….I was a little girl, who lived for summers in the country!! I guess I was born a country girl wanna be!
My precious grandfather Joe, built a 3 room cottage on cinder blocks for his wife Olga. Olga and her siblings had each inherited an acre or two of the original family farm in Dutchess County, NY. As Finnish immigrants, my grandmother’s parents were living their dream in the wilds of upstate NY.
As a child, I remember so looking forward to the times we would go and spend a week in Rhinebeck! Sometimes, I would go with my parents, sometimes I would go with Grandma and Poppy. To be able to go several times during the summer was a dream come true!! The little house was not winterized, so summers were the only times we could spend there.
As a kid, I felt so special, because having a “country house” was not the norm amongst kids I knew.
I have fond memories of telling my grandfather to “Go fast, Poppy, go fast!”. as we drove the hills to upstate NY. I loved the butterflies in my stomach, as he sped up a hill, and zoomed down it. I would sit in the back seat behind him, hugging his neck -those were the days before seat belts! Altho, in his ’56 or ’57 red and white Chevy, ‘going fast’ was probably no more than 55 mph, if that!!! Poppy was very cautious!!
I remember Grandma always having Orange Crush soda for snacks – I was never a big soda drinker – still am not- but the fizzle, smell and taste of Orange Crush would always bring back good memories! We would take a break, and pull over to the side of the road, at one of the many ‘scenic overlooks”. I would sit on the wall, take in the view below, while eating my “oysterette” crackers and sipping Orange Crush!
We would always stop on the way at a little restaurant, the Hiberian Rest, I think it was called. Another time, we stopped at a friend of grandma’s, where I had my first taste of milk, straight and still warm from the cow. It was delish!!!!
In those days, a trip to Rhinebeck would take about 2 hours, from my grandparents’ home in Valley Stream, LI. Their dog, Teddy, would look forward to the summers- probably more than any of us humans!!! His life on suburban LI was spent in the house or attached to a long chain wrapped around an elephantine tree by the garage. When we went to Rhinebeck, Teddy could look forward to freedom – running free in the woods, and sleeping off the hot summer days under the house. Sometimes, Teddy would get so excited, we would stop the car, and let him get out, before we reached the long hill up to the house. He would run happily in the woods alongside the road, and usually beat us to the house! I knew how he felt – I so looked forward to those times – to let my inner country girl run free!!!
As we drove up the winding road toward our driveway, Poppy would periodically honk the car horn at every bend- to warn oncoming cars on the narrow road.
I fell in love with horses back then. Grandma would take me to Bullshead Farm – where kids could ride ponies, as they were led around a small track. I still remember bringing sugar cubes to feed the horses, and not having enough to give one to the little donkey sticking his head out the fence! That scarred me for life, I think!!! I could never forget it- even tho I am sure the donkey forgot it in the next instant!!
Those were the days of party line phones, outhouses and outdoor showers. I remember taking a shower outside- it was several yards from the house – and something scared me – can’t remember what. But, the faithful Teddy was hanging around the shower -and I told him to go get grandma. Amazingly, he did!
It was always best to go to the bathroom before it got dark. It was very scary to walk down the trail with a flashlight and open that outhouse door. If you couldn’t ‘hold it’ during the night, there was an old fashioned commode, pulled out to the middle of the dining room! Not really a great alternative!!!
I used to spend hours in the woods – sometimes with Teddy, sometimes alone. There were the little quartz crystal ‘mines’ to explore, the meteor rocks to be found, snakes to avoid in the rock garden, and moss to gather to make terrariums. When we went back home to suburbia, all I had to do to summon up memories of Rhinebeck, was to lift the lid of the terrarium and breathe in the smells of the woods!
We could stand at the base of the hill by the cottage, face the woods, and call up for Uncle Henny – didn’t need that party line phone – just cup your hands around your mouth and yell “Halloooo!” Uncle Henny lived alone, til he married Aunt Margaret, quite late in life. He had a modern little chalet type house, with a loft, and a huge pump organ that he would play from time to time. Of all the siblings, I always thought he got the land with the best view. Henny was a little eccentric, and I could never tell when he was kidding or serious, but I think he always had a soft spot in his heart for me!
Aunt Taimi lived up the other hill. It was more difficult to get her attention by just yelling up the hill, so I would just trek thru the woods. Her beautiful house was the best, by far. On a hill, with a front and back porch – a huge main room and one or two bedrooms off to the side. Aunt Taimi married a wealthy banker, so it stands to reason she always had the best of everything!
Poppy’s little country cottage was always the best to me tho – he built it himself. Years later, he did put in a bathroom – with indoor plumbing!!!!
I remember going to sleep at night to the sound of owls and whippoorwills, and the occasional scary shriek of a bobcat. Sometimes, I went to sleep with a blanket over my head- there were no curtains on the windows, and the sounds of the forest at night could be a little daunting- even to a country girl wanna be!!!
Poppy had a place to burn trash at the edge of the woods, and as kids, we would toast marshmallows on sticks, while Poppy burned the trash. Probably not the best, healthwise, thinking of it today- but fun, nonetheless!!!
Non burnable trash, was picked up by the ‘garbage lady’, Mrs. Brink. I remember driving past Mrs. Brink’s house one day, and seeing her goat on the porch!!! Her house looked like what you would picture a garbage lady’s house to be!!! The treasures she must have found-maybe that was what started my interest in flea markets and dumpster diving!!!
That lovely little cottage and all its memories have been passed on to my cousin- now the keeper of Rhinebeck and her own memories. Altho she never met our grandfather, she has inherited Poppy’s woodworking talent, and is restoring the little house piece by piece!
After all those years of keeping my country girl hidden, 45 years later, I got my first horse, then my second, and over 50 years later- have become a country girl for real!!! Better late than never, I say!!!
There is more to being a country girl than just moving to the country, as I am learning every day! One gets used to having conveniences close by, and becomes addicted to Starbucks, and having to dress to keep up with trends.
When we first moved here, I felt like I kind of stuck out like a sore thumb. When I went into the feed store, I just knew everyone knew I was NOT from around here!!!
But slowly, I am adjusting to living my dream, and would not trade it for anything! It may not be the Rhinebeck of my dreams, but it is the Rhinebeck of my future.
All is well and sunny at Mountain Meadows this fine fall morning…………………