GRINDSTONE ISLAND NEWS - AUGUST 1, 1999
Before this week’s Saturday night party, there were at least two other parties. Erma and Brenda and many other winter island residents went to Steve Frazier’s wedding in Plessis. Steve is the son of Norma and August Frazier, so he’s related one way or another to a lot of the old time residents. In Erma’s words, it was simple and it was nice. Several others of us went to a birthday party for Frank (75th) and Junie (70th) Augsbury in the common house on Juniper Island. Weezie Ford and Eddie Wilson joined the Angles in a birthday song they wrote and set to a country music tune. In the tradition of Patty Bane and Junie Augsbury, the two mothers of Jeff and Abby Rand, the food was delicious.
So a good many of us were late to the dance. But that didn’t spoil the fun. By the time we got there, everything was particularly animated. Perhaps it was relief at the break in the heat wave that set everyone’s feet on fire. It was also Nancy Matthews’ birthday, so we all joined in lustily singing “Happy Birthday” to her. Then she got to draw the names for the 50/50 prize. Dancers of all ages gathered round her, and with a big smile, she drew Steve Dorr’s name from the pot for the $102 prize. Steve, though, donated the whole of his prize back to the hall. Then Nancy drew a name for a hot dog, and Mary Bazinet won that. But the drawing that appealed to me, was the last one. The disc jockey, John Morrow, announced that the next drawing would be to win NOTHING, ABSOLUTELY NOTHING. You’ll just win. That’s all! And that was just what happened. Amazing John Morrow can make NOTHING fun! I guess he knows that just dancing is winning. He even promised a square dance tune- in fun, to tease old eagers like me. Stub Lashomb may have set him up to that, Stub who refuses to square dance. (But it was Stub, with the big feet Charlie described seeing come up to him as he lay out in the snow behind the barn with a broken leg, who found Charlie, the original Grindstone square dance caller, and got him to his warm house, to safety. So Stub can be forgiven for not dancing to the orders of a caller.) John Morrow doesn’t have any discs for square dances, but Bubby is going to make some when we again have the St. Lawrence River Grass Band later in August. This coming Saturday there will be a new country band giving us a good time.
John and I have been across the island twice this week. On Thursday, Carol Faust and Doreen Meeks came whipping into our yard to take us on a surprise four-wheeler trip down to see the new town dock and the houses that have been built along the road down there. The two of us dropped the dishcloth and the towel, and we were off, a bit fast for my taste, but off to see the island world. Past Erma’s cows at the King barn, and around the rock on the curve, past the schoolhouse and the old Faust house and Stub’s and Karen’s house, and past Annie Couch’s driveway we sped (actually, only twenty miles an hour, maybe twelve) and, slowing at the corner where the Cross Island Road meets the South Shore Road, we went slowly down the hill to the Town Dock, which is quite a different town dock from the one we used to dock at when Frances was the mailman and we were riding the Debbie Lynn to do all of our shopping. Then, back we buzzed, to finish the dishes.
And on Sunday we made the second trip, to go to the Aunt Janes Bay service in the yard of Dan and Janice Brooks McPhail. Even though the sun was shining bright and hot on the lawn that had lost most of its shade in the ice storm, a large and sturdy congregation gathered. True, most of us squinched back in the shade at the side of the house, so the old stone pulpit was no use to the minister who had to go up the hill to his listeners. But we were there. And Sis, whom Skip brought at 10 o’clock for the 10:30 service, took her folding chair right to her usual seat under a small tree that provided no shade at all until about the first verse of the last hymn! Mary, the minister’s wife, however, brought us an umbrella, and when Kavin Pheiffer showed me ( who hates umbrellas even in rain) how to keep it open, we were very comfortable. It’s a good thing at least for me, that Mary thought to bring the umbrella, because Sis wasn’t going to let a little sun keep her out of her usual seat. Bruce Brooks asked her if she didn’t want to come up to the shade of the porch, but she disdained that.
We had a wonderful choir and two pieces of special music and celebrated communion as we traditionally do at the outdoor service. Lynn Davis, a friend visiting Fred and Linda Jackson from Baltimore, a graduate of the Peabody conservatory, sang, a capella, a lovely Aaron Copeland arrangement of a Shaker hymn, and Mary and Dick Petry’s granddaughter, Julie Ann Petry, played, without accompaniment, two familiar hymns on her flute. Both the voice and the flute floated out over the river and back to us, resonant and lovely. And, to help out the little organ, Andy Davis directed “Shall We Gather at the River” and made us sing as though we meant to!
