There are rare times people today have memories of actually meeting a person who was born in the last third of the 19th century. Those people are pretty much gone these days. I do however, recall one such person in my lifetime. When I was a youngster, Mr. Biggie lived next door to our family on the dirt road in the Cavendish Gulf. His front field stone steps were lined with smooth egg shaped stones his late wife had collected from various river beds. Mr. Biggie was the person who connected our family to the previous century. Knowing him was also a front row seat to the memories and stories of a man who was living in a time before most modern conveniences.
Mr. Biggie was basically a quiet neighbor. He rarely ever stopped by our house and when he did he usually just stood in the driveway to talk to my folks briefly. He didn’t have a phone so he wasn’t someone to bother people asking favors. I couldn’t tell you if he ever even used a phone. His relatives only stopped by once in a great while in the summer, and usually for just a short visit. I often went to his house to ask him if he needed anything, like shoveling his roof and steps.
I spent hours listening to Mr. Biggie talk about what it was like when he was young. At 14, he had a job working on a logging crew, and back then, they used horses for help with work and for transportation. In this case the horses skidded the logs out of the woods. One of his jobs was to actually stand on the cut logs and drive the horses as they pulled them along the rough ground. One day while working, Continue reading
I have always had a therapeutic relationship with poetry and song lyrics. Writing free verse poetry helps me work through loneliness, worries, and tell my story creatively. My thoughts were always being written on paper, even as far back as when I just began to write. When I was in High School, writing seemed to help me better relate to the world and people around me. I had a stressful home life, and mostly kept to myself. I felt writing was a way to share a little about me with others. I read poems to friends, sang songs with lyrics I’d written, and was a self-taught guitar player.
My senior year in high school, a special teacher who taught business and typing, recognized that I had a passion for writing poetry. I sat in his class typing my poems while I was supposed to be typing a sentence over and over for a time and accuracy test. It was something like, “The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog.”
Noticing that I was not following the assignment, he told me I needed to do the time test to pass the class. I replied, “I took this class to learn how to type and I can type now.” I wasn’t as concerned about the grade. I was typing about 35 words per minute, which I thought was pretty good for a recent beginner. Rather than flunk me, he went to the school board to get permission to pass me if I could type the required words per minute, even though I was not typing the prescribed lessons. They gave him the permission, and he made a template and had the whole class type my poems. I didn’t know it, but he had a plan in mind, and gave me a priceless addition to my education. My classmates typed inside the borders of the template so it would all be in a uniform fashion. I remember feeling as though this teacher was the first person to give me a chance to be creative and pursue my personal interests, and it helped that the class seemed to enjoy reading and retyping my work.
The teacher and I discussed the possibility of having this collection turned into Continue reading
Winter has always been a fun time of the year for kids in Vermont, even though the adults are worrying about the heating bill. As the snow mounts up, kids see it as a great opportunity to make another snow fort, sliding trail, or make a higher ski jump.
When I was a kid growing up in rural Vermont, I remember we had an old logging road that opened up a clear path on the side of the mountain next to my house. We went to great lengths to groom the “sliding tracks” in the middle of it. Kids from all over the valley came together to go there and slide down the hill. There were only a few slight corners on the trail, and depending on how fast you were going, and on what you were riding, the curves were usually fairly easy to negotiate. Even so, there were several times I barely made it to the bottom in one piece!
One winter day, one of the neighbor boys named Joe came over to slide down this particular hill. He brought his toboggan that fit three people. We dragged it up the steep part of the hill to the spot where the pines started to get a little thicker, on the first flat area. It was a long way for a couple of kids, probably between 1/8th and ¼ of a mile. Joe was to be the back passenger and use his feet to help brake and turn the back of the toboggan. I was the front navigator as I kneeled and used my hands to twist the front curve of the contraption.
Joe always seemed to have a wide grin on his face when we were ready to start our “flight” down the hill. I think we were both over anxious. About half way down the trail, there was a railroad crossing with snow banks on either side of the tracks, and you could catch air going over them. Then there was a steep straight away all the way to the dirt road at the bottom, which was flanked by very high snow banks. We would turn sharply before we got to the first snow bank and slide sideways up to the edge of it to stop. (At least that was the plan.)
This particular run started off with a heart stopping push and we quickly got into position as if we were Olympic bob sled contestants. I was kneeling and Joe was holding down the back as we passed quickly through the first clearing and swung into a narrow corner. I could see on the edge of the trail was a low brush pile. I gripped the curl on the toboggan and leaned to the left, and yelled for Joe to put his boot into the snow to slow and help turn the rig. He did as told, and put his foot out, but instead of slowing us down, he caught his leg in the brush heap. Before I knew it, he was pulled right off the toboggan and my ability to slow down was suddenly gone. My heart was racing as I thought of the snow bank at the bottom Continue reading
Growing up in the country in the 1950’s, we often used the landscape for play. the “Big Rock” as we all called it was in the background of many good times. It was also the location for a couple of catastrophes of mine.
