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Neighborly?Adirondacks

January 9, 2011
By DON WILLIAMS, For The Leader-Herald

As my grandchildren, who were recently here for the holidays, would say, "Here comes another one of those stories from when Grandpa was a boy!" I have shared some of those "selective memories" with them and with the readers of Inside the Blue Line over the years. I was fortunate to have a great boyhood in a good family in a supportive community. Will Rogers, the cowboy philosopher, had a wise saying that speaks to our past, "You never have to worry about people who remember where they came from." Thus, it is good to hold on to those good memories and to pass them to the "youngins."

Neighbors were important in the rural Adirondacks and I have fond memories of them. We were always welcomed at their homes and spent many hours going to visit them. We always told our mother where we were going and she never had to worry about us being there. Mrs. Conklin helped save my life when I mistakenly drank the kerosene from mother's glove sewing machine. My mother put the previously arranged red cloth in the window facing the Conklin home and Mrs. Conklin came running. She got the car and took me to the doctor.

Mrs. Maybe was our closest neighbor, up on the hill. She always had her kitchen apron on and was always smiling no matter what troubles came her way. She paid me to weed her garden and to do other small chores her husband neglected to do. Chasing her loose pig was the most exciting. He would get out of the pen when she was cleaning it and run around in our two acres of sweet corn. We spent many hours searching for and chasing the pig. Usually, he eventually went back to the pen when he got hungry.

I loved Ira Gifford's barn. He let me wander around in there whenever I wanted to. It had those heavy, well-worn plank floors and several interesting wooden chests of tools. He was a carpenter and his workshop was organized and neat. It is probably where I picked up my love of wood and the old tools. Ira also had lengthy stories to tell and he enjoyed oral, face to face, "visiting" a lost art with all that twittering.

My Uncle Allie often took me fishing. He was good at fly casting and could catch bass on a fly rod after I had spent two hours with a worm on my hook and got nothing. I did "outfish" him on one trip, fishing in the little Mayfield Lake. He and a friend took me along in an old guideboat I had found and my uncle restored. After a couple hours of fishing, the only fish caught was my 21-inch Walleye. They suffered a little good-natured kidding about letting a 10-year old get the only fish.

Trapping animals for food and fur was part of growing up in Adirondack country. Traplines were common and welcomed during the bleak winters. I was not an enthusiastic trapper, but I went along with the others to help out. The cleaver foxes are difficult to trap and old time trappers tried to "out-fox" them. Old guide Charlie Reece told me he wore boxes over his shoes to kill the human scent and also had a pair of stilts to walk around his traps.

I trapped a fox, much to my and everyone's surprise. Since we raised and sold chickens, I often used chicken parts for bait. I set the traps one winter and when I got to the last trap, I had a partially filled bag of chicken parts so I hung them in a tree over that last trap, figuring that I could use them when I had to reset a trap. The fox made a big mistake; smelling the bag of bait, he jumped up and grabbed the bag in his teeth and, to his dismay, he came down right on top of the set trap. Of course, I pretended I planned to trap a fox that way.

One good feature of bringing up past memories is the choice - you can choose to hold on to the good memories and choose to never dwell on the bad memories. In this new year, we can take some advice from the wise Ben Franklin, "Waste not time, for time is the stuff that life is made of."

 
 

 

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