Gramps Goes to Washington, DC!

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Gramps looking at the plane he will be flying in on Friday

When Gramps volunteered for the Army in 1942 and reported for duty at Valley Forge, he had to pass a physical exam along with all the other young men. Well, said the doc, ‘Anything wrong with you?’ In the spirit of honesty Gramps said,’I have been told I have flat feet.’

‘How many?’ asked the doc. ‘Two’, replied Gramps. ‘Alright, you’re in,’ said the Doc, and waved him on, ‘Next!’

After 5 or 6 months at Yale University which had transitioned to the AAFTTC – the Army Air Force Technical Training Command, Gramps was commissioned as a second lieutenant. Tony Bennet, the famous singer, was the first person to give him a salute and as was the custom, Gramps was obliged to give him a dollar.

He then volunteered for overseas duty, spent three years in the South Pacific where he served as an engineering officer and aircraft mechanic and was promoted to first lieutenant.

This weekend Gramps is flying to Washington, DC, along with 44 other WW2 vets, to be honored for his service. He’ll tour the memorials and as he says, he’ll close his eyes and remember what he fought for.

Our Gramps getting ready for Washington

On the flight home from Washington, there will be a mail call and the veterans will receive letters and notes of thanks from friends and family. Because we found out about this opportunity late, we have not had the time for folks to send letters for our Gramps. However, any of you who would like to send him a note of appreciation can send me a facebook message or email  at vivwalden@gmail.com. Mark it for Gramps and I will print these off and make sure there are plenty of letters for Gramps at mail call! The last day to do this is tomorrow, Thursday, the 29th since he leaves on Friday.

We’re proud of Gramps and happy he has this opportunity to go with Honor Flight Maine to remember and be honored for his service to the United States of America!

 

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In which Gramps Builds a Homemade Tractor

11062761_10153031729557541_5221951687835997993_nThe other day, Gramps and I went joyriding. We stopped by this old vehicle. Gramps looked under the hood, (ayuh, it is a Ford) and kicked the tires, something the men in our family like to do. Then he got in the driver’s seat just for a little fun and a picture or two. ‘I can’t believe they didn’t leave the keys’, he said as he checked out the ignition.

Convinced his great grandson, who is 9, can get it going again, Gramps called in at the town office to get the number of the landowner upon whose land this vehicle sits. We’ll let you know how that goes.

Later that day, Gramps told me about a time eighty years ago when he enjoyed another joyride. But first he and his father, HG, had to build the vehicle.

As he tells it………’I was about 13 and my father and I built a tractor for the farm. the perfect car for the storyFirst, HG found an old junked 1929 8 cylinder Buick which we stripped down to the still good motor  and rugged frame. So that was a good start.

transmission 1929The transmission on the car was also good so we kept that and added another one behind it on the way back to the rear end.

The front wheels we moved toward the middle; with a  smaller radius the tractor could could turn on a dime at the end of  row of potatoes. After we got the front wheels where we wanted them, we put the 2 big back wheels, axle and bull gear of an old truck on the back.

In the barn we found an old, beautiful, three foot wide leather buggy seat with wrought iron designs on the sides. We used that for a seat. Not only did it look fancy but the final buggy seatit sat two people comfortably.

When the whole process – which took about two weeks and cost next to nothing – was finished and we were ready to drive our tractor around, I got up in the buggy seat and let her rip…that contraption went fifty miles an hour. The wind was blowing through my hair as I went joyriding past Jake Drew’s farm and I could see the surprise on his face.

For the next few years most of our hauling was done with that homemade tractor. It did all the things a pair of horses could do and faster. It was progress, I guess. The rich farmers had their bought tractors but ours was one of a kind, made with ingenuity, not much cash and a classy, comfortable seat!’

Gramps tried to draw a picture of the homemade tractor but he’s not an artist. He can see it in his mind but can’t put it on paper. Maybe some of our artistic readers would like to try a sketch from the description he has given. Add him atop joyriding and you’ll make his day! Post it here in the comment section or email us at vivwalden@gmail.com

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In which Gramps is for the Birds

Gramps is 93 and he sees things a little differently than I do. His vision, thanks to a small laser op, is 20 20. But I’m only partly talking about physical eyesight. Some things you see with your memory, desire or imagination.

