Linda Roorda

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  1. Shearing the Flock

    Tho the books are geared to a younger audience, you won't regret the read, Chris!
  2. Shearing the Flock

    Spring is my favorite season, and the best time for the annual shearing of the homestead’s flock of sheep. Having never observed this being done, I spoke with Trish and Steve Barrows in Candor who raise Jacob sheep. Steve prefers late April to shear their sheep, but said that many prefer to shear a bit sooner. He learned to shear sheep with a few nicks and blood along the way – mostly on the sheep, not unusual. He showed me his vet kit with all the accoutrements to sew up any cut made by the shears, pointing out that dental floss makes the best suture material because of its strength. They have a set of old-fashioned hand shears, but it is obviously easier to use power tools. Steve also said that “because of the dense lanolin in their wool, each of the Jacob sheep clogs up one set of blades while being shorn.” Trish shared her book with me on raising sheep, Your Sheep, A Kid’s Guide to Raising and Showing, by Paula Simmons and Darrell L. Salsbury, DVM. I found it a helpful read, wishing I’d had a book like that as a teen to raise my lamb. I also noted with interest in Your Sheep (pg. 52) that among the various reasons we fought for our independence from Great Britain in 1776 was the fact that King George had banned the colonists from buying wool-spinning machinery or sheep from Europe. So, with typical American ingenuity and pride, we entrepreneurs got going and built our own cottage industries which led to the eventual industrial revolution. But, back to our task at hand - shearing a sheep. Specific holding positions are key to reduced struggling and, thus, less injury to the sheep and the shearer. To begin shearing, position the sheep in front of you in the seated position. To get a sheep sitting, not its preferred position, put your thumb into its mouth behind the teeth, bend the head to the right and across its back, lowering the sheep to the ground. With the sheep resting in a sitting position, hold its upper body between your legs. Shearing position: As you bend over your sheep, shear the belly, crotch and legs first. Then, laying the sheep on its right side with your right knee at its brisket (chest), shear the wool from the rear leg, up across its side toward the ears. Next, move its head back as you shear the neck and under the jaw. Continue to shear up its back toward the head as you reposition the sheep between your legs and start to shear the remaining side. It is also helpful to shear as close as possible in specific patterns for each area until all wool is removed. Second cuts (going over the same area twice) are discouraged as they leave short pieces of virtually useless wool in the fleece. A good source for a pattern of shearing cuts is found online here. Shearing time is also a good time to check the health of each sheep. By taking time to trim the hooves, give vaccinations (not available on the colonists’ farms), worm them, and check for external parasites or any skin infections, you will shepherd a flock of healthy sheep with valuable wool. Once the fleece is off your sheep, you need to “skirt” it by spreading it out on a table made of wire racks. This process is to remove debris (i.e. vegetative matter, or VMs as is the common term), such as burdocks or other weeds, bits of hay embedded in the wool, etc. Next, washing the fleece is vital, either by sending it to a mill for the complete process, or by doing this yourself. Soak the wool for about 20-30 minutes in very hot soapy water several times to remove dirt and melt off the lanolin. Trish warns, “Do NOT pour the lanolin-rich water down your drain - you will clog up your sewer system over time.” Do not agitate the wool at this stage. When done soaking, gently squeeze out excess water and repeat a few more times. With today’s modern technology, Trish Barrows said she puts the fleece into a pillowcase to wring the water out in the washing machine. After the soaking/washing process, rinse the wool a few more times to remove the last vestiges of dirt, grime and soap that might still be embedded in the wool. Finally, lay the fleece out on wire racks to dry where it will have good air circulation. Dyeing the dry wool can be done several ways. I was surprised to read in Your Sheep that you can use Kool-Aid to dye the wool, but also bright-colored crepe paper in rolls (not streamers), dyes from craft shops, and Rit or Tintex commercial fabric dyes. Trish showed me her binder from classes she had taken which displays her dyed wool with coloring based on various flowers and other items used in the dyeing process. In fact, Trish told me, “It took about a large garbage bag full of Black-eyed Susan flowers and stems to dye ten small skeins various shades of yellows and browns!” Other natural items for dyes include black walnut and butternut hulls, sumac for gray coloring, avocado pits for reds, while vinegar or other additives help vary the shading – for example, copper can give a greenish tinge. “Basically, the more plant materials you have, the deeper the dyes,” Trish added. Different sheep breeds also have different types of wool. Some have a scratchy fleece, best for rugs, like the Scottish Black Face. The softest wool, like Merino, is excellent for delicate clothing items, while a medium coarseness is good for those cozy-warm sweaters. Trish stated, “There is a purpose for every type of wool. Each sheep is even individual in coloring. Our Jacob sheep have a medium wool, good for sweaters, hats and socks or mittens.” Once the wool is dried after washing and dyeing, it’s a good idea to pick through it again. “It seems you never get all the bits out of a fleece,” Trish added. “When that’s done, you need to get the wool ready for spinning. You can use hand cards which look like cat/dog slicker brushes. They even out the wool into fluffy rolls called rolags. [A rolag or roileag is a Scottish/Gaelic term referring to a roll of wool fiber which is used to spin into yarn.] Wool fibers are then pulled from the ends of these rolags and spun into yarn on bobbins (which look like big spools) by using a spinning wheel. The yarn can then be wound into balls for knitting, or onto smaller bobbins for weaving.” Small upright spinner: Antique wool spinning wheel, also called a great wheel or walking wheel: A great reference for life on the homestead which Trish recommended is Laura Ingalls Wilder’s “Little House on the Prairie” book series, particularly “Farmer Boy.” How well I remember reading this series and the TV show. I retrieved my copy from the bookshelf to reread about the old days and old ways, including weaving. And it all brought back memories of going to DeSmet, South Dakota while helping our daughter, Emily, move to Brookings, S.D. for grad school. The Ingalls homestead It was exciting to have the opportunity to see the prairie land of the Ingalls’ original family homestead, visit their homes in DeSmet, and see photos and learn more of their history.We saw how they would have planted a garden, saw the field of wheat partly destroyed by the previous day’s hailstorm just like what the Ingalls dealt with, a soddy built into the bank, the group of trees which had surrounded their original house, watched a very young foal running and kicking up its heels with great gusto all around its Mama, and a replica of the house Pa built. On the way back from the one-room schoolhouse, I even had the opportunity to take the reins on the mixed team of a black Percheron and a golden-brown Belgian. Granted, they knew their way back to the homestead, but I thoroughly enjoyed driving them as I lay the reins on their necks to ease them through curves on the beaten path! Prairie house. But not a "soddie" !
  3. Do You Love Me?

