warren, Wolverhampton, England.
Arthur Frederic Sheldon of Chicago made us see more clearly our service responsibilities in business and we have him to thank for the slogan: "He profits most who serves best," which was accepted as indicating, strange as it may seem, that it was conceivable than an effort to give the other fellow the best of it might result in getting the best of it yourself. Minneapolis Rotarians gave us our other and more terse slogan: "Service Above Self".
Rotarians of Seattle gave us our platform of principles and a group of Sioux City Rotarians contributed the code of ethics. These and many other contributions helped to give our movement its sense of direction.
In 1915 Guy Gundaker of Philadelphia, prepared a booklet entitled "A Talking Knowledge of Rotary," to express Rotary as it was then understood, rather than to set up new ideals and standards. It was a most helpful contribution to the cause.
The Rotary Club of Birmingham, Alabama, made valuable contributions to the interpretating of Rotary to the public as the Rotary Clubs of Britain and Ireland also have done.
Even before there was a second club, realizing the importance of community service, I persuaded the Chicago Rotary Club to initiate the establishment of public comfort stations in the city of Chicago, inviting the city administration and every civic organization in the city to join our club in the undertaking. It is possible that some more attractive objective might have been chosen for our first venture, but it would be difficult to have found one which would have stirred up more agitation. Two formidable forces rose up against us; one was the Chicago Association of Brewers which contended that every one of Chicago's six thousand saloons offered public comfort conveniences for men. The other opponent was the Association of Department Stores on State Street which contended that free accommodations in their stores were available to women. The proponents of the measure nevertheless persisted that men ought not to have to buy a glass of beer nor women have to buy merchandise to make use of toilet facilities. The stations were established.
Chapter 36 "Rotary Serves in Two Wars" (Rotary in Global Conflicts)
AFTER THE CHICAGO convention in 1910 progress was steady. Within one year there were 28 clubs in the United States. The welding of forces into a national unit encouraged dreams of an international unit to include many, if not all, countries. The next year when Winnipeg and London became members of the association there were 50 clubs.
In 1913 a tornado swept through Nebraska and destructive floods appeared in Ohio and Indiana. The Rotary Clubs in those states, supported by those throughout the nation, leaped into action rescuing and feeding people and animals, and helping in the necessary rebuilding work. Rotary had met its first great test as a service organization.
Then came the first World War and the Rotary Clubs of the British Isles and Canada proved their value in war time. When eventually the United States and Cuba entered the war, the clubs of those countries were just as active in war time service as those in Canada and Britain. Rotary's supreme purpose is to serve; never was there service more appropriate than on this special occasion. Rotary proved to be one of Uncle Sam's greatest assets. Rotary was born in our land of freedom; it could have been born in any other land of freedom; it could not have been born in a despotism. Some emotionally excited members wanted to suspend our luncheon meetings during the war. Wiser counsels prevailed. Rotary luncheons proved to be great centers for the upkeep of morale'a place to meet, to plan greater service.
Great war time Rotary conventions were held in 1917 and 1918.
When civilization is at hazard, other things must wait. Conventions were dedicated to war service.
Rotarians joined with hearty zeal in Liberty bond campaigns, vacant lot gardening, putting libraries in camps and cantonments; providing social fellowship for soldiers in towns adjacent to their training centers. Rotary clubs interested themselves in providing clothing, etc., for Europeans suffering from the war. Very promptly after the declaration of war by Uncle Sam, the then over 300 American Rotary clubs had a committee in Washington to offer their cooperation. They were particularly interested to see that our boys going into service were recognized not merely as cannon fodder's but as patriotic youths who should be made to feel at home in any city or town near which they were encamped. (That was the back ground of the USO of the Second World War.)
As World War I drew to its close we were told by high government authorities that, of all organizations which had loyally and patriotically responded to the call of the government,none had exceeded the Rotary Clubs in promptness or efficiency or in the accomplishment of results.
During the war years my ambitions for expansion to other countries were thwarted but the number of clubs in the United States, Canada, Britain and Ireland, and Cuba kept increasing and by 1919 there were nearly 500 Clubs in the United States, 24 in Britain and Ireland, 23 in Canada, and we had a Club in China and one in the Philippines. Within another year or two we had clubs in Uruguay, Argentina, Panama, India, Spain, Japan, France, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Brazil, and Peru.When finally the dove of peace fluttered painfully, exhaustedly home Rotary resumed its normal functions. The war was worth while; it taught us the value of unseen things; that liberty can never be dear at any price. Rotary had taken its place among enduring world forces, among the invisible things of value which cannot be measured in dollars and cents. Inspiration is a flame that soon dies if not fed with the fagots of service. The service way out of difficulties is the constructive way. There was much to be done in the days of reconstruction.
In 1921 North American Rotarians filled two ocean liners with delegates to the first overseas Convention which was held in classic and beautiful Edinburgh, city of culture, religion, education. After the close of that Convention, Rotary swept over the continent of Europe. There was a sweep South also through Latin America. World visions were becoming realities. As minds expanded hearts also expanded to a conception of friendship to include all men, toleration of all national and racial differences. Most of the signal mistakes of history have been in the failure of diplomatists and statesmen to realize that psychology influences the affairs of nations just as it influences the affairs of individuals.
In another decade the world was upset by the great recession in business relations in many countries and especially in the U. S. Men seemed to lose faith in themselves. The stock market crashed, factories closed down, unemployment was present everywhere. Many organizations in the United States lost heavily in member ship. It is pleasing to note that Rotary had a remarkably small loss. Throughout the world Rotary clubs proved their value as morale sustaining centers. Their meetings were fellowship spots where harassed business men could give each other new courage.
Again the war clouds gathered. Again the storm burst upon the world. The war-time services of Rotary Clubs from 1939 to 1945 are too numerous to permit here more than a passing reference. Wars of aggression made it necessary in some countries for some Rotary Clubs to suspend'at least their active and public operations but whenever they could succeed in doing so, they continued to meet. In countries not waging aggressive war or not the victims of invasion, the Rotary clubs knew what to do. They went into action. They responded promptly and efficiently to the calls of their Governments and the needs of their fellow countrymen. They were thoughtful of and helpful to troops of allied countries training in their countries, and to refugees who took shelter in them.
The members of the five hundred Rotary clubs of Great Britain recoiled from the shock of the devastating air raids, but after having lost a few clubs and a few members of other clubs, they came back stronger than ever. The feeling among British Rotarians was that Rotary was not needed less by reason of the war but was needed more. Rotary today in Britain is stronger, more human, kindly than ever before. All the shelling and all the bombing could not prevent the British Rotarians from finding times and places to meet.
French Rotarians never quit except as they were forced to do so by the invader in the occupied part of their country. Charles Jourdan-Gassin, who was our host at the 1937 convention in Nice, France, continued to serve as Rotary's district governor all through the war. In various countries Rotarians were so determined to maintain their fellowship that they risked the punishment of the invader and held meetings secretly.
There are plenty of thrilling incidents to be remembered as part of Rotary in war-time. A Polish Rotarian, formerly a director of Rotary International, walks two miles to the American embassy through the bombs falling on Warsaw to send what may be his last greetings to the secretariat in Chicago. Danish Rotary Clubs emulate the courage of their King and continue their meetings in spite of the Nazi occupation. The Rotary Club of Manila meets on Bataan after their city has been occupied and Carlos Romulo escapes to America to tell the story. Out in China the Chungking Rotary Club meets every week no matter how many bombs come pouring down. In Calcutta, India, a district Rotary Conference goes on even under bombing and fears that the invaders may be close at hand.
