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مجموعه: سهم من از کوهستان / کتاب: در دور دست های کوهستان / فصل 5

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IN WHICH I Go Backwards in Order to Go Forwards

When Bando left, I opened my journal again. Since reading about the old days keeps my mind off Frightful, I flip to last summer and the days when we were building the dam and water mill. Those were wonderful times.

The water mill was begun soon after the plumping mill.

The dam came first. After I had gathered enough roots and bulbs and smoked enough fish to last Alice and me for a couple of months, I began it. Then I waded into the stream that comes from the spring and began to stack logs, stones, and mud where I had planned the dam the day our folks left. Little did I know it wouldn’t last.

“July 29

“A big storm dumped so much water on the mountain the last three days that the dam washed out—logs, rocks, and mud.

“ ‘Now what do we do?’ ” I asked Alice.

“ ‘The beaver dam didn’t wash out,’ she said. ‘I saw it this morning when I was picking raspberries. Let’s go see what they do right.’ ”

“Later That Night

“At twilight I climbed a tree and watched a pair of young beavers begin a new dam. They started it not with the big logs and rocks I had used but with shrubs and saplings placed butt-ends upstream. As soon as a low spot developed and the water ran out, they blocked the flow with sticks. This gradually raised the height and raised it evenly.” “August 15

“Alice and I did as the beavers did and we have a dam.

“Right away, our dam leaked, so down the mountain I went to see how the beavers made theirs watertight. They carried mud on their flat tails and plastered it on the upstream side of the dam. The current washed the mud in among the sticks and stones and sealed the leaks. I had been plastering holes on the downstream side of the dam where I saw the leaks. Naturally, this mud washed out. So back I went and mended my dam like the beavers did. It worked.

“When I was finished, we had an extraordinarily strong dam, which, like the beavers’, was much wider at the base than the top. This counteracts the immense pressure on the bottom of the dam. Today we have a quarter-acre pond which already has frogs and little fish. I’m going to stock it with bass and bluegills.” The millhouse came next.

“August 21

“There are stones everywhere on this mountain, as Dad well knows, and so it seemed sensible to make the millhouse out of stones. The rocks are sandstone and shale, which were laid down layer upon layer in an ancient sea that existed before the mountains rose. The shale, in particular, breaks into perfect building blocks with the tap of the hammer in the right place. I got real good at this and, within the week, had a pile of stones ready to be stacked into a millhouse.

“I met Miss Turner one day while I was hunting Frightful and told her about the project. The next day she came up the mountain with a book on how to build dry walls—no mortar—just stones.” I wrote this in my journal.

“Lay the stones level, that’s the first principle in keeping a wall from shifting and falling down.

“The second is to lay the stones one on two, two on one.

“Our great grandfathers built stone walls and buildings that are standing today. In Europe some have been standing since the year 1000.”

“September 14

“The millhouse is done. It stands below the dam on that flat spot the stream carved before it took its present course down the mountain. It looks very natural there, and as soon as the mosses take hold, it will look even more so. One door, one window, and a hole for the shaft are all the openings we built, because they are very difficult to make. The window, however, lets in lots of light, and I’ll be able to see just fine when I work.

“The millhouse looks very professional thanks to Miss Turner. She read the how-to books carefully and was very fussy about which stones she put where. She took her vacation up here so that she could supervise the laying of the walls. She also gave all of us work gloves. Stones are hard on your hands.

“Mrs. Strawberry came up one day and tapped stones. She was a master at it, breaking them into almost perfect blocks. She got way ahead of the builders—Alice, Miss Turner, and me—so we got Bando and Zella and they gladly pitched in.

“This is the first time I’ve seen Zella happy on the mountain. She had been taught by her grandfather, a bricklayer, how to make corners when she was a kid, and she was delighted to see how much she remembered. The corners, as well as the walls, are very professional and strong because of Miss Turner and Zella.” “September 15

“Zella went off on a law case, and Bando stayed here to help with the millhouse roof. We decided not to put on a gabled roof right now, because we want to make the sluice, the trough that carries the water from the pond to the mill. So the roof is just logs covered with bark to keep out the rain.” “September 28

“The sluice is in place. Getting it there was fairly easy, for I simply felled the big hemlock at the edge of the pond. Mrs. Strawberry showed me how to drop the tree right where I wanted it.