IMG_3278Case in point #1- This is the table where Gramps likes to breakfast on sunny days.  It is anchored to the porch with an old 50 pound piece of lead – which weighs more than it did when he was young, so Gramps says. Anyway, that keeps the table from being pushed around by the wind. IMG_3280In the same theme, he added the hand polished steel holders so that on a blustery  day the napkins don’t blow away. I may see this as a bit tacky but it is a testament to Gramps’ problem solving ingenuity and his desire to sit outside in the sun after a long winter.

Case in point#2 – This is a piece of ugly fat called suet that Gramps puts out for the birds.IMG_3288 The old butter container is also filled with suet- in case some birds prefer pecking at their fat from a dish, I guess. I see this and think how gross it is. But Gramps sees that the birds will come. And they do – the chickadee, nut hatchers, woodpeckers, purple finch, house finch, orioles –  they come and enjoy that fat – and Gramps watches them with joy and satisfaction.

Sometimes it is refreshing to see things from another point of view. If you are in the area, come sit at our table that will not blow away ever and watch the happy birds feasting on the fat while Gramps tells a story or two. Or three. Or several.

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In Which Gramps and I Go Remembering

12048529_10153012800132541_1517694348_nYesterday, Gramps and I went remembering. We stood at the shore of Lower Wilson Pond and as we looked out at the water, he pointed to a spot.  “There, right there”, he said, “I learned to swim.” That was 88 years ago and it is as clear to him as if it happened last week.

And here is where we went picnicking,” he continued. “My father would say, ‘Bess, pack up a lunch and let’s go for a picnic.’ Ma put together sandwiches and Dad got a saw, a hoe and some rakes – it was his way of getting us all together to work on the shoreline of Wilson Pond.

“Over that way is the camp site my sister Lambie and I camped at for a week at a time. We carried in eggs and bacon and fished for our supper. Sometimes for fun, we smoked old dry leaves wrapped in toilet paper; we felt pretty cool. We slept in a pup tent, cooked over a fire and enjoyed the carefree days of summer. It was marvelous!

Gramps and I stood looking out at the Pond but we were really looking at the memories.

“It’s the small things in my life,” Gramps told me,”the simple, small, happy moments that strung together make me look back and realize what an amazing life I have had.

IMG_0005“I remember sitting on the porch steps in the spring, soaking up the sunshine and anticipating the wonderful warm long summer ahead. After the rugged winter with heavy snow, spring was delightful and I was so full of contentment. There was much work to do but I just had to sit and feel the warm sun on my face, just for a while.

“That was a small thing but I remember clearly how I felt.”

Gramps has an opinion about life today. “There is so much excitement and busyness and people are on their little machines all the time so as not to miss a thing. There’s not much warmth in any of that.

“I think I’ll place a box by my door and ask all who enter to deposit their little machines therein. People need to slow down, talk to each other or just be still and listen. They need more simple moments in their lives.”

Gramps has not documented his 95 years with selfies, instagram or facebook. The land IMG_6205around him – the Pond, the barn, the hills and mountains remind him daily of  his marvelous life.  And the memories still warm him for he smiles as he shares them.

 

 

 

 

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The Twice Moved Old Barn by our House

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The old barn is at the right.

Edwin Orin Walden (1882- 1937) was a dear Christian man, so said the townspeople of Greenville. He walked stooped over for much of his life because of an accident that broke his back but did not slow him down. Professor Tracy of Yale University who came every summer to the Walden Farm for years said of him, ‘I never knew a man as wonderful. He put up with me for almost 2 years and then one day he took me to a corner of his hay field and told me how to live outside of my classroom.’ He was man of few words; when he spoke he had something to say. And he worked hard on Walden Farm.

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Look closely and you can see the roman numerals.

Around 1910 Edwin wanted a barn for storing farm equipment. So it came to his notice that a barn of good post and beam construction about 4 miles away was for sale. He bought it for 25 dollars and he took it apart numbering each part of the frame – 1, 11, 111, 1v, in roman numerals, and so on probably up to L (50) or so. Then he loaded it on a logging sled, pulled it with 2 large horses across the ice and up the hill to his farm. It took a few loads to get the whole barn moved to the farm. In the spring he began putting it back together, following the numbers he had previously written on the beams. When he was finished that rebuilt barn was again good and sturdy.

