Staying inside LilyPad for weeks with Austin Air Filters full blast does not give one notable adventures. We managed a few weekly short escapes to drug stores and grocers to refill our fridge and cupboards but my face had to be covered when outside by the uncomfortable mandatory mask. It is unbelievable that The Woodlands, laden with pollenating plants year round, does not surpass the breathing constriction, wheezing, sneezes, watery eyes, raspy voices and nose blowing that results from the over exuberant pollenating of New England’s Oak trees. Pollen counts are daily reaching ten times the norm since our arrival, making the inside of LilyPad my entire world for over a month, the exception being days I must work.
Another chart topper attendance day today. The highest counts of park guests in the last year. We are supposed to work twelve hours a day, but chasing guests out of the park at closing, picking up trash throughout the park after they are gone, counting up all the money and attending to bookwork, another hour. Add to that the drive to the bank the next morning for a bank check and a trip to the office to turn in paperwork/bank check, another hour. By the time our two work days are done, we’ve accrued close to 14 hours each day.
Pollen is washed out of the air each downpour making “rainy” my favorite days. Alongside our grocery route road sits an older house with a small barn in back. Several spacious enclosed fields containing mini packs of spindly legged slender necked creatures that peer towards the road at the passing traffic. Their body structure appears to be that of petite Llama’s. Posted on the driveway next to the house is a hand printed sign that reads “Emma’s Acres Alpacas”.
Slowing to watch the animals, John spotted a man sitting inside the barn with doors swung open, dogs resting at his feet. Pulling into the dirt drive, we were immediately greeted by barking dogs, then by Roger, one of the owners. When I rolled down the window and asked about the animals in the fields, we were graciously invited to come meet his family of Alpacas.
We exited the car and chatted with Roger while walking to the field, his elderly dog suspiciously eyeing us and plodding along a short distance behind. When Roger inched open the gate for us to step inside, we were met by a dozen pairs of huge soulful doe eyes and inquisitively sniffing noses. In the distance, additional long slender necks swiveled to follow our entrance into their domain.
Natural curiosity coaxed one after another forward for a closer look so we waited patiently until they reached a comfort level with having us invade their personal space.
Roger appeared with a container of Alpaca endorsed bribes, sharing them with John once the initial anxiety from our presence had subsided.
John introduced himself to the bravest and then the prospect of munchies won out over any fear of this human intruder.
After snack time, we were invited into the barn to see the bags of what was recently sheered, then into the house to view completed merchandise. Soft but sturdy, Alpaca fiber sheerings are spun into an assortment of wearable and gift items in various colors. Prices are exceptionally reasonable and their wares are sold on line and at local fairs.
To read more about these gentle creatures and view their current all-season offerings, visit Emma’s Acres Alpacas at: www.emmasacresalpacas.com
Friendly farewells ended our entertaining detour and we continued on our way to the grocer before returning to LilyPad for a home cooked dinner and a Red Box movie. Work in the morning, early to bed, another day in Massachusetts ending.
Groupon is alive and well in Boston. We have secured our half price Hop-on/Hop-off Bus tickets for a Boston overview escape and Cape Ann Whale Watching Cruise tickets for a seaside overnight. They both sit upon the dash ready for the greatly anticipated day of “liberation from pollen season”.
Our next free day after a downpour was spent collecting Kodak moments of local history and exploring the place we will call home for the next five months. Charlton is a small friendly town, first settled in 1735; residents are predominantly blue collar workers. First up, the Town Pound, a niche carved into the backside of the cemetery.
A forged metal pole driven into the ground surrounded by a stone fence served as the dog pound. An antiquated alternative to having them roam free. We’ve come a long way baby!
Stones weathered by age, names partially faded, the Bay Path Cemetery, located at the end of the town in Charlton, holds the remains of many Revolutionary soldiers.
Giant shade trees overshadow gravestones placed in irregular rows inscribed with RIP dates that span centuries of American history.
Maj. Gen. John Spurr, 1761-1816, participated in the Boston Tea Party and served in the Continental Army during the Revolution War. His house in Charlton, built in 1798, was added to the National Historic Register in 1976.
John Capen Adams, aka “Grizzly Adams”, 1812-1860, was a trainer of grizzly bears and other wild animals he captured for zoological gardens and circuses. He kept several as pets. Immortalized as a gentle giant in a movie in 1974 and in a TV series in 1977, the true disposition of “Grizzly” was said to more closely resemble an ornery old buzzard.
The original gravestone has no mention of “Grizzly” but has a carved illustration of Adams walking side-by-side through the woods with one of his bears. It is said that P.T. Barnum, a friend and circus partner, commissioned the creation of his tombstone. The Charlton Historical Commission installed a stone marker in 1976 to connect the obscure real name with the popularized nickname.
