Tales of the Valley
A collection of Adirondack stories told by Adrian Edmonds
Mills and Pulp Wood. Operations in Keene Valley
The last days of the sawmill operations in and around the Town of Keene, particularly in the Hamlet of Keene Valley, was paralleled somewhat by the pulpwood operations which were conducted by the Rodgers Company and their subcontractors. During my boyhood and young manhood extensive cutting was carried on in Johns Brook Valley, on Giant Mountain and also in the Valley east of Spread Eagle and north of Hopkins. The extensive growth of spruce trees which grew in these regions were valued, not only for its qualities as timber and lumber, but also for its excellent qualities in the production of pulp fibers for paper making. The Rodgers Mill at Ausable Forks, made a very high class paper from the local spruce pulpwood fibers.
My most vivid memories of this pulping operation goes back to the late teens and early and middle 1920’s. During this period, Orlando Beede was conducting a logging operation for the Rodgers Company in the John’s Brook Valley. Fletcher Beede, brother of Orlando, died suddenly and prematurely about 1915. Orlando survived Fletcher for many years. He and his wife lived in the home where Judson Whitney and his family have resided fin recent years. The long Beede horse barn stood on the property which my brother and I now own and is situated between Adirondack Street and the former home of Mrs. Van Loan. The Whitney Trailer Park is now located to the east of this area and the Edmonds storage sheds are to the west.
The largest barn had a central aisle running north and south down the middle of the long axis of the structure. On the right and left and at right angles to the central passage there were individual stalls for horses. According to my recollection, this building housed about ten teams or twenty horses. The teamsters obtained board and room at the Orlando Beede home, and perhaps at other homes nearby.
The pulp cutting operations were carried on during the spring, summer and early fall of the year. In the Johns Brook area, the regions being cut within my memory where those sections on the northern slopes of Armstrong and Wolf Jaw, and southern and southeasterly slopes of Big Slide Mountain. The pulpwood was cut four feet long, by two man crews of sawyers. The wood was piled four feet high in short ranks in the region where it was felled.
When the first snows came, teamsters having light, quick horses and short bobracks hauled the pulpwood from the mountainsides to a so called header, or yarding area, one of which was situated just west of the present Swing bridge which crosses Johns Brook near the New York State Ranger’s camp and just downstream from the site of Johns Brook Lodge which is now owned and operated by the Adirondack Mountain Club.
This header, or loading point, was constructed of logs similar to a wharfing which one still occasionally sees along a river bank. The top was made level for a distance of perhaps forty to fifty yards. The roadway was constructed closely parallel to the loading header and gradually sloped downhill to the east. As the pulpwood was brought down the mountainsides by the short racks and snappy teams, it was scattered in a long narrow row along this landing and loading point known as the “header”.
The teams which came up from Keene Valley to transport the pulpwood from that location to the Valley were heavier draft horses which were hitched to much longer bobracks, varying in length from 24 feet to 40 feet. The front end of the rack was elevated and placed on a sled to which it was attached by a so-called bunk and kingpin. The rear of the bobrack dragged on the ground, These bobracks were made of long spruce trees or timbers about 12 inches in diameter at the front end and tapering to a lesser diameter at the rear. These two parallel poles were held together by cross beams and iron rods positioned at the front and back of the rack. This kept the center line of these two poles about thirty inches to thirty six inches apart.
Other primary parts of the bobrack were:
1.), a bunk which was attached to the underside near the front end of the bobrack; this bunk rested upon the front sled.
2.) A “kingpin” was the member which fitted the bunk and bobrack to the sled. The “kingpin” was a shaft of iron about two or two and one-half inches in diameter and about twelve to eighteen inches long, with a head on the top end. The kingpin was passed down through the center of the bunk and extended into the crossbeam of the sleigh at its center. The kingpin was always loosely inserted without being fixed on the underside. This freedom of the kingpin allowed a load of pulpwood to turn and to tip over in case of an emergency, thereby preventing possible injury to the horses, in as much as the bobrack and its load would be quickly detached from the sleigh.
3.) The rear end of the bobrack which dragged on the ground was shod with a band of flat iron approximately three inches wide and securely bolted to the end of the rack. This iron shoe retarded the wear of the wooden rack which dragged on the ground.
4.) An upright hardwood stake was mounted at the front end and at the rear end of each log runner of the rack. These were held in upright by being inserted in a U shaped iron socket which was bolted through the parallel logs which formed the base of the bobrack. A hardwood cross beam was bolted across the logs behind both the front and rear stakes. The height of these stakes varied somewhat in length but I believe the ones in front might have been six or eight feet long, while those at back were four to six feet high. In a any case, it was possible to load six to twelve cords of pulpwood on these racks, depending upon the length of the rack, the experience of the team and teamster, and the condition of the roadbed.
Another important feature of the bobrack construction was a series of long pointed iron pins which were driven into the log on one side of the rack. These pins were perhaps four to six inches long and protruded an inch above the top surface of the rack. The purpose of these spikes was to keep the bottom row of pulpwood from shifting, or shucking, off the rack and thereby causing the load to tip over.
