Hyde Bay Logo Herbert Pickett's Family History
Summers

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Herbert Pickett, Jr. writing:

      Summers are a special time in a child's life: the absence from school, warm weather, vacation events. Summer is especially so for a teacher's family, for it is a time of total family togetherness as the father has the long vacation, too. So it was with us.

      The first few summers were spent at the farm in Decatur, 1919, 1920, and 1921. It was a time of extra work, of course, so Dad's help was welcome. The farm had been deeded over to him in 1919. We got there just in time for haying. In mid-August, thrashers came to harvest the oats.  The last major harvest was filling the silo with ensilage, that is, chopped up corn, stalks and all, which took place after we returned to Baltimore.

      Dad referred to the farm as 120 acres, but the contract for sale describes it as 100 acres, more or less. There was a small orchard above the house, including one or two yellow transparent trees, which ripened in August.  Past the sap house a lane ran up between the best field and the property line, which was lined with big old sugar maple trees. Beyond the fields was the "sugar bush," a grove of maples, which was part of the pasture. Beyond the fields there was a large scrubby pasture going down to a small brook. By the property line on the edge of the pasture was a big old beech tree into whose smooth gray bark, Mother and Dad had carved their initials before they were married. Back at the point where the lane met the sugar bush was a slippery elm tree, and Dad often broke off a twig to chew on the sweet bark.

      Every evening before a supper there were chores to be done, which meant the evening milking. One summer, it must have been '21, I had the job of going up to the barway at the foot of the lane to bring in the cows. Generally they were waiting there, or up by the sugarbush. I was assisted in this by Teddy, Grandpa’s "shepherd dog" whose genes and appearance were predominantly collie. I opened the bars and Teddy did the rest. One afternoon, they weren't at the barway, so I walked up to the sugar bush, but they weren't there, either. I pressed on and found them munching grass happily in the pasture. At this point, Teddy decided that the pursuit of some woodchucks was more important and deserted me. I had noticed that his technique was to get one or two cows going and the rest would follow. So I began to chase the nearest. It didn't work. They scattered up into the sugar bush and I got madder and had no luck. I had to go back in tears and shame to the folks who were sitting on the back stoop chatting grown up talk. Grandpa said, O Pshaw, Mother and Grandma were comforting, and Dad went off to get the reluctant beasts. Quite an adventure for a four year old!  After evening milking, the cows were taken up the road a few hundred feet to the night pasture, across the road, I guess, between the properties of Joe Nelson and Rosenthal. This may represent the 20-acre difference in the property.

      At the top of the hill on the left was the farm of Fred Clark and his wife Zoë.  I believe they had three daughters, same of whom went to normal school and became teachers. One had contracted TB and spent some time in the sanitarium Mt. Vision, up the Hartwick Valley from Oneonta.  They were good people, getting on in years, good friends of the grandparents. Larry and I used to walk up there to see what was going on when things were dull on our farm.  We were always welcomed. A couple of times in late afternoon, they were about to eat supper and invited us to stay and join them.  We agreed, and Mother had to explain to us that the invitation was a signal to go home, not a chance to eat another meal.

      Down the hill a ways was a small house where John Dunbar lived.  He had a wooden leg, a wooden tube that came out his left pant leg.  No fancy prosthesis far him.  He had one old white horse for what little work he did and transport to town.  I don't know how he supported himself, a pension or something, I guess.  He kept pretty much to himself, but was a friendly sort when approached.  Across from the farm were the barn and house of the Nelsons, a sort of “hill-billy” lot not highly respected by the folks.  Their son Joe became a good mechanic with the advent of the auto, and had the Chevrolet agency in Worcester where Dad bought his first sedan

      Further up the road was the farm of the Rosenthalls, described in the Wallace contract as "Rosenthall and Bull."  They were not good neighbors, and Grandpa had rows with them off and on.  The next farm on the right side belonged to Guy Rodgers, who was a good neighbor, and who sort of looked after the place when it was empty.

      So went the summer on the farm.  After the special harvests, there was time for more fun.  We took picnics to Otsego Lake, either at Rathbun’s at Hyde Bay, or Three Mile Point. We went fishing in Decatur creek, where Dad used to fish as a boy, and once in Crumhorn Lake where we caught quite a lot of sunfish. At least once, the Tags and the Ames came up for their vacations.  They had cars by that time, better ones than our Model T.  The Tags liked the Franklin, which was noted for having an air-cooled engine, no water or radiator to worry about. I remember the whole lot of us going over to see Grandpa Ames and Aunt Lou who were farming at Westville, a hamlet later named Middlefield, up the Cherry Valley creek, just above Milford, over a couple of ridges from Cooperstown. I don't think that lasted very long! Grandpa Ames was a terrible farmer.  They lived in Cooperstown at one point in this period, where finally, the local Universalist Church minister married them

      In April, 1922, Dad sold the farm to one Glancy Wallace, for $1,700, to be paid in amounts of $100 a month more or less, and some sort of assumption of a mortgage of $2,200 still on the place.  Wallace was moving up from Florida to try his hand at New York farming.  The folks rented a nice little stick gothic cottage in Worcester on the grounds of a house belonging to a Mrs. Stebbins. Grandpa and Grandma lived with us. We stayed there for the summer.

