Grindstone Island News - September 11, 1996
This has been a quiet, lazy week. Sunsets of monarch butterflies have floated over the milkweed, purple asters bloom in the midst of mounds of goldenrod, cornflowers poke out at the roadside, the stag horn sumac is deep red, some of its leaves already bright scarlet, the wind is out of the northeast, great rocks in the river loom into sight, smart with yellow and green stripes at their water lines...just like the boats, and summer draws to an end. The final goodbye parties are quiet and private, comfortable and nostalgic. Though the last church service was last week, there are a few tales to add. About trucks, trucks seem to have decided at this tag-end of summer to speak for themselves!
When Jeff was driving the Marra truck that his young niece Jacie had been driving every day to take care of her horse, the truck decided to show Jeff that its brakes needed fixing...badly. So, it rolled itself right on down a slight incline when he put his foot down to stop her. And stopped when she hit a small tree. A nuisance, but nothing serious Mirabile dictu.
And when the truck at McRae Point caught fire with a load of hay in its bed, a fire the little kitchen fire extinguisher could do nothing about, as Eddie, Weezie Ford's friend stood frantically thinking of what he could do while he waited for the fire boat, that truck too, decided to act for itself, and simply rolled in a quite dignified manner, straight into the river. With a last muffled boom and a whish, the fire, the smoke, the crisis took care of itself. Bubby Bazinet called his troops together a day later to pull the truck out of the 20 feet of water. It's a wreck, but the boathouse stands, Eddie is safe, the Magnum wasn't hurt and all's well but the truck. Miracles on Grindstone!
Robby Bazinet started school this week. Now he has even more to tell about. His frogs and snakes seem to miss him, but they are all right, he says. There are a lot of frogs and toads this year. One leaps with every step we take. All
summer Bobby has introduced us to one or another frog, toad or snake each day as we walk past his yard to get the mail. His snakes are very personable creatures, and we've had good contact every afternoon.
Maggie Matthews is well into her first semester at Jefferson Community College. Buck Slate is busy in the hayfield having been warned by Leon that winter could be a hard one. Brenda, Erma, and the Marjories are canning, canning, canning. The scents of this autumn season are delicious. But it's time for us to go back to our other life in Princeton.
We leave a bit sadly June, however will be here almost before we can catch a breath, and the river will be flowing...on and on and on. I'm glad Buck took us all on a hayride last week, because this Sunday is a day to stay inside. The hayride has become a tradition at the end of squatter's picnic on Labor Day each year. Buck takes us, behind his tractor, on the nature trails, which have been on the island since long before any of us alive trekked along them. We start at the crossroads by the church,-and then, depending on Buck's mood that day, wind along the roads which take us to all the parts of the island. As each road dwindles off near the foot or the head of Grindstone, Buck's tractor knows the nature trails he has wandered over since he was a little boy.
Sometimes we go down the Howard-Smith road and off toward the Civil War cemetery up on the hill, or wind down to Salt's and Kitty's place to pet the horses, or maybe wend into Chet Taylor's acres to see how his asparagus bed is growing, The black-eyed susans I pulled up and brought back from that road last year to plant by our back door are bright and cheerful this very gray day, very much alive, thank you. We might go call on Manley and Mary Lou, or go over the little bridge where old-timers fish for bullheads in spring to visit the people who live on Canoe Point. We might stop to greet Judy "Bacci, the manager of the state-park.
Last Sunday, we went up past the Slate farm, past the cows in the pasture, past Erma's house, past Kenny Brabant's house, past Midriver, past the squash court (on the old Morgan farm), past Josephine Murray's hideaway, back behind the Heitekangas woods where, a few years ago, Olavie showed us a spring, and turned off just before we got to the road leading to Mattie Penannen's farm where Sylvia is living now, to cut along up the road to the old quartz pit.
There Buck stopped for a while and everyone piled off to go down into the woods to look once more into the "old silver mine." (Silver, Emmet Dodge said, is often found where there is quartz.) Buck says the cave goes way back under the road, but none of us ventures any father than the mouth. It's a little fearsome! Tommy Leanna brought his hammer along and came back to the wagon with a great big piece of quartz. Just about every kid had a little chunk to show. Then we all climbed back into the hay and wound along the road past the schoolhouse back to the church,
Squatter's picnic is a wonderful end-of-summer celebration. Here where it all started...up there in the pleasant village of old Thurso. I will say good-bye for this year.
On Sunday afternoon Buck said, if we get a good south wind, it'll blow the water right back on through, and by evening the swimming rock was under about as much water as it was in July. By Monday morning, however, the old River had taken its rest at the classy autumn water line.
We go back to Princeton on Thursday, but next spring when the warblers return to the willow tree, we'll be back to Toad Hall, and I will join Ratty in his swim each day across our bay at sunset. For the last two weeks, I have been remembering the beauty of snow in the North Country. Greg Lago has done a picture book of a snow day, and asked me to put what he sees into words. I've had a lovely time putting myself into his charming scenes, and remembering the quiet warmth, the wonderful, leisurely stretch of time a snow day bequeaths to a family. Maybe before too long, Greg can get it on the bookshelves over at Mrs. Corbin's shop. So I'll think of you all this winter with some longing to be here with you as you settle into the quiet season. So it is.