German, Italian and Japanese Rotarians found it impossible to continue meetings when their governments had entered or were preparing to enter upon programs of aggression and war, but no one doubts that the spirit of Rotary has persisted among many men of good will in those countries as it certainly did in the subsequently occupied territories even though club meetings were suspended.
The war has had a stimulating effect upon the extension of the movement in the unoccupied countries. Losses in some war-casualty countries have been offset by gains in other countries.
Paul poses for Artist Trebilcock's portrait of him to be hung in the University of Iowa. While he and Mrs. Harris are sojourning in Palm Springs, California, Paul tries his hand at doing a half dozen desert landscapes in oil.
Government decorations and other awards to Paul Harris now hanging in the board rooms at Rotary International's central office in Chicago. Officer Legion of Honor decoration is pinned on Paul in Paris, France. Photo by Henri Manuel.
In the United States there was still ample room for expansion. However, the burden of keeping up extension had been lifted from the shoulders of Rotarians of the United States by those of Canada, Mexico, New Zealand, Australia, Cuba and the South American countries sharing the responsibility.
I know of none who doubts that when international affairs become stabilized, Rotary will be re-established throughout Continental Europe. District Conferences are already being held in Sweden, Finland, Denmark and Switzerland and former Rotarians of other European countries are patiently biding their time. Rotary cannot be permanently blacked out by despotic fiats.
Friendship trees which I have planted in Germany, Estonia, Finland, Norway, China, and Japan may have been laid low through the ravages of war but memory of them and of their purpose remains ever green. The reconstruction of Rotary throughout Europe is now being well planned and the flood of new clubs in far way nations has gained amazingly.
No other non-governmental organization has received such courtesies from Governments as have the officers and the member clubs of Rotary International. Conventions and conferences held in Europe and Asia have been given special privileges, have been inaugurated by Kings and other Heads of Government; special issues of postage stamps have been printed; traveling Rotary International Presidents are invariably welcomed to audiences by the Heads of Government in the countries they visit.
Some of my friends insist I should mention certain honors that have been conferred upon the writer. I shall do so only as offering evidence that the Governments and institutions which conferred them were thereby seeking to express their appreciation of the value to society of the Rotary movement. They were accepted by me as honors conferred upon Rotary. They are: Doctor of Laws (University of Vermont), Silver Buffalo Award (Boy Scouts of America), Order of Southern Cross (Brazil), Order of Merit (Chile), Order of Merit (Ecuador), Order of Cristobal Colon (Dominican Republic), Officer of Legion of Honor (France), Order of the Sun (Peru), Doctor honoris causa (College of Law, Lima, Peru). Similar decorations have been bestowed by various countries upon a score of presidents and other officers of Rotary International.
During the war period Rotary clubs not only met and served their countries and mankind, they not only responded to the challenge of war, but farseeing Rotary leadership in all lands knew the war eventually would come to an end. There was no question but aggression would be repelled and freedom re-established. While helping to accomplish this, Rotarians were giving thought to constructive post war activities. The first world war opened our eyes to the futility of emotionalism. Far more dependable grim determination has now taken its place. There must be a better world organization than the League of Nations. There must be less selfishness; more of the Rotary ideal of thoughtfulness of and helpfulness to others.
So for several years Rotary International has had a committee on post-war activities, studying the problems that divide men and those that unite men and what must be recognized in every country as the rights and the duties of its citizens. This has been done so that Rotarians may be better prepared to make their contribution to what must be done by mankind to prevent future wars.
[Why Rotary Played a Role in the formation of the United Nations!]
During the past ten years hundreds of Rotary clubs in the U. S. have conducted some two thousand institutes of international understanding bringing to their communities hundreds of capable speakers, from both the U. S. and various other countries, to present and discuss before public audiences of from 200 to a 1000 people the current factors of international affairs. The total attendance to date at these institutes is something like 1,500,000. A fine accomplishment in adult education! And in addition these speakers have been used to address high-school assemblies totaling about 3,500,000.
Consequently it was not surprising that Rotary International was invited by the United States Department of State to send consultants and associate consultants to the United Nations Conference on International Organization at San Francisco in May, 1945, and in all eleven Rotarians served in one or the other of these capacities.
The record indicates that they made a very definite contribution to the thinking of the official delegates who were charged with developing the charter. Edward R. Stettinius, Jr., who was then Secretary of State of the United States, wrote:
The invitation to Rotary International to participate in the United Nations Conference as consultant to the United States delegation was not merely a gesture of good will and respect toward a great organization. It was a simple recognition of the practical part Rotary's members have played and will continue to play in the development of understanding among nations. The representatives of Rotary were needed at San Francisco and, as you well know, they made a considerable contribution to the Charter itself, and particularly to the framing of provisions for the Economic and Social Council's
But in addition, Rotarians were also there as delegates from their nations and therefore as active participants in the Conference. Mr. Thomas A. Warren of Wolverhampton, England, this year's president of Rotary International says:
The fact that seven chairmen of national delegations at the San Francisco Conference, and a score more of members of the delegations, were Rotarians is a visible sign that the world is hungering for our simple mission's He goes on to say that Rotary's vast program of institutes of international understanding, carrying the good will message to millions of high school students and adults and the lectures, radio programs, literature, fireside discussion groups, etc. has a most obvious effect on public opinion's
Such an appraisal coming from one of high rank among educators in Great Britain is very heartening to Rotarians of sixty nations throughout the world.
President Tom considers education the only permanent solvent of international difficulties. He contends that howsoever capable and reliable leaders may be, their painstaking efforts to avert war are frequently frustrated by misinformed and emotional citizenry; that the only safe way is to bring general education to highest levels.
The late Charles Steinmetz, wizard of mathematics and the world's foremost electrical engineer, was once asked by Roger Babson to state what line of research such as radio, aeronautics, power transmission, etc., in his estimation promised most for humanity. His answer was that the greatest promise was not in any coming invention but in spiritual forces, the greatest power in the development of men. He then stated that men would eventually find that material things do not bring happiness and that when they realize that fact the world will advance more in one generation than it has in the past four. This statement by the great scientist may seem an extravagant expression but Steinmetz was not given to the use of extravagant terms. Exactitude was one of his most marked characteristics. What might spiritual forces accomplish? They might perhaps find a way to avert war. What invention could compare in value with the finding of a way to everlasting peace?
From time immemorial the greatest of the great have proclaimed by word and deed their adherence to the doctrine which Rotary has summed up in the words, Service Above Self's Who shall say that the Rotary goal is unattainable?
Chapter 37 "We Thank You Mr. Chesterton!"
MR. GILBERT CHESTERTON, the English writer and critic, once spoke of the present period as, this Rotarian age's contrasting it with the Victorian Age, which he, manifestly, preferred. After we have enjoyed a good laugh at the cleverly turned phrase, we Rotarians may perhaps be excused for rejoining, Many thousands of folks throughout the world believe that Rotary is making its imprint upon the times's.
