Floating Past Hill's Grove
A collaboration of Derek Davis, Connie Hatch, Linda White,
the cast, and many, many others
Directed by Linda White
Cast (in order of appearance)
Eileen Wylie Jane (grandmother)
Autumn Henninger Sally (daughter)
Brenda Henninger Mary (mother)
Carol Jacques Blue Feather (grandmother)
Krystel Clark Laughing Squirrel (daughter)
Connie Hatch Falling Leaf (mother)
Autumn Clark Singing Bird (daughter)
Paul Schaefer John Hill
Mark Roinick Daniel Ogden
Barbara Schaefer Mary Hill
Ferdinand Marek Charles Boulogne
Jeff Hamilton Shamus McCarty
Sue Hamilton Eloise McCarty
Leona Hatch Marie McCarty
Darwin Hatch Big Sam
Florence Suarez Aunt Tabitha
Ruth Reuter Ocie
Jane Rhone Addie
Glen Hamilton Swede
Nathan Kiner Tadeus
Eileen Wylie Musical Direction
Gwen Klus Keyboard
Ben Hatch Lighting Control
Melanie Norton Refreshments
Wilson Ferguson, Grace Dove Historical Consultants
JANE Ah, smell that clear, fresh air. Sally, could you put that iPod away for five minutes? Thanks. Perfect day for a rafting trip. Perfect!
SALLY A what? I wanted to go camping with Daddy, Gramps and Johnny.
JANE They're having a boy's night out and we can have a girl's day rafting on the Loyalsock.
MARY Oh, mother.
JANE What's wrong?
MARY These run and smash trips of yours...can't we just sit here in the sun and have a picnic? Sally could go swimming. I wanted to read. Or do nothing. Doing nothing has a long and glorious history.
SALLY Look! There's something shiny where the water's dug out under the bank. Oh, it's an old pot. What's it made of? It's not the usual color for a pot.
JANE That looks like brass or copper.
SALLY It looks really old. I wonder how it got here.
JANE Yes! Exactly! History! That's what I'm talking about – visiting the history of Hillsgrove. Maybe we'll find out something about that pot on our way. Educational but painless. Over the bounding...well, I guess it isn't exactly the main.
SALLY Where do we haveta go to visit history? We get in some rapids or something we'll get all wet. It'll short out my iPod.
JANE Ha! We're not going to some where. We're going to some time.
JANE Instead of getting off at places we'll get off at years, like time travel, honey. Do you dig it?
SALLY Oh brother.
JANE C'mon, don't be a bunch of killjoys. It'll be blast.
MARY [under her breath] I think somebody's already blasted. [sighs] All right, mother. Sally, get on board the good ship Looneyplot.
[all clamber aboard the raft, leaving the pot behind]
JANE First stop is back before Europeans got settled around here. Keep that paddle steady, Sally. [She sings verse 1of Down to the River to Pray] See over there? It's 1750 and that's an Indian camp.
SALLY Native American, Nana.
JANE Oh, O.K. Now, you have to remember – they'd already changed a lot from contact with Europeans. Nobody really knows how they lived hundreds of years ago, even though archaeologists have dug up a lot of old sites.
SALLY What tribe are they? I don't see any bows and arrows.
JANE Lenni Lenape, most likely.
SALLY Nana, It's just Lenape. We learned that in school.
JANE Oh, O.K., Lenape. After they met up with the white traders, they didn't use bows and arrows much to hunt. They traded animal skins for--you know what-- guns. All the eastern Ind – Native Americans used guns to hunt in the 18th century.
MARY Huh! I didn't know that.
JANE See, you're learning already. You always were a smart girl. And the animals they caught, they mostly cooked them in brass pots.
SALLY Uk. If I suck my fingers after holding onto a brass key it tastes terrible.
JANE & MARY Then, don't do it!
JANE Follow me, beloved sisters, into the year 1750.
SALLY Look. That looks like us. A grandmother, a mother, but two granddaughters, instead of just one.
[They all get off the raft and walk over to the Indian camp]
* * * * * *
Scene 1 – on flat where tannery later built
[everyone is busy throughout, stirring pots, making things—no wasted time. SINGING BIRD places the pot on the fire.]
BLUE FEATHER And what are my two granddaughters planning for today?
LAUGHING SQUIRREL Grandmother, may I go to the mountain?
BLUE FEATHER If it is your wish, who am I to stop you?
SINGING BIRD She gets to do everything.
BLUE FEATHER Not everything. Not yet.
SINGING BIRD Why does she want to go to the mountain?
BLUE FEATHER Ask her.
SINGING BIRD Why?
LAUGHING SQUIRREL To have a vision, like the boys when they grow hair...not upon their head.
FALLING LEAF You are not a man, daughter, nor yet a woman.
LAUGHING SQUIRREL I will be.
FALLING LEAF Yes, but perhaps you should wait.
LAUGHING SQUIRREL Is that your wish also, grandmother?
BLUE FEATHER Like your mother's, it is my thought of what is right for you.
LAUGHING SQUIRREL Then I will stay here.
FALLING LEAF Laughing Squirrel, chew on that skin a bit more to soften the edges. And Singing Bird, that pot we got from the white peddler cooks well but fast. Take it off the fire and set it aside.
SINGING BIRD When do we have the ball game again?
FALLING LEAF After the corn has sprouted.
SINGING BIRD All the boys whirl the bull roarers to scare the crows from eating the corn. They don't scare anybody. I want to see the ball game. They take that big ball of deer hide and try to push or kick it across a goal.
BLUE FEATHER The women against the men.
LAUGHING SQUIRREL We women are allowed to carry the ball with us when we run, but the men can only kick it to cross the goal. Is that fair?
BLUE FEATHER The men are weak of true power, so we let them show the lesser power of their limbs.
SINGING BIRD But then we win?
BLUE FEATHER Most times.
LAUGHING SQUIRREL Elkfoot says he can hunt better than me. He said he killed a bear with a single shot to the head.
FALLING LEAF Did you see him do this?
LAUGHING SQUIRREL No.
FALLING LEAF Did you see the bear, dead?
LAUGHING SQUIRREL No.
FALLING LEAF Well, then.
LAUGHING SQUIRREL He has a new rifle that his father traded many skins to get from the white folk.
FALLING LEAF You can use your father's rifle when he returns. Have a contest with Elkfoot. See who can aim more true. Or use your bow and arrow. That was the old way, before the white folk traded us rifles.
SINGING BIRD [reaching for her mother's bag] What is in your medicine bag, mother?
FALLING LEAF [pushing her hand away] I have told you – never ask. What we hold in our bags is our secret. To let loose the secret might place us at the will of another, if they are evil. Never tell what is in yours. Do not tell even me.
SINGING BIRD Is there much evil in the world?
FALLING LEAF Enough.
LAUGHING SQUIRREL Which way did father go to hunt?