    Impetuous Peter… the disciple like so many of us, if we’re honest. I tend to speak quickly, not always giving as much thought to my answer as I should. My husband, on the other hand, takes time to formulate his reply. And how often I’ve realized the depth of wisdom he shares in what he’s mulled over. Then, there’s the side of us which promises never to abandon a friend in their time of need. Yet we do. And I can’t help but wonder… aren’t we a bit miffed at denials to protect themselves? Does their conscience ever pierce their heart? Is guilt or shame felt? Don’t they know that a humble heart-felt apology for wrongs done can begin to restore relationships? But, more importantly, have we forgiven them anyway? For faithful are we as the friend who remains supportive with encouragement, no matter what. Which reminds me of the twelve disciples gathered around Jesus and their inner thoughts… no different than us. Unbeknownst to all but Jesus, one of their own, Judas, was in the process of selling out their Lord for thirty pieces of silver, even as they ate the Passover meal together. (Matthew 26:14-16, 17-30) The disciples all knew how much Jesus loved them, so it must have caused great consternation as they heard Him warn Peter that before a rooster crowed twice, Peter would deny ever having known Jesus. Peter protested that he would go to prison or even die with Jesus, but never renounce his best friend! They must have all wondered how their Teacher could think such a thing, let alone say it! (Luke 22:31-34; Mark 14:27-31) After dinner, they went to the Garden of Gethsemane to rest and pray. Judas eventually joined them, bringing a large entourage of soldiers. But then he gave Jesus a traitor’s kiss as soldiers surrounded him. To prove his own devotion to his best friend, Peter rashly sliced off the ear of one of the Roman guards with his sword. But, with tender love for those who meant him harm, Jesus gently restored the man’s ear, and rebuked Peter for such hasty behavior. (John 18:10-11) And then, as Jesus was being arrested, His closest friends turned their backs in abandonment and ran. (Mark 14:50-52) Still later that evening, as Peter warmed himself around a fire in the courtyard during Jesus’ trial, a servant girl thought she recognized him. Concerned for his own life after Jesus’ arrest, Peter vehemently denied being among Jesus’ closest friends… three times he rebuked their remembrances, the third time swearing like the old fisherman that he was. Just then a rooster crowed for the second time. And Peter immediately recalled what Jesus had predicted. His heart sank in broken-hearted grief. He had denied that he’d ever do such a thing to his closest of friends, and yet that’s exactly what he had done. Feeling utterly ashamed and alone, he walked away from everyone, and wept tears of great sorrow and remorse. (Mark 14:66-72) Once again, Peter reacted rashly, thinking he was deflecting harm to himself by denying the truth without taking the time to think of the consequences. Yet, Peter loved his Lord. And Jesus loved Peter… unequivocally. For, after Jesus’ crucifixion and then resurrection, the angel in the tomb told the women, “[Jesus] is risen! He is not here… Go, tell His disciples and Peter.” To me, those words signify how deeply our Lord loved Peter. Despite Peter’s hasty denials, God wanted to be sure Peter heard and understood the good news! (Mark 16:7) In Luke 24:9-12, we read that as soon as Peter heard about Jesus’ resurrection, he got up and immediately ran to the tomb to check out the story’s validity for himself. So like our impetuous Peter, isn’t it?! But, it also shows how deeply Peter truly loved his Lord! Some days later, unexpectedly meeting their Lord on the shore of Galilee after fishing all night, John retold for us how Jesus asked Peter three times if he loved Him. With a tone of voice that likely reflected his deepest feelings, Peter was hurt that Jesus would ask him the same question for a third time, but Peter replied each time the same, “You know I love you!” (John 21:15-17) Yet, it was all done to help Peter understand that he was truly loved, and forgiven for his denials with his repentant heart… and that Jesus was now giving Him a second chance with a new responsibility. Peter was to reach out to a world of hurting souls with the same love that he had been given from Jesus after his own failures! The reason Jesus was born into this world… the reason He died on a cross… was to pay for the sinful deeds we’ve done, no matter their size. “For we have all sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption of Jesus.” (Romans 3:23-24) As we confess our sins and need for a Savior, we receive God’s most gracious gift of forgiveness. What depths of mercy and grace! A Blessed and Happy Easter to each of you! Do You Love Me? Linda A. Roorda Do you love me? More than all these? You know I do, Lord! A loving friendship. You know my thoughts, my words and my ways, Surely you know how deep is my love. Do you love me? Do you truly love? You know I do, Lord! I’d sacrifice self. Then feed My sheep, meet them in their need, Go to My flock, and lead them in truth. Do you love me? With your heart and soul? Oh Lord, I am grieved! My heart has been stabbed. But oh! the shame of having denied One with whom I’d walked, the leader of hearts. Did you not warn of what was to come? I pledged you my love above all others. I’d follow you Lord, even unto death! I’d never disown my Savior, my God. But when confronted, my heart shrank in fear. I heard my own words deny with alarm. Twice more they claimed I was with the condemned, When out of my mouth came vicious cursing. I winced in shock to hear the cock crow. My heart sank in shame for what I had done. My Lord had said deny Him I would, Now all I could do was bitterly weep. You gazed thru my heart. You saw my soul’s depth. You poured out Your love though faithless was I. And now, Lord, you ask, do I truly love? Yes, Lord, I do! With heart, soul and strength. Then tenderly care for the sheep of My fold. Go to the fields and guide them in truth. Feed them the Word, everlasting life. Shower with mercy and grace in My name. ~~ 08/05/16 All rights reserved. May not be reproduced without permission of author. ~
  4. I have a few things in common with my mother, including a love of history. And, the artwork of Currier and Ives is among our shared interests. If truth be told, I’d frame as many of their lithographs as I could find to fill a room! But, reality says otherwise… Currier and Ives’ commercial artwork success was realized in images of newsworthy events of their day, along with lithographs showing an idealistic view of life simply as it was. And, I think, what draws us to their work is the attention they paid to detail in not only farm life but city life. They effectively left a vivid legacy in print of a long-gone era, an early Americana, which we look back upon with nostalgia for what seems to have been a simpler way of life. Nathaniel Currier, Jr. was born March 27, 1813 at Roxbury, Massachusetts. When he was just 8 years old, his father died suddenly. As the second oldest of four children, he and his 11-year-old brother, Lorenzo, began working to help support their mother Hannah, 6-year-old sister Elizabeth, and 2-year-old brother Charles. Working at a variety of odd jobs, it wasn’t until he was 15 that he discovered his life’s calling - as an apprentice for William and John Pendleton, lithographers in Boston. At age 20, he left his home in Massachusetts for Philadelphia to work for M.E.D. Brown in his engraving and print shop. A year later, in 1834, he began selling lithographs under the partnership name of Stodart & Currier. Yet, only a year later, he felt confident enough to leave that business venture to work alone as “N. Currier, Lithographer.” In 1835, “Ruins of the Merchant’s Exchange N.Y. ,” which depicted a fire that destroyed New York City’s business district, was so successful it sold thousands of copies in just a few days. Thus, his was a successful shop making popular lithographs depicting newsworthy events. His finished work was inexpensive, and gave illustration to events held locally and around the nation where photography would eventually take over. But, more importantly, they were of such quality that his work was in demand by the public, proving his worth as the consummate lithographer. His 1840 lithograph with the long title of “Awful Conflagration of the Steam Boat Lexington in Long Island Sound,” depicted the horrible fire which destroyed 143 lives on board the ship with only 4 managing to survive. The lithograph’s immediate popularity netted Currier a weekly insert in the paper, “New York Sun.” That same year, Currier changed his focus to become an independent print publishing firm. The next change came in 1857 when the business name Currier & Ives began appearing on all artwork. James Merritt Ives, bookkeeper and accountant to Currier, was asked to join as full partner with his business acumen. A few years earlier in 1852, Ives (born March 5, 1824 in New York City) had married Caroline Clark. She, in turn, was sister-in-law to Charles Currier, Nathaniel’s younger brother. Though not an artist, Ives managed the firm financially and made Currier’s printing process more efficient. He assisted as a hiring agent, able to interview and judge who would be best suited to join the firm as an artist. With his innate ability to judge popular interests, Ives also helped chose which images to publish, moving beyond news events to the popular images which have brought so much acclaim to the firm’s repertoire. See a compilation of their lithographs here. Over 72 years of the Currier & Ives partnership, at least 7500 lithographs were published. Using well-known artists, roughly 2 to 3 new images were produced every week between 1834 to 1895. Essentially more than a million prints were made, but not all were published publicly. Lithographs were initially printed in black and then colored by hand in assembly-line fashion. Later, with new techniques, full-color lithographs were developed with a softer look which more closely resembled a painting. “Currier and Ives was the most prolific and successful company of lithographers in the United States.” Nathaniel Currier (d. 1888) and James Ives (d. 1895) left an unequalled legacy. Their lithographs give a full representation of early American life, including “themes of hunting, fishing, whaling, city life, rural scenes, historical scenes, clipper ships, yachts, steamships, the Mississippi River, Hudson River scenes, railroads, politics, comedy, gold mining, winter scenes, commentary on life, portraits, and still lifes” … and various Civil War scenes, including President Abe Lincoln. (See Wikipedia on Currier & Ives.) With their passing, their sons took over the business until 1907. By this time, however, technology had improved such that lithographs were no longer in demand as photography was more readily available. Yet, today, the lithography artwork of Currier & Ives remains an absolute favorite among collectors of early Americana. SOURCE: Wikipedia - Currier and Ives. NEXT: Shearing the Flock ~~ ~~ BOOKS ON CURRIER & IVES: Harry T. Peters: Currier and Ives: Printmakers to the American People (1942), is the authoritative work, containing 192 plates and an excellent introduction. Both Colin Simkin, Currier and Ives' America (1952), and Roy King and Burke Davis, The World of Currier & Ives (1968), contain useful introductions and reproductions. See also Currier's own Currier & Ives Chronicles of America, edited by John Lowell Pratt and with an introduction by A. K. Baragwanath (1968). Read more here.
  5. Thanks so much for your kind words on my poem!

