Tag Archives: hammer

Frost Valley #10: Raining Dam Spikes

Well, folks, I missed having Hurricane Gerda blow me off Cape Cod, but I sure did not escape the rain.

As the caretaker’s helper on a private estate in the Catskill Mountains in the summer of 1964, I was staying in the loft of a combination barn and garage, right under the wooden shingles of a roof with no insulation or finished ceiling. The shingles spent the night dancing under the consistent pelting of pouring rain. The babbling brook of Clear Creek became a roar.

The next day Stan and I got in the Scout and headed out to see what rambunctious Clear Creek had been up to. We only had to go about 500 yards.

The structure had not been much more than a wide sluice box, more of a pass-through spillway than a structure of any height — just enough of a weir to divert some of the creek’s water under the road and through several small ponds meandering through the estate’s main compound of buildings. Even so, the dam had been substantially made, with heavy beams framing it and thick timbers for the creek to run over. The morning after Hurricane Gerda, it was largely a jumble of boards strewn down the stream.

Within the week Stan and I and a craftsman Stan knew were fixing what could be fixed, securing the beams that needed secured, and laying salvaged and new timbers across the raceway. Sturdy spikes, some eight to ten inches long, had been purchased to secure it all together. Stan and his craftsman were glad to have a hired hand to sledge the big nails through the boards.

When I was fourteen my Dad quit letting me drive nails in the cabin he was building because every nail I started was bent by half way in. To this day, be it a three-penny or a brad, if it is in my hand and I have a hammer, it is going to end up bent.

Yet, with these sturdy spikes and being all of twenty-four, I thought I had finally found nails substantial enough to withstand my influence.

Nope! After five or six spikes were beyond recognition, Stan mentioned those things cost 80 cents each. After a dozen he started commenting how far it was to the hardware store to get more. By the fifteenth, Stan and the handyman had taken over and I was left trying to look helpful.

Frost Valley #5: Deerly Encountered

The first day I headed out to post Frost Valley property I walked into the meadow where I had first seen fireflies, past where I had made a wide berth around a tip-toeing skunk, and over the berms that held back Clear Creek to form fish ponds. I was headed into the unmarked forest looking to come across the southern boundary of the estate. I carried a hammer and had a bag of nails hanging on one hip and on the other a satchel of paper tree adornments declaring: Private Property / No Trespassing.

There were two fish ponds between the meadow and the thickening woods that climbed up the hills on the far side of the little valley. On the downstream side of the second pond an opening in the gathering trees sported a green, grassy meadow. Looking to the far side of this lush meadow, some hundred feet from me, I spotted two fawns, past their spots but far from grown, standing on either side of their mother. All three had their heads up, fully alert, and were looking directly at me.

I instinctively stopped and returned their gaze. Calm, as they were. Eye-to-eye, as they were. Just checking it out.

To all the gods of the forest, I witness what a beautiful moment it was. Four souls breathing the autumn air and taking one another in.

Gorgeous.

That was my take on it and my spirit holds it to this day. I don’t know how gorgeous they considered me, a creature with one hip hanging in a pouch and the other boxy and awkward and with one hoof dangling five wiggly tubes while the other ended in an odd shape that might be good for stomping the earth.

We four stood for five seconds? Fifteen? Sixty? Then, suddenly, one fawn frisked right off the earth and started a rapid, playful romp across the meadow toward me. Within half a frisk it was joined by its sibling, as if two puppies had spotted two hands that needed someone to pet.

I was charmed to be included as their playmate and I celebrated their joy as they bounded my way. But mostly I kept an eye on Mom.

To my surprise Mom seemed rather unconcerned until the fawns got half way across the meadow and were not slowing down. She started to move. Not run. A slow walk, but keeping the distance short enough between she and the fawns so she could get to them if she had to. It was so very civil.

Mom picked up a little speed as the fawns closed the gap between us. When they were ten feet away I shifted my stance. Just a shift from one leg to the another. The fawns stopped in their tracks. Mom slowed and came up between them.

I told them how beautiful they were and thanked them for the pure Nowness of it all.

My mind knew I was posting the property to keep out hunters and I thought of these fawns and their mother not understanding the difference between a creature with a square hip and another with a long stick. And, lets be real — petting wild animals is an iffy proposition at best, especially with a momma of any animal kingdom watching her young.

Five seconds? Fifteen? Sixty? I don’t know how long we stood, my cooing and them twitching their ears and blinking.

Then I slowly moved my hand indicating I was going. I turned and slowly walked toward the woods. They watched until I was gone.

I did the sensible and necessary thing, walking away. But my spirit did the right thing and remains there still, in a lush and obscure meadow, romping and petting and playing with the fawns and the fireflies and the teen-aged skunk and the watchful, calm, Mom.