While Rotary is not a secret order, while it has no ceremonies or rites, the concept of Rotary in the minds of those who are not members is naturally vague. In a general way, folks think well and speak well of Rotary. Many who are not members themselves number among their relatives or friends those who are Rotarians and from them they have learned of the movement, its purposes and accomplishments.Rotary is probably best known by its good works of which there are many. Boys clubs, bands and camps beyond number have been organized by Rotary Clubs and by Rotarians individually. Rotarians are the mainsprings of almost every kind of worthy endeavor.
In some cities, every man on the school board is a Rotarian. Under the devoted leadership of Rotarian Edgar Allen of Elyria, Ohio, in two score of the states of America societies for the benefit of crippled children were organized and new laws passed for the care, cure and education of crippled children. The work was also carried to Europe and two overseas conventions, participated in largely by Rotarians, were held in the interest of handicapped children. Thousands of little sufferers were beneficiaries of this humanitarian work.
When Rotary holds its convention ten years hence, the skies will be full of planes from all the cities throughout the world. (The year was 1947) Nothing but good can come of such meetings of men united in the common ideal of service. Rotary is an integrating force in a world where forces of disintegration are all too prevalent; Rotary is a microcosm of a world at peace, a model which nations will do well to follow's Page 269.
Friendship was the foundation rock on which Rotary was built and tolerance is the element which holds it together. There is enough atomic energy in every Rotary club to blow it into a thousand bits were it not for the spirit of tolerance; just such tolerance as marked the life of my grandfather from which my own faith sprang.
In fact this is Rotary's day. For the first time in the life of the movement, the Great Powers of the earth are definitely interested in the promotion of international understanding and good-will.
This is the very essence of Rotary. God grant that the Great Powers be patient with each other's shortcomings, and ever remember that this is a predatory world in which we have so long lived. As we emerge from the jungle age we can not, in good conscience, point the finger of scorn at each other. The spirit of tolerance which has made it possible for Rotary to form a world wide fellowship of business and professional men will make all things possible.
My lady Jean and I feel that we have been singularly blest in the opportunity which Rotary has afforded us to win the friendship of thousands of men of many nations and thus assure ourselves of the fact that the concept of Peace on Earth; good-will to all men's is not an idle dream but that peace is sure to come. It is a privilege to live in the year of the Lord 1945 and to witness the great awakening; and once again we thank you, Mr. Gilbert Chesterton, for coining the phrase: This is the Rotarian Age's Pages 270-271
Chapter 38 "Comely Bank"
"Having no children of our own, Jean and I have adopted Rotary International. While our cup of joy at 'Comely Bank' has consistently overflowed, we have also had our share of sorrows. For instance: The city fathers established arc lights on Longwood drive. No longer need God pin the curtain of night back with his stars; no longer need the harvest moon shine; no longer need the commuters of our community grope their way back through the darkness, to the warmth and good cheer of their firesides. The city fathers take care of all such matters. Night has, in fact, been banished forever". Page 274
"My wife and I have tried to make the best possible use of `Comely Bank' We have entertained scores of Rotarians from all parts of the world, sometimes seating at our table guests from as many as eight different countries at tone time. In honor of our guests, we have planted many trees in our friendship garden, and, in many instances, guests so honored have passed to the Great Beyond, but the trees still stand, as memorials to our friendship". by Paul Harris, Page 274 Additional info
"Upon several occasions, Boards of Rotary International have extended to us invitations to visit the Rotary clubs of other counties; such invitations we have, as a rule, accepted and we have tried to make ourselves ambassadors of good-will. With the cooperation of Rotarians and local governments, I have planted friendship trees in the parks and playgrounds on all the five continents of the world and even on some of the major islands of the seas. Our trees stood as symbols of international understanding and good-will. National and municipal governments have participated in the ceremonies incident to such plantings and monuments bearing bronze plates with appropriate inscriptions, have, in several instances, been erected. Our tree plantings are merely gestures of good-will but they are intelligible to all the citizens of the various countries whatever language they speak". Paul P. Harris page 275
"Rotary was born of the spirit of tolerance, goodwill and service, all qualities which characterized New England folks of my boyhood days, and I have tried to interpret, so far as lies within me, that faith to other men". Paul Harris from page 278
Chapter 39 "My Valley in These Days"
DURING THESE LATTER years, I have paid annual visits to my valley and whenever possible, my lassie has been with me. I have introduced her to the wonders of my boyhood days. Our visits have generally been in the autumn when the rush of summer visitors is past and the autumnal colorings of the foliage is at its best.
"October in New England
And I not there to see
The glamour of the goldenrod,
The flame of the maple tree!
"Vermont, in robes of splendor
Sings with the woods of Maine,
of gold and crimson stain".
There have been many changes since my day; that, of course is to be expected. Though the population of living folks remains quite stationary, the population of the little cemetery on the hill has increased almost beyond imagination. There lie most of the folks of my generation and their places in the community have been taken by their children and their children's children as well as by other folks who have been attracted to my valley by its beauty and its promise of tranquility and peace.
New industries unheard of in my boyhood have sprung up; no one of my day would have even thought of them. For instance: The demand for Christmas trees in the large cities could not have been foreseen. In my boyhood we did not celebrate Christmas in that way. We hung our stockings up near the fireplace if we had a fireplace, and, if we had no fireplace, we hung them on the mantel piece behind the coal stove where bluff, hale and hearty Santa Claus could not fail to find them. It was easier to understand how Santa Claus with his enormous pack could come down the chimney to a fireplece than down the pipe of a coal stove, but the proof of the pudding is in the eating and the proof of Santa Claus' visit was the good things he left in our stockings.
Was the night before Christmas
When all through the house
Not a creature was stirring,
Not even a mouse;
The stockings were hung
By the chimney with care,
In hopes that St. Nicholas
Soon would be there;"
-Clement C. Moore.
Naturally no one ever saw Santa Claus with the goods but no Christmas tree could ever have stirred our imaginations nor awakened the joy in our hearts as did the old-fashioned apple cheeked, potbellied Santa Claus, filling our stockings while his reindeer team stamped their feet on the roof, impatient to get away and gladden the hearts of other youngsters throughout the valley and throughout the world.
We knew not the Christmas tree delusion; we would have said that city boys could have all the Christmas trees they wanted if their daddies were willing and able to pay the price.
In the early days of the industry, the slaughter of spruce trees was indiscriminate and without regard to maintenance of supply. Beautiful trees without number which might have gladdened the hearts of men, were sacrificed for the ephemeral purpose. If it had been left to me, I would have said, "Back to the good old days of the chimney corner stocking and leave the trees to the adornment of the hillsides and mountains as the Creator seems to have intended".
However, far sighted men eventually saw that the Christmas tree industry could be made permanent if conducted in conformity with good husbandry and so the selection of trees is now made with due regard to the effect on other trees. In many instances nearby trees are benefitted by the removals.
These trees do not have to be pampered by rich soil; they would not thank one for such luxury. They like best to dig their roots deep into barren and rocky soil and there find anchorage to hold them through the tempestuous storms of northern winters. It is astonishing how much loveliness can come from such soil. Spruce trees thrive in the New England mountains without the aid of nurserymen.
Another source of profit to the residents of my valley which has developed in recent years, is the picking, packing and shipping of brakes, sometimes called bracken, to the markets in the large cities. We never thought of brakes as things of beauty, although we considered ferns beautiful and frequently gathered them to mingle with flowers for decorative purposes. As the brake is simply an overgrown fern, there was probably not much justification for our discrimination against the brake.
