Wednesday, July 30, 2014

More eventful days at the lake

As if the Murphies didn't cause enough fuss at the Reservoir on Saturday with the auction, or on Sunday as people came and went picking up the items they had purchased, on Monday, half a dozen trucks from NYSEG, Time Warner and Frontier arrived to fix the utility wires that sagged so low between the house and the lake.

The wires are part of a utility easement that runs from a pole by our apple tree, a looooong way, maybe 500 feet, to the next pole in the woods on the lake shore, and on to the houses on the east side of the lake.  The NYSEG wires on top of the poles were high enough, but the Time Warner and Frontier wires hung lower on the poles are bundles of heavy cables that sagged so low that Dad and I measured them at the lowest point at about 9 1/2 feet off the ground.  I started by contacting NYSEG, but they were no help.  On the Sunday of Memorial Day weekend, I found a contact-us-for-help email address for Frontier.  Somebody got back to me promising to help within an hour, on a holiday weekend, and within three days a Frontier engineer named Heather had visited the place, looked the wires over and agreed to fix them.   I had hoped they could be buried, but that turned out to be too expensive to make any sense, so instead, Heather arranged to install a new pole in the utility easement, halfway down the loooooooong span between the two existing poles, to lift them higher off the ground.

It took some coordinating on Heather's part to get all three utilities on board and make it happen, and then the storms in early July required a postponement.  But finally, the day came.  Here goes the pole truck, backing into the yard on fiberglass mats intended to protect the wet ground from tracks and ruts.

Pretty long pole!

Here's the auger for drilling the hole:

This picture shows just how low the wires were hanging.

Now for the dramatic part.  I wasn't there -- Dad was taking pictures and supervising.  Notice those orange things that all those guys have on their heads?  Dad did not have one of those orange things on his head.   The workers had trimmed some branches out of the way before bringing in the pole, and unbeknownst to Dad, they left one great big one far overhead, partially cut off and hanging by a strip of bark.  Nobody warned Dad that a half-cut branch was still hanging, and nobody stopped him when he walked, hard-hat-less, past the other workers and down to the area where the Sword of Damocles was hanging right overhead.  Wham, down it came, on top of him and one of the workers.  It knocked off the other worker's hard hat but luckily -- as Dad, you will recall, was not wearing one -- did not strike his head or otherwise maim or murder him.  Here's the branch.  It's bigger than it looks here:

As he says, what a lawsuit it would have been!  (But I'm fairly sure I'd rather have a husband.)  It fell from one of these spots:

After that, the pole went in without incident, and all the utility people attached their wires, and teh job was done.

The result?  An amazing improvement.  The wires are at least twice as high as they were, and neat and tight.  The whole lawn seems bigger and cleaner without those heavy things drooping just overhead.  And the view of the lake from the living room window is no longer bisected by two heavy black horizontal lines:

So, that's fixed!  Thanks, Frontier!

Monday, July 28, 2014

Eventful days at the lake

Here's the scene as the estate auction got started at the lake on Saturday the 26th.   Look closely -- that's David on the right with his back to the camera.  He was there all day, using his years of auction expertise from Welch's to help the auctioneers keep track of all the numbers.  And yes, that's Luke's Subaru in the background, soon to be sold, after heated bidding, for a fairly jaw-dropping sum.

Dad and I have been working all summer to get ready for the sale, sorting all the uncountable bits and pieces of stuff at the lake house into small box lots to be sold, filling up a dumpster with unsaleable trash, and weeding through our own items in our storage space and basement. Mary Link came for the weekend with help, companionship and moral support.  And finally, the day arrived.  I was afraid nobody would find the sale in the remoteness of the Plymouth woods, but I shouldn't have worried.  The auctioneers know their advertising business, and a full hour before the bidding started, cars lined both sides of the road in both directions as far as the eye could see, and well beyond.

The bidding started with our small items, staged in the garage.  That colorful canopy on the deck was a bustling hot-dogs-and-coffee stand, run by a Grange from somewhere or other.

Below, Laura's armoire is barely visible on the left-hand side.  It went for $95, which was better than a lot of the theoretically-more-valuable antique estate furniture  And not a bad outcome, considering that it saw many years of valuable use and needed quite a few repairs.

When the garage was empty, we moved down through the yard, first to get rid of those awful red things (under $100 each) and then to the lawn by the lake for the estate items.