In 1942, when our Gramps, Edwin Schuyler Walden (grandson and namesake of Edwin) moved the farmhouse off the original Walden land (which was taken by eminent domain for an airport) to where it is today, he decided that he would bring that barn too. First he took the rocks from a long stone wall and made a base for the barn. Then he jacked up the barn and put a sled of three straight birch trees under it. He let the barn down on the tree sled and hauled it in one piece with a D-8 tractor borrowed (from the outfit building the airport) to where it stands now.

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Gramps appreciating the old barn.

As I look outside our window that lovely old barn reminds me of the old folks who took care not to waste. Before recycle, reuse and upcycle were buzzwords they were a way of life. Folks used and reused everything and their buildings were so well built they stood – and stand – the test of time. Yesterday, Gramps and I went down to the old barn. With appreciation we looked at the work of Grampa Edwin Orin Walden and we remembered the good, kind, hard working man he was.

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The Perfect Father and Son Day on Wilson Pond circa 1961

IMG_3349The beautiful summer days up here in Maine have Gramps remembering the Perfect Summer Day. Here he tells the story.

Every summer for several years my wife and I and our children moved over to Tracy Island on Upper Wilson Pond to live for the summer. I worked in Greenville and came home every night. This particular afternoon I got home early, probably about three in the afternoon. It was a beautiful Maine summer day. Calm water, pure blue skies – just the perfect day.

I crossed the Pond in my boat with my fast 15 horse powered motor. As I arrived at the dock on Tracy Island, my son, who was about 8 years old at the time, said, ‘Dad, would you like to ride in my boat?’

He had procured a small wooden flat bottom from a distant relative. It was a tippy, narrow 12 footer, a handmade clumsily designed boat and my son put an old 5 horse power motor on it. You could see the cylinders on each side of that motor and you put gas in the back of it. It was probably over twenty years old and had been through at least a couple of owners. But it worked and my son enjoyed having a boat and motor of his own.

So I thought, what a wonderful thing! My son wants to take me for a ride in his boat.

And there we were out on the water. I was relaxing on the front seat enjoying everything as my son drove us around the pond. How can a man be so lucky? The day was a perfect Maine summer day and this was the perfect father-son moment. I was lost in contentment and satisfaction and near reverence. I was in Lala land. Could life get better than this?

And my son throttles down the motor, so I can hear him and he says, ‘Dad.’

‘Dad’, he says again, and he waits until he has my undivided attention. I look at him from  the other end of the boat just waiting for this wonderful day to get even better.

And then he says, ‘When you die, can I have your 15 horse power motor?’

Today that 15 horse hp motor is under the camp porch. About 20 years ago my grandson IMG_3444 figured out how to get it going. I have a feeling next summer I’ll be seeing my 9 year old great grandson flying around the Pond with that old motor on the back of an old boat. After all, it’s our kind of family heirloom.

-Gramps Walden and Viv Walden

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Our Famous Gramps has a Birthday!

IMG_2457Gramps throws around the word, famous, often. I have learned that words are relative so when he tells me someone is famous I take it from whence it comes. For example, in Gramps’ youth, the young girls from Willimantic were famous for being jaw-dropping beautiful Norwegian young ladies.

Or Annie R from East Road was famous for her biddies. (She loved those chickens.) When Gramps was a young boy and the 8 party phone line rang, he and his sister ran to the phone for a little amusement. ‘How are your biddies today, Annie?’ they heard Mary C ask. And Annie would reply, ‘Oh, them biddies is doing the best they can.’

Gramps’ father was famous for his temper and some other things I won’t mention here. His mother was known far and wide for her hospitality, hard work and bean swagin. She followed the proverb found on the gravestone of the first Walden to live in these parts – I opened my door to the traveler and the stranger did not lodge in the streets.

Lambie, Gramps’ sister, was famous for her smile, blueberry picking and Tarzan yell. So in this neck of the woods being famous is what you are known for in your world.

This is part of the charm of small towns. You may not have planned it but you are likely famous for something. And it can change over the years. Gramps has been famous for many things. He was president of his class in high school and his fraternity (Phi Kappa Sigma) in college. He was a soldier. He ran the airport. He built a church. He is a storyteller; everyone who knows him would agree. He is a card player par excellence.

IMG_0014He’s provincial; his roots in Greenville go back to the earliest settlers and he is connected deeply to this land. So connected is he to his home that when the town took the Walden Farm by eminent domain for an airport, Gramps came home from Connecticut where he was working at Pratt and Whitney, put the house on a cradle of birch logs and pulled it down to a new foundation where it overlooked Wilson Pond. But that is a story for another day.