Brakes grow in great abundance on the foothills throughout our valley and find a ready market. This industry affords college students an excellent opportunity to make money during the summer months. Florists in the cities use vast quantities of brakes to pack around flowers for shipment and nothing serves to keep fragile flowers so fresh and bright as the lowly brake of the mountainside. They are also used to provide inexpensive greenery for stores and homes during the shut-in season. They ship well in tight little cases and keep fresh until used.
There need be no fear of overcropping; nature attends to that. It takes one season only to grow fresh crops of brakes and they are harvested at their maturity. One does not have to worry as to what a brake might have grown to be as is the case with a baby spruce tree; if human hands do not harvest the crop of brakes and ferns, Jack Frost will harvest them, and as everyone knows Jack is neither respecter of persons nor of things. He reaps where he has not sown and cares not a whit for consequences.
My valley shares also with other valleys throughout northern New England in such profits as may be gleaned from the fleeting visits of winter sportsmen who come north for the skiing and other sports. The railroads, running week end snow trains, try to keep New Yorkers and other sport lovers posted as to skiing conditions in parts most favored by devotees. The weather conditions, however, change so rapidly that disappointments are not uncommon,
Horace Greeley's advice, "Co West, young man!" rang like a clarion note throughout New England during my time. Every hamlet made its contribution to the development of the West. The contribution of some of the small villages was amazing. One little settlement on Cape Cod gave to Chicago the founders of three great institutions, the Swift Packing Company, the First National Bank and the Tobey Manufacturing Company.
The air was full of stories of success achieved in the West. In fact, the call was so stentorian that the ears of most young men were deaf to the call of service at home, but there were exceptions. One country boy, Redfield Proctor, developed the marble industry in our valley until it became the greatest industry of its kind on earth, not excepting even the world famous Carrara producing area in Italy where the quarries had the advantage of cheap labor and a tradition of craftsmanship. In the fine art of carving marble for statuary, the Italians were supreme and the faultless white marble required for statuary was to be found in the Italian quarries in sufficient quantities to meet the demand for this superfine product.
The development of the marble quarrying industry in my valley is a long story, but briefly it may be said that the Vermont quarries did eventually produce statuary marble. Artists from Carrara were attracted to Vermont by the certainty of steady employment and good wages. Regulatory tariff laws were enacted.
Redfleld Proctor became Governor of Vermont, United States Senator, and, in course of time, a member of President Benjamin Harrison's cabinet. In other words, he learned his way around Washington.
The Honorable Redfield Proctor left no stone unturned. He was an ardent advocate of the protection of home industries as most other Vermonters were and still are. Whether he spread his mantle of protection over his own industry or not, I do not know, but I venture to say he did.
The success of the Vermont quarrying and marble business was not solely dependent on protective tariffs; improved processes played equally important parts in offsetting the advantages enjoyed by the Italian producers. Power-driven drilling machines with diamond studded drill heads made quick work of boring holes for dynamite. Derricks hoisted great blocks of marble from the depths of the quarries to the surface in a twinkling and batteries of power-driven gang saws operated day and night cutting huge blocks of marble into as many sizes as were required by the orders on hand. Twenty-four hours of operation sufficed to saw through a block. How was it possible for saws of steel to cut through hard marble? The answer is simple; continuous supplies of sand and water turned the trick.
Marble was not the only commodity produced by the Vermont quarries. While the marble industry was casting off its swaddling clothes, another industry in the northern part of the state was beginning to be heard of. The granite quarries of Barre, Vermont, now enjoy the distinction of producing more high grade granite than the sum total of all the other granite quarries in the United States. Nature has been prodigal in its gift of Vermont granite and the industrious and thrifty Vermonters have made the most of their opportunity. Barre granite is found in slated layers and not in pockets as is the case with Scotch granite. It is possible to quarry monoliths forty feet long in the Barre quarries without a single blotch or blemish, a result not attained elsewhere.
The supremacy of Vermont granite in monumental work is demonstrable to anyone sufficiently interested to make inquiry at his local cemetery. The durability of granite makes it the overwhelming favorite for such purposes.
The sagas of granite and marble production in the Green Mountains are not rivaled by the production of slate but Vermont slate quarries are among the leaders in that line also. The slate-quarrying industry was, in the days of my boyhood, in the hands of Welshmen from the slate producing areas of Wales. The Welsh not only controlled the production of slate but they also made their influence felt in other activities. They brought and for many years maintained their form of culture, including their famed choral unions. No community was ever the worse for its Welsh element.
All Americans who love their country are interested in its educational and cultural advancement and in wholesome, healthful living. It gives us pleasure to note progress in the direction of high moral, intellectual and spiritual standards and makes us unhappy to note indications of demoralization, disintegration and decline.
It is gratifying to know that the folks who migrate from the cities to my valley and other parts of New England are, as a rule, the kind that country folks can wholeheartedly welcome. There is no better guarantee of character known to me than evident love of God's great outdoors.
While the majority of the newcomers to my New England valley are retired business folks who wish to spend their remaining days in the restfulness of the country, there are a considerable number of writers, artists and educators who have no intention of retiring. They are attracted to the mountains by their love of beauty and their desire to rid themselves of the useless complexities of life in order that they may apply themselves more effectively to their chosen tasks. Vermont has attracted more than its proportionate share of these folks.
The beauties of the country and the attractiveness of country life have always been a lure to men of letters. The superb English lakes drew to them Wordsworth, Coleridge, Ruskin, Southey and other literary lights. Tennyson found inspiration in the charming landscapes and seascapes of the Isle of Wight. Similar examples are to be found throughout Britain; there is the Shakespeare country, the Burns, Scott and Kingsley countries and others beyond number.
Among those who have made their homes in Vermont during recent years are Rudyard Kipling, Will Durant, Dorothy Canfleld Fisher, Sinclair Lewis, Dorothy Thompson, Robert Frost, Frances
Frost, Sara Cleghorn, Frederic Van De Water, Zephine Humphrey, Walter Hard and many others too numerous to mention. In fact, Vermont has become a mecca for writers, artists and publishers. New England is undergoing a literary renaissance.
From time immemorial men of letters have turned to nature's beauty spots, there to gain inspiration from nature's handiwork and there to cultivate the muse. Happily we have our own literary shrine in New England and may we hope that literature may flower once again as men and women of genius turn their steps in ever increasing numbers to the beauty, quiet and tranquility of the land of mountains and valleys.
All varieties of tastes are represented by those who come to build summer or all year homes in the country; some settle in high spots; some in low; some in sunshine and others in shade. There are those who bury themselves in the dense woods much as wounded animals flee to the forests to escape from the terrors of men and dogs, to lick their wounds and rest. Such folks are not, as a rule, unsociable; they are simply worn out and need rest.
New Englanders are law-abiding folks, especially those who live in rural districts. Crimes of violence are almost unknown. Like the eternal hills by which they are surrounded, mountain folks are rugged and dependable. During my boyhood days, I never heard of but one murder in the State of Vermont, that of John P. Fair who was murdered in Rutland and the murderer executed m Windsor a few months later. The affair created much excitement throughout the State. I cannot recall any other crime of violence in my valley during my boyhood days.
The list of cases of political graft and corruption are about equally unimpressive. When the Honorable George D. Aiken, now United States Senator from Vermont, was asked how much money he had spent on his campaign for Governor, he answered, "I don't know exactly; it was about thirty cents".