  6. What is Beauty?

    Beauty – we all admire the aesthetic and beautiful in both people and nature, though beauty is in the eye of the beholder they say. Often, as our young girls strive to be beautiful, they imitate the actresses and models they admire on the “silver screen” or magazine covers. But, too often our young girls fail to realize the images are fake, made more beautiful and glamorous by much makeup and the air brush, not a true reality beauty. And, a pretty face may not always have a heart of love. So, what is beauty? And how do we define it? There’s an old-fashioned philosophy which I think still holds true today. “Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as [elaborate hairstyles] and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.” (I Peter 3:3-4 NIV) With those words in mind, when we give of ourselves to benefit others, a depth of beauty is seen through the glow of an unselfish act… with a genuine love for others. We show true character by reaching out to help those in need, especially those who cannot pay us back for such a free gift. It’s a heart of humility, with grace and gentleness, that shines brightly when we don’t call attention to ourselves… and quietly go about living a life of peace by showing honor and respect to all we meet on our path. And what is the opposite of love’s beauty? The generous airs put on to cover that which has been defiled… airs to disguise a selfish attitude of pride leading to self-centeredness and greed. Which brings us back to our question, what is beauty? Smiles to brighten someone’s day. A helping hand to those in need. Sharing the truth with humility. Generous acts of kindness strewn among friends and strangers. An unfading gentle spirit of love and peace found within the selfless heart. Therein lies true beauty… What is Beauty? Linda A. Roorda What is beauty if the heart is shallow Where is glamor when rudeness takes charge And what is charm with selfish desire For what is love but the giving of self? What then are words when the mind deceives What is character with rebellious soul Why enticing lures to captivate hearts For what is virtue but integrity’s truth? What is kindness if the tongue reviles And what is honor without reputation Or the humble soul if boastful and proud For what is grace but gentle elegance? What is adornment when respect has fled What are principles if deceit is the core What is esteem when self is worth more For what is honor but morality’s judge? What then is beauty but innocence pure The charm and grace of respectful repute Humility’s stance with integrity’s honor For what is beauty but the gift of self? ~~ 10/25/16 All rights reserved. May not be reproduced without permission of author. ~
  7. Hiawatha Island, Owego, New York