Of all the things Gramps is famous for, love of family and home tops the list, at least in my book. My husband and I and our five children have lived across the world and in different parts of the USA – but we always knew that wherever we were, we had a home place to come back to. When our daughter died we buried her in Greenville where we knew we would always return.

Gramps gave us roots. When we head north from wherever we have been, there are certain milestones on the way. We pass  the MAINE sign; surely the air is immediately fresher. Heading to the Moosehead Lake Region, we stop at the Abbot bakery for the best doughnuts. We top the hill into Greenville and behold the view of picturesque Moosehead Lake. At the library we turn right up Pleasant Street and soon we are turning onto Walden Farm Road.  Here on the hill above Wilson Pond is Gramps – and home.

11741198_1632055703725681_2345500015896477250_oToday is Gramps’ birthday and we celebrate the 93 years of life he has been given thus far. Happy Birthday, Grandfather! Thanks for being famous for the most important things in life. We love you!

 

 

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The Miserable Wonderful Fishing Day with Uncle Stan – and his woods coffee recipe

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The making of Uncle Stan’s woods coffee is an exact science. First, take an old blackened coffee pot. Put in some coffee and sugar. Add an egg, smashed shell and all. Stir around and put the whole thing in your knapsack along with some potatoes and salt pork. Now you head out on your fishing expedition and when the time is right, it all goes on the campfire.

When the time is right is the key phrase here. First, you must tramp through the woods to the allocated fishing spot, preferably in the rain. Part of a good day’s fishing is being miserable. Cold and shivering when you finally reach the Pond you have chosen, you find a wooden raft that is just barely floatable and with a stick as an oar, row to where you know the fishing is good on the Pond.

The rain is pouring down in buckets now and the black flies won’t leave you alone. You’re miserable but you are with Uncle Stan and you’re catching fish! Just when you think you can’t take another black fly bite or rivulet of cold rain going down your neck, you’re shivering like anything and your fingers are all withered up from the cold and rain, you hear the call. ‘Lunch on!!!’

The smell of coffee, trout and potatoes makes you forget you are cold and wet and you’re so happy and euphoric in anticipation of the marvelous meal that you become almost fond of the black flies. Your mouth waters as you wait for your serving of this ambrosia, this nectar of the gods.

Uncle Stan serves you your portion of this delectable repast on a tin plate. The potatoes are cooked just right, the fish perfectly fried and the coffee is marvelous! You came off the pond so miserable, cold, wet, shivering and fly bitten and now you sit around the fire eating and chatting with Uncle Stan. There is nothing like it. You cannot describe how pleasant the day was.

Later you trudge home in the presence of that kind man, culinary expert and wonderful storyteller, Uncle Stan, wondering at your good fortune at having such an enjoyable fishing experience that you will remember it with clarity and fondness even when you are 94!

 

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Storing our 1914 Evinrude Motor in Wilson Pond for the Winter

1914-PM-evinrudeGramp’s father was Harold George Walden, most often referred to as HG. This is one of his hunting adventures that I think deserves a telling. Gramps was about 8 years old at the time of this story so this is an eighty-four year old memory!

One late fall day probably at the end of legal deer season, my father, HG Walden, went hunting. On this particular day he was by himself. HG left early in the morning from Walden Landing in one of his regular rowboats with the 1914 Evinrude motor he used back then. He boated up through the Thoroughfare to the Upper Pond where he docked the boat and headed up past the Big Rock to Scammon Ridge.

He hunted all day and the weather sharpened up considerably and got very cold. Close to dusk, he came back down to the Pond and got in the boat to return home.  He was just through the Thoroughfare when he realized the Lower Pond was skimmed over with thin sharp ice. Now skim ice can cut right through a boat so HG had to think a little on what to do. He knew he could pull the boat up on shore but he did not want to carry the motor all the way home; he would have to hide it in a place where it would not be stolen.

So he deposited the motor in the Pond in 8 feet of water where there was a sandy bottom. The boat he pulled up on shore near the Muzzy Camp for the winter. Then he walked the five miles home by way of the Old Wagon Road.

IMG_2520In the spring after the thaw HG and I left from Walden’s Landing in one of our rowboats and headed up to the spot where he had left the motor the previous fall. He had no difficulty in finding exactly where it was. We procured the motor with a hook attached to a rope and hauled it up. Because it was made almost entirely of bronze (except for the cylinder which was iron) it had not rusted.