The loading of the pulpwood racks was an operation which required a great deal of skill and practice. The men who did this work were known as “professional loaders.” At the “headers” of which I have spoken, being located just west of the Swing Bridge and northeast of John’s Brook Lodge, the teamsters would turn their racks around upon arriving from Keene Valley and proceed to a point where the top of the rack was on a level with the header. The professional loaders then ranked the wood on the bobrack in a very precise and careful manner. As the height of the load increased, the loaders would need to lift the heavy pulpwood to a disadvantage. However, by driving the “rig” ahead, the teamster could bring the top of the unfinished load to a point level with the top of the header at that point. Because the road sloped downhill from the level header the loaders could easily continue to fill the rack without strenuous lifting. This periodic forward movement continued until the load was entirely filled to its desired height some twelve feet above ground level. A heavy chain was extended over the top of the load, the front end of which was fixed firmly to the front cross beam of the rack. Extending over and along the centerline of the load of pulpwood the chain acted as a ” binder”, since at the back end of the rack, several very large pieces of pulpwood were suspended in the chain.This “binder” helped to keep the load in place during the period of transportation to the river bank in Keene Valley.
In the years of these pulpwood operations, great care had to be given to the construction and the maintenance of the road extending from the John’s Brook header all the way to the landing place in Keene Valley. There would usually be one hundred days of sleighing during the winter season. Obviously, the hauling of the pulpwood from the mountainside in the vicinity of Johns Brook Lodge to Keene Valley had to be carried on during this favorable period of snow. When the first snows arrived and when later snows prevailed, the roadway was plowed by means of horse drawn wooden plows. According to my recollection, these roads were not over four or four and a half feet wide. The singular feature of their construction, was the presence of two parallel side walls of snow; one on either side of the road; and a roadbed, the cross-section of which was kept very hard and very level. These conditions were maintained by spraying water on the road from a horse drawn vat during subzero temperatures. This water, spilled upon the roadbed on a cold night quickly became frozen and thereby made a very hard, firm bed for the horses and bobracks.
A cord of pulpwood weighs about thirty hundred pounds, or a ton and a half. therefore, a ten cord load of wood would weigh approximately fifteen tons plus the weight of the sleigh and the bobrack. Larger or smaller loads of wood would weigh more or less accordingly. Owing to the drop in elevation between Johns Brook Lodge and the riverside in Keene Valley( about 1,500 feet), it can be appreciated how important it was to have an excellent roadbed, experienced teamsters and teams, and ideal winter weather conditions.
Where steep downward slopes occurred in the road system between the point of loading and unloading, the surface had to be “guarded” in such a way that the load would be slowed to a speed whereby the horses could retard and control the forward moving weight without falling down and being injured or killed.
Incidentally, the so-called “bone yard” is a spot at the foot of Beede Hill and Chapel Pond Hill just east of the main highway, and is known by that name because this is a spot where the dead horses were drawn after they had been killed on the road coming down from Giant Mountain via Putnam camp. According to my information, numerous horses were killed each winter on that much steeper roadbed.
Fortunately, the Johns Brook roadbed was not as steep as the road from Giant Mountain. In the former area where the steepest slopes were present, sections of the road were well guarded by a liberal application of hay or ashes upon the surface of the hard roadbed. For example a man was stationed ( during periods of hauling) in a little shelter at the “Rockcut” Hill along the Johns Brook Road. The duty of this workman was to sprinkle hay along that hazardous section of the road in such amount as would sufficiently guard the surface against the increasing momentum of the team and its load. The heat generated by the pressure and the weight of the load would burn the hay in the runner track to a crisp, blackened condition; consequently, the hay had to be shaken up and redistributed between each load which came down the road. Equally important, was the necessity to remove the hay and place it under a shelter at night, since the presence of snow upon the hay was the equivalent to greasing the surface of the roadbed.
Charlie Barton was the knowledgeable, dependable man who guarded the “Rock Cut” hill for several seasons. According to my recollection, Johnie Bruce and his team from Upper Jay hauled the biggest load of pulpwood-12 + cords in size.
At least ten thousand cords of wood were piled along the river bank for a period of several years in the late teens and 1920’s The pulpwood was cut four feet in length. When it was “landed” in the valley it was piled in long, four foot wide horizonal ranks by individual sticks fitted tightly together six feet in height. The section of the Hamlet of Keene Valley where this wood was piled, was in the open fields lying east of the houses extending from the former Texaco Station( opposite the present Hardware store) all the way to the Beede Road. The first wood which was hauled into the area was piled along the west side of the Ausable river. As hauling continued during the winter, the ranks of wood extended further and further from the river toward the rear of the homes in the above mentioned area.
During the winter season, rain and snow was driven by the wind in among the ranks of pulpwood. Often these pulpwood ranks became tightly frozen masses which were extremely difficult to separate in the early spring of the year.
