Archive for February, 2012



Through the terminal glass I gaze
so mesmerized by you and by the turbines’ whine
And as you idle there the air is rippling
from the jet fuel burn

20:30 Sherburne 2/25/2012

Driving downtown last night, I braked to a stop at our one traffic light, and gazed through my ten second wait at this view to the west:

Beneath the red disc of the light, and its supporting wires, and further framed by State Street and familiar buildings left and right, the crescent Moon, with Venus close, not ten degrees away.

Dreaming Amish

Anticipating snow, and waking early to find none, I returned to sleep and dreamed:

T. and I arrived at the scene in a pickup truck.  A farmyard intersection, that convergence of earthen pathways leading to the house, to barns and other outbuildings, to the fields, and to the highway, was chosen in some corner of my restive mind as I lay sleeping to become our vantage point in this adventure. I parked the truck out of the way, positioned with the tailgate toward this intersection, and without opening the doors or walking that short distance, we assumed our seats upon the lowered gate. The area seemed more populated than one might expect, with more the bustling activity of a small hamlet than the single family enterprise suggested by the structures; men and boys in pairs and larger groups at work on sundry tasks, women and girls less visible, but still apparent in the scene. And what a splendid scene of industry and peace combined! I gathered almost instantly an air of purposeful contentment from these people; bearded, bonneted per gender, rosy cheeked, and speaking gently when at all, their world appeared without disquiet. For a moment.

The common, wrenching incongruity that is a trademark of such visions clattered up before us then, rending our impression of tranquility, and for a moment casting all the joyfully employed into a realm unseen by us. This apparition took the form of a wagon, drawn immediately before us by a team of two female centaurs, robust in form and handsome, breathing hard from their exertion, and seeming nervous and distressedif only as a normal team might, brought to such abrupt halt, inches from our like. The team was dirndl clad, with strong wide faces and blonde hair in curls that fell short of their shoulders. They appeared to be of middle age, flushed in their fairness and possessing that beautific brawn that daily heavy work imbues. The driver, next the object of our focus, first appeared beneath the fabric of his covered wagon, shoving contents of the wagon, hurling some in fact, to clear a pathway and make passage toward his team, and further forward, us. He was a short, clean shaven man of rugged build, and balding. His face was red with what I deemed a combination of his heritage, his habits, and his ire, with the latter being high and very readily apparent. I pegged him as an Irishman, and thus somehow dismissed the man, the wagon, and the jostling, steaming team, as only dreamers may dismiss such troubling encounters.

Lest this departure leave a void, my late shift editor fed in a flock of sheep, as white as snow, and in such numbers as to nearly overwhelm the landscape, which had returned, and was again of Amish nature. The sea of  sheep rolled over several hills, and where the hilltops made horizon, great white clouds reached down to blend with the enormous flock, until they were as one; the animals became a squall, and as their cameo played out, swept over  all our little scene as snow.

Another edit threw away what must have been our exclamations, for suddenly, beneath our dangling legs there was some movement in the ankle deep white powder. It was a group of six or seven creatures, and by their size I first took them to be some mice. Then T. exclaimed, “They’re chicks!”, and so I realized they were. A group of chicks seemed to be swimming through the snow, and we could see only their heads.

And here I woke again and rose to my routine: To porcelain, peek out the window, coffee pot, and pantry. I’ve been watching an Amish fellow pulling dozens of logs out of the woods, using a team of horses, over at the Lathrop farm. I considered photographing him, but never did, fearing it might upset what looked to be some perfect days for him. I didn’t want to steal his soul, but more:  me with a camera didn’t seem to fit the picture.


Garbage pickup as a private enterprise has only achieved considerable scale in our area in the last several decades, with only a few purveyors vying to provide service while “grabbing your can”,  or offering “double your garbage back” satisfaction guarantees.  We’d experienced the colorful and boisterous world of trash collection when we visited some city, particularly if our visit kept us overnight and the nocturnal inclinations of the “dustmen” were revealed in some wee hour;  we saw the big compactor trucks when we went out of town, or when we turned on television shows set in urban climes. But until fairly recently, nearly every local household had a family designee or two who transported the garbage to “The Dump”.

“The Dump” as it was known to me has thankfully been replaced by the “transfer station”, a facility for gathering large amounts of waste in order to properly sort and efficiently move it into the proper “waste streams”. While the term “dump” seemed to be giving way at one point to the less abrupt “landfill”,  the advent of the transfer station seems to have resulted in the transfer station being called the dump, with the landfill recognized as that ultimate destination for true garbage by those few who give any thought to garbage once it leaves their grip. The dump, as always, is where one parts with one’s garbage. The landfill is that scientifically designed, impenetrable vessel we are all assured will protect us from our garbage, and while you may detect a tone of doubt in my description of it, rest assured I recognize the landfill as a great improvement over it’s predecessor, improvement having been the only available course of change.