I recall my early tree climbing training. I’m a self- taught tree climber, school of hard knocks type lessons. A couple of the neighbor boys and I were out near the big rock and the older and bigger of the two, Keith was discussing how he could climb the wild cherry tree that grew in the stone wall. I decided that was good idea too, and began climbing right behind him. He was, as I said taller and had a longer reach so he was able to grab the first limb and begin upward progress right away. I jumped and barely grabbed the branch, but followed right behind, mimicking his choice of limbs.
We were quite a ways up and I was right under Keith waiting to take the next branch. As he went upwards, I put my arms up and grabbed the branch he was standing on. His weight evidently was all the strength the branch could muster, and as I pulled with my hands and searched for a place to get footing, the branch snapped. Continue reading
As a teenager, I was often trading cars or trying to “upgrade” the one I was currently driving. I had a 1960 Chevy impala that my Uncle Dave gave me for free. I remember it had wide “bat wing” tail fins. All I had to do was put a new transmission in it, as he had an automatic transmission and it had gone south, never to work again. A few friends and I towed the car to my house. I could keep a car running if I had to, but I had friends who knew much more than me on the subject, so when I got in over my head it was always a good bet to call one or more of them. It was a dream of mine to change it over to a standard. I believe it cost me about 50 dollars total to change it over. This included purchasing a defunct 1962 Chevy which we towed home with a chain right up route 103 in Chester, Vermont. I sat in the driver’s seat while the driveshaft banged on both the pavement and the underside of the car floor. The noise was deafening inside the car, and we finally figured out a way to wire it so it wouldn’t hit the pavement, just the floor. Amazingly, we never got picked up by the police. The whole junk car cost me $15.00 and I used the transmission for my ‘60 Chevy. The guys that were helping me change it over were great and enthusiastic. As long as I agreed to keep buying the beer, they agreed to keep putting parts on the Chevy. I think the whole labor thing cost me about 3 or 4 cases. The neighbor let us use his garage to do the work, which was a nice gesture, as it was warm and dry.
One night, while we were working on the car, one of the guys decided we needed a case of beer and some chips. It was just about eight minutes before the store closing time, but he decided to try to make it. He raced the whole eight miles from my house to town, some of which was dirt road, to get there before the doors were locked. Evidently they were successful because they returned in one piece and with the beer.
We were able to hoist the motor out and put in the standard transmission. It all fit, but we still had to search and scavenge for a few parts, including a shifting lever from the floor. I found one in a near-by town and we went to see if it would fit and work with what we had. I of course relied on the experienced guys to offer the opinion on how it would all mesh for the best results. I paid for the shifter and parts and got ready to take it back to put in the 1960 Chevy. Just as we were getting ready to take our seats in the car, a train pulled up and slowed at the railroad crossing where it crossed the paved street. One of the guys yelled out. “Hey, Wyman! Do you think you can catch that train and jump on the caboose?”
It sounded like a fun challenge to me, and I was never one to turn down a Continue reading
Living in the country on a dirt road allows for many adventures in youth, including fun outings on the spur of the moment. Fishing in nearby streams that follow the contour of the valley in Cavendish and Chester Vermont, was one of those summer activities I enjoyed as a kid. The season always started on the second Saturday in April and coasted along until September which made it a perfect summer pastime for school vacation. My father was a great fisherman and came home with a fresh catch for supper often. I wasn’t as good at it but enjoyed catching a few good sized brook trout. I spent more time fishing alone than with friends because I had to meet my mother’s “get home so I can make sure you haven’t drowned” schedule. There weren’t many kids my age to go fishing with either, and it seemed that the one neighbor that was close to my age was always luckier than I was, and he didn’t hesitate to tell me so, which made me feel a bit inferior as a fisherman.
One day we were feeling like an adventure and took out a couple of horses for a ride. At the last minute we decided to take our fishing-poles with us. It appeared this would be a less strenuous trip than even on a bicycle. No pedaling, just hold the reigns and the pole crossways in our fingers over the front of the saddle. Every time we came to a good fishing hole we could just tie the horses up to a near-by safe tree and walk to the brook and throw in the line. The creel was a canvas bag with waterproof interior so if we caught any fish it would keep the leather saddle dry.
After fishing on the Dean Brook Road about 2 ½ miles from home, we turned around to head back. The ride was pretty uneventful and the horses were calm for the most part. The closer we got to home the more anxious we were to make it a more exciting ride. I recall David was on my right and I was posting along at a slow trot. He decided he’d like to kick it up a notch and we began to trot faster and then canter. Suddenly, and unbeknownst to him, the hook he had placed in the eye of the pole bounced loose and swung over just enough to catch in my Continue reading
I would like to give thanks for being here now. I am thankful for the lessons I’ve learned from a disease that I had originally feared. The fear turned into acceptance of the responsibility for changing Continue reading
Truth and real feelings,
Where the handshake and hug blend together.
My life and our lives
Become more than silhouettes in separate shadows.
Dreams offer more to awaken to,
And feelings have sound with more than visions.
Who knows where to look for friendship.
It is not in places we have searched,
But comes to us from behind faces
And from within the looks that eyes return to our own.
Friendship, will not build its foundation on jealousy,
Nor will it compete to gain advantage over a friend.
Sharing and filling from the same spring.
Friends tip their glasses to lips
That speak of happiness for one another.