"Before I Forget ..."
(This is the final installment of excerpts from "Before I Forget," a book written by Roy Vail of Warwick, noted antique collector and gunsmith. the DISPATCH is grateful to Mr. Vail for allowing us to share these articles with our readers. - THE EDITORS)
The Mayflower was one of the first flowers of spring and I'd always gathered a bouquet for mother. Then the arbutus would come out and Uncle Lewis would get sap buckets out and tap the five maple trees in front of the house and mother would boil the sap down on the stove and we'd have maple syrup for our pancakes. It had a distinctive flavor all its own. Most of today's commercial maple syrups have about half to three quarters cane sugar in them. Mother would boil some till it thickened and pour it into a little heart shaped fluted tin receptacle to harden into maple sugar. It was poured in small granules and used to sweeten cookies, pies and parched sweet corn, the old Indian method. It was real tasy. When our children were small we tapped the maples on our front lawn so they'd know what maple sugaring was all about. For a joke I tapped and hung a huge bucket on a pine tree on the lawn. A neighbor, Tom Dekay, stopped on day and wanted to know what I got out of the pine tree. I said I hoped to get some pine cough syrup. A city couple who had a home just above us tapped a couple of trees. In boiling down they evaporated so much steam that all the wallpaper came off the wall in the kitchen and living room. It was on the furniture and everything.
The first day of July Dad would always sow a field of buckwheat and in the early all as it matured he got Cliff Roberts from Amity to come and cradle it. Cradling is a very graceful performance. He'd start at the left of the field taking a swing with a scythe and dump it in a small pile and continue the same width of swath across the field. He used a wood rake to gather small bundles which he'd tie with twisted straw, enough for a small shock. It was my job to gather several shocks and make one big one, put one or two shocks on top to keep the rain off. How we dreaded the rain and showers till the grain was dry and we could thresh it on the barn floor and take it to Day's mill (ed. the mill on Iron Mountain Road, which is still standing) to be ground in buckwheat flour for the winter pancakes, with maple syrup.
Father gave me a beautiful heifer calf Milly, which I raised and we turned her out with the rest that spring. I went to see her to take her salt 4 or 5 times that summer on the Burrows farm on the mountain above the Dekay place. She would follow me all over like a pet dog. When we came to get the heifers that fall she was missing. I looked all over the farm and called and called. My feet were terrible heavy as I came down the mountain that day. In fact I was sick all over. On the way home we passed a farm whose owner had also rented pasture on the Burrows farm. As we were going by the farm I saw Milly in with his cows. She show me at the same time and came running to the fence. She was different from the rest of the heifers - she showed the attentiion I had lavished on her. Her eyes sparkled, there was luster to her coat from constant brushing. She had a sense of belonging and she didn't belong in with a bunch of from heifers and she knew it. I ran and told the farmer he had my heifer and he insisted that he had raised her and his wife came out and gave me a very hard time. When on raises an animal from a baby calf there is no question about recognition. I was really sicker going home than I was coming down the mountain. As I got home I realized I had 2 or 3 pictures of her from a baby calf up. I got them and rushed them on my bicycle to show the farmer. Black and white spots never change on an animal except to grow larger with the animal. When I showed the pictures to him he said, "You can take her." But the wife threatened and cursed me and said if I did she'd sue me. He was gentleman enough to quiet her down and he said to her, "He has photos to prove the heifer belongs to him." (I took the pictures with a little 2A Folding Brownie Camera. The one of the jack rabbit and me was taken with the same camera which I have to this day.)
I always liked to hunt, mainly tramping the fields with my dog Shep. Jack Beattie's grandfather would come three or four times in the fall to hunt quail in our back lots near the swamp. There was always quail there as father always planted wheat and buckwheat in those fields. Wheat, for grain and flour and buckwheat for pancake flour. Enough grain was left in the field to carry the birds over the winter. The judge took me with him one day, my first introduction to sportmen's hunting with bird dogs. I really enjoyed going along. I was too young to carry a gun. The judge had a double barrelled Colt hammer gun and he was a real fine shot. He drove a pair of horses and a one-seated wagon and Mrs. Beattie would come and visit mother. She was quite a small lady. I had often seen them riding about the country, he with a modified high hat, very dignified.
Bob white quail nest in a circle, each bird facing out for protection. The blizzard of '18 snowed them under and the warm sun melted the snow so that crust formed and the quail were trapped and very few of them survived that winter. (ed. I think the Vail family was at Sutton Road at this point in time.) When spring came, one could tell by the paucity of (?) - 3 or 4 compared to the previous spring. They never recovered. Also about this time Eastern famers weren't growing much grain. The railroads brought it in from the west cheaper than they could grow it.
Frank Forester, one of the early leaders in conservation was worried about the diminished population of the game bird. How pleased he would be if he could know what the sportmen of America have done to bring back the population of game - a tremendour increase and something that hunters and sportment can be very prout of because they are ones who through license fees and their self-imposed 11% federal tax on guns and ammunition have paid for these programs including the purchase of wetlands in the United States and Canada. The wonderful increase is not the result of those who oppose hunting. On the contrary it is the result of those who approve of hunting and participate in it who provided the financial support for management and restoration programs that we enjoy today. Many states have abused this sportmen's program by building ski runs and other facilities that people are enjoying who haven't contributed one worthless dime toward their creation. Sportmen aren't complaining but it's nice to air the facts once in awhile.
Father planted peach and apple trees. Peach trees would come to bear first. They were only good for 8 to 10 years and would be cut down when the apples came in bearing. My brother and I had the soft peaches that wouldn't stand shipping to our customers along the Erie. We sold them in New Milford for 25 cts. a half bushel. They were perfect for canning and table use. I think about 25 people worked in the creamery and on the railroad. Mother had some gooseberries that we'd pick and sent them to a jam kitchen in Monclair.
Once in a while we'd have a severe freeze and most of the buds would be killled. In those times mother would take in boarders from the City. I remember one in particular. Her name was Kit Heanes. Her husband was a taxi driver in the city. He brought her up in a big Stanley Streamer and when she returned to the city she asked us what we wanted and I told her I wanted a small pipe. I don't knwo why as I never intended smoking and I never did. It came and it was a little beauty made to hold cigarettes - an ivory bowl and a real ivory stem. I have it to this day. She was a lovely person and her husband, who was about 20 years older. Then we got a boarder who brought us lice and we all got itching. Mother called our doctor, Dr. Pitts, and he said to put kerosene on our heads. It's a good thing none of us smoked or we would have been a bunch of human torches running around. That was the end of the boarders. Many country farmers took in boarders in the summer - the reason for so many large porches on the old country houses and little round summer houses called gazebos.
I am indebted to Mr. Morris Bahrman and his daughter, Mrs. John McPherson, and my Uncle Lewis, for the information about early settlers in Jockey Hallow and the early industries carried on there.
This is transcription of an article published in the Warwick Valley Dispatch, dated September 6, 1978. Used with permission.
Many of the transcriptions found here are now in published form. They have been published by the Orange County Genealogical Society (in Goshen, New York). Volume 3 includes my Volume 3 and Volume 5. Volume 4 includes my four parts of New Milford history. There is a planned Volume 5, which will include my Volumes 6, 7, and 8, Part 1, which is about 250 transcriptions. They can be purchase through the Genealogical Society. Just Google them and print out the order form. Or they can be purchased from the Warwick Historical Society. They are also on sale at the gift shop at Baird's Tavern. I would like to thank the Genealogical Society and Dan Burrows for their efforts. Started a new blog for images of Warwick. Go to: www.imagesofwarwicknewyork.blogspot.com.