By John Cooley
Stuey was a boy my age that came to live with us when we were both 12 to 14 years old. He and I spent a lot of time together carrying on a variety of activities. One of the more ambitious was building a shack up in the orchard above the sugar house. I don’t remember whose idea it was but dad encouraged us and helped us round up the materials we used. To begin with Stuey and I went down in the woods by the brook where we cut and peeled some balsam fir poles. Dad hauled them up to the place we had selected for our shack then went to the sawmill and got a truck load of slabs. Stuey and I used the poles to make a frame. The corners weren’t quite square but that didn’t bother us. We nailed slabs on the roof and three sides over lapping them so there were no large gaps. Dad got us a roll of roofing and gave us a piece of tarp to hang over the open side. He let us use some planks that had been used for the floor in a tent that was no longer in use and our shack was ready to move into. Mom gave us two cots and it was furnished. Stuey and I slept in that shack most every night for a couple of summers.
Fishing was another activity that we both enjoyed and dad encouraged. There were many little brooks rising on the ridge where our farm was and dad knew where they all were. One summer Stuey and I decided we would try all of them. On days that were too wet for haying, we would set out with our fishing poles and worm cans for the one we had chosen for that day. Some of them started as no more than a trickle through the grass but most of them gathered enough other trickles so they were big enough to have a few little trout. Eventually they would flow into a branch of the White River and that is as far as we were allowed to go. By then we were tired and quite far from home and it would soon be dark. But dad knew exactly where we would be and before it was really dark he would pick us up.
The best adventure we had was a week of camping and fishing that dad set up for us. Snow’s brook is a pretty little stream that tumbles off the ridge south of route 100 crossing that highway where Mr. Snow’s farmhouse stood. It was stocked with brook trout and posted by a group of sportsmen from Randolph. Dad got permission for Stuey and I to fish it. One Sunday we packed up some camping gear and dad took us to where the brook crossed the highway. He stopped in to tell Mr. Snow that we had permission to fish the brook. After fishing with us for awhile he left for home telling us he would be back to pick us up in a week. We continued on up the brook catching enough trout for our supper. It began to look and sound as though a thunderstorm was brewing so we started looking for a place to camp. We barely got our tent set up before the storm broke. It was dark by the time we finished supper and washed up so we settled in for the night. We fished as much as we wanted to for the next couple of days. We had trout for supper every night. The brook branched a mile or two above our camp so one day we fished up one branch and then set off cross country to find the other one. We didn’t have a compass but figured we would be okay if we didn’t go over the top of the ridge. A little chancy perhaps but we eventually found the branch and fished down it. It was a long day and we didn’t stay awake long after crawling into our blankets. We ran out of the food we liked best before the end of the week. It wasn’t far from where the brook crossed the road to a little country store so we went there to replenish our larder, which meant we bought a quart of milk, cookies and candy bars. A week after he had dropped us off dad picked up two tired and very dirty but happy boys.
There was quite a high falls in the brook with a large, deep plunge pool not far from the road. When Stuey and I were there it was pristine looking as though no one had been there before us. Over the years people have discovered it. When I went back years later there was no doubt that many people had been there and left their rubbish.
I visited Stuey once in New York City where he lived in a fifth floor apartment with his mother. I couldn’t understand why anyone would choose to live in such a place. There was nothing for a boy to do except go to the little park down the street and hope to find some other boys to play games with. His mom was real nice and took us out to see some sights. I didn’t find them very interesting and couldn’t wait to get back to the farm.
Stuey became an accomplished musician and was connected with the movie industry. He wrote a book about his life which I bought but must have included with others that I gave away when we moved from a house into this condo.
I am quite sure the boy driving the team in the attached photo is Stuey. Driving the horses was the only source of contention between us. Driving horses was the first, and for a long time the only “man’s” work I could do. When Stuey came I had to share that privilege with him and I resented it.