FALLING LEAF He went down the Towanda trail.
LAUGHING SQUIRREL We have already caught so many fish. If we smoke them we would have enough to eat for a moon.
FALLING LEAF We use much of it to put in the cornhills to make the three sisters grow strong.
SINGING BIRD Corn, beans and squash!
FALLING LEAF If we do not feed the earth, it will grow weak and the sisters will not nourish us. [to laughing squirrel] You know that. Why are you so forgetful? I despair of what will become of you.
BLUE FEATHER The eagle does not follow the way of the mouse.
LAUGHING SQUIRREL Father hunts bear and deer. He is not weak. Why do you say men are weak?
BLUE FEATHER They do not have the power that we have inside. The women move the clan and the village. I am mother of the turkey clan, it was seen in me when I was young, younger than you. Women move all things, at the will of the creator. Without women to carry tradition, there would be no tradition. That is the way of the Lenape. That is why all other tribes call our tribe "grandmother."
LAUGHING SQUIRREL Will I be a matt-eh-oh, a healer, like you?
BLUE FEATHER Those of healing wisdom are seen in visions even before their birth. You, great chatterbox, will be no healer, you will be a teller of stories.
LAUGHING SQUIRREL I could tell a story right now.
BLUE FEATHER Not now. You must learn first to control your tongue or it will wander into the wilderness and never return. Today, go to the water and observe the trout. Do not talk to them. Lie with your head over the bank and look. See the trout, learn everything of the trout until the sun crosses and prepares to retire, then come and tell me what you have learned.
LAUGHING SQUIRREL To lie so still, so long?
BLUE FEATHER Yes, and be glad I told you.
SINGING BIRD What should I bring to the next great gathering?
FALLING LEAF What you do best.
SINGING BIRD I tie and weave the feathers to make feather cloaks. You say my fingers are more nimble than a chipmunk.
FALLING LEAF Then bring a weaving with feathers. Lay it before your cousin, Dew Berry. That is enough, more than enough.
LAUGHING SQUIRREL Grandmother, my doll has the skin of a deer, but it has no eyes. Can I get berries and squeeze the juice to make color for the eyes?
BLUE FEATHER Only the creator can make a face. Do not try him by your pale imitation. Look, instead we can add a skirt of birch bark.
LAUGHING SQUIRREL What if Elkfoot wishes to peek underneath the skirt?
FALLING LEAF Well, he won't find much, will he?
SINGING BIRD Why will White Deer not eat rabbit?
BLUE FEATHER Have I not told you? Ah, I grow forgetful with age. In the time of the ancient flood, the Lenape climbed high into trees and waited in fear, for the water lapped at their feet and the wind pushed waves higher than their knees. They thought all would die. But Nana bush, the revered one, took the form of Rabbit and showed them how to weave and twine the tree branches into rafts to float free. So they did this, and they blessed Rabbit, thinking it was he. But it was Nana bush. Some, then, will not eat Rabbit in thanks.
SINGING BIRD But we eat rabbit. It's good.
BLUE FEATHER That's because we know it was really Nana bush. We don't eat bushes. Come, let's go and see how the three sisters are growing.
[pot now sits off by itself]
* * * * * *
SALLY Three sisters would be too many for me,.
JANE But wasn't that fun?
SALLY It was kind of neat. I guess. I wish I could have seen somebody using a bow and arrows.
JANE Bows and arrows may seem cool, but you get a lot more game with a rifle, honey.
SALLY Storytelling and ball games - yeah, sounds like fun.
MARY Oh, they had their fun but they had to work too. Did you notice they were all working on something? They worked most of the day just to get food and everything else they needed to stay alive. They farmed - that's where we got corn, squash and beans. The hunters had to walk miles and miles and were away for weeks or months at a time. They could pack some things but mostly they ate what they killed or found in the woods.
JANE Wow indeed. All right, let's get moving again. [2nd verse Down to the River] Now look over there on the other bank. See that fellow kicking at the rocks? That's Daniel Ogden, the first white settler near Hillsgrove – and the first in all of what's now Sullivan County. And the man he's talking to, that's his neighbor, John Hill. "Neighbor" in this case means he only lives about a mile away.
SALLY Is that why it's called Hillsgrove, because of Mr. Hill?
JANE You got it.
MARY Why isn't it called Ogdensgrove?
JANE For one thing, it wouldn't sound as good. But anyway, Ogden was a strange kind of person who...well, let's stop and find out.
SALLY What's the year this time?
SALLY Did they have trains and stuff?
JANE Not yet. Listen, I think Mr. Hill is saying goodbye to Mr. Ogden.
* * * * * *
Scene 2 – Hill farm
JOHN Goodbye, Mr. Ogden, we'll miss you 'round these parts.
OGDEN Well, Mr. Hill, I cain't say as I'll be missing anyone. Too many people around makes me nervous. What're you up to now in chillins, 13?
JOHN Yep, Mr. Ogden, my missus just keeps poppin em out and I keep acquirin more land to take care of them thar "chillins" – or younguns as we call em.
OGDEN Seems to me you'd wanna put a stop to that poppin one of these days.
JOHN [serious] We're God fearin folks, sir, and well, there just ain't a lot to do round these parts after the sun goes down.
SAMANTHA Howdy, Mr. Ogden, I've packed you a bit of venison jerky to sustain you on your way. I'll put it right in that pot of yours. Good way to carry. [the same old pot]
OGDEN [sheepish] That's right kind of you, Mrs. Hill. With all you've got to do, that's really touching.
SAMANTHA Oh, weren't no trouble atal. Couldn't help overhearin you speak about our family's number, but as the older ones grow – they be helpful to the younguns and thereby make for me a happy life.
OGDEN Actually, Missus, I was gonna ask if you could use this pot. It's kinda bulky for all the travelin' I plan on doin'. You'd be doin' me a favor.
SAMANTHA Why, Mr. Ogden, that's exactly the size I've been needing. Thank you!
JOHN Can I ask what your plans be, Mr. Ogden?
OGDEN Well, sir, seems to be gettin' a bit crowded here for me. So many new folks settlin' in the valley. I bin here since 1786. Yep, cleared my land, built a house and had a small grist mill on my creek. But as I said when I sold out to you; I been here long enough, time to start somethin' new. And Englishmen in partic'lar make me a mite nervous – no offense. I had a boy what was kilt by the English in the Revolution. I ain't no Tory but I also cain't help my feelin's.
JOHN I understand your feelin's, sir. I'll take good care of the mill and we wish you well. [hands OGDEN last payment for land] I think this makes us square.
OGDEN I thank you. [hands deed to JOHN] Now this you can register down to Williamsport. From what I've seen of your endeavors, my mill is in capable hands. Fare thee well, Mr. Hill. And a good life to you, Missus.
SAMANTHA And the same to you, sir.
