Looking Back

This blog features poems by a native New Englander and octogenarian, as he looks back on the stomping grounds of his youth -- Chaffee's Woods, Kent Heights, Beach Pond, Escoheag, Wood River -- and his army days in Europe towards the end of WWII.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Tippecan Trails

I often think about the trails
I roamed when still a boy of twelve
Although I never went alone
I always took my dad along.
We sometimes hiked most of the day
Along those dark and lonely trails
Always alert for different trees
On which my father would expound.

This is mainly how I learned of
Different kinds of trees and shrubs
Along with birds that we did see
Once stopped to watch a red tailed hawk
That circled in the sky above
Then we’d continue on our way
Along the trails that had no name
Or marks, for many years to come.

We roamed the trails and old dirt roads
That circled Tippecansett Pond
From Escoheag at Palmer’s store
Past old Money’s place and farm
Then past the Hazard burial place.
We’d hike on past the iron tower
Where rangers watched for signs of fire
And where blueberries grew the best.

Molasses Corners came up next
After passing the old homestead
Of Welcome Burdick, known those days
As Welky T., my cousin’s dad
A Yankee with a gray streaked beard
That I remember to this day,
Who had large holdings thereabouts
On Escoheag and other spots.

Now bear in mind that where we hiked
Was once all farmland, mainly owned
By Welcome Burdick and his son
The old Pratt Place on Escoheag
That did include the Stepstone Falls
Besides his homestead near the spring
That’s on the trail to Tippecan
And crosses over Parris Brook.

The land is now a forest thick
With oak and maple, pine and birch
And has a host of other trees
That make the forests of today
No chestnuts are there anymore
For they were done in by the blight
But of mosquitoes and deer flies
There are enough for everyone.

On summer days when we did hike
The sun from noon to five got hot
But when we stayed among the trees
The shady forest was so cool
And so we’d hike the open roads
In morning ‘fore the sun was high
and reach the shaded forest trails
To rest, and beat the summer’s heat.

That portion of the trail that ran
From the tower at Escoheag
Down past the spring on Burdick’s place
To Parris Brook at Tippecan
Then up the hill, around the pond
Until it hit the road again
That old dirt road that once was known
As the old road to Voluntown.

It went right past that burial ground
Where the Congdon’s buried their own
And where in many years to come
I’d buy this land so I could camp
Close to the lake of memories
We’d often pass right by this land
Not knowing what the future held
Then take the trail back to our camp.

I’ve often thought of those old trails
That now are marked and carry names
Like Tippecansett, North and South
Divided by the Ten Rod Road
If one goes south along this trail
He’ll wind up at the Boy Scout Camp
By going north eventually
Breakheart Pond would be his goal.

In later years, my boys were grown
I took my Scout troop to Breakheart.
I parked my car down near the brook
Then we’d hike to Ten Rod Road, and
Going westerly toward Beach Pond
Here we’d pick up the yellow trail
And go north until we came to
The old Congdon burial ground.

And just below this sacred spot
My scouts had made a camping site
And here we’d build a fire to cook
The wrapped up stew that we would eat.
And after eating would clean up
Then take out maps and compass too
And then decide which way we’d go
To meet the trail at Parris Brook.

Then thru the woods in Indian file
We’d check the compass as we went
And in this way these boys could get
Their map and compass work complete
Along with their twenty mile hike
And when we cut the yellow trail
Just above the rock bound brook
I knew these boys would now do well.

We traveled northward up the hill
And stopped for water at the spring
That once had housed the old milk house
Of Welky Burdick long years ago.
I once had tried to buy this piece
Through a rep, who wanted land for
The South County Rod and Gun Club
And so this piece was sold to them.

We kept on climbing thru nude trees
And thru the bare blueberry shrubs
Until we came up to the tower
That looks out over Escoheag
And all surrounding hills as well.
We were now going in reverse
To what my dad and I once hiked
So many years ago it seems.

We went on out into the road
That passed the Hazard burial lot
Then past old Money’s empty house
To enter into woods again
On the east of Escoheag.
We traveled downward ‘til we met
The parking lot at Stepstone Falls
Then moved on down to River Road.

We hiked along the Falls River
Until we met the old dirt roads
That took us back to Breakheart Pond
Which frozen solid from the cold
Made a playground for the boys and
Here they decided they would play
While I went on to get the car
And then we headed back to home.

I have not hiked those trails again
Since we did move to Holden, Mass.
Though often parked quite near one trail
The one that led to Stepstone Falls
And I would take my children there
To see the raging water flow
O’er all the giant rocks that made
These Stepstone Falls the place it was.

Now these occasions did occur
When we had spent the entire day
Swimming at the Beach Pond beach
And wanted just a little change
From too much sand, and too much sun
So took a ride to Escoheag
Then down the C.C.C. built road
To park in shade quite near the trail.

This was a spot I used to know
The time the road was built by the
Civilian Conservation Corp
For it was on the old Pratt place
A place my cousins used to own
Where my cousin Esther and I
Did pick so many blueberries
For all the bakeries in town.

We’d stay in camp that Shorty built
For three or four long weeks or more
And on each Saturday would come
My cousin in his Overland
To take the berries that we’d picked.
I know not what the bakeries paid
But I received ten cents a quart
A goodly sum to a boy just twelve.

These were the memories I had
When ever I did pass this way
What once was camp with open fields
Now camp was gone, fields filled with pine
The well that had been used for years
Had been filled by the C.C.C.
And all that land that I once knew
Now was known as the Beach Pond Park.

I finally sold the land that held
The Congdon cemetery lot
That bordered Tippecansett North
The trail we all did like to hike
From Dad, to Larry, and my kids
To Boy Scouts from the troops I’ve led.
All now are scattered far and wide
Not one now hikes those well-worn trails.

My dad has gone, and Larry too
Both hold a great part in my life
Both wandered with me on these trails
And gave to me a sense of right
My dad taught me what I now know
Of woods and streams, of birds and trees
And Larry shared these things with me
These trails are now just memories.

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