Hiram Marble, a member of the Spiritualist Church from Charlton, believed he received a message from a 1630’s pirate named Thomas Veal who was said to have hidden treasure in a cave in Lynn. After an earthquake caused a huge rock to permanently close the cave, Thomas Veal was never seen again. Dungeon Rock, the name given the rock, stood blocking the entrance of the cave for several centuries until Hiram moved with his family to Lynn, bought five acres of land and began a lifetime of digging to find the treasure. He claimed to be guided by instructions from the spirit world. Hiram believed that if he found the treasure, it was an opportunity to prove the validity of Spiritualism. He dug for the treasure until his death in 1868. His son Edwin continued digging until his death in 1880. The treasure was never found.
A substantially grassy medium separates two magnificent vintage brick structures, the Charlton Public Library and Charlton Center Historic District, the old Charlton High School. They sit directly across the street from each other in town center.
The Charlton Free Public Library was established in 1882. The library gained national recognition in 1906 after it banned Mark Twain’s short story “Eve’s Diary” for its au naturel illustrations of Eve in “summer costume”.
The Charlton Center Historic District, formerly the old Charlton High School, was built in 1923 using Granite from the Universalist Church in the foundation. The building sits on the site occupied by one of the first schoolhouses in town. Three churches had come and gone, the 1760 Charlton Center Meeting House, 1799 Congregational Center Meetinghouse, and the 1827 Calvinistic Congregational Society.
Another day after “rainy” and we were off to explore. I was born a California dreamer, joined others of pure tenacious spirit living as a Texan but if I ever lived past lives, there is no doubt that my heart and soul found the grace and charm of New England my true and forever home.
Dozens of centuries old towns clustered together along roads that began life as Native Indian trails and grew into well-traveled paved roads for the 20th and 21st century populace. Two and three hundred year old Salt Box, Mansard and Cape style homes, lovingly restored to their former elegance, reminiscent of the 18th and 19th century, now residences of 21st century suburbanites.
Plans are to drive the full length of the countryside and visit as many towns as possible while here in New England. My eyes squirreled from beach front weathered Capes to gigantic clapboard covered 17th century farmhouses attached to rust red barns. Out one side of the window stood a slate roofed meticulously restored Mansards, my head rapidly changing direction so as not to miss the remarkably restored 1700’s Salt Box on the opposite side of the road.
Rains continually clearing the air of pollen, our drive was one of many and we plan to traverse New England searching out old haunts and discovering new.
Marlborough, Massachusetts, the location of our pre-children home and life, was my favorite residence and remains so to this day. The memories from our life as New Englanders secured my belief that we belonged in that four story Town Center Remington Brownstone in The Woodlands Texas and was the reason we made the purchase.
Stopping in the middle of the street, relief was immediate as we gazed up at our three story Mansard perched on the lofty hillside, our first home, delighted to see it lovingly preserved by the current owners.
The homes on our street were well maintained, the town still neatly kept. Sniffles brought on by memories of amazing friends and joyous times from our past life clouded my eyes with tears.
Another flashback-to-the-past trip made the following week, this time from our 35 year old son Josh’s first year of life, the second time we returned to live in New England. This return, we chose Sharon Massachusetts and bought the last house on the left, back when the movie was still fresh in my then youthful mind.
Sharon Massachusetts was a small Jewish community, tightly knit, its Christian parishioners held together by a tall slender man whom everyone called “the Jewish Priest”, the well-known, much-loved Father Bullock.
An avid runner, ever jogging through the town and countryside, Father Bullock was a pillar of strength and determination in the community and everyone knew he must certainly have had a direct line to God’s ear. He hosted and participated fully in a Jewish/Catholic radio talk show and was a leading proponent for religious tolerance.
During our year in Sharon attending Our Lady of Sorrows Church, John and I were actively involved and chaired several committees. We both have countless fond memories of this year in our lives. Rest in Peace dear Father Bullock.
A new day, a new dawn, another long week indoors. Experiencing cabin fever, got to get out of this place. Drove to Cape Cod Corps of Engineers to meet the Rangers and volunteers, checked out the other contract work positions, viewed the park and grounds for consideration of future stays. We met a gentleman who worked at Buffumville last year, John and he chatted. Told us he was much happier in his current spot, next to the main road with one bathroom and a few picnic tables, all cleaning split between he and another volunteer couple on the far side of the park. Four full work days, not someplace John would consider. Stopped in Plymouth to stretch our legs, let KatieBug out, breathe in the fresh salt sea air.
We split dinner at Lobster Hut, a well-known fabulous fast food joint on the docks of Plymouth. Yummy clam “chowdah” (that’s Yankee for chowder) and a monstrous lobster roll, leisurely enjoyed between us before the long drive home.
In case you are not familiar with lobster rolls, as was the case for John and I until our cruise stop in Bar Harbor Maine a few years back, I’ve included a picture displaying its chunky lobster yumminess.
Back home, quickly completed next-day-work-prep, relaxation for the balance of the evening. Night-all.