I’d bought us a new washing machine that was getting delivered “between 1:00 and 5:00” — how’s that for an opening hook? — and with my morning free I set out early down Rt 9 to make the most of the Winter sunshine and stow some more road miles under my belt.
Naturally I was motorvating down said road on foot, clinging as far to the left of the sludgy shoulder as I could, staring the oncoming traffic in its ugly face. The sky was gloriously bright and blue, which only pissed off the cold and made it work all the harder.
Somewhere down 9 was Moreau Lake, where Kate takes her girls in Summer — sigh, SUMMER — apparently a dragonfly jamboree when it’s warm but a nice place to stomp through snow right about now. Google advised that I was looking at eight miles each way, so there’d be no stomping that morning, but enough time to gauge the possibilities.
A few miles along, though, I deviated — I do love to deviate. A little road branched off uphill to the left and without even pausing I swung onto the road less travelled. A short ascent and at another junction, this:
Sometimes I forget just how much history lies just beneath the surface in these parts. Battle of Wilton? Sixteen ninety-three?! Says Edward Curtin on this archaeology blog, the battle was…
..a running engagement between a force of some 700-800 French and Indian allies, who had just attacked Mohawk villages in their homeland southwest of Saratoga County, and some 250 pursuers from the colony of New York.
The New Yorkers caught up with the French and Canadian Indians in Wilton, where the western war path that led to the Mohawk valley met the northern war path to Montreal. A violent struggle ensued… The French and Indian force fled along the northern path to a place in the Queensbury-Glens Falls area where they crossed the upper Hudson River on ice that, conveniently for them, thawed and broke up before the pursuing New Yorkers reached the river. The surviving French and Indians made it safely back to Canada.
There would be no thawing this day, despite the sunshine; it was still well below zero C. But intrigued, I took this new road — 36, or plain old Wilton Road — as my return route, figuring it would parallel 9 and take me back to something I might recognise.
Sometimes spontaneity pays off:
I gained some height, the road guiding me by turns through shady forest and past small farms and secluded homes:
36 was a joy to walk compared to the far more travelled 9, but road-walking is no time for the aimless daydreaming of a forest trail. You face the oncoming cars always wary of a wheel straying over the shoulder or a sudden tightening of the margin. An extra step left whenever a snow plough-brandishing pick-up bears down like the prow of a ship; two or three times a logging-truck driver swerves way over into the far lane to give me space, making eye contact and returning my nod of gratitude.
Greenfield is where Kate grew up…
..where we still go for Sunday night dinners.
It was so quiet up there. Birdsong and the odd passing car. Slouching barns, wooded front yards invariably deserted:
Up ahead I could see a beautiful old farmhouse on a hill; I was sizing it up for a picture, reassessing the framing with each step, when my phone rang — it seldom rings and I love it for that. I wrenched a goatskin mitten off with my teeth to swipe the screen, cold hitting my fingers like a hammer.
“How you doing today, sir? I’m calling from Home Depot.”
“I’m fine, sir. We have a washer to deliver to you.”
“We’ll be there in about 20 minutes.”
“20 minutes?! I was told between one and five!”
“I know, we’re running ahead of schedule.”
“Well, is there any way you can come later?”
“Can’t do that, sir.”
“Okay, well, I don’t have a car. And I’m not sure exactly where I am. But I’ll do my best.”
“Thank you, sir.”
And just like that my whole morning clouded over. I started pacing hard, even as I knew it was pointless. Twenty minutes?! Where the fuck am I? Raced past the farmhouse, forgetting the shot, reached a crossroads with signs that didn’t help and gambled on a left turn down a straight and narrow road…
..aiming for home, possibly, which might as well have been in California.
Damn it. God damn it. Damn it to hell. All the Damn It Variations. The beauty I’d been drinking in a few minutes before quickly soured. All these stupid farms, these pointless aimless clueless useless country roads. So damned inconvenient.
Then I remembered I was carrying a phone; sometimes they have their uses. Texted Kate without stopping or putting on my glasses.
Kat cna you cal me babe
She called soon, on her lunch break. I was wrecked by guilt — three kids, laundry as deep as the backyard snowdrifts, no machine in a week or more, and here I was taking yet another slacker excursion through the backroads of Nowheresville…
Explained the deal while I hurried on, eyes on the next rise where an oncoming car might materialise…
..and — well, it all worked out.
Kate called the driver, adopted her Helpless Single Mother identity (it’s very convincing), persuaded him to delay the delivery by a few precious minutes, begged some time off from her teacher, and hit the pedal on her Town & Country in time to meet the Men With White Goods and observe their perilous descent into our cavernous basement with its crippled Whirlpool.
Suddenly the crisis was averted; we could wear fresh undies again. Even better, the sky was blue…
..the fields and farms were white and still and lovely…
..and Kate, her afternoon now free, could help me un-lose myself.
“Where are you?”
“Locust Grove Road. Just passed the Daniels Road junction.”
“Go back and turn right onto Daniels. That’ll lead you towards downtown. I’ll pick you up soon. Are you hungry?”
I was — but not for very much longer…
~ And that’s all the Goat wrote