*Some of the stories shared on this page will probably never be seen in the literary magazines. However, I feel that they have some value and I’m glad to share them with you. “The Long Dirt Road” is the beginning of a series that appeared on my Facebook last year. These stories are about growing up in the Maine woods in a cabin at the lake without electricity or running water in the late 1970’s and early 80’s. Writing them brought me back to that time and I was able to re-capture some of the thrills and the challenges faced. I hope you find some thrills in reading them. (the photo presented is an actual photo of me during that time)
Summer Story Series
By Kristy Gherlone
Mornings came early at the lake when I was a child. Chickadees began to prattle before the light even peeked over the horizon. They’d wake me with their busy conversations.
I’d poke my nose up and take a whiff around. The smells inside our camp would tell me a lot. Hints of sweet birch smoke meant the fire in the old black wood stove had been lit sometime in the night. It would be chilly enough for a sweater. If I couldn’t smell coffee, it meant my mother wasn’t up yet. I’d have to hurry before she asked me to sweep the outhouse! If she was, sometimes I’d pull the handkerchief quilt she made for me back up around my chin and think about sleeping in, but even I had to laugh at that. The fish were waiting!
Quietly, I’d get up and dress. I’d sneak down the spiral staircase my grandpa made, being careful to avoid the squeaky step. I’d tiptoe over to the door and head outside.
With a can full of juicy worms and fishing pole in hand, I’d skip down to the lake and up the rickety pine dock that led the top of the big rock on the shore, and sit in my special spot.
I’d thread the worm onto my hook and cast out as far as my line would let me, and wait.
The water, all glassy, mirrored both mountain and sky. Dappled sunlight danced across my face, making it hard to see until my eyes could adjust. On clear days, I could see the entire mountain. It looked like it had been expelled from the lake in one big upwards push. It was jagged and mysterious. I would think about the people climbing at that moment, and suddenly, I’d be there too! I’d be working my way up the rocky, terrain, scurrying over fallen trees, and scaling gigantic boulders. Then I’d stand at the top, out of breath and sweaty from the effort, and wave at everyone below.
Sometimes, a jet would fly over my head, way up past the puffs of clouds, leaving a powdery, white trail behind. I’d wonder about where it was going. I’d close my eyes and then I would be on that jet too! I’d be heading to Florida or Hawaii or maybe even the other side of the world! In a pressed, pink business suit, I would order a Shirley Temple from the stewardess, peek out the tiny window, and smile down at the girl fishing on the lake.
Sometimes, boats would race into our cove, and circle the island before leaving again in a hurry. Before I knew it, I’d be on that boat! I would be in my bathing suit, heading to the lake store for ice cream and hotdogs, or maybe even to the sandy beach! I’d drop my fishing line in and *troll the whole way or maybe even pull a *Togue up from the depths.
If the air was still and the wind didn’t rustle the leaves, I could hear all the way to the Golden Road. The sounds made there would echo across our lake. Giant trucks full to the top with tree-length logs zipped up and down. I could hear the engines shift as they maneuvered the hills. Suddenly, I would be in one of those trucks! I would be dodging moose and speeding over the dirt roads on my way to Canada!
After a while, I’d hear the pans rattling in the kitchen inside camp. My tummy would rumble and then I’d know it was time to head back inside. My mother would be wondering where I’d run off to.
She would meet me at the front door and ask, “Where have you been?”
I would say, “Everywhere.”
*Togue- A lake trout. Usually quite large in size.