“She notched it with Dad’s axe in the direction I had marked for it to fall—from the dam to the millhouse—and then she told me to saw on the opposite side. After an hour or so I heard the tree snap. It tilted, began to fall slowly, then faster and faster until it crashed down with a splintering of limbs to lie exactly where Mrs. Strawberry had said it would. She wiped her hands, saying she should have been a lumberjack.

“I knew I had to burn and chip out the inside of the tree to make a trough, like the pioneers made water pipes. It was not hard work, but it was a tedious chore I could do when I didn’t have help, so Bando and I started on the waterwheel.” “October 10

“Bando had a Columbus Day vacation and helped collect the last of Dad’s house lumber. Then we borrowed Slats to haul the planks from the collapsed barn on Bando’s property. With a carpentry compass, I drew a huge circle on the ground. This was our pattern for the wheel.

“For three days we fitted boards into the circle, and when we were finished, we had two doughnut-shaped structures six feet in diameter and fourteen inches deep. Bando will come back next weekend to help build the shaft and spokes.

“Meanwhile I’m nailing the paddleboard between the two wheels while Alice and Miss Turner are building a wall outside the millhouse on which to lay the wheel shaft. Bando had a carpenter make two bearings—large blocks of wood, each with a U in them—in which the shaft will lie and turn. One will be on the wall Alice and Miss Turner are working on, the other will be inside.” “November 25

“It’s taken until today to get the waterwheel in place. Bando and Zella were too busy to come to the mountain during most of November, and Miss Turner’s mother was sick, so she couldn’t work. I did finish the sluice but stopped working on the wheel because Alice and I had to gather the nut crop. The beechnuts are abundant this year, and so are the hickory and butter nuts, but the acorn crop is poor. Alice did find one productive tree, and we have enough to last until spring.

“Work was further delayed when Mrs. Strawberry came up to tell us that another deer had been killed on the county road and I went down to butcher that prize and haul it up here.

“Then the smoking of the venison took more time. While I was working at that, Alice decided to make a smokehouse, and before I knew it, she had me tapping and stacking stones again. Although it delayed the mill, I’m glad we made it. The venison is much better when smoked in a building where the fire can be controlled.

“I was delayed even further because Alice wanted rabbit skins tacked on the floor and walls of her tree house before the cold set in. To get enough, I spent extra hours hunting with Frightful each afternoon. I was almost finished with the job when, at the end of the day, I met a cousin of Mrs. Strawberry walking along the dirt road with his sheep. He’s a sheepherder, and when he learned I was making my sister a carpet with the rabbit I was carrying, he offered me two sheepskins. I didn’t refuse them, but Alice and I didn’t use them for rugs, we made them into parkas for the winter. More time from the wheel.

“Alice has her weather vane. One day she fussed because I hadn’t made her one, and so I stopped shaping the shaft for the waterwheel and went to work on the weather vane.

“All I did was fit a narrow-necked bottle snugly in a wooden box. Into the bottle I put a stick with a slit at the top, and into the slit I shoved an arrow-shaped board. I held it in place with pegs. The pegs are square. I read that if you put square pegs in round holes the wood welds and stays tight for years.

“When it was done, I climbed up on her roof and secured it with deer tendon. Then we stood on her porch admiring it.

“ ‘The wind is blowing from the north northwest,’ said Alice clapping her hands. Tomorrow will be a beautiful day.’

“Actually, the weather vane has proved to be very useful, but a barometer I made has been even more so. It’s a wide-mouthed Mason jar with a piece of a rubber glove Zella gave me tied securely over it. I picked a clear day to tie it on because, when you seal the jar, the air is trapped inside at the pressure of the day on which you make it. If it’s a rainy day, your reading will always be low.

“When a storm is coming, the rubber cap indents to say that the barometric pressure is low. One day I saw that it was indented severely, and cancelled a foraging trip. The storm turned out to be a cloudburst, and an island where we were going to spend the night was flooded.

“So it wasn’t until yesterday that Bando and I got the wheel in place with the help of Mrs. Strawberry, Slats, Alice, Zella, and Miss Turner.

