Down the Road a Piece
How things change over the years! “Tom” e-mailed me recently that he had purchased the farm in Belgrade that had once belonged to the Twombly family. He also sent me photos of how the farm looked when he purchased it, run down and not at all like the Twombly farm I remembered from my childhood.
We had vacationed at my Great Aunt Amy’s house across the road from the farm. Stephen Twombly was the head of the Maine Dairy Association, his farm neat and stocked with Jersey and Holstein cattle, the house well taken care of the times we visited the Twomblies.
“Tom” and I have agreed to combine our writing in a column about the farm as he found it, when he first arrived -- and as I found it many years ago.
Tom: ”Sometimes reading your old memories I can almost feel, and vision the good ole days this farm held in its grandeur . To see what time, and past owners have done to this wonderful place would break your heart. As it might seam rather silly, to me it's almost magical in nature.
“The very second as I traveled up the street to explore the possibility of purchasing it, I saw the big old fellow standing tall, and straight on the hill. Among the overgrown trees, weeds, and brush-covered yard, it's pride still intact. With a somewhat weak whisper it cried out to me as I entered the driveway, it almost seemed happy to embrace a visitor.
“Before my hand could open the door of my truck I knew this would become my home, my quest of sorts. I can't even begin to express the feeling in me as I walked each step across the old wood floors, tracing the same steps covered by Mr. Twombly years before. My heart racing as I entered each doorway. I felt out of control, as if it's soul had taken over my seances, as I realized the extreme power of love at first sight.
“It exhibited a gentle feel, a happiness from deep within of past days gone by. Like a gentle animal curled up in the woods, scared, and injured, it spoke volumes to my heart begging to be helped. The connection was powerful. Silly to some, but moving to me. I would buy it and bleed life back into it.”
As Tom stood on the porch of the neglected farmhouse when he first arrived, a neighbor stopped by to welcome him.
Tom: “His first comments where directed to if I was planning to buy the property, or if I already had. Followed up by how he had wished for so long the old house would have burned to the ground. I was furious inside, but held myself, and remained poised. Such a beautiful, proud farm it would be reborn.
“To note, his building was in fact a barn, and part of this farm way back. Since we have become somewhat good friends in the months to follow. Ted Wadleigh across the street to the southwest side has become our closest friends, such good people. And yes, his family years ago also operated a large farm down the road towards the north side miles down. Unfortunately many years back that farm of his dad's burnt to the ground.”
Me: There were -- and probably still are -- a fair number of members of the Wadleigh family along the road. When I was a kid, they were just a familiar name to me.
Tom: “On November 8th 2013, I closed on the farm. My wife would remain in Dayton Ohio at our home there till this home became at the very least livable. I would sell my small engine repair, and service center I built from nothing into the largest in the area to a longtime employee that had been with me since I opened the doors for business with $600 in my pocket. Last year we serviced over 5000 pieces of equipment.
“At this point I could direct my efforts to the Old Twombly Farm. I had stayed at the plush Hampton Inn the day before closing on the farm. The day I signed the papers I went directly to the farm, and with a single bag, along with my trusty German Shepherd dog Brady in tow, and moved in. He was my best friend, a diabetic dog which depended on me for his care, and never left my side. Me being Tom him being Brady together we became the team of Tom Brady haha. Sadly he passed this summer on the 25th of June at the age of 12.
“We began our quest that closing day, no heat, no water, no power just a dream, a vision. I'd stay for sometimes months at a time throughout one of Maine’s cruelest winters it could muster. Travel back to my wife and the remainder of my pack of four rescued dogs for a brief visit then back to the farm, and bitter cold. But mind you I'm an old New England fellow, snow, and cold is just my game, I love it.
“In the months to follow the farm began to ever so slowly exhibit signs of life. First the furnace brought welcomed heat. The wood stove soon followed. Electricity was restored room by room, foot by foot. Poachers had welcomed themselves sometime to the copper water pipes. Once the plumbing was finished the old well pump failed to have any life. Ah, but after pulling 100 feet of pipe, and getting to the pump, the culprit was just a rotted wire needing a quick repair.
“Within a month we were cozy at the farm. Not to mention 300 feet of old rotted stockade fence replaced with safer chainlink to protect my dogs upon their future arrival . Massive efforts to clear debris consisting of trees, brush overgrown, weeds five feet high, before the snow would blanket the grounds till spring at the earliest. Over five years of being empty the poor farm was a jungle to say the least.”
Me: We had vacationed at my great aunt’s farmhouse after coming by train from the Philadelphia area and finally by my great aunt’s Model A Ford to her house, which was across the street from the Twombly farm. Her farmhouse was an old cape held up in part by a six-foot stone balanced on end in the center of the basement.
We met the Twomblys, a farmer and his wife who lived across the road. We “helped” with the haying, the wagon pulled by Stephen Twombly’s chugging John Deere tractor. That was the kind of vacation one might read about in old children’s books about visiting the country.
My first wife, who wrote a poem about the Twombly farm, and I visited the Twomblies for the last time about 30 years ago. The farm was clean and neat, as it had been when my family vacationed there those many years ago.
It’s funny how things seem to fall together over the years. Tom’s e-mails were a pleasant reminder of the farm but a sad picture of what had occurred there after the Twomblies and before Tom.
Tom had read one of my Down the Road a Piece columns, which included the poem The Old Twombly Farm, one poem in Dorothy B. Gross’s poetry book, Maine Memories:
The Old Twombly Farm
On a rural road in Belgrade Maine
In the midst of memory and charm,
Stands an old white farmhouse
Called ‘The Old Twombly Farm.’
As you pull in the driveway
And go to the door
Some things seem the same
As they did years before.
You meet on the porch
And when you go in
As usual the parlor’s
As neat as a pin.
Arie Twombly’s still remembered
For her hospitality,
But the little folks that used to sit
Upon her husband’s knee
Have all grown up and left the state.
And once they’ve moved away
Their memories of days gone by
Grow dearer by the day,
So back to ‘The Old Twombly Farm,’
They all come,
Their cars filled with family
Old friends and the young,
Why they couldn’t tell you
If you were to ask
Perhaps at the farm they
Shake hands with the past.
Perhaps it’s the welcome
The warmth and the charm,
But there’s just no forgetting
‘The Old Twombly Farm.’
Milt Gross can be reached for corrections, harassment, or other purposes at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Milton M. Gross Copyright 2014