News from Vermont #244 -- Lots of Lilies
Lots of people are stopping these days on the section of County Road that overlooks my parents' pond....well, it's actually my nephew Peter Shattuck's pond but it'll always be my parents' pond in my book (Sorry Peter...you just pay the taxes on it now!). The reason they're stopping is because the water lilies down there look like they "jumped right out of a Monet", only better. There's a story behind those lilies.
The pond was dug back when I was just a kid. It was a swampy piece of land right in front of our house...I believe the term "good for nothing" was bantered in our family for years until one day a huge machine called a "drag line" showed up. Mr. Sherman Stebbins owned and operated this drag line and masterminded hundreds of farm ponds all over Vermont. Sherm Stebbins, "Father Pond", never ended up with dry holes or mucky messes; he had a sixth sense about whether or not a pond would "work" in any given place and would tell the landowner if it wouldn't. He acted a little reserved with our site..."She'll hold water but she's not ideal, Harry" he said to my father. My father said "water's water" but found out the fallacy of that notion; when our pond was done and landscaped, it did, indeed, hold water but was always slightly anemic compared to our other spring-fed farm pond. The new pond was almost too tepid for swimming and, although rainbow trout thrived there, brook trout died because the water was too slow moving.
My parents didn't regret building it, though, because it was a vast improvement over the eyesore that preceded it. We mowed the lawn around it, had picnics down there in the summer and skated on it in the winter. One day a few years after it was built, my father took my mother for a ride. He didn't tell her the nature of their trip as they headed south down Route 100 and over the gap to the town of Brandon. He had a friend there, a vegetable grower named Robert Wood who had a farm pond of his own. Harry Morse knew that my mother Dot loved water lilies and in the Wood pond thrived a certain pink water lily. They arrived at Wood's picturesque farm stand which stood right next to their large farm pond just to the south. At one end of the pond was the stunning array of pink water lilies.
"Mind if I take some root stock from your water lilies, Bob?" my father asked like it was a simple matter of reaching down and pulling a clump from the ground. "Help yourself Harry" Bob Wood replied, "but I sure don't know how you're goin' ta get it." My father simply grinned and headed, Clark Kent style, for the nearest tree. A few minutes later he emerged wearing only a bathing suit..."down in the muck...at home with the fish...he can fend off blood suckers with a single swipe... he's Super Water Lilly Man!" Harry Morse walked to the edge of the Wood pond and slowly waded in where the lilies were thickest and stopped when the water was up to his neck. By then a few spectators had gathered and my poor mother had retreated to the car, embarrassed. At first, Dad looked like he was just standing there with a strained look on his face but the onlookers began to cheer when they realized he was picking the root stock with his toes and "handing" it up to where he could reach it with his fingers! He soon had a good amount and waded back to shore.
Dad didn't bother changing out of his swim suit, knowing that it would take preserved moisture and "Super Man" talent for that root stock to get planted and survive in our pond. My parents thanked Mr. Wood and hurried back home with their precious cargo. By the time they arrived, Mom was over her embarrassment and really seeing the humor of it all as my dad grabbed his still slimy bundle, headed out into our pond, and began planting, yes, by handing root stock to his feet and planting it with his toes! It took a few years for those pink beauties to take hold but eventually they thrived and multiplied.
I just returned from taking my own picture of the beautiful lilies down there. My parents are both gone now. My siblings and I bought a simple granite marker for them over in the Doty Cemetery a few years back. I'm sure we would all agree, however, that a "marker's a marker". It, along with a unique stone from our farm, serves as a fitting memorial to Harry and Dot Morse most of the year. For the short period in the summer, though, when those lilies look "better than a Monet", they are the best memorial of all for two great people, Harry and Dot Morse.
Th'old weatherman is in kind of a "bad mood" here on the east coast these days. My thoughts and prayers are with coastal folks from North Carolina right up through Maine but it's even being suggested that us land- lubbers may get clobbered. I talked with a fellow Vermont sugarmaker yesterday and he's worried about one of his "shallow-rooted" sugarbushes blowing over. I sure hope not but if we get much damage to our maples, it will surely affect the supply of syrup for next year....thoughts and prayers should go out all around, I guess!
Thanks a lot and please batten down the hatches!
and the Morse Farm family