Nina Daniels



Wednesday, August 23, 1950

Sunday School picnics have been enjoyed for longer than fifty years in Our Town, but that is as far back as I am ruminating. Very often the two churches had a union picnic either in Edgar Courser's woods, or at Allen's Falls in the lovely woods there. The Courser sugar orchard was nearer, and besides, the smooth meadow this side of it afforded a fine baseball field in which sport the men and boys indulged after their abundant picnic dinner at noon.

Every last dish, table, chair, and eatable had to be horse-drawn in "double wagons" up to the woods. The whole affair, indeed, was a lot of work, but so was everything else in the horse and buggy days. As a general thing, each church appointed committees by which arrangements were carried out. How far-off those old picnics seem now as one recalls them, and the folks who planned them. Morris Page could be relied on to take up a load of boards and stuff with which to put up crude tables; also dishes and chairs from the church. The Clarks were ready from the Baptists with necessary appurtenances. A large milk can had to be included in the props, in which the lemonade was to be made.

Herbert Sanford and his wife Bertha from among the Union folks never failed to do their share of the work. Mr. Sanford most always kept a spanking team and wagons of assorted sizes. A recollection I cherish is one of his last trips to Parishville, in which he showed up with a beautiful team of matched bays and an elegant "double buggy." The rig seemed, in retrospect, to be more attractive than a modern motor car. Somehow there was a subtle response in one's horse-flesh that is lacking in the cold steel of a machine. A horse knows his own folks, he can tell when they are loving or angry, or sad or joyful, and he really entered into their journeyings with sympathy and understanding. Be it an "Model T," or the latest Rolls Royce, your iron steed is utterly devoid of any kind of feelings except what any dead contraption can experience. The old kinship between a man and his horse which existed between them is lacking in this mechanized age. Of course, there is pride of possession in a fine, shiny car, but one does not mourn for it when it is worn out as one did for a faithful flesh and blood companion. Humans are growing cold and callous commensurate with their companionship with unresponsive machinery.

Mrs. Sanford was a faithful president of the LAS for many years. He was also organist at Sunday services, and a Sunday school teacher, and at the picnics helped in setting the tables and in getting both stuff and folks into the woods. The men also put up swings for the children and did their share of other chores. I remember so well Hattie Armstrong, Effie Lee, Mary Gosseline, Nell Faulkner, Mrs. Kirk, and Ella Stone dishing out baked beans, potato salad, brown bread, all kinds of cakes and pies, pickles and jelly, with hungry urchins lurking in the background. There were no hot dishes, vacuum utensils not having come into use. Great quantities of lemonade were drunk, and some carried cold tea, milk, or coffee. Cottage cheese was in great demand, home-made and loaded with cream. Deviled eggs were plentiful and dozens of sandwiches were brought. Everything tasted wonderful. All the eatables were freshly made at the homes. Generally, a committee was appointed to solicit money for the lemons and sugar. Probably, like the Christmas trees, half of the lemonade was Baptist, the other half for the Union folks. Both preachers were present, one of them saying grace when quiet could be restored. For the men, the best part of the day was the ball game between the two groups of church people during the afternoon on Edgar's pleasant meadow. Alas, none are left to play such a game after all the years. Most are sleeping in the church-yards, those remaining are old and feeble, or entirely laid by.

The women and children would sit under the trees cheering on their respective combatants. The games seldom exhibited marvelous feats of scientific or clever baseball maneuvers. Indeed, the throwing, batting, and even the running were often awkward and funny. For these were no professionals. They were simply farmers, mill-hands, clerks, and teamsters—with an occasional lawyer or bookkeeper—out on their annual picnic to have a good time. Not until they were middle-aged did they behold a really scientific ball game, and many of them never. There were no hard feelings over the outcome of the games, but much hearty laughter and fun. After the game was over the appurtenances must be collected and carted back to their places in the village. The day had been a good and pleasant day. Friends and neighbors had met, exchanged news, partaken of a right good lunch, and returned home refreshed in body and spirit.

For those were happy, peaceful times with no black and portentous clouds threatening the good and lovely world. B-29s, tanks, atomic warfare, and submarines were never dreamed of with which to fill the nights and the days with horror and fear. The most the picnickers had to worry over as they broke up was an improbable run-away horse or an urchin wailing with an overloaded stomach. But it has ever been the lot of mortals to fret over something, and maybe those early century picnickers were no exception, with the specter of taxes or illness looming big on the horizon for some of them.

When they went to Allen's Falls they loved the sweet woods there. Years and years of falling pine needles had made a thick carpet underfoot. Stepping on it was like stepping on a soft springy rug, and a most delightful smell greeted the olfactory nerves—piney and suggestive of the collective and invigorating odors ever present in the old Adirondacks. They had a longer ride in the buggies and farm wagons, and thus saw more daisies and buttercups, but the procedure was similar—lugging tables, dishes, food, and drinks to the place appointed, eating and playing ball. At both places the sweet St. Regis flowed along, unhurrying and murmuring its ever-present music as it took its inevitable way to its destination in the Big River—its destiny since it first left its source in the still mountains far away, eons ago.

There are few such gatherings now. Life is so crowded and so intricately involved. The world is so full of a number of things. We all should be as happy as kings. But show me a happy king and the number of things is far from being happiness.



North Country