    Hiawatha Island… The name alone brings to mind a land of legends and visions from a long-ago era. Did the legendary Hiawatha ever frequent its shores? Not likely. But, it is presumed the Iroquois nation once used the island as part of their homeland. Artifacts found in its soil from bygone eras have been donated to the collections at both Binghamton University and the Tioga County Historical Society museums. Hiawatha Island The Big or Great Island, as it’s been called, comprises 112 acres in a beautiful tranquil setting. A few miles east of Owego, New York, it’s surrounded on all sides by the Susquehanna River flowing west. Once a bustling retreat for locals and tourists alike, it contained a beautiful three-story hotel and meandering sylvan paths with the island’s dock reached by steamboats throughout the summer months. Earliest records for the island note that Britain’s King George III issued a mandamus (a writ directing a lower court to perform a specific act) dated January 15, 1755, deeding land, including the island, to the Coxe family in exchange for their territory in Georgia, the Carolinas and the Bahama Islands. By 1821, the Coxe family had surveyed and divided the land into small farms with the Big Island designated as lot no.120. Moving to Lounsberry in 1969, I did not pay much, if any, attention to Hiawatha Island during my high school years in Owego, NY. However, about 15 years ago, I discovered a [supposed] ancestral tie that piqued my interest in the island’s history. My earliest genealogical research found a McNeill family paper filed at both the Tioga County Historical Society in Owego and the Schoharie County Historical Society at the Old Stone Church in Schoharie, NY. This paper claimed that a Ruth McNeil, b. 1782 in Weare, New Hampshire, was the daughter of my John C. and Hannah (Caldwell) McNeill of Weare, Londonderry and New Boston, New Hampshire. Ruth was noted to have married Matthew Lamont(e). (Note my specific use of one or two “L’s” in the McNeil versus McNeill name.) This is where due diligence pays off in checking all genealogy resources yourself. The person filing that family paper did not reply to my inquiry in 2002. Digging deeper, I found and purchased a McNeil family history from the Montgomery County Historical Society in Fonda, NY simply to see if that family held clues to my own. However, that historical writeup is about the family of John and Ruth McNeil of Vermont who lived in Fulton, NY, with that genealogy listing a daughter Ruth who the researcher was unable to trace further. From personal extensive research on my maternal McNeill family, it is proven that John C. McNeill and Hannah Caldwell married May 8, 1781, that their first daughter, Betsey, was born December 5, 1781, and that she was adopted by Hannah’s childless older sister, Elizabeth. In checking late 19th century census records for Matthew and Ruth LaMonte’s children, they note their mother was born in NY, not NH. With the above John and Ruth McNeil’s family history listing a child named Ruth of whom nothing more was known, I felt there was sufficient circumstantial evidence for Ruth (McNeil) Lamont to be their child rather than a daughter of my John C. and Hannah (Caldwell) McNeill. Furthermore, John C.’s family did not contain the name of Ruth in any older or younger generations as does the Vermont McNeil family. Of additional interest, my earliest ancestors and their descendants consistently spelled their name McNeill while John and Ruth’s descendants consistently used McNeil. Matthew and Ruth LaMonte removed from Schoharie County to Owego, Tioga County, NY in the early to mid 1820s. The second registered deed to the Big Island, dated June 23, 1830, is to Matthew and Marcus LaMonte. Matthew was the husband of Ruth above. Their son Marcus had at least three children: Abram H., b.1831 on the island, Susan Jane b. 1834 (as a teacher, one of her students at the Owego Academy was the young John D. Rockefeller), and Cyrenus M., b.1837. Cyrenus purchased the Big Island in 1872 just before its commercialization commenced in 1874 with picnics and summer events. The earliest known birth on the Big Island was that of Lucinda (Bates) Lillie, born August 16, 1800. It is also known that various squatters took up residence on the island, particularly when owners were absent, making good use of the fertile river-loam farmland. Another tie of note to the island is that of Ezra Seth Barden who was born in 1810 at Lee, Massachusetts. In 1833 he brought his young bride, Catherine Elizabeth Jackson, to Owego where they set up their home on the Big Island. She just happens to be a second cousin of U. S. President Andrew Jackson. The LaMonte family had their main farm directly north of the island where Rt. 17C runs near Campville. They retained a few acres on the island after selling the rest in 1831, selling that small balance of acreage in 1834. From my previous research, the LaMonte family operated a ferry across the river to the island. In 1840, with her five children, Mrs. William Avery Rockefeller (the former Eliza Davison) removed from Moravia, NY to Owego, renting a house on the LaMonte farm. One of her sons, John Davison Rockefeller, Sr., 11 years old at the time, often worked for pennies a day on the LaMonte farm. Born July 8, 1839 in Richford, NY, John D. Rockefeller, world-renowned founder of Standard Oil Company, went to the Court Street Owego Academy, was tutored by Susan Jane LaMonte at her home, and often kept in touch with her on his returns to Owego as an adult. Another student of renown who taught at the Owego Academy was Benjamin F. Tracy, Secretary of the Navy under President Benjamin Harrison. The former Owego Academy at 20 Court Street is an old brick building still very much in use, nicely remodeled, repainted, and well kept over the years. It was in this Federal style building (built in 1827-28) where I began my secretarial career in 1972 as a high school senior. I worked part time, then full time after graduating high school, for Lewis B. Parmerton, Esq., gaining valuable knowledge from his experienced secretary, Kathy. My desk was at the second window to the left of the front door on the first floor, looking out on two tall buttonwood (sycamore) trees which are now gone. The basement then housed the N.Y.S. Department of Motor Vehicles where I obtained my learner’s permit and driver’s license. I will also never forget the sale of a particular old building on Front Street along the river’s edge to Pat Hansen. After all paperwork had been completed and signed, and Ms. Hansen had left, Mr. Parmerton stood in the office with us two secretaries, shaking his head, “I don’t know what she wants that old building for.” Little did he, or Kathy and I, realize then, but Pat Hansen turned her building into the extremely successful store, “Hand of Man,” spurring on the revitalization and growth of Owego’s Front Street businesses which continues to this day! I love poking around in the “Hand of Man,” enjoying the delicate and gorgeous one-of-a-kind gifts. But, among the antiques in the Parmerton office was an oil painting of the Owego Academy, with two young sycamore/buttonwood saplings which stood in front of our office windows. I cannot find a copy of this painting in an online search. The building’s tin ceilings were high and ornate. There were beautiful fireplaces, an old Seth Thomas pendulum clock, an 1850 map designating every road and building in Tioga County, and Mr. Parmerton’s office/library was lined with bookshelves filled to the high ceiling, rolling ladders needed to reach the upper shelves. The floors were wooden, uneven and squeaky in places, with a beautiful dark wood banister going up the stairs to the second level. In fact, taking the stairs to the upper floor, I had occasion to enter the office of two elderly attorneys, the Beck sisters. I remember Rowena Beck, the first woman lawyer in Tioga County. The sisters’ grandfather was Professor Joseph Raff who, in 1875, composed the Blue Tassel Quadrille for the start of a new season on the Great Island. Of further interest, Sedore notes that Raff was the brother of Joachim Raff, an accomplished orchestral composer, who just happened to be “a personal friend of Franz Liszt and Hans von Bulow.” (Sedore, p.23) Small world indeed! Little did I then know the history I was working amongst! When speaking of the island’s early years, one must also include reference to Joseph Shaw DeWitt, or “Old Joe” as he was otherwise known. Coming from Binghamton to Owego about 1841, he was an actor, fireman, businessman and restaurateur. On the side, he made and sold cough drops in a box which looked much like the Smith Brothers box, along with cream candies, and beer. He owned a restaurant on Lake Street, but it was at his hotel on Front Street in Owego which began the greatest period of Hiawatha Island’s history. Here, on August 5, 1873, a number of businessmen met to form a stock company with the purpose of building a steamboat intended for trips on the Susquehanna River between Binghamton, NY and Towanda, PA. They approached Cyrenus McNeil LaMonte, who had purchased the Great Island in 1872, and thus began the island’s “most flamboyant years.” (Sedore p.5) The Owego Steamboat Company had its first boat ready by the end of February 1874. The “Owego” was 75 feet long, 26 feet wide, capable of carrying 200 passengers. Unfortunately, she did not have the most auspicious start to her career. Putting the “Owego” into the river with 20 men aboard on April 6th was the easy part. All too soon, however, they realized her paddlewheels were too light and frequently simply stopped moving. But, that was easy enough to rectify – a man lay down on top of each wheel house, pushing the paddle wheels with his hands to keep them working! What a job that must’ve been! Having finally gotten the “Owego” into deeper water, things only went downhill from there. As they tried to bring her back to shore, someone misjudged and she stopped with a sudden thud on hitting the embankment. This sent several of the men sprawling flat out on the deck. Deciding to take the flatboat to shore (towed behind for emergency situations), the men got safely onto this small boat – only to find it couldn’t handle their weight, and it promptly sank. With chagrin, their only option left was swimming to shore, likely glad it was the middle of the night with few fans around to observe the indignity of it all. Sixteen days later, though, the “Owego” was steaming to Binghamton and back, and the Big Island was being cleared of brush where a dance hall and restaurant were to be built. “Old Joe,” the first caterer, fed all picnickers who came to the island for its opening day on Wednesday, June 10, 1874. Professor Raff’s cornet band provided entertainment on the “Owego”. Ever the entrepreneur and entertainer, “Old Joe” was ready for customers wearing Indian feathers and war paint on his face, and dubbed his restaurant “Hiawatha’s Wigwam.” Hiawatha Grove was the name for the eastern end of the island and of the train station on the opposite north shore (off Rt. 17C near Campville). Soon, though, the Big Island began to be known by the name of Hiawatha Island thanks to the showmanship of everyone’s favorite businessman, “Old Joe.” Over the ensuing nearly 20 years, the Hiawatha House hotel was built and eventually expanded to three stories with a dance hall, restaurant, and honeymoon suites, with its front balconies overlooking the river. Gravel strolling paths were made, with small “arbors” built along the paths to sell confections, cigars and lemonade. Games were played on the lawns of the island, and scull races were held on the river. Clam bakes were also quite popular, as was the dancing held until the early morning hours, keeping the steamboat busy at the dock. Many businesses and churches from local and numerous outlying communities soon found it a popular picnic destination spot over the years. In 1875, a new and better dock was built. It was 75 feet long with thirteen 16-foot-long piles driven to a depth of 10-1/2 feet. Sedore comments that nine of these original piles are still visible when the river level is down. This was another boom year for the island. In September, the “Owego” was sold with plans in the works for a new steamboat, the “Lyman Truman,” bigger and better at 120 feet long. She was launched March 9, 1876 from the riverbank just west of the Owego bridge, taking far longer to do so than expected. She broke the ropes as she lurched forward, gliding about a mile downstream before being stopped and held in place. Her engine and boiler were not yet completed; sadly, these, too, met with misfortune. The day before the “Lyman Truman’s” launching, the boiler exploded while being tested in a machine shop on Hawley Street in Binghamton. Parts flew upward and outward, some landing 500 feet away, another part embedded itself into the roadway, severing a gas pipe with noxious fumes filling the air. Two people were killed instantly, a third soon died from his injuries, and ten others received various light to severe injuries. By mid May, the “Lyman Truman” had a new boiler in place, just in time for the island’s full season. This was 1876, our nation’s centennial year, and celebrations were being held everywhere, with the island no exception. A great loss, however, was the passing of “Old Joe” in April, but the island’s summer calendar moved forward. The Hiawatha House hotel had just had its third floor added and was ready for the grand opening on June 7th of Hiawatha Grove on the Big Island. About 2000 people came for the July 4th centennial celebrations on the island. Even with a brief heavy shower, everyone was in high spirits. The Declaration of Independence was read along with prayer, a song, and a lengthy speech. Croquet and various lawn games were played, and bands provided music for dancing couples, along with a great deal of delicious food being consumed by those enjoying the day’s events. Every year, travel to the island was enjoyed by thousands. There were other steamers like “Helen,” “Welles,” “Glen Mary,” “Dora” and “Clara,” with the “Marshland” in use for the 1884 season after the “Truman” had been sold. In 1883, the crowds virtually disappeared with the “Lyman Truman” having been sold, as complaints began surfacing of island/hotel mismanagement in 1882. Now, with the “Marshland” operating in 1884, business picked up again with its 4th of July celebrations reportedly being better than ever with 3000 tickets sold for the day! People were coming from as far away as Elmira, Carbondale, PA, Auburn, NY, Waverly, Candor, Cortland, and, of course, Binghamton, Owego and Nichols. The Grand Army Association held its annual reunion of Civil War veterans with tremendous crowds attending. In fact, by the end of the 1884 season, “the Hiawatha House hotel register [showed] that…people had come to the island from twenty-six states and nine foreign countries.” (Sedore, p.85) In August 1887, Cyrenus LaMonte sold the Big Island, now known as Hiawatha Island, to Dr. S. Andral Kilmer and Company of Binghamton who later sold his half to his brother, Jonas M. Kilmer, in 1892. Apparently, Kilmer had stated he hoped to build a sanitarium on the island. Though the 1888 season was a great success, the island was never again used as a summer resort. The Big Island’s greatest days were unexpectedly silenced forever. The Kilmers made no announcements or promises for opening the 1889 season. The steamboats were leased or sold. Boats were not allowed to dock at the island by the Kilmers, and no one was allowed entrance to the island to observe how their work was coming on the new sanitarium. “The 1889 season came and went without the usual excursions to Hiawatha House and the grove. There was no dancing, bowling or billiards. Hiawatha was closed to the public.” (Sedore, p.111) Though small groups were occasionally allowed entrance to the hotel, the demise of the island’s success was obvious. Instead, the Kilmer family used it as their private family retreat. Sedore includes an 1890 photo of the Hiawatha House (Sedore, p.121, fig.32). Near the dock at the river’s edge, she stood tall, an elegant lady in white, an impressive four stories, with first and second floor balconies, and fourth floor dormers. In 1900, the island was sold by Jonas Kilmer, and a succession of various owners filed through the property in the ensuing decades. Hiawatha House was taken down in 1932 after falling into disrepair as other outbuildings either burned or collapsed with age. Aerial photos from 1900, 1937, and 1955 show how few trees remained on the island. From the highways today, it’s hard to tell what the interior of the island looks like beyond its border of trees along the river’s edge. It has been used during the 20th century for private family retreats and camping to dairy farming. I also recall that Hiawatha Island went on the auction block on August 20, 1988 following financial difficulties by its then current owner. Inquiries about purchasing the island came from Japan and the Arab countries, with an ad in the Boston Globe bringing ten phone calls in two days. Having heard a local land developer intended to purchase the island to strip-mine it, the Historic Owego Marketplace, Inc., also known as the Hiawatha Purchase Committee (a non-profit group of Owego business people), decided to purchase the island to protect it. They barely managed the successful bid at $351,000; yet, with a 10% buyer’s premium, the total purchase price was $386,100. Ultimately, the final cost was over $700,000 with interest payments and other expenses. Numerous people, volunteers, and businesses came together to help raise funds to pay off the purchase price, an accomplishment many thought impossible. A good number of fundraisers were held, with Noel “Paul” Stokey (of Peter, Paul and Mary fame) coming to town to give a concert. After four years, the fundraising group was able to pay back those who had kindly loaned money to the purchase committee. An annual “Walk Through Time” was held on the island along with a Native American Pow-wow. When the Hiawatha Purchase Committee paid off their debt for the purchase in 1993, they turned their ownership over to the Waterman Conservation Education Center in Apalachin for perpetual conservation. The purchase committee insisted on restrictions to keep the island in a natural state forever, and that the name would always be Hiawatha Island. Waterman Center’s director, Scott MacDonald, has said, “From a naturalist’s standpoint, we preserved a very unique piece of land for the community. It truly is the ‘jewel’ of the river.” (Life in the Finger “The Waterman Center plans to use the island for education classes on Native American civilizations, conservation, wildlife, and perhaps archeology.” (Sedore, p.220) In 2006, a family of bald eagles was actually spotted living on this now-protected island! And, I’m sure that many more eagles have made the island their home since then. What a legacy the Hiawatha Purchase Committee has left us for the future. In allowing the island to rest without commercial traffic, its use strictly limited under conservation guidelines, this gem of the Susquehanna once again shines in its natural state. COMING NEXT FOR APRIL: Currier & Ives, Lithographers Extraordinaire BOOK SOURCE: Hiawatha Island: Jewel of the Susquehanna by Emma M. Sedore, pub. Tioga County Historical Society, March 1, 1994. ONLINE RESOURCES: Waterman Center Hiawatha House The Many Lives of Hiawatha Island, Summer 2008 by Bill Wingell Owego Historic District
  8. Where The Heart Soars Free

