Joys without Toys

Joys without Toys

by Angeline Brown, Guest Author

Where they lived, just within the city limits of Olean, New York, all they had to do was cross the road, walk through Ward’s meadow, trudge across Rusnick’s apple orchard, and “presto”, they were in the woods. The children would often go this way to pick Violets, Trilliums and May Apples in the Spring. Later in the growing season, they often stopped to pick a handful of Choke Cherries. A few would do, because the mouth puckered and felt shrunken from the slightly toxic taste.

They climbed the first hill, which brought them to the stone quarry. It was time now to sit down and throw pebbles to the bottom of the rocks. They made a pleasant echoing sound in the stillness of the woods as they careened from rock to rock on their way down. After a momentary rest, the children continued up the tower line.

This way lead on up, higher and higher. At this point, they stayed alert. Bears were seen here a time or two. Reaching the top provided a wonderful vantage point for observation. From there, they could view much of Olean. They picked out streets and buildings in the city, studying and surveying the whole scene all at once. They were always amazed at the vastness of this view, from the north hill all the way around to the southern boundary of the city.

The children explored the area, wandering to the East and to the West, stopping to make a dam in the pure, running brook. It trickled slowly over stones, making a wide channel to walk across and cool their bare feet. They found crabs (crawdads) under rocks and frogs waiting to catch insects. There were also many other interesting things in the woods: ferns that grew knee high, fragrant honeysuckle bushes, and mosses that looked like green velvet. Vines twisted around tall trees, high out of sight, and many hemlock evergreens held tiny, baby cones that were being rocked to-and-fro on the branches by a gentle breeze.

Going to the other side of the hill, they found the remains of a dwelling: just the shallow cellar with part of the wall intact. Later they learned it was a home that had burned down about a hundred years before. Also visible nearby were some rotting fence posts and a dilapidated gate, which probably kept a horse or cow enclosed.

Walking down to a point near the bottom of the hill, they found an overgrown path and a water hole with water still trickling in from a spring higher up. Continuing down the facsimile of a path, they saw flying squirrels leaping from tree to tree and chattering noisily, warning others about the intruders.

On towards the road, they encountered an elderly gentleman working in a large garden. He was dressed in blue overalls and a straw hat, and pushed a cultivator. He stopped and mopped his brow. “Hello,” he called. “Hello, Mr. Curtiss” replied the children. They recognized the man; he often walked along the road to the garden. They visited for a few moments, and then walked to the road towards home.

This way proved to be a lot longer than the shortcut they had taken earlier. Along the way, the children noticed a herd of Holsteins in Malone’s pasture and the large, unpainted barn that housed them, plus a couple of dogs that gave them a friendly greeting.

Passing a few more country homes, they reached their own road. As they caught sight of their house, they could almost smell the cabbage rolls that were cooking on Mom’s stove. Home at last, after a long afternoon. With a surge of fresh energy, the youngest child bolted through the door, yelling, “Last one in is a rotten egg!”

(For more short stories by Angeline Brown, click HERE)

The Season’s Touch

Violin Stock PhotoThe Season’s Touch

By Angie Brown, Guest Author

The unshaven elderly man, dressed in a double layer of overcoats, a woolen knit hat pulled snugly over his ears, and black unbuckled overshoes, stood on the corner of a busy main street. He was standing with his back close to the massive building where the throng of people were coming and going near the double door entrance. The woolen mittens covering his hands held a songbook. It was the Christmas season and he stood erect, singing lustily, in a deep haunting voice. What was so unusual was that he was not asking for a deed of mercy. He was singing with delight, as could be seen from the joy on his face. Occasionally, he picked up his small violin and brought forth a sweet musical arrangement while he sang. His excellent baritone voice was noticed, and the moving crowd slowed its pace as they approached.

Alex Kallenbach, the vice president of Maier, Jones and Kallenbach law firm, was hurrying from the parking ramp to his office on the fourth floor of the building. He had observed the elderly gentleman before, but this morning, as he looked at the singer, he stopped and listened. He engaged him in conversation. The singer pulled his mittens off and flipped through a few pages of his book, and said, “Here’s a favorite. Would you like to hear it”? “Sure,” was the reply. As the strong, low-pitched voice started “We Three Kings”, Alex joined in and finished the song with the stranger. They laughed, shook hands and Alex thanked him, going through the doors of the building. “Good morning,” Alex sang the greeting, happily seating himself at his desk. His partners took a moment to look in his direction. “A.K. must be in a rather good frame of mind today,” they thought. The day passed swiftly and surprisingly well.

The next morning, there he was again at the corner, the violin was sending out its message, and again the glow on the singer’s face was evident. Alex stopped beside the stranger and joined in with “Joy to the World.” He was having so much fun that he continued singing the next Christmas song as well. Finishing that, he picked up his briefcase and walked the four flights of stairs to his office instead of taking the elevator. He wanted a few more minutes to bask in the atmosphere of the lightness he felt.

