Pig Street

Up until now, I’ve always been in too much of a hurry, either driving by one end of Pig Street on the way to a friend’s home or passing the other end while taking the “back road” to a local diner.  Once I stopped and photographed the sign, but I went no further.

Drive Around Chipman-1-1

There’s an old joke about the City Slicker who was walking down a country road and spotted a farmer standing under an apple tree with a pig in his arms, enabling the animal to eat the ripe apples on the tree.  The City Slicker – eager to prove that the  intellect of City Slickers is not to be sneered at – stopped and called out to the farmer:

“Wouldn’t it save a lot of time if you left that pig on the ground and just shook the tree?”

The Farmer considered the suggestion for a moment and then replied, “Well, I suppose it might… but what’s time to a pig?”

Which brings me back to Pig Street.

On the way to the diner this morning, Raymond noticed the road sign, Pig Street, and it prompted him to recount how that name might have come about.  “I remember somebody telling me the story of how, a long time ago, maybe back in the thirties, a couple of fellows tried to steal a bunch of pigs from one of the local farmers.  In the middle of the night, they drove to this fella’s farm and were trying to herd his pigs onto their truck, except that as soon as they’d get some on, others would jump off.  Realizing they needed some help with the heist, they knocked on the farmer’s door.  He answered it, and they explained that they had this load of pigs to deliver and they had gotten some of them off the truck when they realized they were at the wrong address.  They said they were having a devil of a time getting them all back on the truck, and they asked the farmer if he could give them a hand.  The farmer said, sure, he would, and presently all the pigs were loaded and the truck on its way.  It wasn’t until the next day that the farmer realized his barn was empty of pigs!”

So I drove the length of Pig Street this morning.  It’s a pleasant dirt road, but the farms are gone.  What was once pasture and hay fields has returned to woods and cedar marshes encouraged by the arrival of beavers.   I didn’t see a single pig.


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Stormy Winter Morning Musing

From my house, if the wind is quiet, I can hear the sirens from all three local fire departments. They all sound at noon – at slightly different times – and individually when there is a fire, calling the volunteers. If for some reason the local volunteer ambulance squad is going to be a little slow getting to a call, our fire squad dispatches a fire truck (because it has an oxygen mask and a volunteer trained in basic first aid).

Twice I have been the beneficiary of this service. Once, while burning some junk wood at a firewood landing, the wind took the fire into my field. It was 2400 feet uphill from the road, and the volunteers came carrying water on their backs. Another time, when my heart went into arrhythmia, the Pierrepont Fire Chief (once a kid in the 4H club I was involved in) arrived in a firetruck and calmly put an oxygen mask on me as we waited for the ambulance.

This morning as the blizzard was beginning, I heard a siren. Whether it was Colton or Pierrepont, I couldn’t say for sure. I am always thankful it is not for us, I hope that it is something very minor, and I feel gratitude for those good neighbors who dedicate themselves to fighting fires and saving lives.

When we disparage those who voted for the current president, we need to remember that most – if not all – of these people who give so much of their time and effort to protect us and keep us safe probably voted for him. They try to do what they believe is the right thing. As Pogo said, “We have met the enemy and he is us.” Except that there aren’t very many of “us” on the volunteer fire department rosters.

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Putting in Stitches

…………Sipress cartoon from The New Yorker, 3/10/08, p. 91
Behind the altar in the Baptist church of my childhood was a velvet curtain. If I ever did think about it as my mind wandered during Sunday services, I’d have thought it was simply a decorative touch, a bit of burgundy (or was it gold??) that matched one of the colors in the stained glass windows.

When I was about thirteen, my church-going contemporaries and I were herded into a baptismal class. The lessons “taught” to me there didn’t stick in my memory – but for the revelation that a large concrete water trough had been secretly lurking behind that velvet altar backdrop, and that one by one my classmates and I were going to be paraded into that tub and get our heads wet. In all the years past, church folks had been smart enough to do this sort of thing after all the young kids were sent down to their Sunday School classes. None of us had previously witnessed this strange event.

On “the big day” we donned some sort of white cotton choir robes, got in line, and then one-by-one waded into the tank. The water was waist-high, the minister asked me the pertinent questions, I answered as I’d been instructed to, and SPLOOOSH: the bastard tipped me over backward and under water. Apparently I came out of that tank a saved Christian; in reality I decided this religion was for the birds, or maybe the fish.

At some time after “organized religion” was washed out of me, some family friends came to visit. Their daughter Donna Jean and I were the same age but of ever more differing interests, making it harder and harder to know what to do during these occasional social get-togethers, and on this Sunday I said, “Why don’t we sew? We could make something.”

Donna Jean looked a combination of horrified and all-knowing while proclaiming, “Don’t you know that every stitch you take on a Sunday will be a stitch of pain before you die?” I must say that I didn’t know that…but not wanting to push her into doing something that she obviously felt was wrong (and apparently dangerous), I answered something like, “Yeah, oh, well, we don’t have to sew.”

