It was during the late 1980’s that Paul Schaefer introduced me to Daisy and Earl Allen in Bakers Mills. Earl has passed away this past month, and his wife Daisy died some 14 years before. But the memories of Daisy’s warmth and kitchen, and Earl’s legend as a teamster, maple sugar maker, artisan, maker of hay rakes, and master of old engines remain strong. Both would do anything they could for people.
Paul and his fellow hunters relied on Earl for some twenty years or more to hitch up his team of work horses to a wagon and bring there gear into hunting camp and out again. Rev. Daisy Dalaba Allen was pastor of the Sodom Community Church and president of the Pentecostal Holiness Association.
Just before she died, Rev. Daisy Allen’s memoir An Adirondack Farmer: Ranger Bowback was prepared and published with the help of summer neighbor Ed Zahniser. It tells Daisy’s stories of her father John Dalaba, “The Ranger,” her equally hard-working mother, her sisters and brothers, and neighbors, including sheep, cows and work horses at their 200-acre Hillmount Farm. It’s a very interesting book for anyone interested in the Adirondacks, or rural mountain husbandry and farming and Christian living in all seasons, and how people learned, loved and cared for each other and did what needed doing anywhere in the Northern Forest during the early-mid 20th century. For example, everything was recycled. “The ways we recycled things at Hillmount Farms are too many to list,” Daisy recounts. Then she goes on to recount many of them.
It’s a particularly interesting book for those of us who like the Siamese Ponds Wilderness or who visited Paul Schaefer at his camp above Daisy and Earl, and wanted to learn more about history and life there. For a come-from-awayer like myself, it is hard to imagine this densely wooded, canopied hardwood hillside as laid open to the sun, variously undulating or pitched, rocky sheep country. Knowing a bit of the wilderness that is growing there now, I look at the book’s cover photograph of the Dalaba Farm less than one hundred years ago in wonderment.
I would occasionally visit with Daisy and Earl, talk while eating a piece of Daisy’s pie, buy a quart of Earl’s maple syrup, or stop by during his annual old engine festival in August. Dan Plumley and I stopped into this year’s old engine festival in August. While Earl was not feeling well enough to be outside, his grandsons provided expert tours of their grandfather’s mill that, with their engine and other tinkering and know-how, can still produce hay rakes. Earl’s sold his rakes for many years, including to the Farmers Museum in Cooperstown.
Of Paul Schaefer’s hunting party founded in the early 1930s, known as the Cataract Club (and still in existence today), Daisy writes: “The hunters were very good to our family. There were times when some of their extra supplies found their way to our table. How welcome. Mama counted them a godsend, over and above what we needed for survival.” Both Daisy’s father and her husband Earl knew horses and how to work with them in all kinds of terrain. They guided, and as teamsters they brought the hunting party, tent and food into and out of the woods each fall. There is footage of Earl and his team of horses bringing Paul’s party into the woods in the documentary film made by Paul Schaefer and the nonprofit Couchsachraga Association, The Adirondack – The Land Nobody Knows (1980).
Photos: Above, Earl Allen (courtesy Dr. Dan Wray from his 2004 book All in a Day’s Work); and below, Daisy Mavis Dalaba Allen from her book Ranger Bowback: An Adirondack Farmer).