    Life being what it is, an imperfect entity, there are things that happen to each of us over which we have no control. What we do have control over, however, is our reaction… either to our detriment, or to our recovery and growth. Recently, a friend’s post about PTSD suffered by combat veterans reactivated memories for me. I’m going to share my story because I no longer suffer with it, or certainly not to the degree I once did because bits pop up from time to time, but also because I did nothing to cause it and no longer need be ashamed. Post-traumatic stress disorder - it’s not just a syndrome affecting our military vets returning from the war zone. PTSD carries a host of after effects from various traumas including emotional, physical or sexual assaults, natural disasters, serious accidents, and many other traumatic life-altering situational stressors. PTSD is an invisible pain with its own specialized mental challenges. Unlike visible wounds, it often lacks outward evidence or proof, taking prisoner one’s deepest inner self and emotions. PTSD is typically evidenced by flashbacks, nightmares, difficulty sleeping, panic attacks, and feeling detached from reality, etc., essentially an unstable emotional equilibrium. At times, no one else knows the victim has a problem, who may even be in denial that anything is wrong, or totally unaware of the problem. I know. I was diagnosed with PTSD well after the trauma of verbal rape had occurred in junior high. For me, PTSD reared its head to strike years later after having to steel myself daily in an abusive employment situation. Predating that traumatic event though, my family was abruptly moved from a farming community of everything and everyone I loved to city life, and I was an emotional “mess.” But, I overcame the challenges and adapted, making a new life with new friends. Yet, just a few years later, my family never knew why I became withdrawn, was easily agitated, and startled and screamed easily at the unexpected. I shied away from making close friends, withdrew from a great group of friends in our church youth group being afraid of even them, and typically “clung” to my sister’s side when I should have been making my own friends. I also never shared my fear of the dark, literally sensing someone was right behind me to grab and kill me. It was a very real and horrendous fear that I battled for at least 20 years. I was afraid to tell anyone, fearing they’d think I was absolutely crazy. But, to be fair, I also had no idea a traumatic event in junior high could have been causing my problems. I thought that event had simply been tucked away in the distant crevices of my memory. Only a couple years after that emotional trauma, came taunting/mocking by the neighbor’s sons, or so I assumed, hidden from view in their yard as I took care of my mare. Unfortunately, my hate for them was very real, now wishing I could apologize for my own error. Because, unexpectedly, I was reminded of the incident by the perpetrator some 15 or so years ago who still thought it was hilarious fun at my expense, while I was afraid to share the hurt done. Sadly, it was someone I was very close to, and who does not comprehend the damage her mocking did. Just a few short years later, when returning home after my and Ed’s dates, (he was legally blind, unable to drive), I would park my car as close to the house as possible, and run as fast as possible to get into the house. The closer the car to the door, the more severe the fear. It was laughed about, but I never shared what I feared with anyone except my husband-to-be. (I did share it with my Dad a few months before his passing, and heard the pain in his voice for his never having known in order to have been there for me back then.) Fast forward several more years when, after leaving an abusive employment situation, nightmares and flashbacks set in. Resigning from the new job because of a sudden inability to function and make office decisions, I felt like an absolute and total failure. Driving past the home of my Dad’s best Army buddy, I heard a voice (which I truly believe was the Spirit of God) saying, “I’m here for you. Your family needs you. You will be okay.” Like ancient Israel’s King David had said in Psalm 91:2, “I will say of the Lord, ‘He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust’”, He was there for me in so many ways. Having to support my family with Ed unable to work at that time, I put one foot in front of the other and worked as a secretarial temp for executives before being hired at my current position – both employment situations being a boost to my moral, especially the letters of recommendation from a bank president and Cornell professor. Finally seeking professional counseling, I got a diagnosis - PTSD. Told I really would be okay, and that none of it was my fault (which I’d always believed), the healing process began with my husband’s loving support. It seems like a lifetime ago. I have forgiven those two boys, hoping they’ve gone on to become better citizens, as well as having forgiven my mocker. The effects of any bullying, like our youth and even adults see today, are truly devastating. And I will no longer allow myself to be mocked or bullied by anyone. Yet, because of what I’ve been through, I’ve also learned God really does use even the traumas of life for a higher purpose, like my poetry. As Paul wrote in Romans 8:28, “we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him…” I’m so thankful to say I’m doing well, and so appreciative of all the great and supportive friends who have blessed my life with their presence! Where the Heart Soars Free Linda A. Roorda Little girl sad, withdrawn and teary Changes and loss disrupting life’s flow Leaving behind remnants of what was With emotional scars, reminders vivid. Where once her heart ran free, unhindered Clinging to joys and ease of childhood Now all the world was seen through the lens Of deepening gray on guard for the unknown. Open her eyes, Lord, that she may see All of the wisdom You share with her May she then know how great is Your love That You care enough to shelter her heart. For there is a place where the heart soars free Where love shines bright in a world grown dim Where hopeless need meets faith to overcome By walking the path that conquers defeat. As an airy joy with a zest for life Brings cheer to the sad and light to the dark Where peace in the heart and contentment calm Cover her wounds with a loving grace. ~~ 12/21/16 All rights reserved. May not be reproduced without permission of author. ~
  9. Happy Valentine's Day!

