On New Hampshire Channel 9’s weeknight program New Hampshire Chronicles, Fritz Wetherbee does segments about New Hampshire’s history. In one of the programs last week he was in Nashua, showing us a statue by sculptor Chris Gowell, explaining that he is stunned by her work. And I gasped. This wonderful statue is a six-foot bronze of woman and a boy, an 1870s millworker and her son, created to commemorate Nashua’s Franco-American heritage. It is titled “La Dame de Notre Renaissance Francaise.” It’s installed on the Nashua River; her skirt is blowing, swirling, and you can feel the wind off the water.
I immediately thought of Anne, the heroine of my historical novel, The Flowers of the Forest, although she was of Scottish heritage and was a single young woman when she worked in my fictional shoe factory, Huddersfield Shoe Company. I remembered writing the scene, set in 1878, in which she and her sister walk to work:
Anne and Marjorie walked around the house to the sidewalk, which was crowded with people, a quiet cataract of Huddersfield workers streaming down to the factories and mills on the river, everybody still half-asleep, their boots louder than their voices. Anne coughed. The chimney smoke tasted yellow . . . The river, inky below the waterfall’s dirty foam and diverted into many canals, cut between cliffs of brick buildings. Anne looked up at Hudderfield Shoe’s stern façade . . . They entered the building. The thump of machines had begun, and, as it always did, the dark tanned smell enveloped her like a huge leather pouch.
I chose to use a shoe factory instead of some kind of mill because I had once worked in a shoe factory, albeit in 1960. This is also why in The Cheerleader there’s a shoe factory where Snowy’s mother and Puddles’s father work.
In the summer between our junior and senior years at Keene Teachers’ College (as it was then known), Don worked as a caretaker at a summer house in Dublin, a pretty town nearby, and via a friend I got a job in the office of a Keene shoe factory. I punched a time clock, a new experience! Even though my job involved math, figuring how many shoes needed to be made to replace what had sold, I rather liked it, probably because it was such a change from English classes.
Don and I laughed about the contrasts in our jobs. He would drive me to the factory, drop me off, and then continue on to Dublin where he’d mow the lawn and, as I would accuse, “spend the rest of the day pruning roses.” Then he’d drive back from this outdoorsy toil and pick me up after I punched out.
On paydays we’d go shopping. I remember in particular the delight of buying a little Weber grill and bringing it home to our apartment in the married students’ barracks, where Don then grilled hamburgers in the backyard.
©2019 by Ruth Doan MacDougall; all rights reserved
Almost everyone seems to have a squirrel story lately. My sister and a Sandwich friend tell of squirrels running around in their ceilings; a squirrel chewed a hole through the roof of another friend’s barn. And so forth, and now at last I have a squirrel story too.
Because of our bird feeder, squirrels have always taken an interest in our backyard. Don rigged up a bird-feeder pole with a baffle that did seem to—er—baffle them (sorry); they resigned themselves to grazing for dropped sunflower seeds underneath the feeder. But this winter they ventured farther. One morning I looked out the glass back door and saw a large gray squirrel lumbering around the porch. To enter, it had chewed a hole in the porch screen. After investigating the porch’s interior, it exited. The next time I looked out, a vicious little red squirrel was there, racing around the inside of the screen.
I’ve often told the tale about a bear’s invading the porch. After that excitement, a squirrel invasion shouldn’t be a big deal, but eventually, when I realized that if I wanted to open the back door I first had to yell and bang on the door for fear a squirrel was hiding behind a snow shovel or something and would make a dart into the house, I decided enough was enough. I asked our friend who plows the driveway if he could patch the hole in the screen. He did. He and I agreed that the squirrels may just chew another hole but perhaps the patch will discourage them. I’m also tossing extra seeds onto snowbanks to distract them.
Havahart traps are usually mentioned in these stories, with squirrels moved to undisclosed locations. But there they might die, without their caches.
In the Winter issue of the Appalachian Mountain Club magazine, AMC Outdoors, there’s an article by Heather Stephenson titled “Cache Deposits.” She explains that some animals store food in one place, while others, like squirrels, store it in different places, which is called “scatter hoarding” or “scatter caching.” I suppose I’m supplementing their scattered caches.
Speaking of the AMC, in the Winter/Spring issue of their journal, Appalachia, there’s a review by Lucille Stott of a feature-length documentary about Thoreau’s life in Concord, Massachusetts: Henry David Thoreau: Surveyor of the Soul. The movie has interviews with “local Thoreauvians,” including Walter Brain “who notes that the correct way to pronounce Thoreau’s name is by placing the accent on the first syllable: THOR-eau.” Aha! My sister and I learned from our grandmother Ruth, who was born and grew up in Concord, Mass., that this is the correct way to pronounce it and we always have. But we’re apt to get startled looks from people.
Maybe not so startled as my look when I first saw a squirrel on the porch.
©2019 by Ruth Doan MacDougall; all rights reserved
The Old Country Store (March 25)
The Galloping Gourmet (April 1)
The Poor Man's Fertilizer (April 7)
Miniskirts and Bell-Bottoms (041518)
Henrietta Snow, Second Printing;;
Food & Drink Poems (April 22)
Recipe Box and Notebook (April 29)