SAMANTHA John, that man likes more solitude than I could endure.
JOHN Since we came here in 1789, more and more folks are settlin' hereabouts. I don't think you will have to worry about too much solitude.
SAMANTHA I guess you're right. There's James Ecroyd got his place and Griffith Griffey built across the creek. What a fine orchard he has agoin'. He told me he squatted on that rise about 1787 and built above where the flood waters would get his cabin. Oh, and that nice man from Birmingham, Joseph Huckell. I was so glad to see his building just across the creek from us. There's more folks settlin' in each year.
JOHN That's a fact. It's good we were among the first. We got all the flat land along the north side of the Loyalsock crick for two miles up and down, and half a mile back from the creek on up the mountain. It sure cost to have it surveyed and patented, but well worth it. It'll make for clear title for all our younguns onct we're gone.
SAMANTHA You've always done right by our family and planned well for the future. Well I guess we've loafed long enough. You and the boys need to get out there to check the field plantin's and how they're comin' along this spring. But leave me a couple to help with the wash and, oh, that barn needs rakin' again.
JOHN You think maybe we need a few more?
SAMANTHA [with a definite raised eyebrow] Mr. Hill, please keep your mind on your work. We don't need any more distractions today. We can discuss this again after supper.
JOHN Yes ma'am! Tommy, Bobby, Ephraim, Paul and John, Jr. – meet me on the south twenty. Mathew and Henry, give your ma a hand.
* * * * * *
MARY I wish I had kids that gave a hand whenever I needed it.
SALLY I do help out. Just 'cause I've had so much homework to do and one time I didn't help with the dishes.
MARY Four families doesn't seem like a lot of people to me. You'd think they'd have been so lonely, even with their baker's dozen children.
JANE I know, but there're always people like Ogden who don't want anybody around them.
MARY I just don't understand someone like that.
SALLY What were they trying to do? I mean, the people who went out in the middle of nowhere to find – what were they trying to find anyway?
JANE It was different from person to person. People look for all sorts of things.
SALLY I was looking for my homework last night.
MARY I'm not sure that's quite the same thing. Some of them were having a bad time back in their homeland – religious or political persecution – and wanted to get somewhere they could feel free. Some were what were called indentured servants – they were so poor the only way they could get out of debt was selling themselves into what was basically slavery.
JANE They seem like refugees to me. But there were others - explorer types – do you know about Charles Boulogne?
JANE He was – well, I don't if he was exactly an explorer, but he knew a heck of a lot about what was going on up here in the early days. But he met a pretty sad end. It's worth checking out. We'd only be jumping a couple years, to July 1796.
SALLY If we go this slow, when are we ever gonna get back home?
MARY Sally, be quiet. I want to hear about this. What happened?
JANE He was on a long trip, it was raining hard one night, no real light to guide him, and he came up to the Loyalsock, about where we are. Across from the Hills' house, from what I heard. And –
SALLY Mom! I don't like it all dark and stormy like this.
MARY Shush, listen.
JANE He came to the creek and he saw a light on the other side....
* * * * * *
[JOHN and wife MARY take seats at a table at back of stage and freeze. A lantern and the brass pot are on the table. A man steps out on the stage, and observes the two. He approaches them and tries to get some response, but does not. He is a fairly tall, slim man, with dark hair tied back, wearing all gray clothing reminiscent of the 1790s. This man speaks excellent English with a French accent. He suddenly turns to the audience and demands:]
BOULOGNE Can you see me? Can YOU see me?
[He keeps asking until he coaxes responses from the audience. Points to an adult on the front row.]
BOULOGNE Can you? [Walks closer to the person with both hands out.] Touch my hands. Am I real, M'sieur? [The audience member MUST touch the man's hands.]
Then why do not these people SEE me? They walk through me or by me. I cannot feel the warmth of their fires. Look back there.
[He lifts one arm and gestures toward the stage.]
They whisper like the wind through the frozen branches of a tree without its green cloak. Everyone whispers. I yell. I watch. I yell again. No one hears me. I am in a bad dream from which I cannot wake. [Silence for a second.] Before I am in this ... this state of not being, I remember a light on the other shore. I remember ... [Pausing to think.] I remember M'sieur John Hill and his wife –running along the bank. Both with their arms out, waving frantically. My servant and I watch trees and debris rush by in the swollen waters. I am thinking to myself, we cannot cross here. However, M'sieur Hill knows best.
IF there is ever a next time, I will carefully watch my horse. I had to force the beast into the rushing torrent. It kept backing and rearing. I am yelling to the horse, I am praying to God, I am thinking of that wonderful ale that Madam Hill served me – and then I am not thinking at all. The saddle slips beneath me. I am flailing my arms. I am thinking that I cannot lose the saddlebag. Am I drowning? I must save the notes, the money. The water overwhelms me.
I struggle to the surface and then I feel pain. Then nothing. I am floating in oblivion. And I find myself walking, up and down this creek side. Merde!
The whole of the Loyalsock is apparently freshen. Such flood waters! Such rushing flood waters! The rain must have been tremendous here. The tiny creek we followed down to M'sieur Odgen's cabin is a raging torrent.
When last we rode through here, our horses' hooves were barely wet! How long ago? A fortnight? Twenty? How quickly the river changes its mind when pushed by torrential rain. And, yes, it fell in Williamsport, but the river was of no consequence there. As we are riding over the mountain and following the creek to M'sieur Odgen's, we stop and sit beneath our oiled blankets under a huge tree. The month of July and I have never been so cold and wet in my life. Except for the first winter I spent in Azilium. There was not enough firewood to keep my small cabin warm.
I know this country and its ways, especially that of the wild creatures who live here. Why did M'sieur Hill beckon to me to cross?
If I had to die, why did I not die at Azilium? That was my sanctuary! My safe haven! I came up from Philadelphia and helped to build this new colony. [Holds up both hands.] Yes, I am aware that this colony is to make money. The land speculators buy and sell and buy and sell, but I know we French can survive even if our monarchy cannot. I cannot vouch for the royalty. I can only pray for them. [Hands on face for a few seconds. Heavy sigh.] Why am I losing the memory of my family? My friends, even. Why can I not see their faces? The money and papers in the saddlebag no longer concern me. Mon Dieu! If I am dead, am I condemned to wander this ground for eternity?!
I have died and I am buried in this god-forsaken land that I grew to love. There is no one here to mourn me. Except my servant. Eh! He will find another master. No one shall remember me!
[Waves one hand as though the matter is now settled or he is still disgusted. He exits as Mr. Hill and Rebecca come to life. Rebecca looks out the window.]
HILL: What a night! I've never seen such rain and wind. I could hardly make it to the barn and back.
MARY: The water is coming up so fast. Do you think it will reach our house?
HILL: Let's hope not. I wouldn't want to have to take your mother out in this. She's been so sick the last few days. Thank God for you!
