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Saturday, June 17, 2017

In Which We Visit the Past, Near Home




This is nothing to do with books.

David and I were coming back from a morning trip to Traverse City (Bruce was taking care of business for me in Northport) when we saw signs along Eagle Highway for an estate sale. Following the signs, we turned onto Alpers Road and found ourselves at an old farmhouse where we’d had dinner back in the early 1980s, when friends from Australia lived there and raised sheep. I didn’t remember the porch, and the dining room didn’t seem familiar, but when we walked into the kitchen the memories came flooding back.


Old “Pops”! On long visits to his son and daughter-in-law, Pops would hold court at the kitchen table. Mention a place anywhere in the world, and Pops would exclaim, proudly and with a big smile, “Oy bin theah!” His hobby was working on clocks, and he was happy to show them off. He was also renowned for his limericks, but I won’t share any of those here.

Before they moved to this farmhouse, our Australian friends had lived off another road, uphill from Lake Leelanau, and I remember another dinner party there, featuring fresh venison. “You’re eating Bambi,” a friend (not the hostess) told me with a meaningful look, but she was eating Bambi, too, and Bambi was delicious. Then she handed me a bottle of wine and an opener and told me to open the bottle. I said, “I don’t know how,” and without missing a beat she said, “Then it’s time you learned.” I think of Linda saying those things every time I drive past Les and Marina’s old house on Lake Leelanau Drive, so I think of her often.

At the Alpers Road farmhouse, however, apart from memories of Pops, what was clearest in my mind was going out to the barn to see the sheep. It was winter, and the sheep were crowded together like fish in a school, their breath rising in little white puffs as they bleated and baa-ed, each sheep voice with its own distinctive register and tone. I remember sinking my fingers into the wool on one animal’s back, straight down, all the way to the knuckles.

Besides memories, what I loved most at the sale were the old orchard ladders. There were so many of them, and they made such interesting compositions in front of and against the old barn. They are also mute testament to hard work. I'm trying to remember what the pay was for picking cherries back in 1970, when I first came to live in Traverse City. Seems to me it was 95 cents a lug for tarts and $1.15 a lug for sweets? Maybe the other way around. If anyone remembers, let me know.






Well, I didn't find a peening jig and hammer and whetstone (let me know if you have a source for those items, too), and there was nothing in the few books that I had to have, but David carried home a small garden tractor battery, and we agreed it had been pleasant to stroll around the grounds and through the old house again and relive memories of old friends -- an altogether lovely interlude.


2 comments:

Deborah Case said...

How big a whetstone do you want? Your adventure sounded lovely!

P. J. Grath said...

I'm not sure, but the whetstone is the easy part. The peening jig and hammer are the hard part. Since very, very few people mow their fields with scythes any more (probably even the Amish don't), the equipment for keeping a scythe sharp is hard to come by.