We rowed back down to the Landing and walked up the hill home with that Evinrude motor that had been underwater for the winter, took off the Magneto and put in the wood oven. We couldn’t let it get too hot, just hot enough to dry it out. So after half an hour,  HG took  the Mag out and reinstalled it. Then we went down to the Pond, put the motor on the boat and at the first crank ppppppppputppppput – it started beautifully.

They don’t make motors like they used to.

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George Charlie Chaplin Falkner and His Wife who Escaped the Circus

When I brought my new bride, Barbara, to Greenville, Maine, I wanted her to get to know the local characters. On the list were George Charlie Chaplin Falkner and his jolly wife Mary Curtis Falkner who escaped a life in the circus. They were a couple as different from each other as anything but they were happy, delicious folks.

Mary Falkner had an inauspicious start. Born to a young lady who had a reputation about town, she was about to be sold to the circus (so they say) when her father, a farm hand who worked for Old John Curtis, came to the rescue. He begged Old John and his wife, Susan, to take the child and raise her as their own. So they did that very thing; Mary was taken into the Curtis family and raised as John and Susan’s daughter. The biological mother and father we can now dismiss from the story as Mary became a true Curtis. They saved her from the circus and gave her a happy life.

Mary grew to be an immensely large lady; she must have weighed 250 pounds and she fit the pattern of big jolly people. She laughed much and her infectious merriness of life was like sunshine. She was a sweetheart and appeared to be one of the happiest women I ever knew.

George fit the pattern of Charlie Chaplin. A dapper fellow of small stature, he stood straight as an arrow. He usually dressed in a suit and his walk was reminiscent of Charlie Chaplin -arms by side, step lightly, shuffle shuffle, step step. George was less than half the size of his wife. And he enjoyed life – how could he not with Mary, that delightful lady? They were greatly disappointed when Bob their son, who was a genius, could not make it in college but they carried on with their usual love of life. Bob lived with his parents his whole life and helped them in their work as caretakers of several camps.

IMG_2483As a pair George and Mary Falkner were very interesting. The first time Barbara ever saw this couple he came into the room, ran toward his wife, and jumped up to hug her. She reached out, caught him like a pillow and clasped him to her ample bosom. They were just good time, plainspoken regular people, content with their lot in life, happy with each other and willing to share the laughter.

George and Mary were taking care of a camp near Borestone Mountain and he called me one day to order some gas to be delivered. Their boy, Bob, was to receive the 4 gas tanks at a little Pond near Borestone where the trail starts to go up the mountain. I did not know when we started up that mountain what the day would bring. Barbara and I headed out to the camp with the tanks and when we arrived George took me out back to show me some huge trout. ‘George’, shouted Large Mary, ‘You are not supposed to show anyone those fish.’ (Poachers were always on the lookout for big trout and Mary and George were responsible to keep the place private.) So George and I hurried back out front.

So there we were with the tanks which needed to be ferried somehow to a large camp across the pond. I put the tanks on the wharf and Bob began to load them in their small aluminum boat. ‘Why don’t you throw them in the water and we can tow them’, I suggested, but Bob continued putting them in the boat. So George and I stood and watched as Bob loaded the four 200 pound tanks.

This will, of course, destroy the balance of the boat as it will change the center of gravity. The higher the point of gravity the more likely the boat will be to tip. George and I waited to see what would happen next. Bob, ignoring my sage (I thought) advice, put his foot on the edge of the heavily and ungainly loaded boat and went to step in. Immediately, it flipped right over, Bob and the tanks disappeared under the water and the bottom of the boat was all there was to see.

George was wringing his hands as he worried about his son and the tanks. But then Bob popped up from under the water. On all sides of him popped up the tanks, which, filled with gas (which is lighter than water) rose to the surface almost more quickly than Bob did. And at that point George and I gave way to laughter. It was as if I was in a silent movie show complete with slapstick humor and Charlie Chaplin by my side. Those tanks bobbed around in the water until we righted the boat and per my original idea, tied the tanks with a rope and towed them across the water.IMG_2458

And so went a typical experience of laughter and merriment with the Falkner family. As Barbara and I drove off in our truck we looked back to see Jolly Mary, Dapper George Charlie Chapin Falkner and their still drenched son Bob waving and smiling until we rounded a bend and could see them no more.

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