A tent was set up on the lawn between the house and the lake for the estate items, cleverly fit under the sagging utility wires (no longer sagging, by the way, but that will be another post.)  It was a perfectly beautiful Saturday to spend in a shady spot by a lake, and though the crowd dwindled little by little as the day went on, a surprising number of people stayed all day.

The big sellers were our equipment -- the tractor, trailer, and ATV and a few other large items.  But many of the "smalls," as the auctioneer called the non-furniture items, sold well too.  The estate "smalls" filled most of the basement -- saddles and other horse items, IBM memorabilia, kitchenware, miscellanea, and books, books, books, books, books.  To my amazement, the old books sold fairly well.  We had some outside bids from a bookseller in Boston who specializes in old horse books and equine art books (right up Grandma Frey's alley) and at least two eager collectors showed up in person. Every single book sold, and so did everything else.  The furniture went for sadly small prices --  but everyone has been warning us that antique furniture has been hard to sell since 2008, and some of the small items sold for surprisingly large prices, so in the end I suppose it evened out.

The house is almost empty now.  We kept most of the beds, a couple of dressers and other bits of furniture, some carefully chosen books, paintings, silver and small sentimental items.  I meant to sell the corner cupboard, but in the end, couldn't bear to let it go for what was going to be a pittance.  Much to the chagrin of Dad, who has had to struggle with moving it again and again -- but honestly, to my relief and happiness -- I bid for it and bought it back.  Here it is in the dining room of my Ober grandparents' house on Reservoir Road in Painted Post, circa 1969 or so.  (I never noticed before the coincidence of those addresses -- Reservoir Road for the retirement home that my grandparents built, and Reservoir Hill Road where Grandma Frey retreated after Stanfordville.  Wonder if she ever thought about that?)

And here it is again a generation earlier in October 1951, under a coat of paint, as a backdrop for Grandma and Grandpa Frey's wedding cake in the house on West Water Street in Painted Post where Grandma Frey grew up:

 It was a deeply emotional day, watching all those deeply familiar and (in some cases, at least) deeply loved things disappear into the ownership of others.  Dad was gone for part of the day for a concert in Sherburne with Jenni, and I was so very grateful to the ever-understanding and hard-working Mary Link for being there and sharing it all.  All three of us were pretty well pole-axed when it was over.  But now that it IS over, what a relief!  The house is peaceful and spacious without the worry and responsibility of all those things, and ready for the work we'll do to make it ours.  We're turning now from the past to the future, preparing for the big trip out West next week to see our children and our families and celebrate Liz's wedding.  Time moves on, and that's not always bad.

Friday, July 11, 2014

The Greatest Songs Ever...

...are up for discussion. My #1 is Danny Boy. Somewhere in my top ten is The Stars and Stripes Forever. I have another one that's right behind Danny Boy but I can't remember what it is right now. Excluded are classical masterpieces such as Beethoven's 5th. It has to be a "song", with or without lyrics. Hm, maybe "Misty" and "Moon River" and "Autumn Leaves" are in the top ten. Ah, yes, I remembered. "Over the Rainbow" is in the top three or four.

Monday, July 07, 2014

My great-great-grandparents conduct a secret romance

All you Murphies should take note of this series of letters from the 1860s in which two young people -- Pruda Erway in Pennsylvania, and Mortier Wickham in New York -- carry on a secret courtship by correspondence for more than a year that finally culminates in a surprise wedding.  (These seem to have been something of a fashion at the time -- at one point, the young man expresses exasperation because another pair of relations pulled off the same surprise a few weeks before they did.)  Had they not managed it, many things might be very different: they were my great-great-grandparents.  Among the several daughters later born to them was Catherine (Cassie) Wickham, my grandmother's mother, who grew up here, in the house on Seneca Lake that I wrote about when Grandma Frey and I went on a family history quest in 2008:

Maybe surprise marriages are a family tradition. Mortier and Pruda's granddaughter Edith -- my grandmother -- pulled off a surprise wedding of her own one Christmas in the 1920s when she took a train to Chicago where Grandpa Ober was a medical student, married him on Christmas Day and returned home alone to Ithaca.  She told nobody what they had done for months because, as a married woman, she'd have been expelled from her graduate program at Cornell.