    True... and I agree abt the material things, Chris! and sure 'nuf Ed sent an email song. He wrote out word for word George Harrison's "If Not For You" - from the heart! Way better'n cards and flowers!
  10. Happy Valentine's Day!

    Sorry Chris! And neat idea that "Somebody" had! We've never made a big fuss out of Valentine's Day besides cards; and since Ed's no longer able to get out to a store, even if someone drove him, we've ended cards and he sends me songs he painstakingly writes out! But now for the Grands - wanted something special this year... and had the aha! moment at last week when I spied a box of Dr. Seuss kids' Valentine cards! Can't wait to hear the little ones' reactions when they get their own mail!
  11. Happy Valentine's Day!

    We all enjoy celebrating Valentine’s Day - a day set aside to express love and devotion to our special someone. And what better way to do that than with a beautiful sentimental card, a dozen red roses, a box of chocolates, a piece of jewelry, perhaps an engagement ring, or a romantic candlelight dinner for two. Valentine’s Day is not ours alone; it’s apparently been celebrated for centuries. Shakespeare, Chaucer and others romanticized the holiday in their writings. Samuel Pepys, the famous diarist of London life in the 1600s, noted there was elaborate gift-giving between the wealthy and elite even then. We are perhaps familiar with stories that Valentine’s Day celebrations have their roots in honoring Saint Valentine, an early Christian martyred by the Romans. Many contend the Christian holiday was initially established by the Roman Catholic Church to override the pagan holiday in mid February. Evidence has been found in ancient records of the Catholic church to validate a celebration in memory of St. Valentine. Though there may have been more than one man considered to be St. Valentine, Pope Gelasius I set aside the Feast of St. Valentine in 496 to honor its namesake who died a martyr on February 14. This celebration of Valentine’s Day then became recognized as a special day to show Christian love to others, with the traditional color red symbolizing the blood of Christian martyrs. In America, sending special handwritten love notes became popular during the 1700s. Papers made as Valentine greetings were first sold in the 1820s. Actual Valentine cards with colored illustrations and embossed borders for mailing to a loved one became popular in England in the 1840s. Then, fortuitously, Esther Howland, a student at Mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts, received one of these special cards made by an English company. Since her father owned a stationary store, she decided to try her hand at making cards to sell. As the cards increased in popularity, she employed friends to help handle the many orders coming in. Eventually, her home town of Worcester, Massachusetts, became known as the center of American valentines. Later, in 1913, Hallmark Cards in Kansas City, Missouri began mass production of their line of Valentine’s cards. Except… not everyone saw the positive side to sending Valentine’s Day cards. A critical editorial appeared in “The New York Times” on February 14, 1856: "Our beaux and belles are satisfied with a few miserable lines, neatly written upon fine paper, or else they purchase a printed Valentine with verses ready made, some of which are costly, and many of which are cheap and indecent. In any case, whether decent or indecent, they only please the silly and give the vicious an opportunity to develop their propensities, and place them, anonymously, before the comparatively virtuous. The custom with us has no useful feature, and the sooner it is abolished the better." However, the general public felt otherwise and continued to send cards to their loved ones, an idea which grew exponentially. After the Civil War, the practice of sending cards became a booming business for several card companies. Cards varied in design ranging from the elaborate and expensive to the humorous and joking, though most were simple but beautiful cards priced reasonably for the average buyer. Kate Greenaway, a renowned illustrator of British children’s books, designed Victorian valentines which became extremely popular. I absolutely love her impressive artwork for the quintessential Victorian Valentine’s Day cards. “Quiver of Love: A Collection of Valentines” was published in 1876 to showcase Kate’s impeccable illustrations. Soon, she was asked to illustrate cards for other holidays. As word spread of her endeavor, sending cards to friends for any occasion became a growing tradition around the world. While sending Valentine’s cards became firmly established in the latter 1800s, another sweet Valentine’s Day tradition has been the gift of candy. Whether it be the familiar candy hearts or a box of chocolates, the idea of giving candy became another popular method of bestowing special gifts on one’s beloved in the 19th century. Candy hearts are still enjoyed today, especially by children, but folks of all ages appreciate the fun little sayings. About eight billion candy hearts are made annually with new sayings coming out every year. Since chocolate has long been considered an aphrodisiac, it came as no surprise to read that chocolate has been used in the pursuit of one’s love for centuries. Yet, the tradition of giving chocolates on Valentine’s Day apparently only began in the 1880s. Richard Cadbury, a member of the famous English chocolate-making family, designed the first Valentine’s Day candy box during the Victorian era, often using his own artwork for designs. Elaborately decorated boxes were prized during the Victorian and Edwardian eras. They were often used for trinkets, jewelry or buttons long after the scrumptious chocolate had been devoured. This popular elaborately-decorated chocolate box disappeared from production during WWII, and has now become a much-sought collector’s item. The red rose, a symbol of love and romance, has also been a very special gift to present to one’s true love. The long-stemmed red rose that we know and love today was specifically created in the late 1800s, with millions of men presenting these beautiful red roses to their beloved every year. Who among us can resist the love and romance of Valentine’s Day?! Romantic stories warm our hearts of a happy young woman who receives an engagement ring from her beau, and of those who are married on this special day. Thinking and planning something special for your loved one is as much fun as the excitement of watching them open their card or gift! And so began the holiday traditions of a special day to proclaim our love. Happy Valentine’s Day! NEXT: Hiawatha Island of Owego, New York My sources:
  12. Blessed Are You