MARY: Mother has taught all of us children well. And so have you. Us girls know how to plow and reap and the boys know how to cook and clean. We're ready for anything--except maybe a flood.
HILL: I don't think it will come up this far. Look how much land the water would have to cover before it would reach us.
MARY: And I used to wish that our house was closer to the river bank. That shows how much I knew! Father, I think there's someone out there.
HILL: Let me see. It can't be Boulougne - he had his servant with him.
MARY: There's not one, there's two of them, and this is the day he said he'd be coming through again. Oh, no! Look! One's riding toward the water.
HILL: We've got to warn them off. No one could get through that alive. Come on!
[Hill grabs the lantern and runs out to the edge of the creek. Mary follows, taking off her apron and waving it over her head.]
MARY: He's crossing, even though we try to wave him away. Stay back! No! Go back!
HILL: Blast the man! Keep waving! [He waves the lantern.]
MARY: The water is too loud, Father. He can't hear us! Oh, he disappeared! No, there he is! He's not on his horse anymore!
[Both wave frantically. Hill and daughter looking out across the audience.]
MARY: [More to herself but still loud:] Please miss the deep place! Please miss it! [The lantern is lowered quickly and she grasps her father's arm.] Ohhh, a log hit him! He's gone under. Father, can you see him?
HILL There! His arm – gone again. [Points.] The other man - your eyes are younger, can you see who that is? Is it Mr. Boulogne?
MARY: I can't tell. [Leans forward a bit. Shakes her head.] I can't tell!
HILL The other man is crossing too! [Shouts] TO YOUR LEFT! KEEP TO YOUR LEFT! [Pause then shouts] NO! Go back! Go back! If I were as rich as the bankers in Philadelphia, I would build a bridge here. [To his daughter] These Frenchmen! Why do they cross HERE?! And why when the crick is flooding? GO BACK!
MARY: Look at that! He just keeps coming! Oh, he went under, too.
HILL Keep a lookout for the first man. He just might make it.
MARY: Father, the second man – I can see his face, now - that's Mr. Boulogne's servant! That's Pierre! He's still moving!
HILL Look there! Both of them are floating toward this bank. Maybe we can reach them. Go get help and bring blankets! Go! Run! [MARY exits up stage--into the house.]
HILL God help us all. [He rushes out through the audience.]
* * * * * *
[blackout. Hill stands at rear of auditorium and reads.]
HILL: "An inventory of cash and other things found on Mr. Charles Felise Bue Boulogne when drowned in the Loyalsock
"Seven Guineas, one of which appears to be bad
one half Guinea
one Spanish gold piece (value not known, supposed to be about six dollars)
one silver medal
nine quarter dollars
one 1/8 do.
2 1/16 do.
one ½ do.
four bank notes $5 each
one pair tortoise shell silver buttons with silver chain
one gold watch
one hallow punch
one pair of scissors
one snuff box
one red Morocco pocket book
one MARY case
one promissory note of $700 of John V. Brederline
one promissory note of $214 of John B. Evans
one large map of Pennsylvania
several large drafts of land in sundry places
boots and spurs
sundry papers in French not understood
a pair of saddlebags not yet found
taken this 20th day of July 1796 and left in charge with Mr. John Hill, Loyalsock
SALLY Oh, that's so sad. But what's next? I mean, when's next?
JANE Now you'd really like to know, wouldn't you, Sally.
MARY Yes. We'd both like to know, Mother. So tell us, please.
JANE I'm glad. History is so important. It helps us keep from making the same mistakes over and over.
SALLY O.K., Nana....
JANE What was the biggest industry in Sullivan County in the 19th century. I mean, besides farming? You should know this.
SALLY Hunting? Trapping? I don't know. You're the history person.
JANE Exactly. The whole county – this is right around when they decided to make Sullivan its own county in 1847 – was solid trees, remember. Pines and hemlocks, mostly. You can't even begin to imagine how many trees and how big they were –It says here-- four to six feet in diameter. I mean, there was such a huge, endless, thick mass of overpoweringly threatening greenery that –
JANE All right. Push off, Mary. [3rd verse of Down to the River] So look over there. That's a temporary lumber camp. They're cutting down pines. Among other things, they were used for ships spars – that's masts – because Pennsylvania pines were some of the straightest, tallest pines in the world. Sometimes 150 feet. And the woodhicks could float the logs down any creek, because the state made all the waterways public highways.
SALLY Woodhicks? What're they?
JANE That was one name for lumberjacks.
SALLY I don't like it. Makes them sound like bugs.
MARY Maybe you're thinking of ticks? A hick is one term for somebody from the country, though today it isn't a nice one. I don't know if that's what woodhick comes from.
SALLY Umm, what year is it this time?
JANE 1850, more or less.
MARY So we're floating along about 50 years each time?
JANE That's right, Mary, except for when we don't.
SALLY Hey, wait a minute, I know that song they're singing. It was in last year's play.
MARY Isn't that plagiarism?
JANE No, the same bunch of people wrote this play, and anyway, it's a folk song, so there's no copyright. Don't get so technical.
[Woodhicks singing "Cutting Down the Pines." Family and audience join in.]
Scene 4 – temporary lumber camp
SHAMUS Careful how you pack that dinner, don't want to lose my pie along the way like last time.
ELOISE [indicating MARIE]. Marie wraps up all the dinners just fine. You're too careless, skipping along and singing those songs when you go out. What are you sayin' about them setting up a new camp, Shamus? We've only been here three months.
SHAMUS No pines left in these parts. I told you it'd be like that, Eloise. They got a new sawmill startin' up 'bout 10 miles or so down the crick. Got to hop from one place to the next to keep up with the trees.
ELOISE But we've only been married half a year and I don't like moving again.
SHAMUS Well, you don't have to shift this time, you'll be stayin' here.
ELOISE Here? I want to be with you.
SHAMUS Onct I get the money from this cuttin' we can go together wherever we want. I'll be gettin' a full two dollars a day now cuz of my experience. Won't be all that long.
ELOISE It's dangerous.
SHAMUS [surprised] 'Course it's dangerous. It's work. Work's dangerous. That's why they call it work.
[enter BIG SAM carrying a jug and crosscut saw, with TABITHA, his aunt]
ELOISE Who you have there, Big Sam?
BIG SAM It's my aunt, Tabitha. She wants to learn on that thing you play that has the strings.
ELOISE That's a dulcimer.
BIG SAM Well, whatever it may be, she'd like to see how to play it. You ready, Shamus?
SHAMUS Yeah, Big Sam, I s'pose. Let me get a hit on that jug. Phewie, that's some rotten-tasting rum, but least it helps start off an 11-hour day. Sometimes I wish winter wasn't the best time for timbering.
