Category Archives: Small Town

The Game

Where my niece Michele went to high school, she was in a class of 1,300.

Family had reservations, appointments for commencement. An hour’s window during which our progeny were scheduled to cross the stage in a mass-production graduation machine. I believe the entire commencement took something like eight hours.

In my little school (yes I know I’m old and we’re talking about the last century, but it was 1977, not 1877) we had a graduating class of about 65 students. We all knew each other quite well.

When we were shopping for The Ark, one of my criteria was that the school needed to be fairly small, like mine was. My wife’s class was bout 300 kids, if I recall. I liked the idea that a kid, especially if a kid had a little trouble, could not be lost in anonymity.

In Sharon Springs, the graduating classes had an average of slightly less than 30, until Ryan’s class came along. All of a sudden there was a mini baby boom, and there were 45 students starting that year! The school had to scramble to get another teacher, and establish a second classroom for the grade.

Fast forward about 20 years, and now daughter Miranda and her family live just north of us, in the big town of Canajoharie. Canjo is a bigger school, by my standards, and I think the classes are a bit larger than a hundred students.

Grandson Max plays for Canjo’s basketball team, which meets each Saturday for intramural games with neighboring schools of similar size. I had a good time on a recent Saturday, taking some photos at the game, trying for a Sports Illustrated shot. Number 32 is Max.

The game was against Mayfield, the school across the lake from my own alma mater. The gym where the game was held has the kind of bleachers that fold flat against the wall. Attendance is good at basketball, and there were probably more than a hundred spectators from the two schools. Still on the small side, you’ll notice the benches of Mayfield and Canjo hold barely enough students to make a second string.

Max drew a few fouls, and made some baskets. I don’t have the stats. It was a great thrill to watch them play. I played a little hoop in school and loved it, and all three sons played for Sharon Springs. (Daughters preferred soccer and softball). There’s something a bit timeless in school sports. At least basketball. How much can change, really? The game looks the same now as when I played, though I’m sure our uniforms were better looking.

 

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The Crowd Rises

Alas, after an all-out effort and a lobbed shot at the buzzer, The Cougars could not rally against Mayfield, and the game was lost. The teams lined up and passed one another, shaking hands and declaring “good game”.

So close.

So close.

Until they meet again.

Take care and keep in touch.

Paz

Family Farm Day 2016

August 13th was Family Farm Day in Schoharie County, and we headed for daughter Kerry’s farm, about 3 miles from home. She and beau Kenyon operate the Parsons flower and vegetable farm, selling both at their farm stand and at local Farmers’ Markets.

Mom & Dad’s main job on Family Farm Day is to bring the Cooler Corn, for serving Corn-on-a-stick! It’s called Cooler Corn because of the easy prep, using your picnic cooler. Shuck the corn and toss it in the cooler, boil enough water to cover the corn, pour it in the cooler and close the lid. Twenty minutes later, you have perfectly-cooked hot corn on the cob!

Corn-on-a-stick

Corn-on-a-stick

Kerry & Kenyon are very fun people, and aside from promoting Healthy & Local, Family Farm Day is a bit of a circus atmosphere, with games, activities, prizes and food sampling. The most popular by far is the Corn Toss, where contestants throw whole ears of corn and try to land them in bushel baskets. Inside each basket is a label (actually a paper plate) that indicates the prize you’ve won (if any; last year Kenyon labeled one “Loser”. It was funny, and most folks got prizes anyway).

This is the day you’re encouraged to play with your food! For youngsters (and wanna be youngsters), there’s the Vegetable Art Table. Most popular this year was the construction of Zucchini Cars, closely followed by creation of Vegetable People.

Of course food is a big part of Family Farm Day. There were tastings and samplings, and even the Pampered Chef representative on hand. The peach salsa was a big hit, and everyone got corn on a stick.

Carrying contests were arranged, whereby the contestant needed to carry as much as possible. First there was the Pickle Carry (pre-pickled cucumbers to be exact). The winner managed to carry 64 pickles over the course. Not bad for six-year-old arms!

The Corn Carry was a different matter, and attracted older attendees (like teenagers). We didn’t count the number of ears carried, we were too busy laughing at the contestants!

Surrounded by beautiful flowers, fresh vegetables and lots of friends and family, what could be a better way to spend a day?

Check with your Farm Bureau or Cooperative Extension to see if your county has a Family Farm Day! We’re already looking forward to next year!

Take care, and keep in touch.

 

Paz

Pancake Season

Breakfast Time

Breakfast Time

I live in upstate New York, and we’re surrounded by sap houses. Those are the places where Maple sap is boiled down to that best-of-nature treat, Maple Syrup.

Maple syrup is made from the sap of the Sugar Maple, a tree which grows throughout the northeast United States and eastern Canada. Virtually all of the Maple syrup comes from this area.