My logical brain scoffed. I already had one foot planted in my father’s agnosticism and was secretly turning away from my mother’s Baptist church, and Donna Jean’s nonsense was laughable. Or was it? My mind raced. Had I sewn anything on a Sunday before?? I had. Yikes. Could Donna Jean’s proclamation be true?? Nah. But could I be sure?? Pain scared me. Building up a large cache of stitches of it that would have to be endured before death scared me not a little. We didn’t sew that day, nor did I sew on a Sunday for many, many years.

I’ve had pain now and then in the years since God’s ways were revealed to me by Donna Jean. Maybe I’m paying down the cache. Or maybe there’s a Christian equation that looks something like this:

(Life allotted) + (Sunday stitches sewn) – (Pain stitches experienced) = Time Remaining

Who knew God was a mathematician?

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FaceBook.  FB.  Time-sucking, discount-store blog.  “Friends” you’ve never met on the outside of a screen feel your pain and share your excitements with a simple click; causes and politicians can be supported with the touch of “Share”.  Surely this is Nirvana.

I used to blog regularly, at times doing the literary equivalent of attending Black Friday sales in the wee hours, searching for the perfect word or turn of phrase to complete the day’s post.  Now, through FaceBook, I take on the evils of real Black Friday with a mighty click.  Climate change:  Click!  GMO crops:  Click!  Romney’s dog on the car roof?  Click!  Click. Click. Click!

Back in the real world, there’s an insect for that, although the Click Beetle’s clicking tends to scare off predators because of its sound and action, not its support of causes.  The mechanism is a spine on the prosternum which snaps into a corresponding notch on the mesosternum.  Not only does it create a clicking sound, but it can bounce the beetle into the air, so it’s useful when the critter is on its back and needs to right itself.  Evolution has not yet provided our click beetle with an “Unfriend” button.


It was Karan Cross of http://www.thewildinside.blogspot.com who “got me on FaceBook,” as they say.  As anyone who sells handmade items will tell you, social networking is a way to spread the news of what you are creating, and, being a smart dealer, Karan made it easy for me to try the drug.   It quickly progressed to being the first thing I do each morning with subsequent fixes throughout the day.  The personal page was soon supplemented by a Wizened Eye Photography page.  If you want people to “Like” your art, it isn’t necessarily good to mix personal observations, loves and hates with the more dignified artistic self you wish others to see…  Or, put more succinctly, I soon had two f***ing FB pages to manage.

Inevitably, the question “Why?” arises.  I sip my morning coffee and click to see what’s new.  A high school classmate posts a new photo of her granddaughter, stunningly beautiful and sparkling with personality.  Click!  A distant neighbor describes a morning’s activity in Ireland. Click!  A cartoon makes me laugh out loud (or, more precisely, LOL).  Click!  A new painting is unveiled, a hand-crafted silver bracelet displayed, a haiku shared.  Click, click click!  Awareness of someone’s need or illness is made.  A dinner recipe tempts me.  Whispers and shouts from around the world, taken in nibbles that I swallow- or left as crumbs on a plate for other scavengers of cyberspace to forage.

And so, although it doesn’t fend off enemies or right me when I’m on my back, like the beetle, I’ll keep on clicking.  My FaceBook friends, thank you for being a part of my life.  This post’s for you.


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That’s Odd

And so the New Year, an odd-numbered one, approaches.

Many years ago, my husband and I came to superstitiously believe that there was goodness in the odd-numbered years (and toil and trouble in the evens). After all, we were married on 11/03/1973, as odd a date as one could find. I had a stress-induced miscarriage in 1974, two days after my ex- sued for custody of our daughter. Our move to the North Country was in 1/1975, marking a new age of freedom from the constant threats and harassment that had been visited upon us by my ex-husband. I was diagnosed sterile in 1976; our son was born in 5/1977. The many other “proofs” of our theory slip my memory, but it did seem to be a definite pattern in those days. 

As calendars are a human construct, I suppose the whole “good year / bad year” idea lacks any rational basis. Indeed, recent years have blended ups and downs – until 2016. (And if I’m honest, I had a couple of things to be very thankful for in the past twelve months: the “salvation” of my grandson from meds that were poisoning him, and the birth of sweet Ada come immediately to mind.)

2017 is almost upon us. May it bring us reasons to have hope, reasons to rejoice, and may it bring us – collectively – reason.

Posted in Commentary, Family History, Philosophy, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

On Track


Eve and I ringing the bell

This weekend my husband and I met our son and his family at the Adirondack Museum in Blue Mountain Lake, NY.  The place is interesting and its grounds are lovely with quite a wonderful view of the much of the lake, but for me, besides the fact that a pair of moleskin britches and a diary belonging to my father are housed in the museum’s archives, the main attraction is the old steam locomotive that once carried the wealthy over the 3960′ between Racquette Lake and Blue Mountain Lake which could not be navigated by boat.