BIG SAM Yup, but we can see the trees better and skid the logs on the ice and snow. And it sure is easier now than in my pap's time. [bending the saw and flicking it to make it sound] Get a lot more done usin' this saw than when he was workin' and had to cut everything with just the ax.
TABITHA You still use the ax, don't you, Sam? Pardon me for asking.
BIG SAM Aw, that's your privilege, in this house.
SHAMUS See, Tabitha, we still need the ax to make the notch so's the tree'll fall the right way.
BIG SAM And I got our saw all sharp as a preacher's damnation, so it'll zip right on through after the notch. Know what I heard they got now? At the big sawmills? Stead of the muley up-and-down saw? They got circular saws, run by steam. Cut like all heck from what I heard.
SHAMUS [jumps up, makes circular motion with his hands] Circular? How's that gonna work? You'd cut yerself in half.
BIG SAM You don't hold onto the blade, ya dumb ox. It's on a spindle and the steam engine turns it. The sawmill don't have to be near the crick fer power when you got steam, you can burn up the bark pieces and sawdust and the like to boil water for the steam. And it takes but one sawyer to feed the log in, and it slices off a board by itself, and quick. Get up now, I got the oxen hitched to haul yesterday's logs over to the slide.
MARIE Wish I could slide like that in the snow.
SHAMUS Aw, no, little Marie, 'tain't nohow safe. Know what I seen last week? Those logs build them up some speed on the slide, you know, well one jumped off – whacked the two-foot-thick top clear off a pine, a good 30' from the ground.
[Marie finishes wrapping the lunches and sits on the floor with a slate and chalk]
BIG SAM We'll be anyway runnin' out of pine in this whole area by year's end. They got a big stand up on the Little Loyalsock, guess that'll be next. Say, how come these cricks here are called Loyalsock? That's a funny name.
SHAMUS Probably because of what the English soldiers wore on their feet back in the Revolution. Them Tories.
TABITHA I heard it's an Indian name, sounds like "Lawi-Saquick." They say it means "middle creek," 'cause it's betwixt the Lycoming over there [points] and the Muncy off the other way.
BIG SAM You learn something new and interestin' every single day, just like my ma used to say. One thing you need to learn, Shamus, is how to balance better on them logs below the splash dam or you'll break a leg or even end up drowneded.
ELOISE That's what I been saying, it's dangerous and it's the same danger all the time, 'cept with different logs.
SHAMUS You wouldn't 'spect it would be with the same logs? They get used up, sawed into boards.
ELOISE Shamus, I don't like it when you play at bein' dumb like that.
SHAMUS Long as you see I'm playin'. [to BIG SAM] She knows I'm really a smart one.
BIG SAM Yup, smarter'n stale bread.
[SHAMUS and BIG SAM share a loud, chummy laugh]
BIG SAM You know, they're payin' $7 a thousand board feet these days, and we're just behind New York in how many board feet cut. We'll be number one next turn 'round. They got a new idea down Williamsport to build a big boom on the Susque, hold lord knows how much timber. It can get rafted down all through the year.
ELOISE It'll put somebody out of work, you'll see. New ideas like that bring trouble.
SHAMUS Everything was a new idea once. People onct didn't know how to farm. They didn't know how to smelt iron. Didn't have bread or soap.
MARIE Everybody knows how to make bread.
SHAMUS Not always, and I wouldn't want to go back to bein' like that.
BIG SAM Progress, that's the way of it.
ELOISE How much progress is it to be out here in the middle of nowhere cutting down all the trees?
SHAMUS [holding up the pot] We may not have much, but at least we have a pot to –
SHAMUS Anyway, the woodhicks're right friendly fellahs, and you get on with Mildred just fine. And Annie, you said. And our own Marie, right here with you.
ELOISE I'm happy when we're all together in the evening. I just want a place of our own. So how much is it you need to know on the dulcimer, Tabitha? Have you played one afore, or a guitar or whatever?
TABITHA Never played a lick on something with outside strings. Only the piano.
ELOISE Well, come ahead and I'll show what I know. I'm not fully the best, but it's an easy instrument to learn on. There's a song called "Jerry," it's about a mule. You know, some as didn't have oxen like Big Sam, they used a mule to haul. They got good, sure feet.
[ELOISE sings "Jerry," TABITHA leans over her shoulder to study the fingering. SHAMUS and BIG SAM could join in]
ELOISE [to MARIE] You got them lunches wrapped up tight? Don't want these boys to be left gnawing on the bark.
MARIE Yes, Mama!
[MARIE hands the lunches to BIG SAM and SHAMUS who take tools and
SALLY If I was a beaver, I would gnaw on bark. Mom, can we please have lunch now?
JANE Tell you what, we'll all have lunch while we keep talking. [starts a sandwich and begins talking with her mouth full, can't understand a word]
MARY Why don't I take over here? If you can imagine following the fate of a tree, it would go something like this: Understand, this was done mostly in the winter.
JANE [garble] tell you why later, honey.
MARY [opens her book: "The One True And Compedious Guide to Sullivan County (And Lesser Environs)"] Don't talk with your mouth full, mother – that's what you always told me. O.K. Here we are : "Two cutters would pick a tree to make their notch," – like Shamus and Big Sam – "then they would stand on either side of the tree with a crosscut saw and fell the tree" – cut it down. "Then woodhicks would chop off both the top and the low branches."
JANE [bolting down her sandwich and opening her own mini guide] "They would then drag the log to a slide made from other logs laid end to end – a major reason for working in the winter was so they could use the snow and ice for lubrication" – there's your answer to that - "and shoot logs down the mountain" – whoosh. "There, the logs would sit until spring, when they could be floated down the creek, swollen by the snow melt. Once the logs reached the river, they would be shackled together to form huge rafts – some over a hundred feet long."
SALLY Rafts – like us! And like they did down Pine Creek to get to the Susquehanna River and then to Williamsport, right, Mom?
MARY Sally, you amaze me sometimes with what you pick up.
SALLY Oh, I'm just smart like that. We studied about when Williamsport was a boom town.
JANE Yep, Williamsport had solid sawmills along the river to cut the timber into boards. They were pretty much like sawmills today, but the machinery was a lot more primitive and much slower back then. Avast, me hearties! Let's move along! [4th verse Down to the River]
MARY Mother, where are we now?
JANE About 1880.
MARY Mom, I think it's time to tell Sally about the hemlock.
SALLY What was special about hemlock?
JANE It all started out with the bark, hon.
JANE Oh, good! Sound effects! People needed leather for all sorts of things – shoes, belts, chaps for cowboys, all the harnesses for horses and oxen. It was especially important for belts in the new steam-run machinery. And American leather was shipped to Europe too. There weren't materials like plastic – those came in later and replaced leather. Tanneries were the places where they turned hides into leather.
SALLY So why didn't they call them leatheries or hideries?
JANE Because you soften hides with tannic acid, which you get from soaking bark. And hemlock bark has just about the most tannin of any tree. That's why it's called "tanning" leather.
