LIVING DELIBERATELY

There is a special privilege about living in the woods. It is defined by the inability to see or hear those things that are commonly identified with human presence. Yes, the occasional airplane is heard. Quite infrequently a car rumbles down the gravel lane, but most commonly one’s attention is compelled by wildlife, if compelled at all.

The sounds of the night are, well, intriguing. Commonly unidentifiable. But, we’ll not worry about that, shall we? Surely the cicada will intone again tomorrow night with its same subtle vigor. The distant coyote will remind us again of its free forest life and the sun will rise in the morning, complete with its array of silent deer and jumping fish.

The most wonderful phenom is that it occurs again on the morrow. A day has thinly veiled itself, but eternity remains. Another day lies in wait and if Divinity will allow, it is ours to embrace.

DIVINE BASEBALL INTERVENTION

If, indeed, there is such a phenom, it was bestowed upon the teams of New York City last night. Shall we call it the Evening of the Long Ball? Or, to evoke a bit of the Babe, Swat Evening.

For those who don’t follow, the Yankees are in 1st place in their division of the American League. The Mets are in 1st place of their division of the National League. In both leagues there is an ever-tightening pennant race. Baseball is nearly convulsing! Ya gotta love it!

Last night’s game wasn’t cooperating with the Mets. A three run Pete Alonso bomb aided the cause. Better yet, in the eighth inning the Mets loaded the bases. Entering the batter’s box is the Mets’ slugging Short Stop, Francisco Lindor.

No, not many Short Stops are power hitters, but Lindor swats a monster Grand -Slam home run, putting the game out of reach to the hosting Milwaukee Brewers and cementing the Mets’ spot in the play-offs.

Not to be out-done, the Yankees have a few power hitters of their own. Aaron Judge had been closing in on Babe Ruth’s home-run record for a year, but last night’s game was getting gloomy. The Yankees trailed by 4 runs. And then, SWAT. Over the wall goes Judge’s #60, tying Ruth’s record.

Still, the Yankees trailed, but later loaded the bases. Enter the slumping Giancarlo Stanton for the Yankees. You guessed it. SWAT, a grand slam. The Yankees win the game and accomplish multiple reasons to celebrate.

What a night for New York baseball!

Talkin’ Baseball

Entertaining? Definitely.

Sobering? Yes, that too.

Old Timer’s Day at Citi Field caught me a little off guard. How so? It was a reminder that time is whizzing by like a Jacob DeGrom fastball.

The Mets trotted out 60 to 65 former players, some that christened Shea Stadium in 1964. They had a little festive game of their own at Citi Field. Among them was Ed Kranepool, whose autograph I collected as a giddy eleven year old at the’64 World’s Fair.

Here it is all these years later. Who says baseball is waning? Just between the two New York teams, a monumental tradition of sport reigns prouder than ever.

BEAR WITH ME

I’m not certain there is a more soothing scene than the one my eyes are locked onto

at the moment. How fortunate I am to see it frequently, but today nature paints it with a notable flair.

The vista is from the accustomed “Writer’s Perch”. Nothing unusual about that. My view is in the more westerly paddock where two horses placidly graze. Best guess? They are 400 feet from my chair. Seemingly their tails swish in unison, suggesting their complaisance with the surrounds. The grass is much too green for them to dislodge their noses from it. They are the picture of contentment.

I suppose I am, as well, but no, I’m not grazing! It’s just the scene that makes me content. I hope those horses are aware of their good fortune that prompts them to swish those tails. It is a scene in the countryside that never fails to disappoint.

It was but a few days ago that through this same line of sight a bear ambled by, probably on its way to a nearby stream. If one commodity is plentiful on the farm it is water. The bear was walking at a deliberate pace. He’d get there when he got there. He wasn’t twenty feet from the perch, so I bade him good morning, but he barely acknowledged my presence. He then continued his stroll toward the spring.

Well, it was just plausible for me to wonder how the horses perceived their circumstances here on the farm. Why not the bear? But, wait a minute. That’s an unfair comparison. Why? Because one is a domesticated animal, the other is wild.