IMG_4640-1-2I was about seven years old when my father parked our station wagon beside Rte. 28 and led us a short distance into the woods on a seldom-used trail.  He didn’t tell us where we were going, probably because he wasn’t sure just what we’d find, but eventually we emerged onto a broad, cindered opening.  There were no rails remaining, but we followed the cindered bed a very short distance past a worn, elevated water tank, and then caught our first glimpse of what we would later always refer to as “The Old-Timer”:  two open-air rail cars and an old steam locomotive.  It was a thrilling discovery!  We spent a very long time climbing all over it, pretending to be engineer, passengers, and crew, and taking imaginary trips.  It was an excursion that came to be part of several future family camping trips.

Years later, I took my own children to visit The Old-Timer, but to our great disappointment, it was gone.  The roof that had covered it was falling in, and the water tank was down and broken.  Empty beer bottles told a much more modern story than the one I knew.

Although I did not know it, The Adirondack Museum was created in 1947 by Harold K. Hochschild as an effort to protect the steam locomotive and two cars that had been abandoned on the Marion River Carry between Utowana and Racquette Lakes.  Although the museum opened in 1957,  The Old-Timer wasn’t moved there until some years later.

My father knew of the train because he had taken the canoe trip through the Fulton Chain of Lakes, Racquette Lake, then through Utowana and the Marion River to Blue Mountain Lake, a ninety-mile route that eventually ends in Saranac Lake.  Although he never rode the train, there was a small conveyance that carried his gear over The Old-Timer’s tracks.

Marion River Carry Bill Toporcer and friends 1931 (2)








My father on the right atop the canoe.

Marion River Railroad 1931 (qf)

The train cars in 1931 (above), and history repeating (below).


What a wonderful 71st birthday gift!

Posted in Family History, Memories | 7 Comments

Killeen 1945 – 2016

Note:  It has been more than a month since I wrote this piece, and during that time, Killeen entered Hospice.  She died on June 27, 2016. 

My adult life has been accompanied by a sound track, a clear, exact, personal audio that plays privately in my head.

I met Killeen online.  You might say  it was on a dating site, because after all, isn’t “dating” what a lot of genealogical research is about?  Short, ancestry-related emails led to us meeting at the site of some mutually interesting historical data and to the start of a fond friendship.  Over the past decade, the two of us have covered a lot of historical ground.  

Killeen has a word for our travels together:  poots.  I don’t remember exactly how or when she coined that, but a poot is understood to mean a genealogical adventure of undefined duration involving travel in a car.  Our poots have taken us up and down both sides of the St. Lawrence River between Brockville, Ontario, and Cornwall, stomping through cemeteries, courthouses, libraries, historical societies, and any place we knew our ancestors had been, trying them on:  seeing what they saw, walking the ground they walked.  

Saratoga County trip with Killeen 2006 054

Our most memorable poot was a four-day stomp around the Upper Hudson valley from Halfmoon, Saratoga, to Lake George and even over into Vermont, because as Killeen said, “I like to feel where they were.”  She came from her home in Toronto, picked me up, and we headed across the Adirondacks.  It was late afternoon by the time we reached Halfmoon, our first task was to find a place to stay, and it being our first overnight poot, I was wondering just how this was going to go:  she is a lesbian, I am not.

We found the perfect place.  It was a small gaggle of mom-and-pop-run cottages on the south shore of Round Lake (which, being round, probably couldn’t actually have had a north, south, east, or west side of it.)

Cozy Cottage where Killeen and Pood stayed  006 with sign

The man and woman who owned and cared for it were quite close to being somebody’s ancestors, but they kept it with great care and were thrilled to have us.  Our cottage had two bedrooms and a large sitting, dining, cooking room with cable TV.  It was there that Killeen introduced me to Law and Order:  Criminal Intent, both of us agreeing that one of its stars was a pretty sexy hunk!  Apparently one can admire a cheesecake without desiring a taste.   I can’t remember his name.  Killeen would know.

A few months ago we talked about taking another poot this spring.

She called last night to tell me that she has a brain tumor.  Her chemo, targeted at the metastatic bladder cancer she’s dealing with, will be put on hold while her doctors take on the new site in her amazing brain.

Killeen.  One of the brightest, sharpest minds I’ve ever known.   “Like a trap,” was the way I’d describe it, for she’d remember my gazillion ancestors better than I could, remember any detail of my personal and family life that I shared with her, and would – and did – hold me to task for my role in any personal problems I faced.  We have had many laughs and chuckles together, sometimes she’d stop the car to yell at me because she’d lost patience with my inability to coordinate driving directions and map, and once on a balcony overlooking Ottawa’s Byward Market I got drunk with her (Killeen could drink anyone under the table) while she listened to the story of the most heart-breaking situation of my life.

“My doc said it’s probably metastatic, but she doesn’t know yet.  She noticed I was walking funny, and my mind… I don’t know if I’m still able to email.”  Without saying so, my dear friend Killeen was saying goodbye.

This morning’s thoughts come to me through tears and accompanied by the voice of Tom Waits.

Now it’s closing time, the music’s fading out,
Last call for drinks, I’ll have another stout.
Well I turn around to look at you, you’re nowhere to be found,
I search the place for your lost face, guess I’ll have another round
And I think that I just fell in love with you.

Killeen 2005

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