Saturday, April 28, 2018

Tapping A Spring and Tipping Outhouses at Bobcat Ranney’s

Photo of Archie “Bobcat” Ranney courtesy of Adirondack Museum.In the Harold and Pansy Allen family’s e-mail newsletter Dogtown News, Harold once recounted how they got the water from the spring — which lies across the road — into their first house, now our cabin named Mateskared.

“Ranney was the proprietor of the Paul Schaefer Club property, the old club,” Harold began, invoking the land directly across our road.

“I asked Archie Ranney if I could go over and pipe that water into the house. Ranney said ‘Oh no. You can not do that.’ So I ignored what he said. I bought pipe and a pump from Ernest Noxon [in North Creek] for $19.50. A week’s wages then were $20.

“So I went at it and dug the ditch across the road and began to ditch it into the house. There was a stone I couldn’t lift, so I used the car to lift it out in stages. Ranney came along and wanted to help, and he helped dig the stone out, and he never realized where the water was coming from — and he’d told me not to do it!”

“Harold had the pipe almost covered where it went across the road when Archie Ranney came up,” Pansy interjected. “Archie would feed my baby fish off his plate, and I was scared about the bones.”

“Archie was a man you could admire in many ways, but when he came to visit so often it became monotonous,” Harold said. Daisy Allen’s book Ranger Bowback corroborates Harold’s sentiments.

About this same time Ranney was trying to build a place back in the woods farther uphill, but he could not move a stone out of the foundation hole. Harold Allen and Harold Dunkley went up with a plank and moved it and didn’t tell Ranney.

“Ranney never did find out how it got out of there, and we convinced him he had done it,” Harold said.

That wasn’t the only stunt Harold ever pulled at Ranney’s expense. The usual Halloween Night trick here was to tip someone’s outhouse over. Ranney had made it well known one Halloween that he would shoot anyone who came to tip his outhouse over. That was too much like a challenge for Harold.

“My brother Arnold came over, and we decided to tip his outhouse over. Ranney had his gun on his lap and his dog Kess strapped to the outhouse. First we went down and let the goat out of the house, and we tipped the outhouse over. The next morning Ranney was one mad man. He was going to have the police come and have somebody arrested. But Arnold and I decided to go back up and set it on its foundation just like we found it.”

As to why they sold the place up the hill to my parents: “We had to carry everything up there by hand in the winter time. And then we got the chance to buy this place.” They moved in down the road here on Ground Hog’s Day, February 2, 1947. “This place was nice when I moved here,” Harold recalled, and then added a bit of hyperbole: “It was a luxury hotel then.” They had the property surveyed. It was twelve and 38/100ths acres. “Now two kids have each taken an acre off it,” Harold said, “and the taxes are the same!”

The first whole summer that our family owned the cabin, we didn’t go there. For our 1947 summer vacation our family went out West for my father’s work with The Wilderness Society. I was curious to get Harold and Pansy’s take on the history of our outhouse.

“The outhouse was there,” Pansy said definitively, meaning she and Harold had built it. “It was a two-holer facing the barn and the woods.” Their family used thunder mugs, chamber pots, inside the house. “They would freeze overnight,” Pansy recalled dispassionately, “and you’d have to thaw them out in order to empty them.”

“In the winter you couldn’t get up that road in a car. Harold would carry one hundred pound bags of grain up to feed the pigs. John Dalaba built that road with horses,” Pansy said. She used her father’s full name. “He built it so we could get a car over it. The town never took over that road while we lived there.”

Not long after John Dalaba died in 1951 my parents bought a few acres of Hillmount Farms below our cabin. “Part of your barn is on me,” John Dalaba had once confided to my father in the intimate language of a farmer who farmed as much with his hoe and footsteps as with his horse-drawn machinery. The southeast corner of the cowshed that Pansy and Harold built onto their small hay barn encroached on the Dalabas’ 200-acre Hillmount Farm.

I have vivid memories, shared by my late sister Karen, of our father and Hester Dalaba walking the lines with her survey sheet in 1951 or 1952. Mrs. Dalaba needed to clean up the ownership to transfer the farm to her church denomination as Camp Triumph. My parents wanted the cowshed attached to our barn entirely on our property. They also wanted to give the cabin front more buffer space and to have the property generally make more sense visually. The twenty-five acres of woodlot Paul Schaefer had urged my father to buy lay uphill. You couldn’t stare out the cabin window at them.

“I remember feeling terribly sad after your momma bought that piece from momma,” Pansy told me. “It had a beautiful blueberry chunk on it.”

I later learned from reading Pansy’s sister Daisy’s book Ranger Bowback: An Adirondack Farmer, about their father and the family’s farm that chunk meant any small plot of open land. Until just a few years ago, Daisy’s husband Earl still grew a few potatoes at the top of Camp Triumph, in what used to be his father in law’s favorite potato chunk.

Pansy’s beautiful blueberry chunk would now be in the recovering forest downhill from our cabin. We can no longer see Pansy and Harold’s place from Mateskared. Pansy and Harold moved downhill and away from the wilderness in the mid-1940s. Now wildness has regained a great deal of ground uphill.

Photo of Archie “Bobcat” Ranney courtesy of Adirondack Museum.

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Ed Zahniser retired as the senior writer and editor with the National Park Service Publications Group in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia. He writes and lectures frequently about wilderness, wildlands, and conservation history topics. He is the youngest child of Alice (1918-2014) and Howard Zahniser (1906–1964). Ed’s father was the principal author and chief lobbyist for the National Wilderness Preservation System Act of 1964. Ed edited his father’s Adirondack writings in Where Wilderness Preservation Began: Adirondack Writings of Howard Zahniser, and also edited Daisy Mavis Dalaba Allen’s Ranger Bowback: An Adirondack farmer - a memoir of Hillmount Farms (Bakers Mills).

One Response

  1. Great memories of wild men and times! Thanks for the memories and stories – keep them coming!

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