When the high waters arrived with the melting of winter snows, the pulpwood was hurriedly tumbled into the river and floated to Ausable Forks where it was captured by a “Boom” strung across the stream. At this point, the Rodgers Company removed the pulpwood from the river by an elevated moving chain and piled it in huge heaps with convenient access to their paper making mill.
I do not recall where they landed the pulpwood that was cut on the slopes of Giant Mountain. I do know that this wood was hauled down a road which came into the main road at, or near, the present entrance to the Putnam Camp property.
Certain sections of the road leading down from Giant Mountain were so steeply inclined that a winch was improvised by which a rope was wound around the base of a stump; when a team and its load came to a certain point at the top of these inclines one end of the rope was hitched to the back of the bobrack while the balance was coiled around a big sturdy stump. By means of a lever device, the rope was paid out very slowly as the team and the load moved forward holding back the movement of the load allowing the team to arrive safely at a more favorable incline. On those occasions when the rope broke, the teams where shoved off the road over the bank or into a tree, often killing the horses.
To counter these tragic conditions at this logging area it was considered more practical and economical to construct a series of dams in Putnam Brook for the purpose of holding back a large volume of water. At intervals along the brook below the dam, the pulpwood was dumped into the brook bed, following which the water in the dam was released. The pulp wood was flooded down the brook by the pressure of the volume of water coming behind it.
Sometimes too much wood was piled in the brook in relation to the volume of water which was held for its flooding. As a consequence of too much pulp, a deficiency of water and the limited opening under the Putnam bridge the wood became packed in huge jams above the Highway Bridge.
My most vivid memories of the pulpwood operation in the Giant area is that of going to a point at or near the entrance to Putnam Camp and seeing the huge pulpwood jams which developed in the vicinity above the bridge off the main highway.
Gradually, the workmen re-distributed the wood above and below the narrow bridge. Through repeated flooding, the pulp wood was moved down stream until it entered the Ausable River in the little Hamlet of St. Huberts.
Others who conducted logging or pulpwood cutting operations in and around Keene Valley were the following: In the early years, after the Adirondack Lodge fire, Jim Hall and his wife, Edith had a lumber camp in the Slide Brook Valley at a point where the old Slide Brook Trail crosses Slide Brook, about one mile west of the present Marcy of “Garden” parking lot. The remains of the camp is still evidenced by the presence of an old stove, or two stoves, which may be seen beside the trail just west of the point where the Old Slide Brook Road, or trail, crosses the brook. There are two or three very large boulders which pinpoint the former location of these lumber camps.
Jim Hall had another lumber camp in the valley between Snow Mountain, Hedgehog and Rooster’s Comb While hunting in that area I have frequently seen parts of stoves which remained after the logging camp structures decayed.
Jim and Edith Hall were joint partners in these lumbering operations. Their son, Ed, and their twin daughters Grace and Daisy, lived in these camps and assisted their father and mother. Mr. Hall supervised the cutting and loading operations and Edith did the cooking and maintained the camps for the workmen.
At a later date, Al Call and Emmett Parker, lumbered on Giant Mountain above Putnam Camp. John Theriault, a Frenchman from Canada, lumbered on the lower slopes of Giant Mountain above “Mossy Cascade”. He brought his wood out near the Ogden Bridge, which stood just north of the bridge which now spans the river at the entrance to Walter and Florence Beer cottage, the home of Mrs. Corscaden and the home of Mr. and Mrs. Theodore Stebbins. (The Ogden Bridge and the bridge which spanned the river just north of the present country club paddle court washed away in the flood of 1926).
George Senecal lumbered in the Valley east of Spread Eagle and north of Hopkins. The logs and wood from this Senecal operation were hauled down the road which entered the present road near the Beede farmhouse and continued on to the valley over the so-called Beede Road.
In the middle or the late 1910’s and early1920’s, a man named Strack lumbered on the southeastern slopes of Big Slide Mountain. I can remember the remains of his camp being evident when I hunted in that region at various times during the late 1920’s or early 1930’s. “Mikes” lumber camp stood at or near the point where the north John’s Brook trail approaches the present ranger’s cabin on John’s Brook.
Benney’s camp, was situated on the south side of John’s Brook and served the lumbering operations which were conducted on the slopes of Armstrong and Wolf Jaw Mountains.
It should not be overlooked that David Hale, the father of LeGrand Hall and the grandfather of Mason Hale, had a mill at the outlet of the Lower Ausable Lake in the middle 1850’s. I believe the record of the flood of 1856 is a document wherein David Hale testified that he was at the site of the dam the night it ruptured and flooded the valley from St. Huberts to Keeseville. David Hale had a local home at the base of the hill just behind what is now the Keene Valley Hardware establishment.
There were numerous mills and lumber operations conducted in the Hamlet of Keene, but I am not as familiar with the activities in that area as I am with the areas around Keene Valley where I lived. My recollection of one sawmill operation in Keene was that of Wallace Murray. The mill stood at the point where the Keene Milldam is now fast disappearing just west of the Hamlet of Keene Center. This “Wall” Murray Mill was also a very productive operation which compared favorably with the Beede operation in Keene Valley at about the same period.
