GrandPapa's Letter part 17
Franklin B. Van Valkenburgh

Spring Freshets

Did you ever hear of PAAS?? That is another DUTCH Holiday, which we kept, inheritance from our Dutch ancestors: It was and is the English EASTER MONDAY, and is the first day after the LENTEN period or fast on which it is allowable to eat meat and eggs.

For about a month before this eventful festal day we all hunted eggs with great avidity, and secreted those we found to the best of our ability; There was great rivalry to see who could gather and produce the greatest number on that day and if one could only find the hidden store of another, and keep his hands off until Paas arrived, and THEN add them to his own stock, that was allowable, and meant VICTORY. So you may be sure that we hid our nests quite as carefully as the hens had hidden theirs, and watched them as jealously.

On Paas day, the day after Easter Sunday, we brought our stores to light, and then tried their strength, by knocking them together, and the one who succeeded in breaking the egg of his contestant, received the broken egg as his reward; We learned just how and where to strike an egg, so as to be sure to break it without injuring our own, and it was best to strike the egg you wished to break on its small end, with the large end of your own, or vice versa, I have forgotten which, but then I KNEW, and that was a pretty sure game. This went on for some time, until one of the boys procured, and used a china nest egg, to the utter destruction of all his competitors, and so broke up the sport.

I have mentioned the ARKS used to convey grain to markets, although I never saw one but I often saw the Lumber Rafts, and once took a short and hungry ride on the CONHOCTON River, on one of them. These rafts were made just as they are now made on the rivers in this State, by fastening enough lumber together, with ropes and wooden pins to build half a dozen small houses, and were then rafted down the Conhocton river into the Susquehanna (Passing the house now owned by Aunts NAN and ALICE-) and thence into the Chesapeake Bay to Baltimore and there marketed; They could only go in the Spring time, when the rivers were swollen by the SPRING FRESHETS, i. e. by the waters produced by the melting of the snows in the woods, and by the spring showers, as there were places in the rivers where there was not sufficient depth of water to float them at any other time.

I once prevailed upon my Father to allow me to take an excursion upon one of his rafts, which sailed (?) only in the daylight, and were always taken into some eddy, or tied to the shore at night. We started from a mill Just above the village of BATH, in the forenoon, expecting to stop at the great eddy some miles below, for the night, and get our supper at that place, but alas for our expectations, they were never realized; We passed over a couple of Mill Dams, the forward end of the raft plunging into the water below the dam while we were high and dry above it, and going completely under, for the rafts were made in sections, and would take on the appearance of a snake, as they passed over these obstructions, and when half of the raft had passed the dam, and the front end appeared above the water, we, who had been cuddled together at the rear end, were compelled to run through the water half knee deep in the middle of the raft, and Jumping down onto the front part, run to the very front, out of the water; As the raft went with great velocity, this maneuver (?) had to be completed in short notice, and was one of the thrilling episodes of the trip; and he was lucky who escaped a good ducking not to mention anything worse.

We passed the dams in safety, but wet and uncomfortable, and had gotten fairly hungry, when we went hard upon a shoal in the middle of the river and some distance above our intended stopping place, and then we stuck fast, despite every effort to get off and into the current.

The water was entirely too deep and rapid to permit of anyone going ashore, and we had no boat, and so were compelled to sit still and await the coming of relief, for our prayers and exertions were of no avail, and to make matters worse, rafts passed us every few minutes, and we were obliged to accept the chaff and bantering of their jolly crews as best we might, and there was no lack of either.

Finally, just as night was closing in, and after we had spent a good many hours in discomfort, a raft which belonged to Father, came along, and being advised of our sorry plight, they threw to us, as they passed, a hunk of fat pork and a loaf of bread, and I believe the sweetest and most acceptable meal I ever ate was the one I ate on the raft, in the water, by the light of the moon: It consisted of a couple of slices of bread, with a slice of raw fat pork between them, and fresh water ad libil (that is latin for enough and more than enough (?) ) I verily believe I have thought and dreamed of that meal as sweet and good, a thousand times since I ate it. I have even attempted to have it over again, BUT the sauce which made it taste so good I have never again found.


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