So I don’t know if folks do this elsewhere, but around here spring means Pancake Breakfasts at the firehouse. Why? I’m not sure where the tradition started, but it’s a tasty one.

The Pancake Breakfast is an event, a meal, a community gathering and a great fundraiser for volunteer fire departments.

The Ames Firehouse

The Ames Firehouse

There are a lot of small communities around, and the Pancake Breakfast is the event that brings them up the hill from Canajoharie and down the hill from Sharon, west from Sprakers and east from Salt Springville.  It’s kind of like the spring cotillion for all the villages.

Everyone Turns Out

Everyone Turns Out

So we stand in line with all the other folks that braved the February weather to get to the firehouse at 8:30 and get tickets. The line snakes around stanchions strung with yellow plastic link chains. We wait patiently with our tickets in hand, as a volunteer looks for groups to fill tables.

“A three? Anyone with a party of three?” and the lucky winners are whisked away into the dining room (which is also the meeting room and the all-event room for the firehouse).

Volunteers, with their Fire Company shirts and STAFF emblazoned on their backs become line cooks, servers, bus boys,  and waitresses as what seems like the entire town cycles through the annual feeding frenzy.

Firehouse garage

Firehouse garage

Patiently Waiting

Patiently Waiting

The meal is served family style. We sit at a table for twelve, the three of us seated with total strangers. No wait, they’re strangers, but not total strangers. We may not know their names and homes but we know they are “of us”. They live in our towns and plant the corn that feeds the cows that produce the milk that feeds the children.

Volunteer Firefighters become Restauranteurs

Volunteer Firefighters become Restaurateurs

Family Style

Family Style

Here there is a teacher. There is our veterinarian. There are Sheriff’s Deputies and snow plow drivers, ladies of the Auxiliary, Rotarians, school kids, moms & dads.

Community

Community

The cars keep parking and the lines keep growing. By threes and fives we’re escorted to our seats, plied with orange juice and coffee and real maple syrup.

Stacks and stacks of flapjacks, an unending stream, plates filled automatically when they’re empty. Piles of sausages, sausage gravy, platters of bacon, buckets of butter, home fries, eggs.

We gleefully fill the makeshift dining room and we eat together the most important meal of the day. Nay, this is one of the most important meals of the year!

Sure, we could stay home and make pancakes. We could go to Denny’s. Service may be faster or prices may be lower.

But here, we’re doing something a little more. We’re not just raising money for the fire company, for hoses and boots and ladders and training.

We’re also showing, by our presence, our commitment to one another, to our communities. To the volunteers that respond to that dreaded sound, the fire siren. For the men and women that will be there, at my house or yours, at 3 a.m. in February in fifteen-degree air if need be.

They’re not paid. Receive no benefits, no pension, no health insurance. They risk their safety for the sake of others. For us.

Besides, where else can you eat breakfast with the mayor, the Sheriff and your retired teacher at the same table?

Take care and keep in touch,

 

Paz

Merry Christmas Mr.Potter!

Frank Capra’s It’s A Wonderful Life is one of my favorite Christmas movies.

It’s all about connectedness, about one person’s effect on others in this life. To some folks it’s a nostalgic return to a time when much of America was dotted with small towns like Bedford Falls, the fictional setting of the movie.

For me, it’s a reminder that I live in a place like  Bedford Falls. A place like Andy Griffith’s Mayberry.

Our Courthouse

Our Courthouse

Like George Bailey in the movie, when I walked into our humble little post office on Saturday, Maria called out “Good Morning, Scott!”. As I left I bade her “Merry Christmas, Maria!”, and she returned the greeting.

Our Post Office

Our Post Office

In the Stewart’s Shop, the regional convenience store chain, I’m served by Stacey, whom I’ve watched grow and mature since before school age. To her, I’m “Mr. O’Connor”.

Also to the many children I coached at Youth Baseball. More kids than I remember, and I must admit I don’t always recognize them twenty years later. To them, sometimes I’m “Mr. McGuire”, (some of my kids have alternate last names), or even simply “Coach”.

Down at Sunnycrest, browsing the greenhouses for flowers or buying wood pellets, they even recognize Chuy the Wonderdog, welcome to walk around the place with the owner’s dog.

Taking the trash to the Transfer Station, I see Carl every week. A classmate of my son’s, he also took up flying radio-controlled planes with us for a while.

The Transfer Station

The Transfer Station

One of my favorite small town moments was when I met one of our neighbors, Tony, as I was exiting the Stewart’s shop. My daughter dated his son in high school. A chance you don’t get every day, I greeted him with “Good morning, Sheriff!”. It felt like I was in a Gunsmoke episode.

Our Firehouse

Our Firehouse

Sure, lots of people know the Sheriff or have coached youth sports. Folks far and wide are known by name in their local haunts, from Starbucks to Subway. You don’t need to live in a small town to be surrounded by friends and neighbors.

Big town or small town, it’s being with those we cherish that really matters.

Merry Christmas!

Paz