I realized early in my youth that in the era up until and possibly including the generation of my grandparents, nearly every household had its own dump. A young man with a shovel, practicing the art of excavation in this village, seldom dug a hole without discovering some fascinating artifact, a rusted pot, fragmented pottery, bones, or some heavy twist of iron, and I daresay never dug within ten yards of any older house without turning up a “cinder layer” of at least an inch in thickness. It was wood and coal that warmed the houses then, and this layer of residue speaks of desire for garden fertilizer (for yards were gardens then, not lawns), and probably unwillingness to transport buckets of such burden any distance through the snow. The dump, then, was some area around the house, most often throwing distance from the back door, and this arrangement seems just a continuation of centuries of practice, as the local archeologists are always pleased to find a “midden” left by some group of native Iroquois. The maintenance of private family dumps, in local rural areas, is still quite common.

I’m not sure when a more communal local dump gained popularity, but at some point a recognition of health and aesthetic considerations, along with better roads and vehicles, combined to inspire its establishment. I have heard that there was a dump on Classic St., but the first one I visited as a boy was north of the village, and due west of the intersection of Rte. 12B and Howard Rd. Still visible there is the entrance to the straight and tree lined driveway to the railroad tracks, the river, and the Sherburne dump. On my first visits I was not yet of an age to recognize apocalyptic horror; I was vaguely fascinated by the variety of sights and smells, the ever smoldering fires, the people dumping, and particularly, the “pickers”. I knew, deep in my little gut, that in that vast collection of what others didn’t want, there must be things I wanted, and would happily retrieve. I’m sure I saw particular temptations, though I can’t recall the items anymore. I flushed them pretty quickly from my memory, I suppose, as Dad (our family dumper) made it very clear to me, on any number of occasions, that dump picking was not for me, and I inferred that it was not for any member of our family, and that we were quite distinctly different from those people who were ever present and “over the line”, that line being the very irregular boundary between the sea of garbage and the “drive up” area. The pickers often carried sticks, for sorting, and seemed to constantly be turning up some treasure.

Perhaps the “land” was deemed “filled”, or perhaps dumping everything imaginable in such close proximity to the Chenango River, and enduring the stench of dump fires burning just outside the village limits, finally seemed a bad idea. The Earlville dump, just upstream, continued on the riverbank, but Sherburne’s moved uphill, and well away from town, to a site atop Granville Hill. This move onto a gravel substrate made for a much dryer dumping ground, (and proved a portent, as the successor to this site, The North Norwich landfill, would also be established in a pile of glacial sand and gravel, apparently with the intent that any liquid waste percolate as quickly as possible into the water table, and not form mud that might make dumping a messy chore) and here, atop the hill,  I learned a sport that was allowed at dumps. Shooting rats.

The fires still burned constantly, and I never knew who started them. We dumped. We never burned. But we did shoot. My Dad, my friends, and many others came after dark, mostly with .22’s, but occasionally with shotguns, and using flashlights and car headlights to illuminate the scene, we hunted rats. They were not hard to find, and often their numbers were frightening. Occasionally we would see other shooters “cross the line” and actually walk through the garbage in search of rats, something I never had the least desire to do. I treasured that expanse of easily policed, garbage free land between myself and the sometimes swarming rats, and viewed the hunters crossing the line as fools at a target range. Daring in a baffling way, but worrisome from a safety standpoint.

In all, life seems more tidy in the present. Tomorrow is another day.


Life is just the feeling
good or bad
and often some odd melt
As when you’ve heard
your wife is at the haberdasher’s
getting felt.

Happy Birthday Grammy

Dorothy Vallilee
D.O.B   2/20/12

The Quarter, with apologies.

A Quarter scene

After pouring concrete slab at Saber’s Market, late 70’s -early 80’s. From left, John Saber and son, William Acee, Mike Mettler, Bruce Webster. This open air addition was eventually enclosed and remains at Skip’s Market. The early diesel Rabbit is Bill’s.
The Cotton Mill*  chimney still stands in the background in this photo. I’m guessing it was 150′ high. I witnessed its demolition later, when one fellow climbed up to the top, straddled the rim, and knocked off one block at a time as he scootched around and round and slowly down. I have no idea who he was, but I’ll bet he made a couple hundred bucks.

*Known all through my youth as the “Knitting Mill”.

Photograph by Acee, with a timer from across Rte. 12…sorry Bill, not a real good scan of this.

I’ll try in the future to do more of my editing before posting, and try to put up decent efforts on the first post.