All week long, Alex was filled with energy and enthusiasm. Every morning, he sang with the stranger. His zeal was contagious. Others observed the new attitude as they worked. The clerks next door in the advertising offices walking by heard the jovial tone coming from the law office and wondered what was going on. At the end of the lengthy hall in the medical office, the secretary mentioned, “There’s a whole new air on this fourth floor.” By the end of the week, she too found herself happily encouraging the patients who came in.

Every door on the fourth floor was dressed in fresh evergreens with bright, red ribbons. This year, all the offices in the building were having a party together in the restaurant on the ground floor. The morning of the party, Alex, as usual, accompanied the singing gentleman with a few carols and then he said, “Sir, you are a trained baritone. Surely you’ve been singing before, haven’t you?” “Oh, yes,” was the answer. “I’d like to invite you to our Christmas party this afternoon at five p.m. Bring your violin,” said Alex. The man smiled a grateful “Thank you,” as the lawyer entered the building.

Alex mentioned the stranger to the others, and it was decided that the collection they usually take to benefit some needy person should be given to the singer. At five o’clock, the party was in full swing when they heard the sweet strains of “O Holy Night” coming from the hallway. Opening the door, the crowd found no one there, but the old violin was there, with a note tucked into the strings which read: “Wise Men Still Seek Him.”

(For more short stories by Angie Brown, click HERE)

Bird Days

Bird Days

By Angie Brown, Guest Author

It was a warm, sunny day, and I left my front door wide open for fresh air. I then busied myself with the chores of the day. Suddenly, I heard the sweetest musical note coming through the open door. I looked out to see a rosy colored, male house finch sitting on the hanging begonia planter. He was apparently calling to his mate, because she quickly came flying in to join him. They buried themselves in the middle of the pot, under the leaves, wriggling and chattering, and, finally, they flew away. I wondered, “Are they planning to use the planter for a nesting site? Should I allow them to demolish the flowers, knowing also that they can leave an untidy mess on the porch? The birds may be back any time now with building materials, so I’ll have to decide quickly.”

While I was trying to make a decision about whether to encourage or discourage such a venture, Mother Nature solved the problem. The sky grew dark. It thundered, and the rain came with the wind. Lightning streaked through the atmosphere, and the rain just poured down.

Apparently, the birds found a sanctuary more suitable than my front porch and did not return to nest in the hanging begonia planter. They only came to the feeding station out back to share in the daily ration of sunflower seeds and, of course, to give me much enjoyment in watching them.

I’m what they call, “a birder.”

(For more short stories by Angie Brown, click HERE)

Vermont and Back

Vermont and Back

By Angie Brown, Guest Author

One of the places I wanted most to visit some day was the State of Vermont. The opportunity came when my daughter, Janet, and her family moved there. I traveled with her to Bennington to spend a few days. My daughter’s home was near a ski area in the mountains. From there we drove to a high peak, and there we were shown a breathtaking panoramic view which included three contiguous states.

Vermont is pleasing to the eye with its neatness. Streams and numerous small waterfalls flow over a base of white rock wherever you look. White homes and churches nestled in the green-clad mountains present a serene beauty. Life appeared to be slower there, a pace not driven by the fast mania of many other places. In the autumn, the tree colors are vivid, but different from our own in western New York State. The tourists who travel to observe this beauty are called “leaf peekers.” Any people who have retired to Vermont have found successful small businesses there, after wondering how they would stay occupied.

Janet took me to various parts of the state. Vermont is famous for its large homes, some built when the country was first being settled. They were amazingly well kept and in good repair. We saw large farms, endless green fields, and hills with cattle grazing. Some of the larger homes seemed like two homes built together, or a house with a large barn attached. I understand that this was done because of the severe winter weather. In this way, they could go through from one building into the other to stay more comfortable without going outside.

In Manchester, we stopped at a shop that carried only dolls and doll houses of every kind imaginable. Then we drove across an odd-appearing country bridge with artfully designed rails, to the community library. There a small corner nook caught my eye. It contained a large window with a view overlooking a small waterfall and comfortable chairs to sit in and read while listening to the cheerful sounds of the babbling brook. Next was a stop at a clock store. Upon entering, we were bombarded with the ticking of clocks that lined the walls of the store. What an amazing scene – so interesting. The attendant told us that every morning he went through the store winding each one, an all-morning duty.

All too soon the visit came to an end. Janet drove me to the bus terminal where I boarded the bus for home. After a 10-hour trip, I was still exhilarated, but so glad to set my luggage down inside the front door of my own home.

(For more short stories by ANGIE, click HERE)