      Just up the road was a little stand that sold ice cream and candy.  Grandpa occasionally treated me to a cone, often my favorite, maple walnut. At one side of the property there was a little brook.  Dad canalized a part of the stream, and built little wooden locks.  He made little boats out of shingles and we had fun locking them through.  He also made paddleboats out of the same wood, powered with rubber bands.  We repeated this in the first years of camp.

      One day, there was excitement in town as a small caravan of ram-shackle cars and trucks came down route 7, Main Street in Worcester.  One truck had a pile of crates with a large dog in each, barking and yelping. It was a road show of "Uncle Tom's Cabin" and the dogs were supposed to be the bloodhounds sent by Simon Legree to recover escaped slaves. Mother and Dad went to the show in the Town Hall, and to Dad's high standards of theater, it was something of a farce. Anyway, it was an event.

      There were two surgical events that summer.  I had been having a lot of colds and stuff, and the local doctor suggested that I have my adenoids removed.   An appointment was made and I was taken off to the Fox Hospital in Oneonta and had them snipped out.  I don't recall spending the night, but for a 5 year old, it was a bad scene

      Then Dad had a lump on the back of his neck.  The local Worcester MD said it was a benign fatty growth that might as well come out and he could easily do it.  So one day, Dad went to his office. Under local anesthetic, the Doc started to cut it out.  There was no nurse or other assistant.  After he had been cutting for a while, the Doc said, " O dear, I’m getting into more than I expected.  I can't stop the bleeding for a while."  Dad said, “Let it run and get it over with.”  Finally the lump was removed, and Dad came home with his head swathed in bandages and the back of his shirt bloody.  Our place was only a few steps from the doctor’s office and he had walked over and back. He had the wen with him, wrapped in gauze, which he wanted to feed to the family cat. He said he wanted to have the only man-eating cat in Otsego County, Mother vetoed the idea and quickly disposed or the offending tissue in another way.

      The following summer, 1923, we returned to Worcester.  Robert Ames had joined us February 5th so we had another passenger in our current Ford.  Dad rented a small house on a back street, where the back yard went to the fence of Maple Lawn cemetery.  Once a burial was taking place just over the fence, and I wanted to go over to see what was going on.  Mother, of course, kept me in the house, and I was mad.  I've seen enough of cemeteries since then!   Actually, we didn't spend much time in that house.  At the farm, one Decatur winter was enough for the Wallaces and they wanted out.  Dad took the farm back, (Wallace hadn't paid much on it anyway,) and also bought all his furniture.  It was a great buy, because it contained many antiques and was very good stuff.  They advertised and sold a lot of it on the spot.  Mother once told me that if she knew then what she later learned about antiques; she would have kept more than she did.  At least two items from that deal they kept and used for the rest of their lives. One was the four-poster bed they had refinished at Nelsons in Cherry Valley, and used until Mother had the auction at Craig Lynn.  The other was the massive living room table with the muscular Atlases holding up the corners.

      Another experience that summer was have considerable influence on our lives: Boyd Morrow, Assistant Headmaster at Gilman, had a summer tutoring school at a camp on Lake Ontario on Sodus Bay, New York. The camp was on an island in the bay.  It was a profitable deal; Boyd could practically order any Gilman boy in academic difficulty to come to his school.  Whoever was teaching history that summer suddenly dropped out and Boyd asked Dad to come down and teach the last two weeks of the school.  So the parents packed up and loaded the Model T, taking a supply of vegetables from the farm, together with baby Bobbie, and his diapers, etc., and drove to Sodus.  Boyd had rented a cottage in town for us.  Dad commuted to camp by boat.  I never saw the place; women and children were not allowed on the Island.  During the day, we went to Lake Ontario beaches.  The lake freighters coming into the bay to some coal docks impressed me.  After two weeks, we went back to the farm. I suspect the Sodus experience had some influence on Dad's plans for the summer. He saw a camp in operation, and the possibilities of using his way with boys to make some money to support and educate his brood.  Ed Russell was at Sodus, too and other Gilman faculty.  I am sure they talked about it that fall.

      Labor Day came shortly, and we closed up the farmhouse and all went back to Baltimore.  I don’t remember that trip, and I can't visualize the five Picketts and Grandpa in a Model T. Ford touring car, and a summer's baggage.  Maybe Grandpa stayed behind and came later by train.

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