Springtime is eagerly anticipated in Colebrook River

We looked for the first signs of spring.  With father, we’d hear, “Well, spring is near; I saw a flock of wild geese this morning”, or he would send us to see the wild ducks resting in a cove in the water of the Farmington River.  With Mother, “There’s a bluebird, children, the first I’ve  seen.  Robins will soon arrive.  I hope it won’t be cold tonight.”  We all enjoyed feeding the birds when it was stormy, and they couldn’t find much to eat.

With us girls it was walks looking for the first spring flowers; skunk cabbage, dutchmen’s britches, adders tongue and violets.  With Charles, he’d fuss about his woolen underwear, “It’s hot, they itch, can’t I take them off?”

May first was a time to celebrate.  May baskets were hung for the faintest excuse, just to have a party.  We’d decorate a basket with pretty crape paper and fill it with candies, gum, cookies and little gifts if the person was a shut-in.  Then we’d cover all with the pretty spring flowers.  When the young folks gathered that night, we’d go quietly to the home of the person to be honored, leave the basket on the doorstep, knock, and run and hide.  The hostess must then go out and find everyone and invite them in for games and refreshments.

One never to be forgotten May basket was made and filled by the Northways; Della, Clara and George; Ethel Hurd, Fred Long and we Seymours.  We planned to leave it on the door step of Mr. & Mrs. Henry Spencer, who lived close by the Northways.  We placed the basket, knocked and quietly started to the Northway home through the meadows between the two places.  Just then a shotgun went off with both barrels.  The shot fell on the Northway porch roof, frightening the parents as well as us.  We huddled back of a large boulder in the field until we heard the men shout it was safe to come to the house.  It seems Mr. Spencer thought he would have some fun with us and didn’t mean to frighten us.  It was a careless thing to do and the mothers told him so.  That ended our parties for that year.
The Berry Season
After the joy of the spring months with the return of the birds and wild flours, came the hunt for wild strawberries.  Wild strawberries are the most delicious treat.  The taste can’t be matched by the best flavored cultivated ones.  The only drawback is the small size of the wild berry.  It took so many for a shortcake.  But this was no problem to four children with plenty of time.  Mother made the best biscuit shortcake, and we loved to provide the wild strawberries.  To do this we roamed the pastures, following the rail fences, for the early berries found in each enclosure made by the rails were the largest then.  Later, when Father mowed the meadows, he’d keep watch for berries as he cut the grass, and call us to pick them up.  These were the largest, sweetest and best; and too, they were on stems, and easier to hull.  How good they tasted!

Soon after wild strawberries, raspberries were ripe and picking them for jam, pies, shortcake and tea berries kept us out of mischief.

When we were little, Father picked all the blackberries, as struggling with the briers was too rugged for youngsters.  He’d watch out for the blossoms and keep the patches secret.  Then when ripe, he loved to surprise us with a ten-quart pail of the finest blackberries.  What luscious pies, steamed puddings and desserts these berries made!  Father’s specialty was blackberries, bread and milk.

When we were older, Ella, Charles and I had a frightening experience when we went blackberrying on Spencer Hill.  We’d often been there with Grandmother Seymour, but never alone before.  Mr. Spencer told us the berries were plentiful and to help ourselves, and so we did one morning.  On the way home with two large pails of fine berries, we rounded a large boulder and saw a herd of cows grazing on the hillside just below us, where we had to cross to reach our woodlot.  The cows didn’t disturb us, as we were country children, but leading them was the Spencer’s ugly bull.  He was making the turf fly with his hoofs and digging up clods of earth with his sharp horns, only stopping to bellow loud and long.  At first Ella and Charles wanted to run for our fence, but I felt it wasn’t safe to attract his attention, so we drew back behind the boulder, climbed to the top, taking time to pass up the pails of precious berries.  For a long time we crouched on the rock, peeping over from time to time to see if the bull had started away.  Every time we moved, it seemed the boulder shook with his roars.

At long last the cows passed out of sight around the bend and the angry bull slowly followed, pausing to look back now and again to stamp his feet and make the hills echo his roars.  There never were more thankful children than we to see him go.  We stretched our cramped muscles and clambered down and set a record for speed, I’m sure, in crossing to the safety of our woodlot.

Blueberries Are Ripe
One of the nicest memories is blueberry days.  For several years Father and Mr. Hurd hired the Hull farm as this gave them the extra pasturage and hay needed to supplement their smaller farms.  These pastures abounded in Blueberry bushes and in one was a fine cranberry bog.  The berries were ripe about the time the men started haying, so we were impatient to hear Father say, “The berries are ripe and Mrs. Hurd wants you to go tomorrow.”  This was good news, for it meant two or three trips with the men up the mountain road to the Hull farm near Tolland and West Hartland.  Mother, Charles and I loved to pick the berries, but Father refused, as it took so many berries to fill a pail.  Ella preferred to do the housework and look after Doris, who was too small to help.

We rose before the sun was up, had an early breakfast, packed a basket lunch, and were off before seven.  It was wonderful so early in the morning; everything dew-drenched, sparkled in the sunshine; the birds sang and we’d count the different kinds that flew across the not much traveled road, listening to their music.  There were the sweet odors of the ferns and fragrance of pine and hemlock trees.  We’d stop sometimes to uproot a fern or flower for Mother’s garden.  Often woodchucks, rabbits and squirrels appeared only to scurry away at the sight of us.  What excitement was caused one morning when Mr. and Mrs. Skunk and three baby ones were seen in the road ahead.  They ran along the wheel track for a short time, then made off into the woods, probably more scared than we, but were we glad to see them disappear!

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