Bob from the 1930s
Thursday, May 18 2023
A nice diversion from work that I started today was the eradication of some of the poison ivy that forms a clump midway between the road and the doghouse (where I store pine needles) on the west edge of our yard. Normally I just let poison ivy propagate unless it's near a path. So I've done similar poison ivy eradication along the north side of the house, where the path down to the greenhouses passes through. Recently I've been using a new path to the mailbox that cuts through the patch of poison ivy I was eradicating today, and that's the reason for the eradication. (I also sometimes mow in that area, and mowing poison ivy is a good way to get sprayed with poison ivy particulates, which is why I often scrub my feet and ankles after mowing.)
This afternoon at some point Neville started barking and Gretchen said he sounded pretty far away. So I went out and saw Neville standing in the roadway like a bad dog barking at something. I went out there and saw that the subject of Neville's interest was an old man I've been seeing lately walking up and down Dug Hill Road. He often parks down near the bottom of the hill and then hikes up. He walks with the assistance of a stick that he uses as a cane, and I've seen him wearing heavy gloves, like maybe he's collecting trash or hunting for wild edibles. After I convinced Neville to stop barking, me and the old man introduced ourselves and he proceeded to tell me a lot of stuff. His name was Bob and he used to live in a house that no longer exists about a mile further up Dug Hill Road. Learning that my name is Gus, he said that he had a good friend back then named Gus who lived in a house that was recently torn down (41.93794N, 74.11793W). What blew my mind about all this was that he was describing how things on Dug Hill Road were back in the 1930s. He said he himself had moved with his family up here in 1932, which meant that he was at least 91 years old. For someone that age, he seemed physically spry and perfectly articulate. He said that back in those times, Dug Hill Road was only about half as wide as it is now, and it was more curvy too. He told me about how he and Gus used to ride their bicycles down Dug Hill Road, and that their speeds (which he measured using as speedometer) routinely exceeded 50 mph. On one such occasion, Gus had to veer out of the way of a car climbing the hill in a curve that, from his description, sounded like the one just above bus turnaround where people used to shoot their guns. Poor Gus went flying into the forest and his bicycle crumpled against a tree. But somehow Gus survived. Bob said that back then Dug Hill Road wasn't plowed much in the winter time, so when snow came, you could be stuck in your house for a long time. He didn't have electricity or phone in his house back then, so I imagined him reading by candlelight. Bob kept referring to a book he'd written and self-published that he kept assuring me I'd like. I told him I'd be very happy to read it, and he told me he might come by and loan a copy to me. By this point in our conversation, Neville was lying on the ground watching our conversation with what appeared to be interest.
Bob could've told me stories into the evening, but I had to get back to work. When I returned to my computer, I told the colleagues in my remote workplace about Bob, and that led to a series of riffs that imagined Bob as a vampire who might be interested in harvesting my face as part of an effort to stay forever young. Then again, why wouldn't he select a victim with a younger face?
Gretchen had to teach something at some facility down in New Jersey and would be spending the night down there. I needed a few groceries, mostly taco shells to go with the chili I'd made yesterday. So I drove out to 9W, stopping first at Home Depot mostly to buy little plumbing bits for the cabin. On the drive back home, I stopped at Ray & Nancy's place to retrieve the last of the wood back in their long narrow backyard. To help with this, I'd brought both a handtruck and the big Kobalt chainsaw. Ray and Nancy's cars were both there, but I never saw them and didn't want to bother them. In three trips with the handtruck, I retrieved two large pieces of silver maple and a whole bunch of little pieces of smaller trees, some of it limbs that had fallen from pear trees. Not only did I take all the wood I could find, but I also cleaned up where the wood had been, tossing all the tiny little branches into a patch of weeds that never gets mowed. Since Ray's reason for having me do this is to beautify his yard, it made sense to do all that I could to make the fallen limbs disappear.
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