When I was growing up, my folks had a friend named Joan who had a house at Stratton and she used to come up from NYC quite a bit. She had friends in the movie industry and would bring up movies to show before they hit the theaters – it was a big deal for us, I remember seeing Downhill Racer with Robert Redford at one of her little parties. One weekend Joan took our pet chicken Henny Penny to visit NYC. Henny Penny had her toes all frost bit off so she walked on two peg legs. We kept her in a box by the woodstove and she’d cackle when she wanted to go out and cackle when she wanted to come in. Joan took her to New York and tried to find diapers and leashes, but had no luck. Still, Henny Penny was the hit of the town and came back to us with a little plastic plate with pictures of all she saw in New York.
One weekend, when I was about 14, my family went to visit Joan in her apartment on Bleeker Street in Manhattan. I’d been to a big city once before, and that was Boston, and I was so scared that I’d get mugged that I went out and bought Bruce Tegner’s book of judo so I could practice protecting myself. In New York City I was just so amazed to see the tall buildings and no greenery, my parents had to tell me to stop looking up. We went to Beatlemania and I was just as amazed to see all the girls screaming when Paul came down to sing Yesterday.
At that point we were all milking cows back in Vermont, so of course we were all awake at 4:30 in the morning in Manhattan. There I was, awake and bored, and decided to walk down all the flights of stairs. . . there were a lot of stairs. . . to the bottom of the building where I found a little grocery store. I was struck by how small a store it was, and by all the women who came down in their bathrobes to buy two eggs and one banana, and a little bit of bread, really small portions of everything. I was used to going to the grocery store once a week and filling up a cart. So I started chatting with the ladies and the grocer there and they let me volunteer to bag all the groceries. Each of the mornings there I was, and that’s what I remember from my first trip to New York City.
Kids will offer to help just because they want to. Yesterday I was sawing cedar at Lee Blackwell’s farm, Blackwell Roots in Cabot, and a car pulled up and parked in behind me with people watching me saw. There was a kid in the car who finally got up the courage to come out. He asked if he could watch me for a few minutes, so I said sure. He said “I can help you move the boards off.” I said sure. I gave him ear protection and I gave him gloves and he tailed the mill for me for two logs. He said I didn’t have to pay him and I said don’t worry, I won’t.
I’m sawing all cedar for Lee, all 4×4’s and 1×6’s, he wants to build some kind of new greenhouse and crates for storing new vegetables and boards for siding. I’ve applied for a Farm Viability Program grant to get an edger for these sawing jobs. It will let me do a lot more boards every day, of better quality, and it will go ever faster if I get help (older help) because we can use two machines at once instead of putting boards back through the same mill, which is what I do now. I’ll find out if I get the grant in January.