May 4, 2018
Our farmhouse had once been grand. Ornate molding adorned tall windows that looked out on a row of fat Maple trees standing above a small orchard. Just beyond, was a shallow creek - Bloomer Creek. It appeared in early spring, deep enough to splash around in, and by August it was gone. When the creek was dry, you could see an old, black cable running along the grey shale. This was telephone cable. The creek-bed provided the easiest and most direct way to run phone line from the nearest neighbor. In the farmhouse attic, pushed against a dusty beam, we found a wooden, hand-crank telephone, the old phone that had once been attached to the cable in the creek. That was long ago. Now, the cable is in tangled pieces, knotted with tree roots and old fence wire. In time, spring floods will wash it all downstream into the lake.
When we first moved into the old farmhouse, our friend and neighbor, John Myer, a fifth generation organic farmer (now also a distiller) gave us a gift. It was a photograph of his grandmother, “Grandma Susie”, taken in 1893. “Grandma Susie” had once lived in the farmhouse as a young girl. In the photo, young Susan Electra Brewer, poses beside her grandparents posing with their big, black horse in front of the white farmhouse that was now ours. The photo also shows young Maple trees in the dooryard above a carriage house by the creek. Later, Susie’s brother, Myron, would own the farmhouse down the road, now long abandoned. On a winter evening the setting sun would light the windows of this house as if it were again occupied. We could see this from our living room, the same room where Ed Auten hung himself after a farm accident left him paralyzed in bed for eight years.
We had not lived in the farmhouse by Bloomer Creek for more than a month when Grandma Susie died. She was 97. The day of her funeral was sunny and warm. Kim and I returned home late in the afternoon. As we walked to the house, we heard loud noises – thumps and bangs - coming from the carriage house by the creek. It was then that we saw, silhouetted in the light of the open doorway, a large Cooper’s Hawk standing upright on the dirt floor of the barn before flying from rafter to rafter in the dark loft above, over and over again. What seemed strange was the fact that the carriage house door was wide open – the hawk could easily have flown away. We watched for a long time, never having seen a Cooper’s Hawk, or any hawk, so close before. It all seemed very odd, especially after seeing Grandma Susie in her open casket, made-up in bright red lipstick like a teenaged girl. One couldn’t help but tie the two things together – Grandma Susie and the hawk in the carriage house. In my mind they are inseparable.