Grindstone - August 15, 1990
"They called for rain." But in August the river is its kindest. So, on this gentle August Sunday, we all sat on the rough granite rocks overlooking Aunt Jane's Bay and celebrated communion, as we've done for goodness knows how many years. Marie Moore paddled over from her house. John and I started walking from Thurso Bay across the island, delighted by the wide blue fields of corn flowers and the great rolls of hay in Frances field, but, hot from the sun, we accepted Karen Frick's offer of a ride before we'd got even to the school house. We always wonder if we'll find the Irving Brooks driveway on the bend in the road, but, of course we did.
When Irving and Jesse Brooks bought their land they promised the Johnsons (former owners) that they would welcome the Grindstone Church congregation, on one Sunday every summer to worship there looking out over the river. Now their children carry on the tradition with all the hospitality their forebearers showed, and allow us to "gather at the river."
Not many hours after the service, a great many of the same people gathered once more. This time to celebrate Leon and Marjorie Rusho's 60th wedding anniversary in the same farm house where they have lived most of their 60 years. Marjorie and Leon were at home to all their laughing, chattering relatives and friends, and fed them around their table, as they do every visitor crossing their threshold. Leon said, when we could hardly hear each other above the din, " If you can hear the thunder- and see the lightening, you know you are all right. I'm glad you're here.
It was good at the Saturday night dance to see all the Rushos come in, Manley, Milton, and Junior with their wives, and Alice with her husband. There were grandchildren, too! Charlie Boulio's "Mostly Western" band played, and almost (but not quite) filled the shoes of the group that played at the Grindstone Hall in the 60's and 70's, when Leon played his fiddle, Jim Garnsey strummed his guitar, and Charlie Matthews called quadrilles...loving to tangle us up in the Grapevine Twist.
That wasn't the only celebration of passing decades on Grindstone. On Saturday afternoon Betty Hax-all's family and connected kin gathered at the house on Club Island just off the head of Grindstone, to celebrate her 70th birthday. Such a celebration. This year Betty gave each of her grandchildren a book of her poetry, "Read-Aloud Rhymes for Young River Rats." In turn, the grandchildren and children read a few of them to all those present, young and old:
My turn to sit on the bow of the boat
With the wind in my face and my hair
The last trip we went on, you sat up front;
To go twice in a row isn't fair.
It's your turn to cast off the ropes in the stern
And flip all the bumpers inside.
I'll do the bowline and shove off the dock;
Then off we'll all go for a ride.
Today as the river is glassy and calm
From my perch on the bow I can see
The fish and the rocks and seaweed and shoals
All rushing so fast below me.
Feet overboard, I am sitting
astride, And my toes are atingle with
spray. It's so dull to sit in the back of the
boat-On the bow is my favorite way.
Betty Haxall Pebbles
Pebbles lying on the beach Waiting there for you to reach And carefully choose them one by one:
Glinting colors in the sun.
Pebbles in the river wet Waiting there for you to get And pluck them, one by one, To watch them glisten in the sun.
Pebbles just the size to throw, Arching up in graceful bow, Then, falling with a plopping
Making widening ripples round.
Pebbles just the size to keep And thrust into your pocket deep:
A treasure trove of jewelled things, Enough to ransom many kings.
Worthless pebbles, dark and sere,
Forgotten in a pocket where
You hoarded them one summer day,
Now useless trash to throw away.
Come, plant our garden, Plant in the spring. Come, plant a little Of every good thing.
Greens for the body, Flowers for the soul-Plant two rows for us And one for the vole.
Weed and then water,
Mulch, hoe and rake. Tie each tomato plant To a strong stake.
Welcome the showers, Welcome the sun. Our vegetable harvest Now has begun.
Pull up the onions, Pile up the squash. Take beets to the river For a good wash.
Gather tomatoes, Juicy and red. Use extra zucchini For making bread.
Carefully search for The last of the peas. And green peppers hiding Under their leaves.
During the winter We will have food Grown in our garden, And it does taste good!
1990 is a year for poetry here on the river, poetry that knows its place and its people. Betty made only 35 copies of her book, but they will be enjoyed and treasured by all her children and grandchildren, their cousins, and their friends, who find themselves in her pen-and-ink sketches that accompany many of the poems.
