News from Vermont #264 - Forever Boys
June 13th, 2012
Hello again Maple People,
They say that "still waters run deep". After a recent meeting with a wonderful neighbor, I would extend that to "Still 'wells'"...let me explain. Her name is Evelyn Webler and she called to say she had an idea based on "Fathers Day" for one of my columns. I met her out in our parking lot after she nudged her ancient station wagon into a space and grabbed her cane which she introduced as "Herman". She slowly followed me out to our deck where we sat facing each other. If eye twinkles counted, this woman would have already spoken volumes before we even sat down. She chided right from the start though, "This is not to be about me". I promised to honor that...boy is it ever going to be hard not to break that promise!
I immediately found out that "eye twinkles" do indeed count but only those of her father, John Augustine Mitchell Hopper Stillwell, "everyone called him 'Dick'" she said, and my father Harry Morse. Just like that, her idea, "fathers who are forever boys", was on the table. She described her father as "full of the Dickens" and , yes, having an eye twinkle. Dick Stillwell, a printer by trade, was a "comedian, entertainer, gardener...loved to make people laugh...a tremendous draw for kids". She went on to describe one time during a card game, Dick, a teetotaler, "planted" a rubber dog poop on the floor nearby. She said when her mother discovered it, the poor dog got soundly scolded. Dick "owned up" and spent a long time making up to the animal! "That's the way he was" she said, and then she went on to my father.
Harry and Dot Morse about 1970
One time she came up to Morse Farm after my father had reached old age and spent much of his time sitting by the pot-bellied stove in our store. That day she had charge of a boy with disciplinary issues. "The boy" she said, "always wanted to go up to your place and he'd immediately gravitate to your father." She described my father, like her own (and aptly, I might add), as having an eye twinkle, and being one who drew kids. "While that boy was with your father" she said "it was almost like they were the same age. He'd behave just fine so I'd go into the store for a while and leave them alone." When they got in her car to go home, she said the boy commented "Well, I said goodbye to the 'old boy.'". That lad has no doubt grown into a man by now, possibly with boys of his own, but Evelyn will always remember the day he made that comment about Harry Morse.
For the next part of Evelyn's story, the clock must be turned back to Father's Day, 1952. Unbeknownst to each other, Evelyn and I were both hiking on Owl's Head Mountain over in Groton State Forest. She and most of her family had reached the top and my parents, my three older siblings, and I were about half way up. The four of us kids were well ahead of our parents, excited as kids on a hike will be, and all of a sudden we came across a man in the sitting position leaned up against a tree. On closer inspection, my older siblings discovered that the man had died. I was only four at the time so they hustled me away. I was left with only a faint memory of the man and the mountain.
Dick and Evelyn Stillwell about 1936
Soon other hikers came along and congregated at the scene. The deceased man was Dick Stillwell. Evelyn said word traveled to the mountain top that she and her famiy should not go down right then. "I wasn't allowed to go see my father" she said, "but I was told by someone who had seen him that he had an incredibly peaceful look on his face.". She ended with the words, "I wish I knew for sure." At that moment, sixty years after my fleeting glimpse, one thing suddenly "jumped out at me"...that the man had looked so peaceful that, incredibly, I remember not even feeling sadness. I looked across the table at Evelyn, lowered my voice, and said "Evelyn...it's true".
Looking back on it, that was the beginning of my lifelong belief that people do not end with death, that good folks go on to something great. Evelyn and I had a wonderful talk that day and, with a minor breach of my promise to her, I found Evelyn Webler to be one of the most vibrant and interesting people I've ever talked to. She suggested that I write a story about our two dads and I said I'd try. Usually that agreement comes with a bit of uneasiness...sometimes the "literary spirit" simply will not move but in this case I knew I could do it. After all, it would be about two great men who had twinkles in their eyes...fathers who are forever boys. Happy Fathers Day, Dick and Harry, wherever you are!
I think we need more men these days like Dick and Harry...seems as though th'old world is movin' too fast and we have more "up tight" people than we use to have. That's why I love making and selling maple syrup for a living...it's based on ancient principles/customs/actions that can never be "diluted" by modern, flawed ways. Yes, we figure out easier ways to do the job but the basic "recipe" for pure maple syrup will never change: boil forty gallons of sap and end up with one gallon of pure maple syrup...that's it! And, I might add, it's only possible to make pure maple syrup in a small portion of North America so it'll never get "farmed out" to China or some other country. Maple is pure, down to earth, simple, and, local but you can get it wherever you are by going to www.morsefarm.com. We appreciate your support and your orders.
Thanks so much!