Hunters in the Town of Keene
Elmer Elsworth and the District Game Warden
Elmer Elsworth first came to the Town of Keene as a chauffeur for the Charles Gibson family. During the period of Elmer’s service with the Gibson family, he married Daisey Hall, the twin sister of Grace Hall Brown. Ed Hall was their brother.
Elmer was a very affable and charming person. Through his associations and experiences with the local country people, Elmer soon became a very ardent fisherman and hunter.
Perhaps the most notable of Elmer’s accomplishments was his ability to tell exciting stories, most of which related to his avowed skill and success while fishing along the mountain streams and hunting in the local woodlands.
The native people soon came to realize that Elmer’s fertile imagination combined with his intense desire to magnify his own skills and accomplishments, caused him to exaggerate the truth by a very considerable degree. Elmer always caught more and bigger fish, shot more and bigger bucks, than any local nimrod, but he made these accounts so exciting and interesting that the local people granted him considerable tolerance without challenge.
On a certain sunny Sunday afternoon in the vicinity of Luck’s Garage, Elmer had captivated an audience of men among whom was one stranger, whom no one recognized or had any cause to fear. On this occasion, Elmer was in rare form. With great detail he described several hunting and fishing experiences, not all of which were by any means within the limits of the law.
As Elmer paused momentarily to catch his breath, the stranger stepped forward and said, “Sir, I would like to introduce myself. Although I am here in plain clothes, I am the District Game Warden.”
Before the Game Warden could continue his remarks, Elmer quickly interrupted and said, “Sir, since you have been so kind as to introduce yourself, please allow me to introduce myself. My name is Elmer Elsworth and I am the biggest damn liar in the Town of Keene!”
Doc Goff? You bet!
Joe Gives Tom a Lesson in Bear Trapping
Joe Dukett was a Frenchman who lived in the Town of Keene. He was married to Hulda Edmonds, sister of Jane Edmonds Grimshaw, both of whom were daughters of Asa Edmonds.
Joe lived on the Grist Mill Road on the west side of the Ausable River at the upper end of the mill dam. He worked in the Wallace “Wall” Murray’s sawmill which was located at the lower end of the dam between the Hull’s Falls Road and the river.
Joe had a neighbor named Tom Smith who wasn’t as skillful or as prosperous as Joe. Joe was an excellent, skillful worker, who at times was known to drink a little too much hard cider or similar spirited refreshments. Tom, unfortunately, was not so gifted or so prosperous as Joe, and furthermore, he stuttered or stammered very badly, especially when excited.
Desiring to help Tom support his family, Joe said, “Tom, someday I’ll show you how to set a bear trap. If you learn to catch a bear you can get a cash bounty from the State. You will have the meat to use, and, the hide, when tanned, will make a warm cover for your bed.” That was wonderful news to Tom.
One day, when Joe was not working at the mill and having had a few snorts of firewater, he decided to show Tom How to catch a bear. Taking a bear trap and bait in a packbasket they went up into a notch on Owl’s Head Mountain where Joe selected a suitable place to set the trap.
However, Joe, for some unknown reason, perhaps related to alcohol, proceeded to do last things first. He set the trap and placed it on the ground a few feet behind the spot where he was to work while building the “Cubby” ( a small, inviting enclosure where the bait would be placed and, at the entrance to which, the trap would be set.)
A “cubby” is a miniature house that one constructs in a very selected spot at the entrance to a crevice in the ledge or at the edges of a cave-like slanting boulder. The sides of the “Cubby” are fashioned of logs and brush. The entrance of the enclosure is left open at the front. A log is placed on the ground across the entrance; the bait, perhaps the rib cage of a deer, is tossed in the back of the “Cubby” and the trap is placed just inside the enclosure. The bear smells the bait, comes to get it, steps over the log and into the trap.
After prematurely setting the trap, Joe gave his attention to building the “Cubby”. Tom watched carefully. When Joe finished his work, he stood up and took a few steps backward to admire his accomplishment.
Tom, seeing that Joe was going to step into the jaws of the gapping trap, tried to warn his friend saying “You, You, You, You, You, God Damit, Your in it!”
How did Tom get Joe out of the trap? Did he chop the leg off just above the trap? Or did he hoist Joe over his shoulder and with the trap dangling from Joe’s leg carry him back to Pete Well’s Blacksmith shop in Keene?
Well, that is another story!
THE AMR BEAR HUNT
An incident occurred along about 1912 which has considerable local color. For some years previously, Wesley Otis had been the game warden who undertook to protect the AuSable Club lands against the poaching of local hunters. The job of being game warden was not an enviable position due to the intermarriage among the native families. Since the St. Hubert’s resident was inclined to shoot his fresh meat anywhere he might have the opportunity, it was difficult to select an agent from among the natives who did not himself have a conflict of interest or who had not been tarred by the same poaching brush.
In the period of which I speak, it happened that “Wes” Otis had been replaced as game warden by LeGrand Hale. The Hale and Otis families had been friends and neighbors for many years, but there was, nevertheless, some rivalry and irritation over the status of game warden versus poacher.
