Chapter 11 – After the Farm
After a transitory stage from rural to urban lifestyles we settled into sort of a routine. It also was the beginning of my descent from naÃ¯ve country boy to smart mouthed, undisciplined street punk With the exception of little old women and girls I was quickly marked as a bad assed kid. Started smoking and drinking beer, staying out late, and my school work started slipping. I did make it through each successive grade with passing marks. More about that later.
It did not take very long for Alex and me to discover the Salmon River. Where we used to fish and explore Sage Creek which was high adventure at our ages then, we now had the vast and mighty “river”. Upstream from the Village of Pulaski, the water was clean and bright and an abundance of fish eagerly took the night crawlers we used for bait. Smallmouth bass, an occasional trout, river chub, suckers and bullheads were there for the taking. And take we did. None of it was wasted. Later when Dick was in the marines we would use his guns and hunt squirrels, partridge and pheasants which were kind of scarce back then.
Now with the restocking and the reintroduction of wild turkeys it is a whole different world. The Salmon stocking program has brought thousands or perhaps millions of people to what I used to call “My River” I like to see people enjoy themselves
But I avoid going to Pulaski or Altmar during the fishing “runs”. I prefer to remember the peace and stillness, the quiet splashing of the river through the rocks, the trill of a bird or the raucous caw of the solitary crow and above all the thrill of a solid strike of a 19 inch smallmouth bass.
I do recall one day in particular and I’m sure Alex does too. We had aged a year or two and still enjoyed walking across theÂ railroad tracks to the old abandoned pump house for the milk plant (I believe it was Sheffield). From there we would work our way upstream, fishing the likely looking spots. We released all the river chub as we had found them to be exceptionally bony and not really worth the effort it took to clean them. They did put up an active fight with a couple of aerial displays. Fun to catch and release. The first decent pool was â€œFerryâ€™s Damâ€. Long since washed away, there remained several logs still in place which created a nice pool with water cascading over the old logs. I remember taking many bass from that spot, and a couple of trout too.
About a ¼ mile upstream there was a sharp bend in the river. This was called “Farrington”, the old swimming hole. We naturally were on the south bank which was the old flat river bed. The North side was a sheer drop off 60 feet high, down which hung a heavy barn rope the boys from town used as an aid in getting down and back up after a swim. Without the benefit of that rope it would have been near impossible to climb that cliff.
The volume of the flow was determined by the demand for electricity in Syracuse. When the demand was heavy Niagara Mohawk would open the gates allowing more water to flow through the turbines thus raising the level and increasing the current in the river. This has been the cause of a few fatalities over the years when the rapidly rising crest caught a fisherman or swimmer unawares. On this particular day the river was running at a pretty good flow and decreasing. It would be at a hazardous stage for crossing for another two or three hours.
As we approached the pool we could see two young attractive girls trapped on the North side. By shouting back and forth we learned that they lived on Centerville Road but had come to the south side across the RR trestle as they could not climb down and back up the cliff.
The river was at a very low stage when they arrived so they immediately crossed to where the swimming was better. While they were lying on the rocks sunning themselves the gates were opened and the crest made the return crossing too scary to attempt so they could get back home. Laying our gear down in a safe place Alex and I cautiously started crossing over to the north side. By carefully placing our feet against rocks, leaning into the current and avoiding the deeper holes we managed to get across.
After considering the alternatives it was decided that I would piggy back carry the larger girl and Alex would likewise carry the smaller girl. Having just crossed once, our return path would be somewhat familiar.
After gathering their belongings they climbed aboard and off we went. Luckily there were no mishaps and we safely deposited our passengers.
On the dry south shore after profusely thanking us they hurried up the slope to the trestle. I got the impression they were late and concerned that the family would be worrying.Alex remarked that it had been an interesting interlude (not your usual fishin g trip).
As it worked out he was the one that got caught. A few years later he married the girl that I had carried across.