Grindstone Island News - August 14, 1996
"Just look at that sunflower!" Sis Matthews exclaimed, as she walked with Annie Couch past the carriage house on Sunday morning; "when we come to church, it greets us." And on Sunday evening the sunset dyed the river with its deep, then deeper crimson. Brilliant cerulean blue made a puddle of light that broke through the glory of the good news for sailors. This has been an almost perfect midsummer weekend, a northeast breeze, with its vivid blues and greens, bringing the temperature down from the 90° of Tuesday and Wednesday to a comfortable 70°.
That northeast breeze made Saturday's eighth annual Harold Herrick St. Lawrence Skiff Race unusually fast and exciting. The course was an intricate figure-eight plotted around islets off the midriver boathouse near the head of Grindstone. The first race was won by Cleveland Dodge, with Matty Mole as mate, almost before the starting whistle blew. For that race, no boat was off-sides, no boat collided with another — or tangled with a buoy, and each captain caught the wind at the right angle to carry his skiff around each turn. Midriver Bill Rueckert, with Fleur Marks as mate, came in a very close second, and Quentin Rueckert and Abby were third. Harold Herrick III, with his son Cuyler, and Southside Bill Rueckert with his son Theron sailed the other two boats in the race, and didn't finish very far behind the winners.
The second race was more typical for the tippy sailing skiffs that toddle before the wind without rudders, steered only by how the sailors in the boat shift their weight as they shift at the same time, the gaff-rigged sail. Cleve's yellow winged sail began to wobble precariously when his boat rounded the outer marker, and though it didn't capsize, minutes were wasted steadying the craft to round the marker again. So Midriver Bill's skiff came in first in that race.
But in the third race Cleve again came in first. Third place went to Quentin and Abby twice, and once to Southside Bill and Theron. Young Cleveland Rueckert did the math to figure out who won the trophy this year, which was awarded before sailors and watchers retired to celebrate at Michael and Nadinka White's house at Rum Point. There, Teddy Overton congratulated all of the contestants for a race well run. Next year, the sailing skiff race will again be held on the Saturday following the old boat show. Maybe if all owners of sailing skiffs keep this date in mind, they can plan to bring their boats to sail in the 1997 race. It's more fun with more boats. If you'd like Teddy to send you a schedule next summer call the Shipyard Museum for his address.
Further downriver, another group of friends spent the evening at Weazie Ford's point feasting, talking, and watching the spectacular sunsets from a new deck the family has added to the house this summer. It was a weekend full of parties, made lively with children, and cheered by good food. On the south side of the island yet another group celebrated Southside Bill Rueckert's 70th birthday. His whole family congregated around him to sing "Happy Birthday!" -even though his real birthday isn't until fall. it's so much fun to come to the river, that many birthdays and anniversaries are celebrated here — early or late - as a time when people can gather is figured out. The Burton MacLean family also arrived in force this week to celebrate Corky's 80th birthday, which comes up in October. But Betty Haxall's family celebrated her birthday right on the day, Aug. 11!
The dance on Saturday night again was the last event of a busy day. Lots of Grindstone Islanders and a good many friends from Clayton and outlying islands rocked and rolled, jitterbugged, and waltzed or two-stepped to Copy Cat's music. Dianne Jordan of Clayton won the 50-50, and Nancy Matthews went home with a Grindstone T-shirt. Brenda Slate said the music was good! Lots of old songs from the '50s and '60s, and everyone enjoyed it. Next week Country Express will play.
Sunday morning was so clear and blue that everyone awoke bright and early to get to the pancake breakfast at the carriage house. Mostly it was men who did the mixing and the flipping. When I checked. Ken Deedy was twirling the wire whip and Milton Rusho was flipping the cakes - plain and blueberry. But they had a lot of help: Bruce Brooks, Doc Schwartz, and Carl Larson. Margaret Taylor left the meal to the men. "It's their job." I did, however, see several women working away: Marjorie Garnsey, Elaine Brooks, Mary Beer, and Suzanne Smith. It's hard to keep women away from a kitchen.
And when pancakes are served, it's hard to keep children away from the table! When I checked there, Josh Lashomb and his friend Cody Higgins were losing count of how many cakes they had eaten. Norvin and Jeanne Heins' granddaughters Jenna and Elizabeth Harbison joined a group of girls who were eating as busily as the boys. Ashley Serson and Tory Hodges of Glen Burnie, Ont. were guests of Sarah and Jesse Beer, who seemed to be hostesses at a long table full of young children.
At another table, friends of Beverly Pope, Carolyn and Leonard Smith of New Jersey, reminisced with us about the '60s when they often visited the island. They found things more changed than I do. Change evolves slowly, so those of us who are always here, don't notice the differences. Erma Slate sat near the door and hailed us to meet Sandra Churchill Pabisticci. Erma wants me to record that Massino, Sandra's husband, promised on Aug. 11, 1996, to come to the pancake breakfast next year — with his children! It's a good breakfast, Massino! You needn't hesitate!