I suppose a story could be hatched: Once upon a day at Tuckaway a bear wandered by the horse paddock fence. He was on his way to get a drink of water and knew that if he crawled under the fence boards and through the paddock, he’d get to the spring faster. The bear had done this before, but today was different. There were three horses peacefully grazing in the middle of the paddock.

There was another complication. The bear’s big body hardly fit under the fence….

Pardon me, dear reader. This is what happens to me when I sit at the writer’s perch. Lord knows what it will lead to ! I didn’t like where this was headed, anyway.

OR WAS IT THE MUDDY YAZOO?

Bobbie Gentry might have called this afternoon “another sleepy, dusty delta day”. But then I wonder how many folks out there still recognize the name Bobbie Gentry. The lyric might be more recognizable.

Around here we walk across the Delaware River, not the Tallahatchie, but the question is still out there. Just what was it that Bobbie and her boyfriend were throwing off that bridge, or will the question forever swirl in the vestiges of mystery?

If you will, pardon my rumination. It’s the heat, you know.

TOWING THE PARTY LINE

It may sound political, but it’s not. Far from it, in fact. Indulge me for a bit of Hunterdon County local color. Let’s say the year is 1960.

The subject is telephony. That’s right, the telephones that we all used 60 some years ago. That isn’t so many years, well within my own recollection, at least.

No, smart Alec. It wasn’t as though, when I was calling someone, I picked up the receiver and said, “Thelma, get me Harold.”

A few years had gone by since those days, but not really that many. Phones still had those circular dials . We were not yet a “push button society”. It was, in fact, still the era of the “party line”.

“What’s that?”, you younger ones might ask.

Well, a wire still made the singular connection between the phone that you were using in your house and the phones in 1,or 2, or 6 other nearby homes. All of the phones in those homes were on the same circuit. That made the set-up easier, the closer together the homes were, the better (for the phone company).

What did that mean? It was simple. If you and one other of the 6 happened to be using the phone simultaneously, you then heard their conversation as well.

Now, let’s attempt to fathom the unlikely incident when 6 Harolds were simultaneously attempting to call 6 different Thelmas . Remember, they were all on the same circuit. Can you begin to see the complications here ?

Another problem: Enter the love struck teenager. Vacuous lulls in their conversations were quizzical. Stone silence would persist on the line for untold lengths of time. They just couldn’t find the words or whatever the HELL they wanted to say. So they didn’t say anything. It was the proverbial game of chicken. All of this while a neighbor might well have been waiting to use the phone. Dad used to get pissed.

Lucky for us, over time phone service improved. Party lines faded to obscurity. Most of us are versed in the leaps and bounds of technology that have improved the way we communicate. Comparison to the old school is stark. Surely Thelma no longer has to get Harold !

O

Neighbor

Marty Baker is a few years younger than me. We’d pass each other in the halls now and then as students at Del-Val. Being in a different class creates at least a perceptible degree of separation. You know how that is when you’re in high school.

There was another degree of separation when we were growing up. It was a fence; a fence on the surveyor’s line that separated his Dad’s farm and my Dad’s farm. Beyond that we were both farm boys milking cows in the morning and milking again at night. Summers were wrought with the fevered pitch of stacking hay. All of that left no degree of separation. It was just gut-wrenching work, no matter which farm.

Time marched on. Marty’s Dad found a more conducive farm to do the dairying, way up in north-central Pennsylvania, Tioga County that is. The Bakers joined the legions of Hunterdon dairy farmers who left the county for “greener pastures”. We would no longer hear through the woods the sound of Bakers calling their cows in to the barn at milking time. We were doing the same. It was the end of a mini-era.

Draw any line you might, Marty’s departure was emblematic of the churning change unfolding in Hunterdon’s agricultural makeup. However, don’t assume that the boys on those farms don’t still sense the draw of farming that kept their feet planted to the ground, even when they were youngsters.

Witness that the phone rang today. It was Marty. He was looking to wish us well and just check in. We chatted, talked farming for a while. Marty’s had his share of maladies. So have we all.

