GRINDSTONE ISLAND NEWS - July 8, 2001
The week has been a little chilly and gray, but no matter, Grindstone Islanders are seldom hindered by weather or a rough river. On Thursday, as we announced last week, Hildred Garnsey’s ashes were buried in the Grindstone Cemetery, and her relatives from all around the county were there. The Reverends Richard Petry and John Marks together conducted the service, and many many of the people gathered around the grave joined in retelling the memories we have of Hildred in the post office, in her home, in her orchard, in Watertown, even in the Mall where good friends like Yvonne Marra met her several times for lunch. Her daughter Anne was there with her family, her son David was there with his family, and her son Floyd was there with his family. It was a pleasure for all of us to see them again. Neither John nor I had seen any of them since Hildred left the island so long ago. But they all looked not so very much different than they had then. And we recognized all of the children.
The Grindstone cemetery is a wonderful place to think of your folks sleeping. It stretches over a north shore hill overlooking the river and seems beautifully peaceful. Chris Hein, a father of three third generation Thurso Bay children, and I wended through the markers with his daughter, Nina. We showed her the new marker for Buck Slate, with his tractor on it, and the refurbished race horse that marks the grave of his father, Harry, who, we told her, had a famous horse that won many races, races on the midwinter river ice! We looked at the Rev. Shorts’ marker, telling her how he, sort of miraculously, managed to build the church that still stands at the crossroads. We moved on to Bertha MacRae’s marker. Chris remembered her fondly because she lived in the farmhouse next to us where all of theMcRae Bay children had played hide and seek every evening for many years. And we found Emmet and Nellie Dodge’s graves, the couple beloved by all the islanders, who lived on a farm where the Marks and the Heins now live, astride Thurso and MacRae Bays. We stopped at Marjorie Rusho’s place of rest, too, remembering her carrot cake.
I pointed out the little pink granite spire that, Emmet told me, a woman left widowed with several children had placed on the grave of her husband after he was drowned in the river. Chris remembered the tale we had all been told of the three children who had been suffocated in the cave they had dug into a sandbank that collapsed on them near Potter’s Beach. Just as we were going to go look at the two little lambs on two different stones in the very middle of the cemetery, the service began. This cemetery is more than a geneology, it holds an endless story of island life and of its people. But we had to leave the rest of the markers or miss the service.
After the service we all walked or rode in whatever vehicle we chose to Dodge Hall where dinner was served, and where we could go on talking and talking and talking. It was one of those amazing feasts that islanders prepare for their special occasions. I glanced at the desserts as I was serving myself from the salads and meats and vegetables and all manner of relishes and condiments, and I could hardly believe the array of cakes and cookies and fruit that awaited us. I saw Debbie Marra look approvingly at that table too. I could see she thought, “We did well.” Then, finally, the line of buses and cars and four wheelers began the trek back home, many of the people had to get back across the river. But that almost never seems to be any trouble. There’s always a boat ride for everyone.
On Friday, we had a birthday party for Debby Smith at our house because her dad couldn’t get here. It was supposed to be a surprise, but, surprise or not, we had two cakes with candles and sent another home that Debby had brought herself because her son Robert had invited along a friend and she wanted to make sure we had enough food to go around! Then, when she got back up the hill to her house, a crowd of her good neighbors at the cross-roads came with brownies to sing “Happy Birthday” to her once more before she went to bed!
And the week wound on. There is seldom a Saturday night that goes by without a dance. And this Saturday was no exception. A DJ, Steve Anderson from Clayton, came to give everyone the good time. And of course, he did give us a wonderful time. Bobby Bazinet said “Nothin’ really happened that special” when I asked him for a report of the evening, which, translated, means everyone had a fine quiet time dancing in the Grindstone style, and just talking. Next week Andy Davis, The Midnight Sun DJ will provide the music.