Early one morning in the fall of 1912, Rob Otis, Wes Otis’s son, and Frank Heald went hunting. They shot two nice bucks, dressed them and, while sitting on a log having a smoke, along came a very large bear.
The next day these hunters returned to Rob’s home with a big, big black bear which they had shot. The huge animal was the largest known to have been killed in the St. Hubert’s – Keene Valley area. This unusual trophy was hung on a limb of the maple tree which still stands in front of what was then Rob Otis’s home – the first house on the left as one goes north beyond the Episcopal church at the St. Hubert’s settlement.
Among the people who came to see this huge black bear was the local game warden and neighbor, LeGrand Hale. LeGrand didn’t ask any questions, and Rob and Frank did not volunteer any information.
LeGrand was an excellent woodsman and hunter who, having a high suspicion that the bear might have been killed on forbidden land, quietly proceeded to investigate.
The bear’s thick coat of hair was not damaged. Obviously two men could not carry or drag an animal of that size. The question was, where was the bear shot and how did the hunters bring it home?
LeGrand , knowing the good hunting areas and the habits of his neighbors, walked up to the Lake Road where he noticed wagon tracks, but saw no horse tracks. This observation considerably aroused LeGrand’s curiosity. Following the wagon tracks, LeGrand returned later that day and, passing the Otis home, he perched the very large heart of the bear on a picket of the fence in front of Rob’s home.
Having found the entrails of the bear, LeGrand wanted his neighbors to know he had found where the bear was shot. The evidence on the picket fence was a silent reminder that he, LeGrand, for one, knew where the bear had been killed.
Among good neighbors there was no need for discussion and no need to file a formal report. After all, didn’t the AMR make the no hunting rule to protect the deer? As time passed, the facts became more generally known.
The hunters, having killed the unusually large bear, were faced with the problem of getting it home for exhibit, which they were most anxious to do. However, the matter of moving a 500 or 600 pound animal through the woods presented a considerable problem.
That undertaking was skillfully accomplished in this manner: Under cover of darkness the previous night, a two-wheeled sulky was “borrowed” from the stable of Spen Nye’s livery. Tying bags on their feet, the hunters drew the sulky up the Lake Road from which, at a certain point, they cut a trail into the woods where the bear was laying.
By tipping the phils high in the air, the men were able to lash the animal to the framework of the sulky. Pulling the phils of the sulky down to a horizontal position, the bear’s weight was raised and suspended on two wheels. From there the road was all downhill to Rob’s home!!
A later, unconfirmed story is: the hunters skinned the bear, had his hide tanned and during the next summer, sold the large, prime pelt to one of the AMR’s “no hunting” club members for a premium price!!!
Jokers in the Town of Keene
Doc Goff was a practical joker at times. The following stories may serve to illustrate: Leslie Gay, a thrifty, well-loved, excitable farmer living on the north side of the East Hill road, purchased a “Star” car, perhaps in the early 30’s. “Les” was very proud of that car! Having driven horses all his life, the “Star” was a real luxury. However, 20 to 25 miles per hour was the top speed which Les used in traveling on the bumpy, gravel road on his occasional trips to the Valley.
One day Doc, a notorious speed demon, overtook him. Easing up behind Les and his “Star”, he placed his front bumper gently against the rear bumper and gradually increased speed. Les probably didn’t have a rear view mirror or may not have known how to use one. When his speed began to increase, Les took his foot off the accelerator, but the car continued to go faster! When it became evident that Les was beginning to panic, Doc, approaching Trumbull’s Garage (now the local hardware store) “goosed” the vehicle forward and went nonchalantly by. Les pulled into the garage parking area, braked the car to a stop, and insisted that the mechanic tell him what made his car go faster when he took his foot off the gas!
On another occasion, knowing that Les Gay used profanity very freely, Elmer Ellsworth, Homer Brown and Doc Goff conspired against him. Homer called Les on the phone pretending he was a telephone official. He addressed him saying, “Mr. Gay, we understand that you use a great deal of profanity while talking on the ‘party’ phone line. I’m calling to advise you that due to this unbecoming practice, we are going to come and remove the phone from your home”. With this, the impulsive, excitable Mr. Gay responded, “By God, you won’t need to come and remove it, I’ll take it out for you!” With that, Les tore the phone off the wall and threw it out in the driveway! When he found “the boys” had been playing a joke on him, Les, to the delight of his friends, had to pay to have his phone reinstalled.
Frank Holt Was a Wonderful Taxidermist He could mount the heads and bodies of animals and make them look very lifelike
One spring the body of an elderly man was found floating in the Mill pond at Keene. The school boys who made the discovery went to Dr. Goff, the coroner, who upon examination pronounced death by drowning.
The deceased had come to Keene valley during the winter to visit his brother and the brother’s wife. The hosts were also elderly people. In view of the tragic circumstances, a kind neighbor offered to help with the funeral arrangements.
The church with which his family were alleged to be affiliated required that a member had to be in good standing ( i.e.: all pledges paid et al) before a permit for burial would be issued.
