Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The Chess Set

December 19, 1958 was the eve of my wedding day.  Home on leave from the U S Navy I was staying with my parents in the home I was raised in although I had left it some three years previous.  That evening I went to visit with my future wife at her parent’s home a few miles away.  It was close to midnight on a viciously cold night with the temperature down well below the zero mark on the thermometer.  Snow was falling lightly and drifting across the highway as I returned to my parent’s home.
I was following another car at about 40 mph when that driver lost control of his vehicle and landed in the ditch.  I stopped my ’51 Studebaker business coupe that I owned at the time to insure no one was injured and help as I was able.  The occupants were a couple near my own age, out on a date.  They had no idea what they should do about their present situation.  As they were uninjured, and their car was running fine supplying heat, I told them if they just stayed put I would drive to my brother’s home, borrow a farm tractor, and haul them out of the ditch.  They had little other choice.
It was probably a half hour later by the time I got back to them, and in the bitter cold I managed to get them back on the road and headed toward their destinations.  I returned the tractor to my brother Bert’s farm, and returned to my boyhood home to rest a while before getting married that day.  I promptly forgot about the entire incident.
A few days later I received a telephone call from a Mr. Greenblatt.  He told me that he owned a furniture store, and asked that my new wife and I stop by for a free wedding present.  Not sure about receiving “free” items I yet decided to go to the business.  Upon our arrival Mr. Greenblatt asked us to select any item from his store, no strings attached, as a wedding gift.  Unsure what to do, I finally selected a very modestly priced wooden chess set which was gift wrapped and given to us.
As we left the store, surprised, but feeling wonderful, Mr. Greenblatt asked if we remembered aiding a young couple a few nights earlier when they were in the ditch.  Wondering how he knew about it, I asked.  He informed me the young lad was his son.  I then tried to give back the chess set as I wanted no payment for helping someone on a terrible night, but he insisted it was not a payment, but a bona fide gift.  I have that chess set yet today, 54 years later.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Canada Wintergreen Mints

At the end of WW II I when I was about 7 or 8 years old I, along with my older brothers, would arise every morning at 6 o’clock, groggily dress, and head to the barn to tend the cattle after their long night alone.  On a dairy farm the cattle are always the first order of the day.  Human needs are taken care of after that.  We would work in the barn for an hour or more before we got to eat our own breakfast, change clothes, and walk the mile to school in fall, winter, and spring.
By this time in history my mother had developed a keen taste for the round pink wintergreen candies that had the word CANADA stamped upon their face.  Although we were a large family that didn’t lack for food (which included candy) under any circumstances, mom’s metal can with the tight fitting cover held her private stock of the wintergreens and we children were not supposed to touch them.
This meant, of course, that it was merely a challenge to locate her latest hiding spot, and see how many we could pilfer without her knowing, or at least not saying anything about it.  Often that was the first thing to do in the morning.  We all slept upstairs in our two-story home.  After arising we trudged down the stairs supposedly to head for the barn.  However from time to time some of us would start a search for mom’s candy stash.
Sometimes it would be high on a pantry shelf.  Other times high on a shelf in the big cabinet in the living room.  We boys would boost one another up to search these higher places.  Inside the washing machine was another prize location.  Once located each of us would take two and head for the barn.  They had to be eaten very soon so that the pink residue on our tongues would at least mostly go away during the hour or so we were completing our morning chores.
I never asked her in later years, but she must have known we enjoyed the little game of hide and seek nearly as much as she did, and it wouldn’t have been near so enjoyable if they had been in a dish in plain sight.
These candies were first made in Canada in the late 1800s, and brought into the United States in the early 1900s, about the same time my mother was born.  I still enjoy them some 70 years after I first tasted them.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Bank Den Beaver

About a mile from my home there is an approximately 20 acre mostly abandoned gravel pit.  Gravel has been removed from the site for at least 75 years, ever expanding, and ever deepening.  In places it is at least 100’ deep where gravel was removed with a dragline.  In more recent years the gravel banks have largely petered out, and only occasionally are smaller amounts of gravel yet taken.
As I approached it a few days ago rafts of geese took wing from their sanctuary.  They settle in nearby harvested corn fields to reap the bounty of remaining ears of corn scattered on the ground.
I continued nearing the area where I knew beaver to have a den.  Situated near a beautiful small evergreen the den can be noted where the scattered limbs are on the surface of the hill.  The entrance is underwater, dug into the bank of the gravel pit.  It extends back in a moderate distance and then rises to above the water line.  Once inside they are snug, and reasonably safe from nearly all predators.  Beavers store a winter food supply which can be seen floating on the water.  It is merely small sections of tree trunks, or limbs, of which they will eat the bark from through the frozen winter months when access to fresh food is hard to get to.
These medium size poplar trees are the result of the beaver’s work of gathering that winter food supply.  Note the size of the chips on the ground where they have removed the wood necessary to fell the tree.
This dirt pathway leading down from the hill is their skid way where they drag the sections of tree down to the water’s edge from that small stand above.
This is an abandoned den from previous years.  All nearby trees had been felled, and as the food supply depleted they were forced to move on to greener pastures, or maybe that should be greener woodlands.