The characteristic answer of Calvin Coolidge to the inquiry of a newspaper reporter as to his being a candidate for re-election to the Presidency, is still fresh in memory. "I do not choose to run is the all-time classic on that subject and an excellent example of New England conservatism and restraint.
The distinguishing feature of Calvin Coolidge's service as President was his rugged honesty and his indifference to what folks thought of him as long as he could maintain his own self-respect; he viewed all questions from an entirely detached standpoint.
I think I know the New England character rather well; Mr. Coolidge and I were brought up in communities only a few miles apart and we would have been schoolmates in Black River Academy had he entered a year earlier or I a year later. Calvin Coolidge's expressions were brief and epigrammatical, but always true to the mark; there are times of national stress when circumlocution is out of place and distasteful; folks want to get down to brass tacks.
When the state of Vermont was visited by its greatest calamity, the flood, proffers of assistance came from all directions. Congress authorized the appropriation of a sum of money to fit the needs but the State legislature refused to accept it and notified Congress that Vermont could take care of its own.
Vermont did take care of its own by issuing bonds for eight million dollars, a very large sum for so small a State. The bonds were readily sold and promptly paid at maturity.
The state has a splendid university located on a superb site above the city of Burlington. The institution was established by Ira Allen, patriot and brother of Ethan Allen, more than one hundred and fifty years ago. It leads in the cultural development of the state.
One of the most astounding recent developments is the Vermont Symphony Orchestra, which would do justice to any city in the country. Its members have to be drawn from many small cities and villages in all parts of the state. An annual musical festival is held in Burlington.
Another cultural development is the assembly of members of high school bands and orchestras from throughout the United States. Only those who have won honors in their local high school bands and orchestras are eligible. These young folks are given intensive courses in musical education to fit them for further advancement in their chosen professions.
Not to be eclipsed by the State University, Middlebury College has established a unique summer school for teachers and writers on the top of nearby Bread Loaf Mountain.
I have heard motorists say that one of the most delightful features of a drive through New England is spending the nights in the grand old homes and exchanging views with New England men and their wholesome, cleanly wives, skilled in the art of good housekeeping.
Most of us know what it means to experience the disappointment of a misspent vacation. After painstaking study of the literature of the chamber of commerce, railroads and tourist agencies, the selection is made and seems favorable. In fact it may be favorable in everything except the character of the host and the patrons. When that fails to measure up, there is nothing to do but to go home and make plans for another year. A vacation cannot be recreative unless it provides relaxation and a sense of well-being. New England housewives are famous for their cleanliness, orderliness, good cooking and careful planning and generally they have matters so well in hand that desperate, last minute rushes are unnecessary.
The importance of cultivating the good opinion and friendship of the residents in a community cannot be over-emphasized if one takes up permanent residence with them. It calls for unremitting patience and constant endeavor. One must get into the lives of the home folks if he is to find the happiness he seeks. The friendship of the folks of New England cannot be rushed; it is a matter of slow growth.
If a newcomer in a New England community will interest himself in the welfare of the community, whether it be through church activities, school activities or what not, he will soon learn the spirit of the community and eventually become a part of it. He must, of course, leave his high hat in New York, Chicago or wherever else he comes from; it will be of no use to him in his new home.
There is room enough in my valley to provide suitable homesites for millions who now merely exist in America's most congested city, two hundred miles south, and the New England States in their entirety may, with propriety, quote the words of the great Teacher, "Come unto me all ye who are weary and heavy-laden and I will give you rest".
Chapter 40 "Resting and Visiting"
THE CALL OF THE COUNTRY in time of sickness and mental disturbance has never been told in words more appealing to me than those of David Grayson in his books, Friendly Road's Adventures in Contentment's etc. They have an especial appeal to me because I know what it means to be suddenly stricken from the roll of workers and compelled to rest. I shall never forget my longing for the country in my distress and how old Mother Nature took me to her breast and eventually, with the aid of my faithful wife, nursed me back to health.
On a never to be forgotten day, I was standing at the speaker's table at a great meeting, having just finished an address, when my lights went out. The last that I remember was of falling across the table and of being surrounded by folks. Heart attack, they called it. The specialist said it all when he said that I had over drawn my account; that I was bankrupt and must liquidate my account with nature.
I dreamed and longed for the country and as soon as I could be moved from the hospital, I was taken to the Michigan north land, with its hills and lakes, laughing brooks and singing birds and foliage of various colors. It is a long story of ups and downs, of the comings and goings of doctors and nurses, and it required one and one-half years for me to climb up out of the black hole I had dug for myself. In the course of time, however, I found rest and recovery. Then followed ten active years; I had learned how to rest.
Three times I have been beaten back into the country and three times I have found respite. Through that process I have been able to live well beyond my three score and ten years. Seventy-five per cent of my law class in the University of Iowa now sleep beneath the sod. Of the living twenty-five percent, probably none began life with less promise of health and strength, and probably none has been subjected to greater strain. Truly I have much to thank the country for.
Let the strings of your fiddle down, Mr. City Man, lest your E's string or some other string, snap; one cannot maintain concert pitch all of the time.
There should be periods in the life of every busy man when he does nothing just nothing at all's Dr. Crawford McCullough.
The best and most helpful feature in any people is undoubtedly the instinct that leads them to the country and to take root there.
The city rapidly uses men up, families run out, man becomes sophisticated and feeble. A fresh stream of humanity is always setting from the country into the city; a stream, not so fresh, flows back again into the country, a stream for the most part of jaded and frail humanity. It is arterial blood when it flows in and venous blood when it comes back.
A nation always begins to rot first in its great cities, is indeed, perhaps, always rotting there and is saved only by the antiseptic virtues of fresh supplies of country blood's John Burroughs.
Hope and the future for me are not in lawns and cultivated fields; not in towns and cities, but in the impervious and quaking swamps's Henry David Thoreau.
A white man bathing beside a Tahitian, is like a plant bleached by the gardener's art, compared with a dark green one, growing vigorously in the open hills's Darwin.
I have lived the greater part of my life in a great city where my activities have been and still are based. I recognize the important part that great cities play in the advancement of civilization and I most naturally love the city folks with whom I have lived and in whose companionship I have tried to play my part in the life of the great city. Strong and courageous men are stemming the tide of outlawry and our big cities are becoming more livable each year. Crime and corruption of great American cities is given much publicity and folks sometimes get the impression that the majority of our residents are indifferent. Of course this is not so; the vast majority are law-abiding citizens and education, art and culture grow by leaps and bounds while schools, universities, churches, libraries, parks, and playgrounds appear as if by magic.
I certainly would not advise either men or women to shirk the responsibilities of city life and flee to the country just for the purpose of living lives of ease. There has been far too much shirking of responsibility by the so-called better element's and that is the reason why gangsters, racketeers, kidnappers and other offenders gather in large cities where the apprehension of lawbreakers is more difficult.
There are times for work and times for rest and it is for each person to decide where his path of duty lies. Taken by and large, I think the highest purposes of the largest number would be best served if the population was more spread out. To the man in the moon or to any unprejudiced observer, it must seem an anomalous condition that human beings are spread so thickly in some parts and so thinly in others; it is reasonable to suppose that, to such an unprejudiced observer, a re-distribution of the inhabitants of this planet would be in order. If it were the Creator's intention for men to live in masses, for what purpose did he create millions of acres of mountains and valleys where air and water is unpolluted by the works of men? Folks tangle themselves up in great cities somewhat as angleworms tangle themselves in the bottom of tin cans and bait boxes, and, when there is nothing else to devour, men, like angleworms, all too frequently devour each other.