Going to the head of his local church, their request was arbitrarily denied as follows: “Well, this man is not a member in good standing in my church so I can’t issue a permit.”
Inquiries were made as to where the deceased lived before coming to visit Keene and Keene Valley. It was thought that he may have lived in the Town of Black Brook. Driving to that community and contacting the head of that particular church the permit was again denied for the same reasons as were given in Keene.
The petitioners were told that the deceased might have lived in Redford during his earlier years. Motoring on to Redford an appeal was made to the head of the church in that particular parish. For the third time efforts to obtain a permit were unrewarded. The clergy would acknowledge no acquaintance or association with the deceased.
Understandably, the good Samaritan whose gas was running very low said to the passengers; “Well, if we can’t get a permit to bury him, let’s take him to Frank Holt and have him mounted !!”
All about animals
While fishing along the Ausable River I have often seen a kingfisher dive into the water and come up with a small trout. On more than one occasion, I’ve seen a fish hawk hover above the stream, then fold its wings and dive into the pool like a shooting star.
Following the foamy splash of the water, the rotating wings of the hawk churn to escape the water and regain the air. In the talons of the hawk there is a large trout wiggling to escape its captor.
Slowly and with obvious exertion and effort the hawk gains some height and alights on the stub of a dead tree on the river bank. With vigorous pecking of its beak the hawk kills the fish and takes off on route to its nest of young.
A Deer Floats By
Early one evening in the spring while fishing with my Uncle Raymond in the river below the Hamlet of Keene, a large deer came floating down the stream. Not very much of the body was visible but the head was up and alert. It drifted by and continued down the river out of sight.
We did not know if a dog had chased the animal into the water or whether it was simply seeking easy passage to a more desirable area down the stream.
How to Find a Partridge
In the fall of the year, when the snow is on the ground, you are likely to see the ruffled grouse, or partridge “budding” in yellow birch trees or in aspen trees.
The yellow birch tree puts forth a rather long seed pod in the fall, and, likewise in the fall, the aspen or poplar trees develop large buds which form on the stem at that season.
The partridge ( sometimes several of them) frequently come shortly before dusk and feed on the birch seed pods and aspen buds before going to roost for the night.
If you know where to find yellow birch and aspen trees when the snow is on the ground, you may see the partridges silhouetted against the early evening sky.
Head’s or Tails
Grandfather, a very poor man went to the Westport fair. Being unable to read, the written signs in the area meant nothing to him.
He met an acquaintance coming out of a near-by tent who suggested that grandfather should pay .25 cents, go inside and see a horse’s tail where his head should be. Grandfather paid his money and entered the tent. A horse had been backed up into a stall, so indeed, his tail was where his head should be!
One spring many years ago, Mrs. Murray Gibson of Philadelphia visited Keene Valley. While in town she visited one of the active maple sugar making operations.
In that era many of the local families were large. In a maple sugaring operation there is always plenty of work for all members of the family both the old and the young.
Mrs. Gibson noticed some family members were tapping trees, some were gathering sap, one adult was hauling sap to the sugaring house on a horse drawn jumper; another adult was splitting wood and another was firing the arch under the evaporator.
One little boy, seven or eight years old, was sitting on a high stool overlooking the boiling sap. He was holding a wooden scupper in his hand.
In the steaming warmth of the sugar house the deer mice were running up and down the walls and along the rafters.
Mrs. Gibson, observing the little boy, said,”Sonny, what do you do?” The little boy replied “When the mice fall in the sap, I skups’ em up and throws ’em out.”
An Owl Carries His Share
One time, years ago, when I was walking between the north trail to Marcy and John’s Brook a mile beyond the “Garden” parking lot I stopped on a wooded promontory to view Mother Nature’s scene beyond and below me. There was no wind, it was late afternoon on a fall day, there was no snow on the ground, the land fell sharply away to the northeast where the mountain stream was making its noisy passage to the river in the valley.
In the calm air forty yards in front of me an owl, with silent, slow and labored motion flew by me at eye level. The owl was carrying a snowshoe rabbit in its talons.
Nature is designed to give life and to sustain life which is laudable. Too often, man is the needless and unnecessary destroyer of life for no such valid reason.
How to Share a Meal with a Porcupine
Porcupines live in the caves of exposed ledges or in a nest of huge boulders at the base of ledges.
The presence of the porcupine habitation is perhaps most clearly evident in the winter season when the snow is on the ground. When the porcupine comes out of his den in the winter he will make a very obvious trough in the snow on his way to his feeding area. The feeding “ground” will likely be a young, short, bushy hemlock tree which the animal will climb, eat the evergreen needles, and practically defoliate the tree.
In the spring of the year when the sap is going up the trees, the porcupine will girdle the base of the deciduous trees in a irregular pattern – more likely in the vicinity of the den.
In the spring before the leaves come out, one is likely to see the porcupines high up in the basswood trees where they climb into the branches and eat the tender bark that is formed around the smaller limbs.
