New England Turned Up Side Down
If one takes the top ...rough cut granite... step... with the boot scrappers at each side (Part One)... OFF the steps to the Savage Mansion’s front door... and pitches that step to the side... upside down... so the wrought iron boot scrappers ...with their wrought iron curls... are buried in the ground... these boot scrappers are... still there. They are, still, coy and understated. In one’s thoughts of New England, it is a ridiculous judgment for one to forget this. Or not know of this. Those that have the privilege of ‘forgetting’ are a much smaller group than those who... ‘not know of this’.
Rummaged, ransacked, looted and then congested, New England, as a pure strain of being; as a meditation, as a black hole and... as a coy façade of fabricated myth... still is. Even buried upside down.
Rummaging, ransacking and looting were at the Battle of Lexington and Concord. The ‘coy façade of fabricated myth’ may easily be found by the memorialized ‘bullet holes’ on ‘original’ buildings along Battle Road. These features, too, had already been active in the Colonial Wars. Deerfield’s Indian House door, looted from it’s house... smothers all. By the 1850’s, as industrialization ‘took over’, rummaging turned fully to ransacking and looting; everything was ‘taken out’. Thoreau, for example, ‘collected’ and ‘donated’ (to local museums) ‘old things’. Some of his donations were, later, looted (‘lost’, stolen?). The garrets of New England were under siege for nearly two hundred years before I was... born. What could not be carried off remains as an austere permanence. If it was wood... it was painted white. Over and over. “Stone” was ‘left alone’ most of the time. Gravestones though... were fair game to either ‘rub’ or ‘carry off’ under the guise of ‘art’.
The cruelest ransacking of ...gravestones... I’ve personally ever discerned... was at a ‘head of the cove’ ‘teardown’ shore front property. The new mansion... of the new mansion sort ...that are not real mansions but do... ‘cost a fortune’... went to the ocean’s edge and that ‘went to’ carried a slightly raised and small ‘point’ that overviewed the whole stretch of ‘view’ ‘to the (Atlantic) ocean’... from what was once a very sheltered spot... that additionally included ‘salt hay marsh’. My ‘from personal study’ reaction to such spots... on the once VERY Colonial Maine coast is... “settled early”. VERY EARLY.
AT THIS small POINT of land the owners had carefully ...and with the guidance of ‘shore front regulation’ exposed the point so that they could access the land in a ...lawn and landscape fashion. They could, using gasoline powered ‘riding’ lawn tractors, ‘mow’ to the ‘edge’. Except
Way out here
“We wondered why someone put them there?”
“Gravestones.” I said.
Yeah... on the early ones... always nearest to the edge of the CONTINENT of North America... they, ah... didn’t carve... names on them. Like... you know?
I’ve never been back there and have never found out ‘what happened’. It looked to me like they’d ‘dug up’ about six and pushed those ‘dug up’ closer to ...the sea AND had about six or seven they... “hadn’t got to yet”. The ‘point’ was a grown over... for centuries ...AND CENTURIES... sand dune so ‘easy digging’ and a ‘deep enough’ for burial... so, including the setting and view... a ‘fabulous spot’ to be... buried. AND have, two or three centuries later... one’s ‘stone’ ‘dug up’ and pitched to the side ‘up side down’. Actually... these earliest gravestones do not really have... an up side down.
I routinely spy ‘good spots’ for these early stones ‘to be found’. On the Maine coast the setting emphasizes SHELTERED, settlement (of one or maybe two ‘families’) early, EDGE of the CONTINENT, ‘look to sea’ focus, ‘good digging’ and ... ‘beautiful spot’ to build
“A GOD DAMN PIECE OF SHIT OF A HOUSE WHO DO THESE PEOPLE THINK THEY ARE!!!!”
Said my eighty-four year old then... and now dead... neighbor ...after... we’d ‘returned to a grave site we formerly picked blueberries ‘behind’ (back from the shore) but now no longer could due to the building of the ‘luxury shore front home’ that ALSO included... weed whacking the former blueberry ‘patch’ into... the oblivion called... “our lawn”.