"So It Is" has been at Mrs. Cor-bin's store since the July 1 celebration of the centennial of the Grindstone Island Methodist Church. Now yet another has come to the Corbin Shelves - or soon will -"River of Dreams," an anthology of poems from the St. Lawrence Valley which date from the middle of the 19th century to the present. It is edited by Albert Glover, professor of English at St. Lawrence University in Canton, and author of "The Dinner Guest," a collection of his own poems.
In August, there are celebrations in bays all around the island. On Aug. 14 (postponed from Monday because of the rain that did, finally fall) Thurso Bay residents held their annual St. Lawrence Day party honoring the saint himself. All the families around the bay launch themselves from the lagoon at Day Spring (the Norvin Hein house) to race around Leek Island in any craft powered by hand or wing. After exhausting themselves, they award Thor's hammer, hand-crafted by Lisa Hein, to the winner (unknown at this writing), and sit down to eat under the oaks on the lawn rolling down to MacRae Bay. Chris Hein, his wife, Uma, and their two little babies came from Southern California to race (if that is what you could call Chris lolling trip around Leek in his sunfish) and David Marsh brought his two very young children from New Haven for the event. We see that there will be many more boats "racing" once more in the not-too-distant future -as there were when these young parents were teenagers.
On Saturday, Aug. 4, there was a sailing skiff race off the dock on Wild Goose Island. Sailing skiffs takes great skill. The long, narrow boats, having no rudders, are steered by their sails and by the distribution of weight in the boat. The crew (usually one-who bails diligently) has to move in tandem with the captain, back and forth in the boat to direct their prows along the course. Obviously, there is one captain in each skiff, but though very young Cleveland Rueckert, a Grindstone Islander, dared question "Why?" when his captain father told him to move forward, their boat won that race.
The annual Aunt Jane's Bay picnic will be held at noon on Saturday, Aug. 18, Long Point, at the Shepherd Holt residence (formerly W.D. Craig Wright house). People at Aunt Jane's Bay are, however, mostly leaving. Earle Wright, the organist, left this week to go first to Binghamton, and then to London, England, where he will conduct some of his music. Although he was reluctant to make the trip across the island to see the renovated church, when he tried the newly-given little Hammond organ in the church, he was reluctant to go back across- and played on and on.
Corinne Custis Fasinsky, Frank, and family left Aug. 12 to go to Washington, D.C. Henry Custis left. Betsy and Tommy Robbins leave Aug. 26 to go to California, the Kolle household is all here, but the Picketts and two guests from Denmark leave Thursday to go back to Denmark. Clay Kole and a friend will stay until Sunday, Aug. 19. They had a "drop-in" guest who had hiked from California up through the Canadian Rockies via Banff and Lake Louise on his way all the way to Maine. Thomas Nylew was off on Aug. 13, also bik-ing to Maine.
Although the church quilt is half finished, and rolled that far, and both the afternoon and evening bees continue, Brenda Slate and the other quilters have postponed awarding the quilt until Sept. 2, the last day of church for the season.
They are having such a good time working together, they almost hate to see the project finish.
On Aug. 18, Saturday, beginning about 4 p.m., the Grindstone Island Methodist Church will hold its Centennial Party. Jeff Marra is in charge of the carnival, getting prizes from business in Clayton and in Syracuse ( with the help of Doc Schwartz who helps with everything). They are planning the booths for games and markets, and will also oversee the barbecue.
Debbie Marra Donaldson is choreographing a pageant-acting and dancing the story of the church. Bob Smith will read the last poem in "So It Is", the choir will sing, and the children- and Debbie, a dance teacher in Ganano-que, will dance out the story. Others in the congregation are making the props- a replica of the original church, a boat for the Rev. Shorts to carry his church in, and the buildings in the town of Thurso.
The pageant, to be enacted on a haywagon, will begin at 6 p.m.
Everyone up and down the river is invited to the carnival, the barbecue, and to the pageant. The children are working bright-eyed to tell their story. They hope you'll come.
So It Is.