Joys without Toys

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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)

Waiting and Watching… Willfully

English: Butcher shop in Finley, New South WalesWaiting and Watching… Willfully

 by Angie Brown, Guest Author

One November morning, I was waiting just outside a butcher shop in a friendly neighborhood in Olean.  My husband, Henry, was supposed to come by in a few minutes to drive me home with my purchases.  But, because he was delayed, I had a lengthy wait ahead of me.  Nevertheless, I didn’t mind, because I had entertainment while I waited. Directly across the street was a good-sized field, about the size of a city block.  Local residents preferred to use the unpaved foot-trail that crossed through the empty lot, instead of the paved sidewalk, because it was a shortcut.

As I stood there waiting, two roughly tousled boys appeared, about 10 or 11 years of age.  They walked through the ankle-deep snow carrying a child’s bed frame, a crib as it were.  I was intrigued and hoped my husband would be delayed even more.  I wanted to see what these boys were up to!

The youngsters carried the bed frame through the field, across 8th Street, and started up the steep slope on Sullivan Street.  I couldn’t believe they would attempt to climb that hill. Persisting, however, they finally reached the top, where they tarried for a moment to catch their breath.  Then they slowly ascended about seven steps to the side door of a large house.  I saw them groping for a better hold and easing the bed frame through the doorway, where they disappeared. Shortly, they came out without the bed frame and proceeded to take the same route back.  Then, here they came again.  This time, they were carrying the mattress and proceeded to the same destination.  Leaving the mattress, the boys retraced their steps again. Next, I saw them carrying what appeared to be a large, empty drawer.  I could hear the younger one complaining and the older one reassuring him. It was all they could manage, to carry those heavy pieces of furniture, one right after the other, all that way through the snow and up that steep hill.

After the boys had made two more laborious trips with empty drawers, I began hoping that my husband had stopped for lunch somewhere, because I couldn’t leave now; I had to see what was coming next!  Sure enough, the chest of drawers, minus the drawers, was being carted, the same way to the same place. My husband had still not returned for me, and I breathed a sigh of relief; at least I got to see the baby’s room furnished!

Apparently, the family was in the process of moving, and all hands — big and small — had to be available to help.  The short-cut proved to be a great convenience for the two boys.  It was quite an effort for them, to be sure, but they probably felt a sense of pride in being able to do something meaningful that helped with the family move.

I can just picture them in my mind now, rehashing the episode to their children in the future: “You know what we had to do when we were your age?” And I can imagine how the furniture got bigger, the snow deeper, the trek farther and the hill steeper each time the story was re-told!

(For more articles by Angie Brown, click HERE)