But as we de-coupled from our conversation, I felt good. Our chat had been born of a bunch of good years, fertilized on our farms. Life is good. God is grand. Thanks for the call, neighbor.

THEN, IF EVER

June 16, 2022

Robert Frost would have run out of ink if writing about this June. One after the next of splendid days have been ours in which to luxuriate.

How well do I know? Take it from a Haymaker. No, that’s not the name of a constellation in the nighttime sky, or much as it may sound, the name of a drink at the bar down in Pittstown. No, it’s just as it sounds; one who makes hay.

Slinging bales in June has been my lot since the bales were bigger and heavier than I was. And why in June? Simply put, “then, if ever, come perfect days.” Thank you for that, Mr. Frost. Indeed, perfect sunny days are needed by the Haymaker to get his perfect bales.

Before I get bogged down, the Haymaker is, decidedly , a unisex deal. Nowhere is it written that all hay help need be boys. In fact, I recall those instances when, from my tractor seat, I’d peer across the field and see all feminine bale-slingers. Indeed, the work was getting done on that beautiful day, all by the ladies.

Back to this June, though. Spring is typically attended by very unsettled weather. Many Springs will drive the Haymaker nuts, timing the endeavor around the next raindrops. Would I jinx this heretofore perfect June by noting that it has been most cooperative?

Oh boy, now I’ve said it!

BALANCED

Dad was looking to buy a farm in Hunterdon County not long after I was born. By that time he must have been satisfied that there was sufficient critical mass of sons in his family (3) that would grow into the labor force necessary to keep a dairy herd.

Hell of a reason to have kids, wouldn’t you think? Call it Milk House Manifest Destiny ! It is unfair that I should even write this anyway. Dad’s no longer here to offer his side of the story. Sorry, Dad. I’ll find myself in the same predicament someday.

And how about that male chauvinist comment that I just wrote? Something about “critical mass of sons”. As though daughters can’t work the dairy ! Sorry ladies. Regarding that, I hold one truth to be self-evident. Generally speaking, boys are more brute-like than girls. Dairying is brute-like work. What’s good for the gander is not always good for the goose.

Notwithstanding such mundane details , Dad had certain qualifications in mind as he hunted for a farm. To this day, I remember him saying to me, “ I wasn’t going to buy junk.”

Turns out, he didn’t. In fact, the purchase he made augured to my favor many decades later when Judy and I purchased Dad’s purchase, minus the farm house, barns and 15 acres. When all was settled, we wound up with a farm that was nicely balanced, essentially half open, half wooded with all sorts of water flowing through it, a total of 62 acres and change.

Several springs, a few creeks merge to a single brisk flow as it exits at the farm’s western border and heads to the Delaware. The farm is a sweet balance of fields, paddocks, woods, a pond and comfy farm house.

Did I ever thank Mom and Dad enough for selecting this lovely patch of ground and enabling us to buy it? Quite probably not. Was it just a matter of being in the right place at the right time? I suppose. That and paying attention.

THE VERANDA REVEALED

Wonderfully populated with flowers, we have seemingly outdone ourselves this Spring with colorful collections in whatever direction you might look.

I say “we”, not to infer that I’ve been out there myself digging the garden, pulling the weeds. I am more the self-appointed flower enthusiast; shall we say the in-residence floral aficionado to the nth degree who just exults in this stuff.

We’ve just sort of “re-modeled” this whole garden, ripping out a tired boxwood border and replacing with far more visually pleasing flower plantings. A dirty Plum tree is replaced by a gorgeous Red Bud, complete with heart-shaped leaves; a subtle suggestion.

Yes, we’ve had professional help and, Yes, Judy gets a ton of credit for the new look. It’s just one huge improvement.

Just this morning while luxuriating in the surrounds, I was joined by a hummingbird. Most everyone has watched the dizzying pace with which this little guy flaps it’s wings; would you believe about 53 beats per second?

Not to be out done, a flying flower itself makes the scene. The Garden State’s official bird, the Goldfinch lingers not much longer than the Hummingbird. The Finch, however, seems to be up to a little unabashed mating, apparently having taken a cue from the Red Bud tree.

Ah, the subtitles of it all!