The country has been my refuge at all times; when I could not afford it as a luxury, I put it on the necessity list and as such managed to get it. Years fall from my shoulders when I ramble along the countryside.
For some years I consistently spent my week ends during the winter months in the weird but fascinating dune lands bordering on Lake Michigan in northwestern Indiana. When the dunes get a grip on one, they never loosen their hold. Dune-bugs's build shacks among the hills of sand and most of them command beautiful views of the great lake.
Windstorms constantly change the contour of the land, burying forests here and uncovering forests there. The flora and fauna of the Chicago dune lands is in greater variety than in any other Central Western zone. Weekends spent in the dunes in companionship with other nature lovers is an excellent conditioner for the business trials of the coming week. Why should men permit themselves to be kept indoors during the long winter months with never a breath of fresh air and never the song of a bird to gladden their hearts?
The Prairie Club of Chicago, of which I am a charter member, was established thirty-five years ago for the purpose of giving young people opportunity to enjoy grand bikes in the country. We have had as many as two thousand members, nearly all of whom came to the city from homes in the country. The Prairie Club gives folks an opportunity to renew their touch with their beloved country, and in many instances has constituted the one and only avail able means of doing so.
While Saturday afternoon hikes are the distinguishing feature of the Prairie Club, organized camps and other similar recreational features which contribute to the health and happiness of legions of school teachers, clerks, stenographers, etc., are provided. The Saturday afternoon hikes are announced in the Chicago newspapers and all nature lovers are invited to join them without expense other than the necessary cost of transportation. The hikes are care fully mapped out by competent leaders who have blazed the trails and made arrangements with the railroads for as many extra coaches as may be needed.
The Prairie Club co-operates with the Rocky Mountain Club of Denver, the Sierra Mountain Club of San Francisco, the Mountaineers Club of Seattle, the Nature Lovers Club of Indianapolis and with many other clubs devoted to promoting interest in out door life.
Chicago has a young man from Boston to thank for its Prairie Club. His name is Alexander Wilson and his name is too little known.
No restrictions are made as to the ages of the applicants for membership. The youngest regular participant in the hikes whom I knew was a rugged little maiden three year of age, who needed no assistance except that of being lifted over fences by her parents. She could reel off a ten mile hike without unhappy consequences. She is now a mother of strong rugged children of her own.
The oldest Prairie Clubber I have known was Captain Robinson, ninety years of age, who took his camera along photographing un usual wild flowers and writing them up for a magazine.
Naturalists have eyes to see the beauties of uplands and low lands; noses to smell the aroma of pines and balsams, and ears to hear the sweet song of the bobolink, the meadowlark and that divine contralto's the hermit thrush.
Many who know the blessings of rural life plan to adopt it as soon as they can afford to buy or build property suitable to their tastes and in conformity with the standards they have set up; in many cases they find that their standards are so high that it is necessary to defer moving to the suburbs time and time again; often they defer too long thousands build, move and then die, having enjoyed their new home only a few years or perhaps only a few months.
Our home is located in an extra large block in a suburb of culture and refinement and we have enjoyed it for thirty-odd blessed years. We came none too soon. Twenty-six families reside in our block all in homes of their own. When they came to our block, husband, wife and children were living happily together, but to-day ten of those houses are owned and occupied by the widows of the men who built them and one is owned and occupied by a widower. The percentage, ten to one in favor of widows, is a sad commentary on the struggle for what men call success; it is almost as devastating as the war which sons and grandsons of my neighbors are now waging on the Eastern and Western fronts. These men came to our suburb to get rest, and in that respect they were successful, but they rest under ground.
It is quite an undertaking to move to a suburb but it is a far greater undertaking to retire. How glibly men speak of retiring. Utopia, at last! Nothing to do but to rest and luxuriate in the thought of having nothing to do! How different they find it! Retirement is a crisis. A limited number only come through. To throw the yoke off in advanced years is even a more serious undertaking than it was to put the yoke on in the days of vigorous youth. There is, however, a way out; new and engrossing interests must be found; they are frequently found in the country.
To the young and vigorous, an emotional escape from life's realities does not make a strong appeal, but life in the country need not be an escape from realities; it not infrequently proves to be an opening to larger opportunities for usefulness under more favorable conditions. Young and vigorous shoots stand transplanting very well.
The gift of country life near woods and hills
Where happy waters sing in solitudes.
'John Mare Field.
May I a small house and large garden have?
And a few friends and many books, both true.
How blessed is he who leads a country life
Unvexed with anxious cares and void of strife
Who, studying peace and shunning civil rage
Enjoyed his youth and now enjoys his age.
After you have exhausted what there is in business, politics, conviviality, love and soon have found that none of these finally satisfies or permanently wears'what remains- Nature remains to bring out from their torpid recesses the affinities of man or woman with the open air'the sun by day and the stars of the heavens by night's
Nothing can be more serviceable in extending one's acquaintance among the best people than membership in a Rotary club but if there is no available Rotary club, welcome an invitation to membership in a Kiwanis club, Lions club or in any of the recognized service clubs.
I hope it will not be considered presumptuous for me to express the opinion that there can be no better introduction to the life of a community than one that comes through the local Rotary club. If there happens to be no Rotary club in the community, there will surely be one not far distant and a few miles ride in the country does not amount to much if one has a motor car. Membership in any Rotary club gives one guest privileges in Rotary clubs throughout the world. Many Rotarians visit Rotary clubs whenever they chance to be traveling and this is a great boon to travelers in foreign lands. Enthusiastic Rotarians frequently plan to visit club meetings In neighboring towns thereby extending their acquaintance through their part of the state.
Chapter 41 "Mountains and Folks, Lakes and Birds"
AMONG THOSE who have come from cities to take up permanent residence in our valley and who have endeared themselves to home folks, was Mr. Addison Stone, a lawyer from Washington, D. C. Mr. Stone married one of Wallingford's splendid young ladies, Miss Lou Kent, and the young couple came to Wallingford to make their home on the old Kent farm in the village.
Addison Stone was a gentleman and a scholar and he looked the part. Lou Kent Stone had no apologies to make for the husband she had chosen. He did not ape the ways of old residents but gradually became one of them. I have never seen him going about his farm work dressed in overalls; his clothes seemed to have been tailormade and at times he wore gloves; he did, however, wear a broad-brimmed and somewhat battered straw hat to protect himself from the hot summer sun. He was a gentleman farmer and dressed like one. Addison Stone lived the life he wanted to live and lived it in his own way. Most respectable folks in our village were prohibitionists; Mr. Stone was not nor did he pretend to be one. Though the Kent home was exactly opposite the Congregational church, I cannot recall ever having seen Addison Stone in attendance at the meetings. He went on the even tenor of his way and Wallingford folks began to think that perhaps, on the whole, the way of Mr. Addison Stone was a pretty good way. He paid his debts promptly and was honorable in all of his dealings; he never high-hatted anyone and sought no honors.
This combination was quite satisfactory to his fellowtownsmen and recognizing his unvarying fairness and his ability to get along with folks, they drafted him to fill the office of Moderator of Wallingford's town meetings. A more dignified, honorable and able moderator than Mr. Stone would have been impossible to find. Why did he not continue his career in 'Washington? Manifestly he loved the life in our valley better than the life in the nation's capital. He loved the country life with its tranquility and neighborliness. He loved the beauty of the mountains and lakes.