SALLY Did they always use tree bark to tan leather?
MARY Well, see, way back in the beginning.... ahem. They used brains.
SALLY Ooh. Does it take a lot of brains to make leather?
JANE Each animal has enough brains to tan its own hide.
SALLY Not Johnny!
JANE Now, forget about that, O.K.? I mean they smeared the hides with animal brains, deer brains or whatnot. Ahem. [reads fro guide] "About 1860, tanneries sprang up across Sullivan county - at Laporte, at a town close by called Thornedale, at Muncy Valley, and one in Dushore.
MARY My guidebook says there were three in Dushore.
JANE Well, that's because you have a larger guidebook. Anyway, a big tannery started up in Hillsgrove in 1874 – that's the one we're going to visit.
MARY And it says just one of the tanneries could tan forty thousand hides a year and used five thousand cords of hemlock bark.
SALLY Was there a season for getting the bark like there was for logging?
JANE Not really. But they hauled the bark to the tanneries by sleds and horses, so like with the logs, that depended on the weather – snow helped move it, and rain made it difficult - turned the logging roads to mud.
MARY And it says here [flips pages] that at first they just stripped off the bark and left the fallen logs to rot. What a waste. They didn't use hemlock for lumber because it split when you nailed it. [looks up] They only had those old cut nails – you know, the square ones? [back to guide] But when wire nails – the kind we use today – started being made after the Civil War, they didn't split the hemlock, so it could be used for building.
JANE People are still using hemlock barns that were built over 100 years ago. The frame of your house is hemlock, Sally.
MARY Yes, it is. People thought the forests would never run out. But it didn't take long for that to happen – it was sort of like today's oil crisis. When I was in high school, you could get a gallon of gas for a dollar.
JANE In my day, it was 21 cents!
SALLY Yeah, and you both walked ten miles to school, uphill going and coming!
JANE Yeah. But really, near the turn of the 20th century things were even cheaper. It cost 15 cents for five pounds of flour, 14 cents for ten pounds of potatoes, and round steak was 13 cents a pound. A cord of wood would run $1.
SALLY Dad paid almost $150 a cord last year, didn't he, Mom? Boy, things sure have changed! Was there hemlock all over the country?
MARY It says.... here – "the major hemlock belt in the United States ran primarily through Pennsylvania. It included Sullivan, Tioga, Potter, McKean, Elk, Bradford, and Lycoming counties."
SALLY Wow, how much land is that?
MARY Umm, "Pennsylvania has 26,500 square miles of forest today." It doesn't say how much is hemlock.
SALLY That's a lot of land! But wait a minute, the whole country is....
MARY [checking guide] 3,537,441 square miles. So you can see how important our little area here was. And why the population was so much bigger then. But you know, when the trees were gone, most of the people left too. It's actually easier today to wander around and feel lonely.
* * * * * *
Scene 5 – tannery mess hall
OCIE [while wiping table] Lonely! Yep, that's what I am!
ADDIE What say you, Ocie?
OCIE I says I'm just plumb lonesome, Addie. But for you, I'd work all day and not see narry another woman. Just menfolks.
ADDIE Will I be able to be as good a cook as you, someday?
OCIE Yes, dearie, you're already better than passable, but what with the toils of womanhood, I wouldn't be in much a hurry to git there.
ADDIE Ocie, you're busy all the time, an' you keep me busy too. I jus don't see how you could get it all done without me!
OCIE That's right, Addie, your help and just being around me makes my burden seem lighter. Why, there's the washin', mendin', cookin', cleanin' pots an' pans, scrubbing, oh dear, just so much for a body to do. Them boys work 11-12 hours a day. We work 14-15 hours, up at 5 a.m. 'till washin' the supper dishes by bedtime.
[enter the men, removing hats as they see OCIE, and gratefully slumping onto the benches for dinner. Men take dippers of water from the old pot]
BIG SAM Ocie, you're a sight for these tired eyes, [winking at Addie] and you too of course, Miss Addie.
OCIE Oh, go on with ya now, Big Sam. I'm gonna feed ya'll my best vittels no matter what ya says. Oh! You all smell worse today than usual. [picked up hem of apron and waving it front of her face to fend off smell]
BIG SAM Aw, Ocie, we all got pulled into the leach house today. Me 'an Shamus 'an Tadeus 'an even Swede here. They was some short a help and no amount of complainin' was gonna keep us from it.
SWEDE And ve DID complain!
BIG SAM You can smell how much good complainin' did.
SHAMUS Never mind the smell, we need our supper. Come on, Ocie, if we can stand it in the tannery, you can put up with it in here.
ADDIE We'll get you fed soon enough, so set down.
OCIE You just mind you hold yur tongue and move your bottom, Addie. [both smile comfortably with each other and ADDIE goes about wiping tables or pouring coffee or milk]
SHAMUS Ocie, you do set a tasteful fare. Last time I was to town, I toll those men from Thornedale that your cookin' beat their cook's hands down.
TADEUS Zat right, Ocie, Shamus toll them. And even when sometimes we don't haf da fresh vegetables from da farmers, you make the meat so right. And those, what you call, sourdough pancake, dey melt in mouth with the maple syrup . . . [smacks his lips and kisses the air with his eyes closed]
BIG SAM To say nothin of yer biscuits and eggs and fried potatoes and oatmeal and prunes and pork and boiled ham and beans and doughnuts and blueberry pie - and that tea with molasses.
SWEDE Ja, an da sugar cookies – love da sugar cookies.
TADEUS You make de mar-vel-ous big breakfast, Ocie.
BIG SAM An lunches an suppers. I almost git full. [all laugh]
OCIE You boys are right kind in your words, but the warmest my heart does git, is when your plates are clean after more'n one helpin.
[OCIE and ADDIE start serving the men. When a man isn't talking he's eating. When OCIE isn't speaking she's busy about the tables and out and back to the kitchen, as is ADDIE]
OCIE Please, let me jes get up draft from ya'll. Boys, I just don't quite understand. You know, I been curious a long time, how in the world do y'all turn an old cowhide into a fine soft piece of leather. D'ya mind explannin' it ta me?
SHAMUS 'Course not, Ocie. Me an' Tad an' Big Sam been workin' this tannery from its start and others afore that. This kinda work you're born to do, not just a learned trade. But to splain it ta ya, first after the hide is took off, it gets soaked in a wooden barrel fulla a salt and lime solution to loosen the hair.
SWEDE [interrupts] Ja, and den the hair be scraped off careful, cause not vant to hurt the grain. That take skill.
SHAMUS Then! [eyeing SWEDE for interrupting, then looks back to OCIE] The hemlock bark has been boilin' an' boilin' into a kinda liquor.
SWEDE [interrupting, again] Not kind vhat you vould vant drink!