Mary Lou Rusho was at yet a third table, out for the first time since she came home from the hospital. She wants me to tell you that she thanks all the wonderful people who sent her cards or flowers and made telephone calls. All the support you all have given her has helped her recovery in untold ways. We are glad to have her back. Cathy, her daughter, left on Sunday for home, but Helen Parker, Mary Lou's high school classmate, will stay with her through next week. Helen is looking forward to all the stories they'll recount to each other!
And then, after the pancakes, bacon, coffee and orange juice were almost gone, we all walked past Sis's sunflower, to worship. By the time most of us got there, the early birds were singing, "Shall We Gather at the River". The church was so full that Elizabeth Harbison lost her grandmother, and, only with help, found her at about the middle of the hymn. Relieved, she nestled close in the warmth of reassuring, grandmotherly arms.
The church was still full when the Hasleys, both mom and dad, led the children out to the carriage house for Sunday school.
Mary Beer reminded us of the sandwich swap next week, Aug. 18, at the parsonage. If you'd like to bring a salad as well as a sandwich, lots of people will probably be pleased! The charge conference will take place Aug. 25 immediately following the regular 10: 30 a.m. service. Summer is, sure enough, drawing to a close. But if you have any questions, or just want to deliver a message, or talk to Mary Beer, the church now has an answering machine to take messages when she is out. The number is 686-3113.
This Sunday Mary Beer, our minister, considered with us the story of Joseph's jealous brothers' selling him to the Ishmaelites for a slave, a story that, for Aug. 11, did not have a happy ending. But, said Mary, the longer she is a pastor, the more she distrusts stories with sweet, happy endings, because most people are not living that sugarcoated moment. The Book of Genesis is scarcely a sugarcoated story. But God is always in it, with the troubled and troublesome characters in Genesis, all the way to the end of the book. It seems a story of truth. Grindstone is fortunate in having a minister who likes the look of truth, the sound of truth.
Before we all left the church to go to more celebrations, the whole congregation gave Marjorie and Leon Rusho a long, standing ovation. This Sunday was their 66th wedding anniversary. Then off we went — some to the beach, some to family picnics, some to the baseball game at Rum Point, the first of the year. Young blood infused the game with a new spirit. Many of the players who were awkward children a few years ago, are getting more and more skillfull. The more things change, the more they are the same! After the game, most of the participants, and a good many others, pulled around the head of the island to Murdock Point where Lolita and young Ray Pfeiffer had spread a table with cheeses, fruits and Mexican dips with wines, juices, sodas, beers and water to refresh young and old.
"Tip," their property, was, in the '30s, a boy's camp. The Pfeiffers have vivid images of what life was like in those days on the point because John Dower was one of the campers. He was not a happy camper! His fables about the Quaker director and his wife lend a druid air to the rocks in the high clearing where the Pfeiffer family now picnics when they are in the mood for tall tales and ghost stories. The children named the spot Stone Henge.
Photographs from Mrs. Corbin's collection line the stairway wall, showing native Americans who camped there long before Tip Camp came into being, rough-looking camp directors building the canoes the campers used, and the old Grindstone church with the two steeples it had when Tip Camp was in existence. The house itself was once part of the old Cummings farm. The Pfeiffer’s added a screened porch last year, but were careful not to change the Victorian feel of the house. They even use the old dirt cellar for storing their onions and potatoes. The yard with a croquet court and badminton net is as beautifully kept as the elegant Victorian "camps" were in the 1890s. But I suspect that the grounds of Tip Camp were never landscaped so smoothly, at least, not in John Dower's accounts.
It was many years ago that Dr. Ray Pfeiffer, senior, announced proudly that he had become an octogenarian. He is now 95. And there he sat out by the badminton net to greet us. He is in a wheelchair now, but from Marjorie Rusho we've learned that one can be quite in control from a wheelchair — and can, as story-teller, give circles of fable-lovers many pleasant hours. Grindstone is lucky to have several spinners of yarns from "olden days". Grindstone Island claims "Ray" even if Hickory Island has been his home for many, many years. His family has been playing in the weekly baseball games on Rum Point for much, much longer than I can remember.
It was at those games that invitations were delivered and plans laid for fishing parties long before telephones came to change island ways, so the Pfeiffers have been a part of Grindstone life since they bought Hickory Island in 1948.
Hickory was the "base for a massive military operation," the planned invasion of Gananoque during the Patriot War of 1837. Young Ray grew up steeped in the history and lore of the islands. Mother Trudy saw to it. She loved all of the stories. It was Trudy who bought "Tip" and began to put its rocks in order in the 1970s with the skeptical help of our youngest son, Pom. So, of course, stories of Tip Camp were also told and retold around the Pfeiffer tables.
The party was a wonderful way to come to sunset at the end of a lovely weekend. All of the island families, from the littlest 2-year-olds to the nonagenarians, had been together at every race, every picnic, every party. As our boat pulled into Thurso Bay on Sunday evening, the Marra-Donaldson family, grandparents, parents, and grandchildren, were all together, heading out to Gananoque to celebrate its Festival of the Islands. The western sky was spread as bountifully as our island tables with its own crimson wine. Then the stars came out. And day was done.
So it is.