    The Beatitudes – Jesus’ blessings to all who seek Him. My hope was to rephrase Jesus’ perfect words of love for us into thoughts from my understanding... not to take anything away from what our Lord said, but simply to add contemporary meaning and dimension. And then, as I read further in Matthew chapters 5 through 7, more rephrasing into poetic verse came to mind. From there, further rephrasing of Scripture came to mind from Philippians 4 which seemed to fit the context of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. Again, it is not my intent to take anything away from God’s Holy Word, but to add another dimension for our hearts to contemplate as we bring His words into our daily life… an exercise which illuminates how great is His love for each of us. Blessed Are You Linda A. Roorda (Based on Matthew 5-7 and Philippians 4) Blessed are you with no hope left but God For you will know acceptance by Him. Blessed are you whose heart has been broken For you will find your comfort in Him. Blessed are you with humility mild For you will show His love from your heart. Blessed are you whose heart seeks His will For you will share the wisdom of God. Blessed are you when hurting and stressed For you will have a life filled with mercy. Blessed are you untainted by vice For you will have a pure heart before God. Blessed are you who humbly seek peace For you will be a true child of God. Blessed are you when mocked for your faith For you will stand firm with the Lord at your side. Rejoice and be glad as salt of the earth For you shine forth His light from your heart. Then be reconciled to those you offend That peace may abound in the hearts of all men. Love your enemy as your neighbor dear That you may be called a child of our God. And blessed are you on forgiving those When they have sinned against you and the Lord. And worry not what the future holds For your Father knows the needs of your life. Ask, seek and find, knock to open doors For our Father waits to bless those who ask. Broad is the path to destruction goes But narrow the gate that leads us to Life. For as the good tree will bear its best fruit So we shall see the fruit of our deeds. Thus he who hears must show in his life The wisdom found in the house which he builds. For that upon sand cannot withstand storms While that built on rock stands firm in the Truth. Do not be anxious, but think on these things And with thanksgiving send prayers to our God That content you’ll be regardless the task Knowing you can work through His strength alone. Stand firm in the Lord, press on to the goal Guard well your heart and mind in the Lord For He gives peace beyond understanding Rejoicing always in His gentle spirit. For whatever is true, whatever is honest Whatever is right, whatever is pure, Whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable Whatever is excellent, whatever worth praise… Think on these things and blessed you shall be. ~~ 04/25/14, 06/04/14 All rights reserved. May not be reproduced without permission of author. ~~
  13. President Trump: The First 100 Days

    I want to give Mr. Trump a chance, a real chance to see what he can do with his cabinet choices to make America great again. I'm tired of the boycotts and the childish "I don't like him so I'm gonna take my hurt feelings and go home" attitude. When our son played Little Leagues, one team informed our team there'd be no winners or losers; no score would be kept. That's not sound practice for life; there is always a winner and loser at everything we do. But it's in learning to graciously accept the loss or the win that we mature. There've been some of us who were not too thrilled with Mr. Obama as president, but we dealt with it. Folks want an America that comes together over issues that divide, so let's see everyone from all sides of the equation pull together with appropriate "give and take" and make a difference for our nation as a whole!
  14. "The Blue Light"