SHAMUS [looks to the ceiling and continues] So, the prepared hides are dipped into a big vat of hemlock liquor with paddles on looooong poles. They get moved through six different vats altogether, and in the end, they're tanned. That has to be the stinkiest job in the tannery, and that was Swede and Big Sam's main job taday, so's ya might oughta stay way upwind from them two 'specially.
BIG SAM If it's ta be upper leather, the flesh of the hide is covered with a dry mix of saltpeter and hard wood ash, and the grain - the hair side - is smeared with neat's foot oil and mutton tallow.
ADDIE Oh, them poor little neats, bleedin' ta death in the snow with their feet cut off.
OCIE It's from cattle feet, Addie, and the cows're already dead.
SWEDE So, and there is then the rubbing and the rolling an and the polishing. Dat is with blocks and rollers cut from that tree, the black lignumvitae, the hardest, toughest vood of all voods.
SHAMUS So dependin' on the grade of leather needed to fill an order, it can take anywheres from eight to ten months to git to finished leather.
OCIE Must take lotsa hemlock bark to make six vats. I thought the woodhicks already took out all the timber. Where'd this hemlock come from?
TADEUS Some land here, it lookit clean as like the moon when all done with the timber. But most hemlock, see, dey leave behind because dey want only to cut the pine and the hardwood – the cherry and the maple and that. So den the hemlock got room and just, zoom, spring up and grow great big.
SHAMUS And when timberin' was in it's prime, they was only takin' trees from land near or uphill from cricks and rivers – the easy pickins. Some land in these mountains wasn't even touched back then. I done plenty of that lumberin' an thought it would get me enough ready cash to settle down, maybe start a farm with Eloise. But it's never easy as it looks, 'specially when you work places where you have to buy from the company store. Bleeds you dry. Eloise, she's wore down with wantin' and not gettin'.
OCIE I see 'em bringin' in wagon after wagonload of bark. It makes a body wonder – once they sqeeze the tannin out, what do they do with all that bark?
* * * * * *
SALLY All that bark, what'd they do with it all when they'e finished tanning?
MARY You'll get bark and bite both if you don't help more with the paddling.
SALLY I'm listening to Nana.
JANE I think your mom means you can listen at the same time that you're paddling. Multi-task, honey, multi-task.
SALLY It's just that this is getting pretty good, Grandma. So what I said – what about all that used-up bark?
MARY After awhile, people realized there were lots of uses for lumber "by-products." They began to see the importance of recycling – though they didn't call it that. We could call them "forerunners." A mill town might have a barrel-stave factory, a kindling factory, a shingle factory, a clothespin factory, along with blacksmiths, stores and liveries for horses.
JANE Now, the Hillsgrove tannery – it was built by Andrew Hawer – took up a lot of space and was a self-supporting factory. It took bark from all the sawmills around.
SALLY [exasperated] But What They Did With ALL That OLD, USED BARK?
JANE Chill, honey, I'm getting to that. The tannery became part of the United States Leather Corporation in 1892. Back then, that was one of the 10 largest companies in the country. But only 30 years later, the whole tanning business here was pretty much kaput.
JANE Well, a German chemist found a way to synthesize tannic acid, so they didn't need hemlocks, so tanneries could be built in more "convenient" places. And with cars replacing horses, a lot of the market for leather was shot.
MARY [looking at guide] "The Hillsgrove tannery closed around 1922 and most of the buildings were ripped down for reuse."
JANE [holds up her hand to still Sally's ready protest] You remember we said these folks were forerunners of recycling?
JANE All right. It worked this way. At the tannery, four-foot lengths of bark were soaked in hot water to leach out the tannin. Then the bark was dried and a lot of it was burned as fuel.
MARY [reading from guide book] "It was also used for road surfaces or layered over the bedrock of a road to cement together the stones that were laid above it. Another use was as a floor covering. Many homes had dirt floors, so the owners put used hemlock bark down to make the floor seem warmer and keep it from getting muddy in the rainy season."
SALLY Doesn't seem like it would be so soft!
MARY Maybe not to you, but you're used to linoleum and carpet. Remember, they had dirt floors or unfinished wood floors. A lot different from what you're used to today.
JANE Let's hop ahead about twenty years and see what it was like inside the Hillsgrove tannery, shall we?
SALLY Yes! I wonder if the tannery really smelled bad?
[Down to the River 5th verse]
Scene 6 - in tannery
SWEDE So bad today, the smell! They find, you tink, some new skunk hemlock?
SHAMUS Ya'd think that one day we'd git used to that dad blamed odor, but I ain't! I got that smell in my hair, on my skin – can't get away from it.
BIG SAM Oh, ya'll jus gotta have somethin' ta complain over and it don't stink any more'n usual.
SHAMUS I'm glad it's my last day. Never thought I'd make it this far. I'm done in.
SWEDE All, soon, ve need retire or ve drop over.
TADEUS More bad, we tumble into leach vat. That child, stirring vat, he, I think, got the easier life den we do.
SHAMUS Oh, I don't know about that Tad. [to BIG SAM] You remember startin' up as a youngun an' stirrin' that vat? Why that there pole on the stir paddle's three times longer en' that youngun is high.
BIG SAM Sure, I remember when I was his size, gitten in here afore daylight to start them fires under that vat an' then jus' a wishin' all day long for nightfall and quittin' time.
SWEDE So I vish still now, Big Sam. Better, I tink, vorking in the air outside, the cutting and the skidding and the sliding even.
[ELOISE enters, carrying the old pot]
BIG SAM An' that boy's job ain't any safer that any one of ours. I heard tell of kids fallin' in an' drownin' or fallin' along side into the flames. Much as I think the world's a changin' - and kids ain't as responsible as when we was young - there's still some kids around who're willin' ta work - like that youngun over there.
ELOISE That's what I been sayin' all these years – it ain't safe, never was safe, never will be safe – none of it.
TADEUS Safety, no, we don't got, so why men keep up with dis work? Look here, just in dis one tanning factory, we got here the English, the French, the German, the Italian, the Swede and us too in many numbers, the Poles. Eight, maybe more different countries working just here in Hillsgrove.
SWEDE Zo? Ve put out here 500 sides of the cattle in a day. That is good vork and steady, I say. And ve make now a dollar and thirty cents, every day, vhich is not, as you say, to be sneezed upon by such volk as ve.
SHAMUS Yeah, that's why I stayed on here, though it give Eloise fits [she darts him a damning look] – an' look at all the jobs, from the cutters and spudders in the woods, ta haulin' to this here factory and then all the jobs jus' inside the factory. It's no wonder people'd come from all over. There is an awful lotta steps goin' on around here to keep this place busy.
ELOISE Somethin' that we don't need to worry on after t'day.
BIG SAM You may be leavin, but this place'll niver be shut!
TADEUS You know, it take a tree many long year to grow, and around here dey get cut down swift as rattlesnake.