Through all of this, tiny, sweet Emmy Lynn Paxton, who was born on Wednesday, July 28th, slept, nestled in Betty Paxton’s, her new Mother’s arms, in the cool shade of an old tree amid the welcoming joy of all the families at the Aunt Jane’s Bay service. Afterward, she was passed from one capable and comfortable cradle of warm arms to another, while Betty looked on, loving her. Kitty Paxton is Emmy’s smiling grandmother.
After the service, Bruce and Elaine Brooks treated us to homemade donuts and lemonade or iced tea, and, almost best of all, to quartered Florida oranges.
Erma and Brenda had to go right home after the service to water the cows. And that reminded me of how Buck’s cows had only to sigh at his back door for him to come out to the watering trough to turn the spigot on. Erma showed me the can of coffee, the lazy susan, and the coffee cake someone had given her for her regular morning coffees. “Everyone” goes up to Erma’s for coffee every morning! And there they discuss the issues of the day, shopping, the weather , who is sick, who is born, who is visiting….and all the even more important issues. I remember the cars that used to go around the corner by the parsonage in 1962 early in the morning on the way to the Slate house. It’s a long tradition. Sis Matthews has also always had a contingent for morning coffee down on the south shore.
I’m not quite an early enough bird to get to Erma’s, but Minister Dick Petry is. I suppose the question of how the Hall and the church should relate to each other keeps coming up. I keep hoping that fear of lawsuits will not determine how the decision is made, (that would be pretty far from the “way of the cross”). The church and the hall have been one ever since Emmet gave the hall to the young people, and it has been good for both institutions (if you can say the island has institutions. Mostly things on the island evolve in a much more individual, instinctive and sensitive way). The sermon text this morning was the story of Jesus’ healing the man with the withered hand on the Sabbath, against the Law. All day I’ve kept pondering Law. Once we decided that the prohibition of alcohol was unenforceable. Are we changing our minds, or is this a different situation?
We can make the decision about the church-hall interaction not on the basis of law but on the basis of what will make the parties at the hall give the most joy to everyone. We can consider the health of our young people, the attitudes we want to have them learn from us, whether the hall, the sanctuary and the parsonage should be run under the same law (church? or state? law). There is, certainly, law on Grindstone Island. We certainly want the help of the fire department of Clayton and the emergency squad, and the medical help of Clayton’s and Alexandria Bays’ medical staff. If Dodge Hall were separated from the church, could it maintain itself, pay the taxes, pay the insurance? And if it could not, what difference would it make to the church to have it sold for some quite secular entertainment business? The island population has grown and changed enormously in the last ten years. How should the church respond to the changes? I’m sure all of us are asking these questions, and more. For now, many of the same people will be members of both the church and the hall even if they separate. Will that be the way it is in ten years?
Both church and hall are so much a part of my life at the river that I keep mulling over all of the problems as I cook or swim or walk; as John and I share our meals, we often come back to talking about them, about the gifts they have both given us. We talk, not about the fact that Jesus broke the law, but about the way, about why, Jesus made his decision to break the Sabbath law, to heal the man with the withered hand. We talk about what it was in that situation that made Jesus ask the man to hold out his hand.
I’ve always marveled at the way church suppers get prepared on Grindstone. There are no appointed committees, but people see that there is a job to be done, and people like Erma, Margaret Taylor, Manly Rusho, Doreen Meeks, Yuvon and Phil Marra, Phyllis Schwartz, Lolita Pfeiffer, Carol Faust (I can go on endlessly with the list) notice what needs doing and do it. How do we keep the running of the church and the hall as sensitive, responsible, intuitive and loving? Can we keep it best as one or two units? Jeremy Slate might ask us, “What fences will make it easiest to get our calves to water? Where should we build them? What kind should they be?”
Notes: The date of the schoolhouse picnic has been changed. It will now be held on Saturday, August 21, at 4:00 p.m.
Barnyard Olympics, Saturday, August 7, at 5:00 p.m. If you have a game , please bring it! Call the parsonage or Aleatha Garnsey if you have questions or suggestions.
August 8, at 8:30 til 10:30, Pancake breakfast in the carriage house with juice, sausage and coffee!
Dot Carnegie left a message on my answering machine saying “thank you for mentioning it”, and, “ I’m beginning to feel fine.” We are glad to hear Dot’s good news!
If you need transportation to or from church, please call 686-4093 (the Manly Rushos) or 686-3113 (the parsonage)
And, finally, Debbie Garnsey Hayes is home, to make Marjorie’s house no longer lonesome. It’s a nice time of year.
So it is.