Friday, March 30, 2012


     It was a beautiful summer day in the sleepy little town of Orwell, Vermont a quite and peaceful place snuggled away in the southern end of the Lake Champlain Valley, it would have been perfect if not for the foul order blowing in on the westerly wind from the pulp paper mill across Lake Champlain located  in Ticonderoga, New York, this bad Oder only happened a few times a year, but boy did it give all the locals something to talk about they had some real choice words to say about "Ti".
     It was on this day when 9 year old Tommy Archer was racing down Church Street on his bike attached to handle bars was his baseball mitt, never knew when an opportunity for a little ball would pop up. As he rounded the corner on to Main Street by Wimp Browns Auto Repair Shop the silence was broken with the click click click click sound of old cardboard cards held fast in place to the bikes spokes with cloths pins to make the sound they were appropriate from his moms cloths line earlier that morning. Tommy was heading to his grand parents house on North Street not far now since there is only about 4 streets in the whole town covering about 1 mile by 1 mile of village. And when you are in the cockpit of a fighter jet like Tommy was in it would take no time at all, might even break the sound bearer coming up with that big natural made jump by Doc. Howard's driveway the frost heaves the last couple of winters made this a must jump to take. Wow what a jump Tommy just made must have been a mach 1 climb and to his port side he could see Doctor Howard's car was gone on a house call and there was a sign on door GONE HOUSE CALL be back at 5.
      Tommy had not seen Doc. Howard since late last fall, what a day Tommy was not feeling well and after some pleading with his mother she said " alright you can stay home from school you do have a little fever but I'm calling Dr. Howard".  Tommy agreed hesitantly he just hated those wooden tongue depressors stuck down his throat and no doubt in that black bag he would pull out that needle and give him a shot. His mom said he could lay on the couch and wait for the doctor, this would be fine except the television was not working his mother Elizabeth did call the T.V repairman day before said he would be here today.The repairman was there about 15 minutes before doctor and explained he would have to put in a small tube that blew out. Now Doc Howard  was examining the young patient on the couch and as Tommy expected the tongue depressor came out of the bag as Doc "said open wide Tommy and say Aw" the television came to life and the news man was on you never saw newsmen at 11:30 am but Walter Cronkite said" we interrupt this program with an important news bulletin just minutes ago in Dallas, Texas the President of The United States John F. Kennedy was shot while ridding in his motorcade and was killed" Well now all eyes in the house were glued to the television just as Tommy's Uncle Ernest Desjadon walked in, Tommy was not clear as to what was happening and was no longer center of attraction.His uncle Ernie said he was going to the church to ring the bell, now Tommy knew this was serious uncle Ernie was the Catholic Church bell ringer and only Sundays and very important times the bell was rung. Well a lot of discussion took place about the news report, Then Doctor Howard said "this young man needs to be in his bed he has the measles, make sure you keep the shades drawn and no lights on he must be kept in darkness until the measles are all gone in a few days and wouldn't you know it out came that old needle of his and bam in the butt it went. But Tommy could here the church bell ringing and ringing this guy Kennedy must really have been something cause uncle Ernie is about to ware the old bell out. November 22,1963 was a day Tommy and the rest of America would never forget.
     Well Tommy was still zooming down the street past Orwell volunteer fire house with its one truck and now was blasting past the gas pumps at Germain Blanchard's Garage and small convenience store and past the big message box where people could leave a note for the state trooper when he came around once a week mostly people with no phones and nothing like life threatening probably a dispute over a fence line or missing cow.
     Well gramps house was  now in site just two houses up from Blanchard's and great his Uncle Donald Labshere was stopping next to the front porch. as Tommy made another successful landing he jumped out of the cockpit and ran up to his uncle Don. "hey uncle Don maybe latter you want to throw the ball around some.  Don "maybe but lets go find gramp he probably in the back". as they walked past the front window Gram ma Sadie Archer was perched in gramps big lazy boy recliner this was a vantage point to see down the street to the post office and Buxton's store not a person could be missed by gram ma and her Hawk eye view, if you needed to know if some one was in town during the day Gram ma Archer could tell you when and who they spoke to. Well Tommy and Uncle Don said there hellos to Gram Archer and kept walking down the drive way toward the old horse barn and out house (yeah out house in the barn no running water in the house) picking there way since driveway was just two dirt tire tracks with grass growing down the center and of course talking baseball along the way the big news was the battle between Yankees greats Mickey Mantle and Roger Marris for the most home runs to be hit. they kept an eye open for Gramp this time of day he would probably be in his enormous vegetable garden or just sitting in his metal lawn chair under the old crab apple tree behind the shed attached to back of the house.The crab apples were a real pain for Tommy you couldn't run without rolling on the little apples and of course the bees would be attracted to them. However the old crab apple tree had many visitors just about every night in the summer for conversation and Probably some local gossip only time it would be quite was if there was a ball game down at the field on route 22A just up the road from Walt (punk) Beeman's garage.
     Gramp Arthur Archer, Harold (Brother as he was called by family&friends) Gram Sadie Archer, Lawrence Archer, Stanley Archer  Picture Taken June 1958.