SWEDE But see, in Hillsgrove, there is not only the tannery, but the railroad vhat bring in the hides and the bark and take out also the leather. Zo we have the big bucks, the greenbacks even for our grandchildren.
TADEUS Ha! Was once super-big towns for lumbering here and there and the other place. No one say, 'Boom, you disappear.' But now you see only the spirit – the ghost you call them? – ghost towns after the mills close down. Sonesville, it is one. Trees gone, people gone, who is to say which vanish next? Maybe it is only the old, dead hemlock left on the woodland floors to stop ground from washing away in the rain.
SWEDE You tink, Tadeus? I tink the railroads move more far along and the timbering ways now use more of vhat ve cut, zo maybe it is ve make the land better today for using everyting vhat ve take.
BIG SAM Yeah, Tad, you worry too much. Why, jus lookee at them little green starts acomin' up where they took the hemlock out a year ago up that east holler off the cut back. Purt near enough young tree-starts ta look like a rich man's yard.
[TADEUS is still rubbing his chin and raising an eyebrow in skepticism.]
SHAMUS [puts his arm around ELOISE] Last day for me, last year for me an' Eloise, either way.
ELOISE Only thing's been ours all these years is the clothes on our back an' this old pot. Don't seem right to take it away from here. Hey, Big Sam, think your wife could use another pot?
BIG SAM Now ain't that somethin'! Just last night our middle-size pot sprung a leak. Eloise, you are providential!
ELOISE I'm glad it's gettin' a good home. When we get our farm, you plan on visitin', hear? All of you. Don't suppose we'll be restin' any too much. We'll show you what work is really like! Farmin' is more work than the tannery, but we'll be anyway workin' for ourselves.
SHAMUS I been through the whole lumber time, an' the work's been more good than bad to me. Grew up with it, grew old with it.
TADEUS You should maybe then grow dead with it.
BIG SAM Now ain't he the cheery one.
ELOISE You daren't die 'fore we get our farm together. How would I feed the livestock and do the chores and hay the fields all by my lonesome?
SHAMUS If you promise to make those blueberry muffins every now and then, I might be able to hang on a few more years. An' I got no complaints for my life, I was treated mostly fair and square. But just one thing I gotta do 'fore I leave: "Farewell, stink!"
[SHAMUS salutes the vat, the others laugh, then they all shake hands and SHAMUS waves goodbye. BIG SAM puts pot in its original place.]
* * * * * *
SALLY I'm glad to get away from that stink. Where to next, Nana?
JANE Actually, that was the last stop.
MARY Gosh, Sally, we've spent most of the day doing this.
SALLY Yeah, but it was way cool.
JANE Your slang sounds a little retro, but yes – cool. That may have something to do with the fact the sun's setting.
SALLY Wish we could've seen the railroads.
JANE Don't be impatient, hon. That's for a later play. [nods to audience] The railroads disappeared from this part of the county pretty fast. Once the lumber was gone, there was nothing else to haul and the population just about disappeared when the tannery closed.
SALLY Where did they go, the tannery people?
JANE Everywhere – anywhere they could get a job.
SALLY I wonder – did Shamus and Eloise ever get their farm?
MARY Oh, they did, they were right over near High Knob. They raised cows and sheep and lived to a ripe, happy old age.
SALLY Wa-a-a-it a minute – we met them back in 1850, right?
JANE Sure thing.
SALLY Then again around 1880, then again after 1900.
JANE Uh huh.
SALLY So Shamus was still working in the tannery when he was 70 and then lived to a "ripe old age." How's that possible?
JANE Simple – dramatic license. If we can travel back in time, our characters can live to be a hundred-twenty [gestures to audience], right? Everybody's a drama critic.
SALLY OK, Mrs. History, tell me this: There's still a lot of hemlocks and other trees around, so where did they come from?
MARY It's called second-growth timber, the trees that come up after an area's been cut over. [checking guide book] Now it's about 60% hardwood – cherry, beech, hickory, poplar, birch – and a fair amount of hemlock, but the pines are mostly gone.
SALLY Is the hardwood good for anything?
JANE You bet – Pennsylvania cherry's supposed to be the finest cabinetry wood in the world. That's what my kitchen cabinets are made of.
MARY They're beautiful.
JANE OK, time to jump back into the present.
SALLY Is Pennsylvania still the number one lumber state?
JANE Nowhere near. By 1920 we'd dropped down to number 18 – after everything had been clear-cut, they moved on and did the same thing in the Midwest. Now, the big lumber states are in the northwest, Washington and Oregon. And a whole lot comes from Canada.
MARY [flipping through the guidebook]It says that as late as 1930, some small lumber camps in Sullivan County were still using crosscut hand saws and hauling logs out by horses. They would move the camp from place to place. The women and girls and young boys prepared the food and took care of chores. This is good – it's a quote from one of the women: "It was a good life, we were like a big happy family, we belonged together and took care of each other. I could not have spent my life a better way." How many people feel that way about their jobs today?
SALLY There are still sawmills all over the place in Sullivan County.
JANE We've sort of made a circle, gone back to family mills, the way it was in the early 19th century. There's a whole lot of hemlock being cut today. But at least most people learned a lesson from all that devastation. [opens her guide book again] "A state Bureau of Forestry opened in 1899. Gifford Pinchot, who a few years later headed the state Department of Forestry, went on to become the country's chief forester. Soon –"
SALLY Grandmaaa, enough history facts, OK, I want to see stuff, go places.
JANE Humph! Ungrateful urchin! [stretching and yawning] All that paddling takes muscles I forgot I had. I'm sore.
MARY Me too. I'll be glad to get home and put my feet up.
SALLY When can we do it again? Tomorrow? Maybe Dad and Gramps and Johnny will go with us. We could go all the way back to before Columbus and live in a Native American village. Or way, way back, like Jurassic Park -- and we could leave Johnny there. He likes dinosaurs.
JANE & MARY Enough! We're going home.
[all start off, SALLY lagging behind]
SALLY Boy, though, wouldn't it be great to be a woodhick like those guys?
[lumberjack chorus enter for The Hillsgrove Waltz]
Hill's Grove Moonlight Waltz
Music by J. Lyman Jackson, Lyrics by Eileen Wylie
Where e'er I go, this much I know -
Hill's Grove is home, for I love it so.
Hemlock's so grand, graceful they stand,
Lacy, lush sylvan land.
God blessed us so in His planning.
Trees tall and right for the tanning.
Rawhide to leather, it all worked together
For good, we understand.
Beautiful Loyalsock flowing.
More than a raft down it going.
Lumber in piles, floating down it for miles
To build spars and barns as planned.
Hush now, my dear, listen and hear
Tales from the souls who held this place dear.
We hear them still. That is the thrill,
Here in the Grove of Hill.
Copyright 2008, Sullivan County Council on the Arts