Are these gravestones still there... even after some being dug up and pitched toward the sea? Are they forgotten? Are they ‘not known about’?
Are they ...up side down?
New England Turned Up Side Down
Trying to get away from being mentally chased by old gravestones when in the black hole that is New England turned up side down is... difficult... for gravestones tell little of their own tale. To find a tale that has, at best, a close approximation of gravestones AND has physically been ‘turned up side down’.... AND... is ‘still there’... AND ‘is forgotten’ and/or ‘not known about’... has happened for I.
The so titled “Indian Stones” south of Felchville or Reading, Vermont is this ‘happened for I’. Two; one small, one large, Colonial style gravestones may be found roadside (VT route 106 at Knapp Brook) ...set in cement (so they cannot be ‘carried off’)... with a cast metal plaque ‘explaining them’. They are not actually gravestones. They are gravestone shaped memorial stones... PLACED by the original principal of the event they are a memorial for.
Susanna Willard Johnson placed these two ‘gravestones’ at this spot FIFTY YEARS after... on August 30th, 1754... being ‘captured by Indians’ about thirty miles south at Fort “Number Four” in Charleston, NH. While being taken to Canada to be sold she left the party and traveled half a mile up Knapp Brook to give birth to her fourth child in a small hut the Indians made for her. She named the child Elizabeth Captive Johnson. The child survived.
I am not writing about this captivity. Johnson survived, her husband died, she returned to the area, married again and had seven more children. By the end of the century her reminiscent narrative of her adventure was first published. She died in 1810. Shortly before her death; 1806-07, she... SHE... had made and... SHE came to the base of Knapp Book and SHE ...placed... THESE two ‘gravestones’ ...with their sketchy text and curious ‘Indian’ style decoration... to be her memorial to HER experience at this spot fifty years earlier. I do not know where Ms. Johnson’s actual gravestone is ...but I do know her memorial stones well.
Originally stuck in the ground beside the road like gravestones, they were well known through the first century after ‘she placed them’. Concern for their preservation ...and to prevent ‘looting’... shows that her family cased the stones in cement in “1918” and, evidently ‘moved them back’ for the road at Knapp Brook was ‘improving’. In the cement block they have remained but this block has been shifted around (“back”) by the highway department ‘as needed’. Today they are set back far enough from the road that they have their own small ‘turn out’ so ...people such as I... may safely park and view the stones.
I have driven by the stones for ...gosh... OVER fifty years... after ‘discovering them’ through my parents. I have never seen or encountered ANYONE looking at the stones... ever. I have seen ‘a million’ cars and trucks ‘go by’ ‘at fifty...five to... sixty... ‘all the time’ when ‘I stop’. Once I talked to one man once who knew about them. He lived in the area and is... dead... now.
North of the “Indian Stones” one drives through downtown Reading. It is as undisturbed as it appears; no makeover, rediscovery, renaissance, tourist destination or commercial upgrade is... there. Reading is ...New England... up side down... but ‘still there’. Slowing to ‘thirty’... maybe... is the standard visitor’s ‘visit’. Up over the pass... northward out of town ...and then downward from the pass... one ...curves through at thirty mph ‘South Woodstock’; a village where things are ‘kept up’ AND equestrian venture capital is ‘deployed’. Too. White is painted white. Federal bricks are brick read-red. Shutters square, the homes ‘detailed’. The stone walls are ‘nice’. Further up the route one reaches it’s end in Woodstock. The Common is in front of one at the route’s end. The Woodstock Inn is to the right. Most everything white has been painted white... over and over. The stonework is not only ‘left alone’ but is ‘nice’. Many of the front door stone steps have old wrought iron boot scrappers painted black... at each end. Some have coy decorative wrought iron curls. It is the way New England really is... because it is the way New England really was... and... really is... when New England is... right side up.