    In the middle of January’s freezing temps, wind, snow and freezing rain, we all need a little humor, don’t you think? Sorting through some papers recently, I found a story of my Dad’s that my siblings and I still talk about. Well before passing away in April 2015, he’d told me how proud he was of my writings, while I told him I couldn’t tell a story like he could to save my life! My Dad was a consummate storyteller. He got into character, and mimicked the voice and mannerisms of comedians he’d heard and/or seen when he drove truck over the road. Telling humorous stories on himself and family, and us as kids, I’ve often wished he had written them down for posterity, but this is the only story he ever wrote out. So, here’s to you Dad! (And don’t miss the final Postscript section.) ~~ As I drove, I began sharing some history of the land around Sussex, N.J. with my passengers. “This valley was purchased from the Lenni-Lenape Indians by ancestors of the people on whose farm I worked back in 1951. They still own a beautiful home on the old road across from this stream here and to the right of that big wooded hill.” There were three car loads of boys (ages 9 to 15) of the Northside Calvinist Cadet Club of Clifton, N.J. on their way to High Point Park in the northwest corner of New Jersey for the annual four-day campout. It was the latter part of June [1967?], a crisp bright morning, and the boys were starting summer vacation full of vim and vigor. I was one of three counselors and knew that relating interesting stories to these Cadets might keep their exuberance in check. After telling some of the history of the area as it had been told to me, I started on a story of my own making. We were now in sight of the High Point Monument. Pointing to it, I said slowly, “And then, there’s the story of the old man who used to live in a log cabin near where that monument now stands.” “Well, c’mon, Mr. Visscher! What about him?” “Yeah – what happened?” “Well, it seems that after the Revolutionary War, when the Colonial soldiers making up Gen. George Washington’s Army were released from duty, some of them came up the Delaware River heading for their homes in the northeastern states. The Delaware makes a left turn at Port Jervis, so some of them cut up over High Point Mountain. The story has it that two of the soldiers were regular outlaws. They accepted the old man’s hospitality then murdered him for his gold and burned the cabin to the ground with his body still in it. The Indians living in the area at that time claim that since he wasn’t buried, his spirit or ghost comes back every year about this time looking for those soldiers.” The car had become more and more quiet. Now, one of the boys said, “How can they tell it’s the old man’s ghost? There are always hunters and other people in the woods, ain’t there?” “Oh sure, except – well, they think it’s the old man’s ghost because he’s carrying a blue light.” There were hoots of derision, but just the same, one of them asked, “Do you believe in ghosts, Mr. Visscher?” Reassuringly, I replied, “No, of course not! Didn’t I say the story probably isn’t true?” Sunday morning found us returning on the same road to Sussex for church services. There were only two boys in the car who had been with me the preceding morning – and they insisted that I tell the story of the old man and his light to the Cadets who hadn’t heard it. Although they didn’t realize it, this was as if it had been planned. Mr. Hornstra and Mr. Wisse, our head counselor, had selected me to be in charge of initiation of the recruits who had joined the club during the year, and Monday morning found me putting finishing touches on my little project. About 100 yards from camp on the old trail leading into the woods was a dead downed tree. With the help of a few of the older boys, this was turned into firewood and the logs were stacked neatly right there. Sitting around the campfire that night, Mr. Wisse got the gang telling ghost stories, and on request, I told the story of “The Blue Light” again. As soon as possible after that, I melted into the woods and took up my post near that pile of firewood. When Mr. Wisse thought I was ready, he told one of the recruits to get a few more logs from the stack on the trail to keep the fire going. “Uh… but, Mr.Wisse… I don’t have a flashlight… and it’s kind of dark out there,” said one of the boys. But, after much jeering and cheering, he finally started down the trail for the wood. He was silhouetted against the campfire and the large gas lantern hanging in the fly (awning) over our dining tables, and he was moving slowly. I was wearing blue jeans, black hat, and a dark shirt with the collar pulled up. When he had covered half the distance, I fitted a blue glass lens from an old truck clearance light over the end of the flashlight and raised it high over my head. Pointing it towards the recruit and turning the flashlight on, I moved slowly from behind a bush into the trail. As soon as he saw the “Blue Light,” he stopped dead in his tracks, then whirled and shot back into camp screaming, “Bu-bu-bu-bu-blue la-la-la-light! I seen the Blue Light!” The boys went into an uproar and I went back behind the bush. Mr. Wisse tried to calm them down, but it wasn’t easy. One of the recruits was running ‘round and ‘round the tables trying to see in all directions at once, and shouting over and over, “I’m afraid of that Blue Light! I don’t want to be a Cadet! I want to go home!” Another of the boys disappeared into his tent where he was found a little later. He was on his knees, crying and praying, “Oh Lord. I’m not a soldier. I’m just a Cadet. Don’t let that Blue Light get me, Lord!” Finally, Mr. Wisse said he would prove there was nothing to fear by getting a few logs himself. He came out to me and said, “Ralph, you’ve really got them going. They know you’re not in camp, but they don’t seem to get the connection. Some of them are really afraid.” After a hurried discussion, we decided he would bring all the boys out at once. Going back into camp he said, “Boys, there’s nothing scary out there as far as I can see - what do you say we all go out and bring back that firewood?” “Sure, Mr. Wisse, let’s go! I’m not afraid!” And so saying, one of the boys grasped Mr. Wisse by the sleeve - and in his excitement, almost put his fingernails through the skin on the counselor’s arm! They all started down the trail together. The older boys, who were beginning to put two and two together, brought up the rear. This time, I waited until they were almost three-quarters of the way down the trail toward me before switching on the “Blue Light.” Instant panic! They stampeded back, nearly running over two of the bigger boys who got in the way. Mr. Wisse admitted later that even though he knew it was me holding the light, all the hair on the back of his neck stood at attention! The Cadets still talk about the scariest initiation they ever had – but at least one of the counselors still feels self-conscious in front of the boys’ fathers. POSTSCRIPT - And where was the oldest of my younger brothers? Still sitting by the fire, unconcerned about some ghost with a blue light, munching on goodies! He’s inherited that blue light lens, and now he’s finally got the story to go with it! As I wrote in my blog for The Poet's Chair, “Halcyon Days of Youth,” my father had been dairy herdsman for old Walter Titsworth in Sussex, NJ the year he graduated high school in Clifton, NJ. Walter’s direct ancestor was Willem Abrahamse Tietsoort. A number of adults and children, including infants, were murdered by Indians one February night a few centuries ago, but Tietsoort and others survived the infamous 1690 Schenectady, N.Y. massacre. Though severely injured, Tietsoort removed himself and his family from the Mohawk river area and purchased thousands of acres in the Port Jervis/Sussex region of Northwestern New Jersey from the Minnisink Indians as per legal documents. Also of note from my research is that Tietsoort’s house had many similarities to the Dutch Mabee House on the Mohawk River in Rotterdam, N.Y., built late 17th/early 18th century, which I have toured. Growing up, we kids loved visiting Walter Titsworth’s elderly daughters, Julia and Olivia. They were just the sweetest little old ladies ever! And I was fascinated with their Victorian home filled with so many beautiful antiques. However, what makes the story even more interesting, is a little detail I discovered when researching every line of my mother’s ancestry – we never knew that my mother has ancestral ties to the Tietsoort family! If only we’d known back then!!
  15. You Lead Me On

    It was a simple photo of a wooden gate taken by my friend, Fran Van Staalduinen. But it said so much. The gate of old weathered wood stood open, leaning against a fence which was, in turn, enveloped by a dense hedgerow of lush green bushes and vines. Nearby stood a tree in full leaf as I imagined ample branches out of view reaching upward and outward, overshadowing all to provide cooling shade. Sunlight managed to penetrate the thick canopy of leaves, spreading out a dappled glow at the foot of the tree. And through the aperture left by the open gate, my gaze was drawn to a matted path as it wound its way into a bright sunny field of rich grasses growing wild and free… beckoning us to venture out into the unknown. Fran’s photo taken in 2015 instantly drew me in – I loved it at first sight! And it’s literally worth a thousand words. Immediately, I saw that the tree resembled the family’s patriarch with an overarching reach, covering his children and their children and their children (you get the idea) with his love… rather like our God and His love. And, then I saw the open gate as indicative of life… for life is like an open path set before us. We can either sit back, afraid to take hold of life’s possibilities and stay safe, sheltered by the familiar… or, we can move forward through the gate as we find our way out into the world, often by trial and error among life’s vicarious ups and downs. These thoughts fittingly reminded me of the song by David Gates (of the 1970s rock group, Bread), “If a picture paints a thousand words…” Derived from an axiom we’re all familiar with, “A picture is worth a thousand words,” that phrase aptly fits Fran’s photo. American in origin, the phrase became popular in the early 20th century with its initial use attributed to Arthur Brisbane (editor of the Syracuse Advertising Men’s Club). In March 1911, he instructed fellow newspapermen to “Use a picture. It’s worth a thousand words.” As I continued to contemplate Fran’s photo and the imagery the scene created, I realized that we so often gain wisdom along our journey of life especially when we travel the unknown and difficult paths. And yet, we can simply take that first step forward in faith, no matter what lies ahead, knowing there’s One who will guide our steps along the way. Which, in turn, brought to mind a few of my favorite Scripture verses: “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (Psalm 119:105) as we “Trust in the Lord with all [our] heart and lean not on [our] own understanding. In all [our] ways acknowledge Him and He will direct [our] paths.” (Proverbs 3:5-6) Especially as we begin a new year, what fitting reassurance we find as we look to our Lord to guide and lead us through the open gate of life! A very Happy and Blessed New Year to you! You Lead Me On Linda A. Roorda You lead me on through an open gate To a world beyond that beckons my heart Where sunlit vistas and dappled shadows Reveal rich treasures along life’s journey. You lead me on over paths unknown To guide my steps as I learn from You You light my way that once seemed dark As joy I find with You at my side. You lead me on and guide my voice For only when I seek Your heart Is wisdom gained to handle life When darts assail and cares weigh down. You lead me on so I may know That even though my feet may stumble You care enough to pick me back up As loving grace and mercy set free. You lead me on to praise your name Within the turmoil and waves of despair For it’s often then I know You carry My reeling heart through pain and loss. You lead me on that I may learn The lessons found in trials faced For wisdom gained first walks the path From troubled storm to the heart at peace. You lead me on to songs of joy As morning dawns with light of day Hope in the truth, cleansing for the soul And faith in Your love to guide my way home. ~~ 03/11-13/16 All rights reserved. May not be reproduced without permission of author. ~