No towering shaft marks the graves of Addison Stone and Lou Stone, his wife, but their gift to the town of Wallingford of a tract of woodland along the shore of Elfin Lake serves as a reminder that they loved the valley and loved valley folks. No more fitting memorial could have been selected. In that, we are all agreed.
I can recall several folks of culture and refinement who crept into our community life so quietly and unobstrusively that they seemed to be home folks from the beginning.
A beautiful illustration of the friendship which developed between city folks and home folks is the story of Dr. and Mrs. Franklin Wood of Boston, who, after spending their summer vacations in a small village in Maine for some years, resolved to make the village their permanent home when time for retirement came, Their plans having gone thus far to the satisfaction and joy of both, their thoughts went further and they resolved that since the village was a suitable place for them while they lived, why should not the village cemetery be a suitable place for their bodies when the call for the last great change came?
With happy expectations they called on the cemetery trustees for the purpose of selecting and purchasing a lot. One can imagine their surprise and disappointment when they were told that there were no lots for sale; that the cemetery was reserved entirely for home people.
Dr. and Mrs. Wood concealed their disappointment and continued to make the little village their home and to make more friends among the home folks. Eventually they were surprised again; this time happily. The trustees called upon them and the chairman of the board, with great solemnity, stated that the home folks had gotten to love them so well they wanted to adopt them as their own. They stated that while they could not change the rule about selling cemetery lots, they could and would give them any lot they might see fit to select without charge. It had required a long time for their affection to ripen but when the time for fruition did come, it was worth the waiting.
"A good deed is never lost.
He who sows courtesy, reaps friendship
And he who plants kindness
If you would be happy in your new surroundings, you should cultivate the acquaintance and friendship of the mountains as well as that of the folks. It will pay rich dividends. The mountains are always at home when you call; always available. Mountains never have moods and though storms may rage against them, they remain ever the same.
Learn the names of your mountains, they will seem more neighborly if you call them by name. If you are young and vigorous, climb them, Mr. City Man, and if you are not young and vigorous, go into them by automobile. Good roads run in all directions; it was very different in my day.
Select an "inspiration point" in the mountains and think of it as peculiarly your own. Learn the secrets of the mountains; they will confide them to you if you make them your friends. Go to your "inspiration point" to witness the glories of the rising and setting sun. Moonlight and starlight transfigure your mountains into things weird but fascinating.
"Slowly climb the moon-touched mountains Up their stairway to the sky, Slowly each white cloud ascending, Seems a soul that passed on high".
-Sam'I Miller Rage man.
Blankets of snow soften the rugged corners of mountains into rounded curves. He who loves his mountains need never be lonely while in them; how could he be if they are friends?
As for ponds and lakes, they are legion and each and everyone of them has its own individuality. Most of them are inserted into likely places in folds of the mountains and seem parts of them. How refreshing their sparkling waters look on hot summer days. Strip and plunge into them if you please; you will find them cool and invigorating and they will make you glad that you are alive,
While making friends with mountains, folks and lakes, one must not overlook the birds. They too are friendly and, when given to understand that you are neighborly, they will meet you more than halfway. A great variety of birds make their homes in the mountains; some are migratory but for others the mountains are year round homes. A little suet placed in sight from the breakfast room window will lure the chickadees and woodpeckers even on sub-zero days. Bird-feeding stations add substantially to the enjoyment of mountain and country homes. Make it a practice to breakfast with your birds every morning and be sure to scatter seed with a lavish hand. You will be repaid for your trouble a hundredfold in the thankful songs of your feathered neighbors. Begin your day, Mr. City Man, in the companionship of your birds.
Some species of birds think so much of their human friends that they will take up residence with them if they can find a suitable cornice on which to build their nests and raise their families.
Give Jennie Wren a chance, Mr. City Man, and she is likely to move right in on you and so it is with the robins and turtledoves. The bobwhites respond readily to friendly gestures and how sweet their friendly calls at eventide.
Rabbits and squirrels may become even too neighborly and chipmunks, after their hibernation, almost run over folks. Mamma Skunk and her long line of children will waddle through your garden from time to time if they are not molested and they had better not be molested either by man or dog. When friendly relations are once established, they make good pets.
Sly foxes raise their heads above rocks and tree stumps, pause for a moments glimpse of their most dreaded enemy, man, and then vanish from sight.
Not infrequently one sees an inquisitive deer or even several of them in the mountains, and, once in a long time, one sees a bear which has wandered down from the mountain fastnesses into pasture lands and into the outskirts of small villages.
These creatures all serve to make the country interesting to folks from the cities if they will open their minds and hearts to them.
One who plans to have a home in the country must view it as a serious undertaking. First and foremost, he must examine himself and determine whether or not he is really prepared in mind to embark on such an important undertaking. It is not enough to be captivated by a beautiful piece of scenery or by an attractive old New England home. It is far better to try one's self out by frequent visits to the country, by renting perhaps or at most building, a summer home in such manner as will make it possible to convert it into an all year round home if he becomes satisfied that it has proven itself; that it has found a permanent place in his affections.
Having satisfied himself in this regard he can move forward with greater assurance and in safety. He must examine the offerings of real estate men most carefully. There must be an abundant supply of pure water; the drainage must be good; the foundation of the house must be secure and the timbers dependable. If he seeks happiness in his home, let him make certain that it is a home he is building, not a castle.
If one would enjoy beautiful scenery, he must look well to the site and particularly the southern exposure; it makes a great difference in the winter, when one is shut indoors much of the time, whether the outlook is pleasing.
If one of the rooms of the house commands a fine view of the mountains and valleys, one should capitalize on the view by building a picture window. (My wife and I have capitalized on one unusually good view at "Comely Bank". Our picture window is enjoyed by neighbors and friends from all parts. Not less affectionately regarded by my wife and me is our breakfast room window by the good grace of which we take breakfast with our birds.)
Mountains and valleys, seashores, lakes and rivers and birds, all play their respective parts; we admire and love them; the very sight of them sends a warm glow through our hearts. We can sit at some vantage point and drink in the scenery for hours at a time. We listen with joy to the songs of the meadow larks, catbirds, thrushes and warblers. We may view the swift flights of the larks, the twists and turns of the swallows as they snatch their food in mid-air. We may intoxicate ourselves with the sweet smell of spring flowers or the scent of new-mown hay at harvest time, but all this falls short. Friendliness and neighborliness are essential.
When the day is done, what can be more refreshing and satisfying than a fireside chat with a good neighbor who has "just dropped in". The conversation need not be, in fact must not be, fast and furious, if one is in need of rest. If the nerves of one coming from the city are too highly strung, he will find relaxation in the composure of folks whose lives have been more wisely organized than his.
The folks of the valleys and mountains being off the beaten path are sell-contained and are not subject to the mental and moral contagions which sweep their courses over travel-worn routes. Such people have obtained that very desirable state of being neither very rich nor very poor. Their yearly crop of worries are endurable because they seldom permit their ambitions to go beyond bounds; the business of "keeping up with the Joneses" is not recognized as a worthy pursuit. In fact, there are few "Joneses" among the best people. The folks of the mountains live well-regulated lives and new comers would do well to emulate their example.