     Tommy and Uncle Don stepped from the driveway to the back lawn behind shed and they stopped dead in there tracks and stared in complete Aw  they were not sure what  they were seeing what in the world could this be. Gramp was sitting on an old wooden milk bottle crate pants rolled up to his knees his feet were covered in a thick shinny black goo and on his legs even his red suspenders had black goo on them and gramp had no shirt on (Tommy had never seen gramp without a shirt) the shirt, socks , shoes and old brown work boots were scattered about the lawn and Gramp was dipping a rag in a old Red Man Chewing Tobacco can that he used to spit in after he took a chew (chaw) of tobacco but this rag was dripping wet and gramp was wipeing it between his toes trying to remove the goo.Leaning up against the shed was Gramp's old wooden ladder with goo on every rung and a foot trail from ladder to the steps in shed up steps to the barrels by door going into house this was gramps kerosene supply to heat house and to run kitchen stove. Apparently the Red Man can was full of Kerosene, but the look on Tommy's face was why? Finally Uncle Don broke the silence " Art what in Sam Hill are you doing "then he started to laugh his keen eye and Yankee Reasoning must have figured this out already. Gramp "Donald by Jehovah  you just hush your smart mouth and stop that laughing you hear me ."But Arthur what happened "? Uncle Don asked with one hand holding him up against the shed and other holding his belly as he laughed, now Tommy starts laughing mainly at the site and seeing his uncle almost in tears. Then Gramp " well if yo hyenas must know it was a nice day and thought I would Tar that shed roof, ( Tommy now knows what the black goo is) and I was doing real fine until I got near the back wall and realized I was working ass backward and worked myself into the corner." Only way Gramp had to get back to the ladder was to take his shoes and socks off and toss them down to the ground and walk the 20 plus feet to the ladder through the fresh thick coating of tar  " by Jehovah it was slippery and when I  got to ladder did not want to fall off roof so I had to get down on all fours and squirm to ladder. By now the two on lookers were rolling in laughter at poor gramps dilemma. Uncle Don says Art you crazy old coot why would you go up there? why didn't you ask us younger guys for help.
     Well gramp in his embarrassment just couldn't find it in his stubborn pride to ask for help he was very independent. Tommy sees a car pulling down the drive its his Uncle Lawrence Archer and his dad Stanley just returning home from work at Middleburry college as  they get out of car they are also in amazement of the spectacle they are observing in front of them and Uncle Don takes the liberty to tell them as he catches his breath now the whole back yard is in laughter minus one who is still working at the gooey tar with rag and kerosene and a face as red as the Red Man can. Gramp "Stanley, Lawrence don't you two start or I will kick your butts to kingdom come. Then uncle Don " please don't do that Art your foot will stick to there britches.
     Now the sound of the backdoor from the house to the shed could be heard opening it was gram ma Archer " What in tar nation is all this commotion out here you all gone loco or something.The thump thump of Gram's footsteps coming down the steps were clear to everyone outside then the thumping stops " Arthur what the hell have you got all over these steps its on the bottom of my shoes" thump thump thump now gram ma appears at the bottom door of shed wearing her blue dress with the flower prints,her red and yellow apron and her gray shoes now displayed the black gooey tar on there sides and toes the laughter had subsided until gram ma spotted gramp  " Arthur you old fool you, look at yourself what the hell have you done to yourself".
       Well needless to say that there was a few more chuckles and  gram ma Archer had a few more questions, but eventually order was restored under the old crab apple tree as everyone pitched in to help clean up of course no adults lite any cigarettes next to gramp and Tommy fetched pails of water from gramps rain barrel next to the barn and a bar of soap for gramp, eventually he looked like himself again.  As to the out come of the roof did it eventually get tarred we don't know the bucket was left up there for a couple of weeks and things weren't exactly the same under the old crab apple tree for awhile and in this small town there was something new to talk about until some one else managed to become the news.

        This is my first attempt of telling a story on a blog. or in writing ever, I do swear it is a true event and not fiction a few details might have been left out since its been 50 years Since Tommy (now Tom)  saw this event and some of the conversation might have been how should I say cleaned up a might.


  1. Cousin Tom,
    This is priceless!
    Although I didn't live in town I walked those sidewalks many times and you have given me a trip down 'memory lane'--I remember that the slates in places had been humped up by tree roots.
    Your Uncle Don did some plumbing repairs for us when we owned the farm in Benson and I do recall that his language was at all times what might be called 'colorful!'

    1. Hi cousin This is April Fool's Day and why I'm not in a parade I'll never know, thank you for your kind words and I just read your e-mail I do appreciate the advise and it was well taken.Yesterday Patti and I made a trip to vermont to see my mom at Ags House she is doing great, we spent afternoon going through some old photos as far back as early 1900's and her mind sharp as a tack she remembered names places and info like it was yesterday what a history lesson