signed ''with love!'' He is experienced and means what he sa
SAID & DONE Joys of the hills A story with Uncle Walter, others in mind Paul Seamans Marty Fritz has worked his ''My Valley Farm'' on Northfield's Beers Plain Road for as long as any neighbor can remember. Marty's long road has not been without rocks on the way.
Marty left our rural scene to serve on the battleship Massachusetts during World War II, and was one of America's heroic men celebrated in Brokaw's ''The Greatest Generation.''
Tilling soil and milking cows makes men of boys. Mr. Fritz had become a man when cancer gave him the ultimate test: he spent months in the White River veterans hospital, survived and went back to work. No quitter, he has kept ''My Valley'' in good order and productive, source of pride for Northfield.
On the occasion of our 50th wedding anniversary, Marty Fritz sent Laurie and me a particularly touching card -- signed ''with love!'' He is experienced and means what he says.
In his brief letter to us, Mr. Fritz noted that he ''choked up'' when he read my columns having to do with Aunt Cora and Uncle Walter.
These people, long gone, maintained ''Tri-Gate Farm'' over in Hudson, N.H. Aunt Cora was blind. Despite it, she kept a neat house and was fully capable of holding up her end of the workload.
Walter milked his herd of cows by hand for years before electricity brought him the labor-saving Surge machinery. Walter's hands grew big and strong, outsized tools with which he got 16 and 18 hours of chores done, seven days a week.
Perhaps it is this never-ending labor that has made Marty Fritz a sympathetic reader of chronicles about Uncle Walter and Aunt Cora.
However that may be, here is one more little story about this farmer pair, husband and wife -- and I submit it with love to our good neighbor at My Valley Farm across the river from us.
Uncle Walter had always been a hill farmer. Like his father and his father's father before him, he toiled long and hard to wrest a living from the begrudging earth.
In this brief narrative we needn't locate Uncle Walter's farm precisely. Leyden would do. So would Shelburne and Ashfield, or certain hilly parts of Bernardston.
It could have been among the meadows on Northfield Mountain that he spent his life struggling against the elements to keep the balance of nature in favor of his cows.
You have all seen Uncle Walter from time to time. Stooped, with oversized hands and knuckles, he wears his denim legitimately. There's always a trace of the barn about him. There's always the unmistakable dignity that honest, hard-working men have about them.
Uncle Walter used to enjoy three holiday periods in the course of the year. The county fair was his professional vacation. He and Aunt Cora shut up shop to take in the sights and sounds of that annual carnival.
Time was, too, when Walter never missed opening day of the deer season. Early in life his farm would just have to wait while he spent the first precious hours in the woods beyond the farm's farthest grazing pasture. His father was alive then, so someone took up the slack while Walter hunted. In later years his shotgun stood behind the kitchen door while Walter stuck to business.
Christmas was the third holiday in Uncle Walter's life. He and Aunt Cora made as much of the day as they could. Their celebration would have been richer, no doubt, if there had been children in the house. There were no children. Uncle Walter could have used sons, and Aunt Cora would have loved a family. But they were childless.
In their childlessness they adopted a boy who came to work on the farm. He was a boy who said little and worked much. Steady and reliable, the boy was prompt and bore more than his share of the burden. In time he became wholly devoted to Uncle Walter, an affection that was shared.
The farmer discovered that the boy yearned to hunt. Uncle Walter could sympathize with that. He brought his shotgun out from behind the door, found the dozen or so shells he had put up for safekeeping, and showed the boy how to fire the single ball load into a target.
A lot of time had passed since Uncle Walter had kept track of the regular patterns the farm deer followed in the winter months. One spot, the convergence of two stone wall, was where Uncle Walter had killed more than one opening day buck. There he showed the lad how to make a stand and set himself for the shot.
The results of this need not be given here in detail. If you'd been around 70 or 80 years ago in Hudson where farmers congregate, you would have heard the whole story.
They said that Uncle Walter and Aunt Cora were as proud of the boy as though he'd been their own son.
Paul Seamans lives in Gill. His home on the west bank of the Connecticut River is a window on the natural world -- his inspiration for Recorder columns since 1953. '