Sunday, March 20, 2011

Happy Heathen Rites of Spring!

Happy Heathen Rites of Spring!

Yes, it's the first day of Spring again!

It comes around every year, and I hope that yours is/was happy.

My high school class is having a reunion and they put up a website so that classmates can check in and contact each other. One of my classmates asked me a question, and I tried to answer on the site, but could only get a few words up, and then it would jam. I suspect that it's that way so that you have to keep answers short, but I can't answer in just a few words, so I'm going to answer it here and send a URL for an answer instead.

It's a very relevant story about Spring, because it's the first time I ever came across "Heathen Rites of Spring." And it's a good thing to do because John keeps mentioning that he thinks people would like to read about some of the things I've done on my blog. So, it seems this story's time has come.

Cheryl asked me:

I'd like to hear more about the lake you helped to build in Virginia. (i.e., where was it, what caused it to be built, your involvement, etc.)

 And here's the answer:

I worked for a while for a company called Lehman Scaffa Art and Photography in Silver Spring Maryland. One of the owners, Sam, wanted to have a place to go and have fun on the weekends, and a place to eventually retire to. So, he bought a large piece of property in Northern Virginia, West of Winchester, very near West Virginia.

But he didn't want to go there and be all alone. He wanted to have his friends around him, and he wanted a place where everyone could have fun. So he divided up the property into a lot of plots, and sold certain land rights to those plots. So, if you "bought" a plot, you could build a house on it, but you couldn't (for instance) build a fence around it. If you wanted to have a kitchen garden or something, you could build a fence around that. The basic idea is that if you bought the rights to a plot, to a degree, you were buying rights to the whole property, and he wanted everybody to be able to use all the property. You'll see how that worked in a bit.

He named the property The Wind in the Willows after a book he liked. The different plots had names like Mole End, etc.

The one thing that the property lacked that Sam wanted was a lake. It did have two streams that flowed onto the property, and he figure that if part of it were cleared of trees and a dam were put in that he could have the lake he wanted.

So, he got price estimates on a lot of things. One was for a professional company to clear the area and build a lake, one was just for clearing the area, one was for just the dam, and one was for the price of a bulldozer. Well he discovered that it would cost the same no matter how he did it, but if he bought a bulldozer and we did the work ourselves and then had the dam professionally built, it would cost the same, but he would still have the bulldozer after it was all done! And the bulldozer sounded like too much fun to him!

So, he bought a bulldozer and invited all his friends to come out and help him.

So, I spent quite a few weekends at The Wind in the Willows, running a bulldozer, blowing up stumps of trees we couldn't get out with the 'dozer, having picnics, and generally having a lot of fun. My daughter, Holly, who was about 4 at the time got to ride on the bulldozer and help operate it.

I wasn't the only one to go and help. Sam used to have a boyscout troop, and the Scouts were adults by now, and they pitched in, too. One of the Scouts got lost and when he finally found us, he complained to Sam because Same had told him that there would be a sign, and he didn't see one. Sam insisted there was a sign that said "Heathen Rites of Spring" with an arrow pointing to the trail.

Sam was right about the bulldozer being fun! People seem to look at me oddly when I tell them about this, but when you yank a tree stump out of the ground with one of those things, you get rid of anger and aggression you never even knew you had! It's exhilarating, and leaves you feeling light and happy. In short, it's FUN!

I wound up moving back to New Jersey about the time we were finishing up clearing out the land where the lake would be, and before the crew came in to build the dam.

Years later, when I was living in Washington, DC, I had planned to go camping with some friends, but the person who owned the farm we were going to camp on canceled on us at the last minute. I told them that I knew just the place.

I called Sam, and he said he'd love for me and my friends to come and camp at The Wind in the Willows.

So a batch of my friends gathered at my place one Saturday morning, and we all rode our motorcycles (heavily packed with camping gear) North, through Maryland, where we crossed the Potomac at White's Ferry, and took the scenic route through West Virginia. At noon, we stopped at Charlestown for lunch, and went on South and into Virginia to The Wind in the Willows.

Sam had said to come to the house (which had been built since the last time I was there). I knocked on the door, Sam opened it, and I was immediately dumbstruck. The far wall of the living room was entirely glass, and showed a fabulous view of the lake. All I could say was "It's a lake!" Sam laughed, and assured me that it was, indeed, a lake now.

He took me into another room, and one whole wall of the room was a map of the property, and he showed me where we could camp on the map. He also added that there were rowboats, canoes, and a paddleboat, as well as fishing gear that we could use, and showed me where the best beach for swimming was located.

We camped there overnight, had a campfire and told spooky stories, rode the paddleboat, and one of us went swimming, and in the middle of the afternoon on Sunday, we started the ride back home.

What fun!

I hope your weekend was fun, too.

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