Pat and I went up on the hill the other night. We had finished dinner and just wanted to relax. We sat there above the pond in swings that hung beneath the pavilion and watched some does with their fawns come out to feed. The young spotted ones frolicked and chased each other around.
As I looked up into the old pasture, I thought about the event that was happening this weekend. On August 1st, 1870, my great, great grandfather moved his family from Oneonta to our present location. This Saturday, the farm will have been in my family for 150 years. I’m the fifth generation to live here, and presently there are four generations living on the property.
Throughout my lifetime, I gained a multitude of knowledge about the outdoors from that land. In the creek that flows along our flat, I caught my first trout. My brother and I, along with two neighborhood friends, explored the fields, pastures, swamps and ponds, collecting frogs and salamanders, finding turtles and snakes.
The woods provided trees to climb and places to make forts and treehouses. We saw foxes and chipmunks as well as numerous song birds along with hawks and owls. We made camps and stayed out at night, sleeping under a tarp.
During the winter, the hills provided us places to toboggan and ski. Later I was given an old pair of snowshoes from a neighbor. They gave me access to another world when the snow was deep.
I remember when I was about five, I started following my dad on Sunday mornings during the fall as he hunted small game. Maybe he shot a rabbit or a noisy grouse, as it flew up through the trees. I learned everything I could about their habitat.
As years passed, he taught me how to hunt deer. We never sat in a blind or tree stand. Dad liked to slowly sneak through the woods just a step at a time. We call it still hunting today, to get close enough for a shot. I learned to spot a deer just by seeing a leg or an ear that wasn’t quite the same as the brush and trees around it. I learned their habits and traits. I’ve spent a lifetime studying them.
The meadows made great places to practice shooting. There were plenty of woodchucks that dug holes in the fields and pastures. I’d go up in the hardwoods and hunt squirrels. They taught me patience and cunning.
As my son grew up, dad and I were able to pass along the knowledge that we learned on these hills and in this valley.
The farm also taught us the rewards of hard work. Summers were spent putting hay in the barn for the cows winter food. We never complained. It was our way of life. I have fond memories of riding up the hill to get the cows every night and morning. I had a paint horse which I rode bareback most of the time.
We like to spend time at the pond. We fish, and I enjoy showing even my great grand children how to bait a hook and cast to that special spot where the bass like to lay.
Over the years the landscape of the farm has changed. Most of the pastures have grown up. When Pat and I got married 35 years ago, there was barely a pine tree on the hill side. Today I have to keep a section cut off and mowed so we can watch the wildlife.
The farm was a great place to grow up and raise my family. I cherish the years that I have lived here on this property. And now as grow older, I appreciate it even more. The farm is a special place and close to my heart. Today people think their quarter of an acre is so wonderful, but I have 260 acres to wander and pass along to my children and grandchildren. Hopefully, it will still be the Brockway Homestead in another 150 years.