I was in the market for some land, imagining (perhaps foolishly) that I could purchase a chunk of attractive brush with some water feature that would keep Mr. Linton and me happily occupied for the next few decades of summertime vacation.
Turns out, of course, that there are many chunks of brush, some attractive, a few with water features, but almost none in my small price-range offered by anyone actually willing to close a deal.
Anyway, it gave me a nifty excuse for pottering around the back roads of rural Northern New York State.
A classmate from high school was a real-estate agent, and although she was out of town on vacation that week, she had provided me with a stack of property listings to look at. On our day off, my sister and I set a goal of checking out a couple of those places (disappointing: peaceful retreats are rarely located within ear-shot of Fort Drum’s gunnery range).
After the unproductive real estate perambulations, our thoughts turned to something more rewarding. For years, we had heard about the reputed natural bridge over Perch River outside of the village of Dexter.
Even though we’d lived in the area for years, and I had ridden my horse all over that particular corner of creation as a young dandelion, this geographical wonder was unknown to us.
Sarah and I had talked about taking the kayaks up the Perch River, but she'd wracked her arm in a nasty boating accident involving a cleat, a big wake, and her elbow (yarg) earlier in the summer.
We looked at the big gazetteer map of New York, and lo and behold “natural bridge” was right THERE in small print, where the thin thread of Perch River took a stitch underground.
So that's where we headed.
A mailbox marked the turn, and I said, "Sis, come on, this is someone’s driveway."
Implacable, she repeated, "Turn in."
The driveway was long and twisty and really private. A few yards farther along, a deer stand loomed over a field. I said, "Sis, they hunt."
She said, "Keep going."
With no place to turn around –– and I didn’t like to back up around the curved driveway –– I kept going.
A few yards later, a big carved black bear held a “Welcome Friends” sign.
My sister pointed and said, "But look, they are friendly!"
"Yeah, but it’s someone’s driveway, sis...This could go very badly."
She said, "Look, there’s a spot. Park the car. Don’t be a candy-ass."
I did as she directed, since she is the older sister.
And we got out of the car with our water bottles and our hiking boots and all we heard was birdsong, wind in the treetops, and the whine of a distant chainsaw.
We consulted the map and oriented ourselves toward the river. We were preparing to trespass.
She’s like, "Okay, here’s our story: We are here looking for a friend from high school, and have gotten turned around somehow."
The sound of the chainsaw drew suddenly much closer. I though, gosh, maybe I should have availed myself of the facilities when we stopped at the library in Dexter.
We explained that we grew up around here, and we heard that there is a natural bridge over the Perch River somewhere nearby, and we were really hoping to find it.
The woman said, "Why yes, there is. Do you have a half an hour or so?"
Next thing you know, the woman has collected her husband, who pilots a zippy ATV down the driveway to pick us up and they are taking us on a tour all over the 400 acres their son and his wife purchased a few years back.
There’s Perch river. There’s the bridge -- a smidge underwhelming, but aha! ––there’s the river emerging again from the other side of the natural bridge. There’s an old stone fence. Maybe the fence butts up to the Hall’s farm ––The Hall’s farm that was probably our Riggs family farm a hundred years ago. Maybe one of our great-great uncles stacked those very stones.
I mention the Pflugheber’s place, where my mom and I and the horse and the dog lived for a time.
Why, the husband knows Ed Pflugheber! The husband retired from the Watertown Daily Times.
Why then he must know my cousin Scott Smith, who works at the Times.
Indeed he does. He knows Toots Carbone, too, my buddy Care's Dad, our next-door neighbor on the Point.
We talk about the St. Lawrence River, and my sister points to her tee-shirt, which features a snap from our family history: Herbie Ward and Daddo with a string of fish on the dock at Fisher’s Landing.
Well, wouldn't you know the husband knows Herbie Ward.
And their daughter-in-law? Turns out she is my vacationing real-estate agent/high-school classmate. We trespassed on her land.
Hours later, our unexpected hosts raid my real-estate agent’s fridge for beer and my sister gets them to take pictures of the two of us in the ATV, playing with my real-estate agent's dog, and lounging on the porch with our purloined beers.
Those photos of us having our disreputable way with other people's porches, off-road recreational vehicle, and beer might possibly have been taken on an early cell phone that was unable to resist water when it went swimming.
But maybe one of those images will resurface, possibly on the tee-shirt of one of the great-grand nephews or nieces, who will point to it while trespassing and say, "Perhaps you know these two characters? Our aunts?"
And here's hoping it will parlay into a free pass, a tour, an anecdote.