I have seen the porcupines most frequently in the spring, an hour before dark, high up in the basswood trees , a week or two before the leaves come out.
(The Town of Keene’s Medicine Doctor)
“Doc” Goff was our family doctor for 60 years. He gave excellent medical care to three of my grandparents, my father, mother, my brother, my sister and myself.
My cousin, David Edmonds, who was three or four years older than I, had asthma. He also was a chain smoker and drank many cups of strong coffee each day. Dave died at the tender age of 54. I didn’t ask any questions, but I thought he might have had serious lung trouble, possibly cancer of the lungs.
My cousin, Dave, having died so young, made me apprehensive that I too might have lung trouble because I had smoked a lot since my second year in college. I went to see “Doc” during his office hours and told him I sometimes had funny feelings in my chest. Without further fuss, Doc said, “If YOU have funny feelings in your chest, quit smoking and go to drinking.” The day I became 50 years of age, I gave up smoking cigarettes and never started again.
Later, I became a member of the No-Mis Hunting Club in Piercefield, New York, west of Tupper Lake. Before dinner and in the evening at the camp, I drank three or four “shots” of bourbon whiskey – much more than usual. I became so lame it was difficult for me to get in and out of cars and difficult to walk in the woods. Visiting “Doc” Goff and asking him why, he said, “You DAMNED old fool, don’t you know that alcohol aggravates arthritis?” After that reminder, I took on much less bourbon and walked with much less discomfort.
At one period when my building and real estate affairs were very pressing, I visited Dr. Goff and explained that I often felt a very definite tenseness in my chest. He directed “Polly”, his nurse, to take a blood sample and have it tested. Then “Doc” did something he had seldom done before: He listened to my chest with his stethoscope for a long time both in front and in back. Without making any comment, he made out a prescription and then said, “Get these pills, take them as described and if you don’t feel better by the time of my office hours next Saturday, come back and see me.”
“Doc” having listened to my chest for what I thought was a long time, making no comment, giving me a prescription for pills and telling me to come back by Saturday if I didn’t feel better, quite frankly, scared the hell out of me.
Within a half hour, I was in the drug store in Ausable Forks where I got the pills and took them for the next few days as directed. By Saturday I felt like a new man, full of “pep”, vigor and ready for action.
However, even though I felt better, I went back to “Doc’s” office on Saturday. I said, “Doc, I’m fully aware, knowing you as I do, that you may have given me a bundle of sugar coated pills, but I’m here to tell you I feel great.”
In response to his question, Polly told him the blood test was negative. “Doc” looked at me and said, “GET THE HELL OUT OF HERE. I GAVE YOU SOME TRANQUILIZERS. KEEP TAKING THEM. I TAKE’EM MYSELF.”
On another occasion I tried to get “Doc” to take an x-ray of my chest. He ignored me without comment. This annoyed me. A short time later I went to the local hospital where Grace Bigelow, whom I had known all my life, was the superintendent. I said, “Grace, ‘Doc’ has gone on a hunting trip. I want you to take an x-ray of my chest.” Grace replied, “Adrian, get into that x-ray room and take off your shirt. I’ll be in in a couple of minutes.”
Grace took one or two x-rays and said, “I can’t tell you anything about these pictures until our specialist comes to read them. I’ll let you know what he says.”
About 10 days later, Grace met me in the post office and said, “I’ve got some news for you! That specialist, when he looked at your x-rays, said “WHATEVER IS THE MATTER WITH THAT MAN IS NOT IN HIS CHEST.”
Everybody sought free medical advice from Doc. At times, he would deal with these situations very quickly and effectively. For example, Herb Sumner was a heavy drinker. One time when Doc stopped at his garage in Upper Jay, “Herb” mournfully complained of great discomfort in his head and in his stomach Doc felt “Herb’s” pulse a long time, looked in his throat, poked him at various points in the abdominal area and asked, “Herb, what kind of flowers do you like?” The distressed mechanic said, “Why in the hell do you want to know that?” “Well”, Doc replied, “Herb, you’re gong to die and I would like to send flowers to the funeral”. “Herb” sobered up for a very long, long time!
One time, when Doc stopped at the Keene Valley Garage, Jim Brown approached him and complained of pain in his abdominal area. Doc punched him and poked him in several places following which he said, “Jim, all that’s the matter with you is you’ve got a fart crossways!” With that, Doc turned and walked away. Jim lived into his 90th year!
“Doc” Goff knew our grandparents, parents, our aunts and uncles, our brothers and sisters and…….our good and bad habits of life. He could look at us, poke us and pinch us in certain places and with an uncanny sense of diagnosis and good judgment , he could tell if we had cirrhosis of the liver, gall bladder trouble, appendicitis, hernia, ulcers, tumors or cancer. In fact, he ran the whole Town of Keene, politically, by knowing who was going to live and who was going to die. More about that later on (and not on this web site-Ed. note)!
Dr. Goff, as I have indicated, made every conceivable effort to care for the health needs of the people, not only in the Town of Keene, but in the neighboring towns and hamlets of Wilmington, Jay, Black Brook, AuSable Forks, Lewis, Elizabethtown, New Russia and North Hudson.
