GRINDSTONE ISLAND NEWS - July 29, 2001
p. 2 corrected
The dusty roads tell us that it has been a long time since it last rained. But in summer, most of us don’t mind. When the farms were at their height here, though, I used to feel a little guilty when the farmers complained about dry weather, that I loved a succession of fine days for play,. Now more of us islanders are just summer people, and only a few strong people like Salt and Frankie and Jay, who have spent the week haying, are anxious for some water for their crops and cows. We miss the farmers who kept us down to earth. In the Big M nothing reminds us of where the milk comes from, or the hamburger, or how the zucchinis grow, or the beans. We miss the farmers’ open meadows and their fields of ripening hay.
When we first came to live near the island’s cross road, we never saw any deer. They were in the deep woods at the foot of the island. But now that there are houses all the way down to the state park, the deer have moved up to the patches of woods and brush grown thick in the abandoned hay fields around us. As we were talking with Jim Adamson at Old Homes Day, John remarked that while we see a lot of deer now, we don’t see rabbits any more. More than that, people all around the island have been seeing minks, creatures we had never heard of being on the island before last year. Jim told us about a study that was done on Grand Island in Lake Superior, that traced how cyclical animal populations are, how the populations change in waves. The peaceful Bison there, for instance, are in danger when the wolves have eaten all the rabbits, because then the wolves go for the moose. The moose population then decreases, and, finally, wolves get hungry and disappear. When the wolf population has declined, the rabbits, like Bre’er Rabbit of old, come back again, bold as brass. And, who knows, maybe those rabbits get piggy eating the grasses, too, so the bison are a little hungry when the wolves take after them. In any case, the cycle continues.
An island is a well defined ecosystem with limits that are hard to cross, and here on Grindstone, we notice similar growths and declines in the numbers of particular animals on the roads or the wooded paths. Both Jim and John have developed almost a speaking acquaintance with two does, one which comes to Jim’s patch of mown grass this summer, and one which comes to John’s. They both agreed that it is a pleasant thing to have a deer come visit for a few minutes each morning. And surely they come to every patch of mown grass in every bay around Grindstone.
Maybe Bobby Bazinet, with his friend Robert Smith, both blossoming students of this ecosystem will begin to record what animals they see, how many and when, so on Grindstone, we can begin a study of the cycles of population. Both boys have the persistence and the interest in animals large and small to keep their study accurate and extended through maybe ten years, enough to make some interesting discoveries and hypotheses. It would be a good thing if they started a record book right this year. I bet Jim Adamson could give them some advice about what data they would need to record.
We’ve jumped right into Old Homes Day, so we’ll tell about this week from the end to the beginning. Actually, Old Homes Day takes so much preparation, that it is about all that can take place in its week. Tables had to be taken down to Potters Beach, ham and hot dogs had to be bought and cooked, salads had to be fixed, all the vegetables cut up, scalloped potatoes had to be baked, and pies and pies and pies had to be made. And I suppose that’s only the beginning!
Old Homes Day is fun. It is a celebration from beginning to end, planned and carried out by the people, or close relatives of people who live here all winter long. Old Homes Day benefits Dodge Memorial Hall. Phil was collecting the money at a little table at what is the entrance to the picnic grounds. Brenda was serving ham at one of the long, laden tables, Erma was serving a variety of vegetables. Past the coffee at the end of the main course, Clara and Audrey oversaw deserts, those pies and pies and pies, and cakes, I said had to be made.. Jeff and Doreen sold raffle tickets, and kept order around the table where the prizes were displayed. Every islander helped in some way.
Long tables were lined with people happily eating the delicious meal, under the shade of tall oaks and maples. We sat down with one group, but finished with another group of rotating, hungry guests.. The line waiting twined at least twice around the great picnic area. It was a real homecoming, and seemingly everyone with any Grindstone connection had come to celebrate The Browns were there under the same tree they gather under every year, this year sad that Liz could not be with them. She is very ill, and many people had brought something to put in a basket of Grindstone things to send her that would remind her that friends on the island were thinking of her. Junior Brown, the senior member of the tribe, carried on as islanders do. He was, as he always is, taking charge of the wonderful stove he built for the Old Homes Day celebrations, and the smell of ham he was cooking welcomed us as we came down the lane.
There was a special overstuffed armchair for Bob Smith, the man who served the island church as minister for more years than any other pastor. That reminded us of Sis Matthews who also couldn’t be with us, and we wished she could be in a chair next to Bob. At the table next to ours, sat Mark Bigalow from Utica. I overheard him telling Doc Schwartz that his family had come to the north country in the 1600’s. The first legal marriage registered in Watertown was, he told us, the marriage of a Creighton couple who were his mother’s relatives. His wife’s family has a house near the foot of Niagara, so they had decided to come over to the celebration. I am always amazed at the number of relatives of Grindstone Islanders who may come from halfway across the country to Old Homes Day.
The paths down to the beach were traveled all afternoon as people came and went from swimming in the now warm St. Lawrence. It was a wonderful feast that went on and on and on.
Andy Davison filled the pulpit this Sunday morning in the Grindstone Church, and his metaphor of homecoming livened our participation in the day. “ A home is not a house,” Andy said, “ It is the people who love and welcome you.” Surely it was that way on Grindstone. Many of the old house walls have fallen among the tumbled rocks of the basement underpinning. But the people they came to see are still welcoming everyone home to the tables set among the great shade trees of Potters Beach with the keys of kindness Andy gave the children. He reminded them that kindness would unlock the gates of happiness for us all. The choir sang this morning, Beverly Davison read the lesson, and we all sang “Come by here, Lord,” as we made our way from the church to Potters Beach. Bob Smith said Andy brings his own congregation, and the Davisons did fill many pews. Bob and Anne Davison Binhammer were there for the first time this summer with their family, so Bob, too, helped with the service.
We took time to remember Lorraine Elgar of Clayton, daughter of Eleanor Calhoun, who died on Saturday. On this day of so much happiness, it saddened us to have Lorrain’s family bereaved.
On Saturday night the weekend warmed up. Ada said “Midas Mike played a couple of squares! Can you believe that?!” “Fast ones” said Carolyn. We thank them for trying to be Grindstone Islanders for one night. Square dancing is a wonderful way to introduce Old Homes Day!
Robert Smith has written accounts of the weekday activities at the schoolhouse and the parsonage: He is going to be the young peoples’ reporter for the rest of the summer.
“Tuesday, July 24th : Weekly fun and music with Eliza Moore, 2:00-4:00 p.m. at the schoolhouse. “The time was about scary stories on Grindstone. We heard lots of them. One of the stories was about a girl who lost a baby and went a little insane. One day she went on a walk on the Baseline Road and died in the swamp. Then we walked on Baseline Road (where the schoolhouse now stands). Finally we made up a song about the girl and the road.” (Next week, come at the same time to find out what Eliza does next)
Wonderful Wednesdays, July 25th, 10:30-12:00 : “At Wonderful Wednesday, there were treats. We made bird feeders. We put birdseed and peanut butter in them .” (Next Wonderful Wednesday, August 1.)
Thursday, July 26th, Fun and Crafts with Urch: .”Each one of us got the pans and stuff for (canning) dill beans. We cleaned the beans, broke the ends off, stuffed them into a can, and. poured a recipe in it . Then we sucked the air out (so they would not spoil.)” Next time with Urch is August 2nd.)
There is another event at the schoolhouse each week for adults, about island history. This week, August 1st, at 2:00, Norm Wagner will talk about “Logging on Grindstone”.
And at home on the island, So it is. Aminta Marks