“We threw a rope over a limb, tied one end to the wheel and the other to Slats. Then Mrs. Strawberry led him slowly away from the tree. The wheel rose into the air until we could push and guide it. With everyone helping, we eased the wheel to the mill and carefully directed the shaft through the hole in the streamside wall made for this purpose. Inside we laid it to rest on the bearing. Mrs. Strawberry backed up Slats, lowering the outside end of the shaft on Alice and Miss Turner’s stone wall. With that, the waterwheel was in place.

“Alice ran to the pond and opened the sluice gate. The water rolled down the hollowed tree, hit the wheel blades—and the darn thing turned. We cheered and clapped and danced. We had a rolling waterwheel!” “November 29

“We had wonderful feast day on Thanksgiving. Miss Turner brought up a turkey, and Mrs. Strawberry and Zella made salad and pumpkin pie. Alice and I baked acorn bread in my stone oven. The day was warm, and we ate outside watching the waterwheel turn. We all felt great pride and satisfaction.” “November 30

“But a turning wheel does not do anyone much good. The shaft has to turn something to be useful. So I made a cog wheel or gear out of a disc of oak by putting pegs around the edge.

“I fitted the cog wheel onto the shaft and made a smaller cog wheel to fit into the pegs of the first. Into the smaller one I inserted a bent iron to which I attached Dad’s saw in the frame. I would sure like to try to run the saw, but I’ll wait for my friends. They’re all coming next weekend for the big moment.” “December 6

“Everybody gathered for the opening of the sawmill. Miss Turner made the bread this time, Bando and Zella brought cheese, and Mrs. Strawberry made corn pudding. Alice had brewed some tea with wild peppermint leaves, and I contributed two nice bass. They grow fast in ponds.

“At high noon I held a log in front of the saw. Alice opened the sluice gate and ran back to join us faster than the water flowed.

“We cheered as it rushed forward, hit the blades, turned the wheel and shaft which turned the first cog which turned the second cog which sent the saw up and down!

“We made so much noise cheering that Frightful bated and I had to rescue her to keep her from breaking her pinions. Hearing the noise, the crows came in to see if we were harassing an owl.” I stop reading my journal and look up. The water mill was a big change. I sawed wood and made a gable for the millhouse roof and shingles to cover it. I had leaped from the Stone Age into the beginning of the Industrial Revolution without any pain, in fact, with a lot of joy.

A few days after the mill was running, Alice poked her head in the door of my tree while I was writing.

“You’re not going to have acorn pancakes, Sam Gribley,” she said, “unless you make a waterfall for my plumping mill.”

I had forgotten all about her mill in the excitement of building the dam and sawmill. The cascade that ran her mill was now underwater. So that very day I made a staircase of stones under the pond overflow. The water splashed down, filled her wooden box and lifted the stone, and she was back in business again. The falls are attractive and sound nice in the evening. I can understand why Alice likes waterfalls.

I go back to my journal.

“Christmas Eve

“I added another cog wheel with a bent iron. To the iron I attached a bellows. I cut boards from Bando’s barn siding into two heart shapes. A wide strip of deerskin pegged to each allowed them to move up and down. A cow horn made a perfect nozzle through which the air rushed when the bellows was pumped. I laid the bellows on a low table made of stones and directed the stream of air onto the charcoal in a stone fire bin. When the wheel turned, the third cog wheel pushed the bellows up and down, and I had a forge.

“Now I can bend and shape pieces of iron I find around the ruins of the Gribley house and barn. Eventually I’ll forge them into shovels, ladles, and even nails.”

“Christmas Day

“This is the day of our annual Christmas party. Bando, Zella, and Miss Turner were going to join us for a wild turkey Frightful caught, but a big snowstorm struck last night, and no one got up the mountain.

“In the morning Alice fed the wild birds and I dug down to Baron Weasel’s den to see what he was up to. As I was tunneling in to him, he was tunneling out to me. He burst out of the snow and slid down the hill on his belly.

“One fellow I don’t have to worry about in a snowstorm is The Baron Weasel. Later he arrived at my tree for Christmas dinner. I gave him the liver and giblets from the turkey.” “December 26

“The pond is a white muffin, the millhouse has disappeared under a snowdrift, and Alice and I are playing checkers with groundnuts and dried apples. Winter is here.”

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