The amazing paradox to his remarkable devotions to the preservation of human life was his seemingly compulsive desire to kill any other form of life that could crawl, walk, run or fly. He always carried one or more guns in his car. No animal or bird was safe along the many roads of his travel. Their only salvation was to move quickly out of range or, perhaps, occasionally be spared by his rather poor marksmanship. Crows, hawks, kingfishers and partridges were the more common birds of prey, with once in awhile a migrating duck or a goose becoming an added victim. Woodchucks, squirrels, raccoons, rabbits and foxes were the animals which he shot at every opportunity. For years he had a good long legged deer hound, a blooded black and tan fox hound, and a beagle rabbit dog.
After a night of “Jacklighting”, I can remember Doc and his companions (including my father) coming to our shop with five deer in the car!! In the mid spring and following the haying season, “Doc” would take one or two friends in his car and drive for miles through the farming country shooting woodchucks.
Doc was no still hunter. He did not have the skill, the patience or the woodcraft knowledge to be a still hunter in the character of a local native who was in search of meat for the family table. Doc did not need meat for the family table. He only had need to satisfy a lust to kill by driving along the Town and County highways, along the back roads and the woods roads. By traveling miles and miles with his auto or his Jeep, Doc could possibly see more game on a favorable day than an experienced woodsman could see in a whole legal season of hunting. For Doc, indiscriminate killing was a necessary relaxation and an obvious pleasure!
One evening in the fall of the year, Doc came to Father’s and Mother’s home after his office hours. He had a big black cigar in his mouth and he strutted around the kitchen with his thumbs in the sleeve sockets of his vest. My brother said, “Well, what the hell have you done now?” Doc replied, “On my way to evening office hours, I shot a very big buck in Langmann’s Orchard.” To which Elmore said, “And now you want someone to gut him, drag him, skin him and cut him up!” To which Doc responded, “Right-O”.
Two unmarried school teachers lived in the house which Wardner Pelkey and his wife now own in Keene Valley Doc decided to put that buck in the young ladies cellar. The game wardens would never think of searching there! The girls would have plenty of meat for the winter and he would have a well-cooked meal of venison when ever he had occasion to visit their home!
Bringing the whole carcass of the buck to the house in the car, Doc and my brother decided to slide him into the cellar through one of the small windows on the north side of the building. After all, Dick Wright, a tolerant, quiet, old hunter lived in the neighboring building on that side, while two wise and not- so-quiet ladies lived in other neighboring houses – one on the south side and one on the opposite side of the street. After all, what might these neighbors think, if they saw two men dragging the whole carcass of a deer across the front porch and into the home of two innocent and very proper school teachers? That would be a very fertile subject for local gossip!!
The hind legs and the rump of the buck were first entered into the cellar window. Everything else went through the window, except the large antlers of the old buck! Twist and turn them as they did, there was no way they would slide through the hole! My brother, Elmore, had to go into the basement, boost the butt of the buck up while Doc pulled him back through the hole and out on to the ground.
How did they get the buck back into the basement? They wrapped him in a big blanket, turned off all the lights in the house, carried him across the screened porch, into the house and down the cellar stairs! Two neighboring ladies were totally unaware of the best topic for local gossip of the evening!
Doc Goff Takes a Bride
“Doc” Goff married a quiet, shy Vermont girl who had become a nurse where “Doc” was taking his medical training at the University of Vermont.
Joyce was uneasy living here in Keene where, instead of Vermont farmers, there was a generous mixture of Adirondack hillbillies and stump jumpers.
“Doc” often made emergency calls at night and Joyce sometimes locked the door of their home when he was away.
Late one night “Doc” came home finding the house dark and the door locked, he decided to enter by way of the second floor bedroom window. He shimmied up the tree by the corner of the building, scrambled along the porch roof, and opened the window, As he was crawling inside, Joyce, being frightened by all the strange noises, uncovered her head and said,”Is that you Doc?” Doc said, “Why yes, who in hell did you expect?”
Doc Goff Owned Some Horse Power
Doc Goff owned a horse, many cars and an airplane. He drove all the cars very, very fast on these country roads. One day, a State Police Officer overtook Doc and stopped him. “Let me see your pilots license young man”, the officer said. Doc picked his pilots license from the papers in his wallet and handed it to the officer. The trooper, realizing he had asked the wrong question, handed the license back to Doc and said, “Okay, take off and happy landing!”
Dr. Goff on a Stormy Night
Dr. Goff, on a very dark and stormy night, was driving fast on the winding Tracy Road while on his way to make an emergency call in Mineville. As he rounded a sharp corner in the road, “Doc” collided with another auto coming in the opposite direction. It was a real “fender bender”, but no one was hurt!
When the vehicles came to rest, each driver got out. The stranger said, “Only a damn fool or a Doctor would be out on a night like this!”
Doc” Goff, grinned and shook hands with the stranger and said, “Glad to meet you, I am a Doctor!”