A good philosophy of life is better than riches and it serves at all times, in prosperity and adversity. Strange as it may seem, it was not the poor folks of the great cities who took their lives during the period of the great depression; it was the well to do; many of them, were rich but they had no sufficient sustaining philosophy of life. Chicago school teachers worked for months with not a dollar of pay; they had a sustaining philosophy of life; their work still needed to be done and they did it.
There is a saying that New Englanders do not believe in doing anything the first time, which, of course, is equivalent to saying that they are not given to fads and modes, preferring the true and the tried. As a matter of fact New Englanders are not averse to doing things the first time. For instance: New Englanders introduced the institution, the town meeting, which is the foundation upon which our democratic form of government was built.
New Englanders are charged with being non-cooperative and yet the six New England States work in unity unequalled elsewhere. The so-called New England Council is an institution the purpose of which is to promote co-ordination of government efforts for the solution of the problems common to the six States-Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut. This institution is the most successful example of regional co-operation known in this country. The governors of the six states were sponsors and are now supporters of the council.
Naturally my own thoughts of New England are of roseate hue. Though more than a half century has rolled past, I still see My New England Valley through the eyes of a boy. Tender recollections of my grandparents who did so much for me still hallow the picture.
As if it were but yesterday, I can see old Judge Button standing at the garden gate, his little gray shawl thrown over his shoulders, and I can hear his booming salutation to grandmother, "Good morning, Mrs. Harris! It's going to be a fine day!" I can see him deferentially cupping his most dependable ear as if he feared he might miss some word of her reply. I can hear grandmother's oft repeated answer, "Good morning, Judge! Yes, it is going to be a fine day; the good Lord never made a bad day, Judge Button". Good folks were they! Yes, they were good folks.
Chapter 42 "The End of The Journey"
So here we are at the end of our journey and Jean and I are sitting at our fireside drinking a cup of tea. One who marries a Scottish lady must acquire the habit of sitting at the fireside and drinking black tea and indeed it is a delightful break in the cares and duties of the day. If the tea is good and the fire burns merrily, one enjoys recreation and rest. It's a good way to end the day.
The tea cozy at my lady's right hand keeps the tea hot for a long time and there is nothing my lady enjoys better than filling one's cup. Many cups of tea has she served to visiting friends from Britain and other countries and how sociable and friendly a custom it is. The bellows sends the sparks flying up the chimney when applied by my lady's vigorous hands and she will tolerate no assistance either in building her fire or keeping up the music of the snapping embers.
Queen of the fireside and the tea table at "Comely Bank" is my lady Jean and the thought often comes to me that her steadfast devotion to duty was not excelled even by grandmother. I am indeed a fortunate man; of that I am sure and this is the very place and this is the very hour for reverie even though lady Jean maintains that my reveries far too frequently are preludes to cat naps and my cat naps preludes to slumber outright.
At our fireside scores of friends from all corners of the globe have delighted us by their presence. They have come as the result of my planting a sapling in 1905. The first Rotary Club was that sapling. It has grown into a mighty tree in whose shade it is delightful to dwell.
Tonight my thoughts most naturally drift back to grandfather, grandmother, the boy I once knew, and to My Valley. There is sweet music in the mountains; the rhythmic fall of the woodsman's axe; the mooing of the cows in the pasture; the cackle of hens in the barnyard advertising their wares; a rooster's strident proclamation of daybreak; the chorus of catbirds, orioles, robins, field sparrows and wrens; the mournful cooing of a dove in the distance telling its sad story of unrequited love; and far down in the valley, the liquid tones of a meadow lark calling to its mate, while in the slough alongside the railroad track ridiculously pompous and lovesick bullfrogs swell themselves into prodigious proportions and give voice to their springtime roundelays.
In the late Summer, locusts and untold thousands of tiny insects, all join in a mighty hum to make themselves collectively heard.
In the early autumn, crickets and katydids sit up all night announcing that the leaves of the maple trees are already beginning to show color; that the pageant will soon be on and that some night in the not too distant future, when the eyes of the home folks are closed in sleep, mystic winter will creep silently into the valley and gently lay upon all the great outdoors its crystal white blanket of snow to keep things warm until the spring-time resurrection comes.
No one knows how long such thoughts might have continued had not a voice broken in, "Why, I declare! I believe you have been asleep, Paul; wake up and drink another cup of tea; the fire is burning low and we must soon be in bed". So goeth life at "Comely Bank".
God grant that my vision of the faults of men and of nations be dimmed and my vision of their virtues be brightened.
Paul P. Harris
Page 304 - The End
The following pages of "My Road to Rotary" 305-318 were not part of Paul Harris' manuscript, but were added by Philip C. Lovejoy and the staff of Rotary International, then headquartered in Chicago. Lovejoy became General Secretary in 1942 but had been the first assistance secretary for 12 of the previous years. Therefore, it seems safe to say that Lovejoy and other long time staff members, along with records at the time, had a good grasp of the accurate facts of history. This appendix is also consistent with material this project has been provided by the Rotary International Archives Department. (The actual pages can be found here...)
The Publisher, A. Kroch & Son, acknowledged the contribution. This compilation of the first 43 years of the movement's history is a remarkable document. It was not, however, included in later reprints by Rotary International in the late 1900's. A detail overlooked is that the Appendix is listed in the "Chapter Headings" of more recent reprints. We have included it here with a feature never before available. The 14 pages are linked to expanded articles on almost every historical item. Jack M. B. Selway
Rotary's onward March 1948 click here
"My Road to Rotary" was published and copyright by A. Kroch and Son, Chicago. Adolph Kroch owned a book store in Chicago. Paul Harris must have known Adolph since he signed a copy of the book as a member of "Chicago #1".
Adolph, an Austrian immigrant, opened a small German language bookstore in Chicago in 1907. Later, during World War I, he began selling English-language books, an endeavor that proved so successful he eventually abandoned the German volumes. By the mid-1930s, A. Kroch & Co. owned and operated three bookstores in the city. (see a related story about Adolph's son below)
See story about Paul's check to Kroch Book Store for $4.25 in 1943 and other Harris signatures
ITHACA, N.Y. -- Carl A. Kroch, a legendary bookseller who was a foremost benefactor of Cornell University, died March 6 of natural causes at his home in Chicago. He was 84.
A 1935 graduate of Cornell's College of Arts and Sciences, Kroch served as a presidential councillor. In 1982 he endowed the position of Carl A. Kroch University Librarian, one of the first such endowed positions in the nation. In 1991 he provided the principal gift of $10 million for the construction of the $25 million Carl A. Kroch Library, which houses Cornell Library's renowned Asia Collections and Rare and Manuscript Collections.
Named a "hero of American culture" by the Library of Congress in 1986, Kroch shaped modern bookselling perhaps more than any other individual in the United States. In a career that spanned more than 50 years, he transformed his family's Chicago bookstores into Kroch's & Brentano's -- at one time the largest privately owned bookstore chain in the United States. He also pioneered many of the concepts in book display and store design that are common throughout the industry.
Kroch was born into the world of books. His father, Adolph, an Austrian immigrant, opened a small German language bookstore in Chicago in 1907. Later, during World War I, he began selling English-language books, an endeavor that proved so successful he eventually abandoned the German volumes. By the mid-1930s, A. Kroch & Co. owned and operated three bookstores in the city.
Paul Harris at about 15 years of age
Fay Stafford at about the same age
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