In spite of the dreary day, August Frazier, with Norma at the wheel arrived at ten o’clock on Sunday to take John and me ( and their two grandchildren) down to the Brooks-McPhail house on Aunt Janes Bay for the annual outdoor service, and by the time we arrived, there was already a crowd seated on every outcropping of rock in the gently rolling yard. When it came time to introduce all the visitors in attendance, we discovered what a diverse and even international group we were. There were lots of old friends, but, among them, there were a math teacher with two of her students from the orphanage where she teaches in the Ukraine. They had traveled here under the auspices of the church of the Ascension in Gaithersburgh, Maryland. Audrey Lashomb, Rebecca and Char were on the island and at church for the first time this year. And to our great pleasure, Polly Kole was back among us.
A lot of Annie Couch’s family from Texas were there with her, and told us that Annie had celebrated her 91st birthday on Saturday! And Kelly Taylor was here with his wife, Alison. He is a Baptist minister in Watertown, and helped Dick Petry with the communion service.
The choir had gathered itself together to practice before the service so they were prepared for their part in the music, as MaryLou Rusho’s organ also was. It had been brought by Mary Lou and Manly before the service, and set up out on the porch of the McPhail cottage. Everything sort of gets itself done on the island with little pomp and circumstance. Debby Donaldson danced the psalm Dick read as if that’s the way psalms are always read. Before the service began,Janice McPhail greeted us, saying she grows more and more aware here on Grindstone that no one ever owns his or her space on God’s good earth, and welcomed us to the patch of ground where she had spent so many happy summers with her grandparents.
Half way across the island, the little red schoolhouse is going to be busy during these summer weeks. The annual potluck picnic will take place July 22nd after church. Please bring both a dish to serve (and something to sit on to be comfortable during the picnic, the raffle, and the silent auction)! There will be transportation to and from the island: from the Antique Boat Museum at 9:30 am, returning at 2:30 pm. A bus will run from the church to the schoolhouse and from the island town dock to the schoolhouse. Call 686-4093 to reserve a spot on the boat.
Eliza Moore has now arrived at the schoolhouse, so the summer program will begin this week with a workshop on Tuesday afternoon from 2:00 until 4:30 o’clock there at the schoolhouse. She will lead a workshop every Tuesday for children from around 6 to 13 years of age. There will be music, dance, and stories of the island. This week Aminta Marks will read about Charlie Matthews, and Debbie Donaldson will dance his story. Eliza hopes the children who come will “get into the act”. Maybe some of the teachers that Doreen Meeks is bringing over for a picnic in the schoolyard Tuesday noon will also want to join in the workshop. The schoolhouse has come alive again.
The island is particularly fortunate to have Eliza Moore with us this summer. She is a graduate student in the Indiana University school of music, and those of us who attended the concert she and her friends from Indiana presented at the Squash Court last summer know what a wonderful musician she is. Besides that, they know how she loves to make music that awakens the love of making their own music in their community. She spent last winter in England working with children and adults in a program that was similar to what she is leading here at the schoolhouse this summer. Grindstone tradition is rich with many kinds of music, and Eliza will try to unearth and enliven it all. Our children are lucky to have her here, and so are the adults! Remember Tuesdays at the schoolhouse!!!
On Wednesday, from 10:00 0’clock until 12:00, the Petrys will work, with whatever children want to come, on a very special craft project that they have put together. This program will take place in the carriage house behind the church.
And on Thursdays, at the schoolhouse, from 10:00 o’clock until 12:00, Urch Slate (Eileen, her mother calls her!) will have a workshop that I’m told will, a little later, try teaching children of whatever ages to call square dances! Maybe Eliza will work with her. But this week Urch is going to do a “bug” project.
So this summer Grindstone kids will be busy! And they surely will be having fun. We hope the three programs will all snowball into ongoing fun for our island children.
Back at the church! On July 14th, the annual Turkey Dinner and Auction of good, new and old articles and services donated by church friends and families, will be held in the Carriage House and in the yard outside. It will begin at 5:00 o’clock. Prices are a bargain: $6! (children under 5 eat free, and children 5 to 12 eat for $3.) As we always do, all you faithful, bring pies and cakes for desert. (And one more plea: If your donation to the auction is not sold, please take it back home with you! You all know the problem!!)
Annie was 91 this week, Leon is 92, and some of us went over to Hickory Island to celebrate Dr. Raymond Pfeiffer’s 100th birthday! imagine!! What a pleasure it was to greet him and have him smile back with so much relish in life. Life is good!
So it is! Aminta Marks