Thursday, January 11, 2024

An Adirondack Childhood

Artwork depicting three young sisters

By Jackie Woodcock

Nestled in what I have often termed as, the Armpit of the Adirondack Mountains, lies a small town called Newton Falls. Newton Falls, a place where everyone knows everyone, felt like a well-kept secret as our town often could not be found on a paper map. The population of Newton Falls was just 241 people, making it a close-knit community where you couldn’t sneeze without someone on the other side of town saying, “Bless you!” It was a town where you could walk from one end to the other in about 15 minutes, and where the sound of crickets and the scent of pine trees were as familiar as our own heartbeat.

The town was intricately secluded with an embrace of the Adirondack wilderness, a playground of infinite wonder that we, as children, explored with boundless enthusiasm. Our adventures knew no bounds, as we roamed the countless trails, played by the local beach, and fearlessly leaped into the refreshing waters from Whites Bridge. In the woods, we were wannabee master architects, constructing forts and scaling the heights of Spy Rock in pursuit of even grander vistas. It was a childhood framed by nature’s beauty; a canvas painted with the colors of our unforgettable escapades. As the sun dipped below the horizon, we would gather with other kids in town for a spirited game of kick the can, the twilight adding a touch of mystery to our joyous gatherings. Those were moments etched in our hearts, where laughter and shared experiences strengthened the bonds of our small community.


In the time of my childhood, parents took on the role of vigilant guardians, watching over all of the kids with an almost professional dedication, much like Sherlock Holmes. The small size of our town made it just about impossible to hide our scandalous tactics from some parent’s eagle eye watch. The parents had their own tattle tale network, primed to dial the phone and inform unknowing parents of their child’s antics and the news spread faster than you could run home to tell a lie. We surely didn’t appreciate the informer who called about us, but it did bring about a sense of community that felt like extended family. It was due to this tattling network, that we began to take to the forest where parents eyes were unable to see the devious activity, boredom strummed up in our hearts.


Our small town had a way of nurturing unity and a sense of belonging. Each of us kids were a unique thread in the vibrant tapestry of our community. Our adventures in the Adirondack wilderness and the games we played at dusk were just some of the cherished memories that wove our stories together, creating a bond that transcended the challenges and adversities we faced.


As the baby of the family with two older sisters, Jeannie and Julie, our journey through this picturesque town was nothing short of a rollercoaster ride filled with laughter, love, and the occasional sibling rivalry. Arguments over who got to sit where in the car, whose turn it was to do the dishes, or who would get to the bathroom first to avoid chores was a daily occurrence. Our battles were fierce, our words sharp, and the wounds went deep. But there was something magical about our sibling rivalry – it made us stronger, smarter, and a little more thick-skinned. I was an overweight kid, which often made me the target of taunts and teasing from other children.


But I was never alone in facing these challenges. Jeannie, the free spirit who danced to the beat of her own drum, and Julie, the more conservative of my sisters, always stood by my side. They were my unwavering defenders, ready to unleash a fierce tongue-lashing or even engage in a full-on brawl to protect me. Their support and fierce loyalty were my shield against the bullies, a testament to the strength of sibling bonds. In those moments when I needed a shoulder to cry on, a laugh to lift my spirits, or an encouraging word to keep me going, it was my sisters who stepped up. They were the ones who knew how to lift my spirits when I felt alone.


The gift of siblinghood goes beyond sharing genetics. It’s the one that stands by you when the rest of the world seems to crumble. We’ve weathered storms, experienced heartbreak, and celebrated triumphs together. There’s a magic in knowing that no matter where life takes us, we have each other’s backs. The beauty of growing up in a small town like Newton Falls is that it fosters close-knit communities, and your family becomes an integral part of that support network. Sibling bonds, no matter how intense the rivalry, have a unique way of grounding you, reminding you where you come from and who you are.


As we grew into adulthood, like many siblings, we faced our share of differences and disagreements. The bonds we formed as children have been tested, and there are times when we drift apart. But the lessons we learned from our small-town upbringing, the enduring love of family, and the power of shared dreams carries the Blessing that can bring us back together. Growing up in Newton Falls was a blessing, and having Jeannie and Julie as sisters was the greatest gift life could bestow. Our sibling rivalry, while fiery, was also the crucible in which our characters were forged. It taught us to fight for our dreams, to lean on each other in times of need, and to forgive and love unconditionally. The power of forgiveness is a gift that should never be underestimated. It’s easy to hold grudges and let differences fester, but it’s far more rewarding to let go and embrace the healing power of love and forgiveness. It’s never too late to rekindle the flames of siblinghood.


So, to all those adults who have been separated by differences, I implore you to forgive, to see the gift that siblings can be in your lives. As I look back at the laughter, the love, and the countless adventures with my sisters, I can only smile and thank the stars for the incredible journey that brought us closer together. A profound realization that our sibling bonds run far deeper than our squabbles. Our shared dreams became the glue that hold us together. It’s funny how those who fought the most fiercely for control of the hair dryer could also be the most fervent supporters of each other’s wildest aspirations.


There are moments in life when the phrase “thank you” feels insufficient to express the depth of gratitude you hold in your heart. For everything my older sisters did to watch over, protect, encourage, teach, and show me unconditional love, thank you will never mean enough. It’s a token of appreciation, but the vast ocean of my thankfulness for them can never truly be measured. Their love and unwavering support have been my guiding light through the storms and sunshine of life, and for that, I’ll forever be grateful.


I wrote this poem in honor of my guiding lights, my sisters, some of the greatest Blessings of my Life.

Guiding Lights

In the tapestry of life, they wove their grace,

Older sisters, guiding lights in every space.

Their laughter was a melody, sweet and pure,

A lighthouse through the storms, steadfast and sure.

Through trials and triumphs, they held my hand,

In the dance of life, they helped me understand.

Oh, older sisters, a precious treasure,

Whose love and care are without measure.

In their presence, I found my sanctuary,

An everlasting bond, a cherished story.

With gratitude in my heart, I softly say,

Thank you, dear sisters, for lighting my way.


Photo at top: Artwork created from a picture of Jackie Woodcock and her sisters. Artwork by Jackie Woodcock.

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Jackie Woodcock was born and lives in the Adirondack Mountains. She is an apiarist, lepidopterist, conservationist, teacher, writer, artist, and a co-owner of SkyLyfeADK. You can find her SkyLyfeADK on Instagram and Facebook.

23 Responses

  1. william c hill says:

    My sister lived in Newton Falls during the 70’s & early 80’s- I was up Spy Rock many times.

    • Jackie says:

      Hi William, thank you for reading my article and your comment! I still live in Newton Falls but spy rock has certainly shrunk in size from what I remember as a child. Then it seemed like a mountain!

  2. A Brewer says:

    From Star Lake. Mom born in Newton Falls.
    So proud to be a north country girl.

  3. Nancy Peters says:

    Ah Jackie, your words are sheer poetry! What a wonderful tribute to your sisters. You had a special childhood. I was just thinking about you the other day. Blessings to you and your family in this new year! Nancy

    • Jackie says:

      Hi Nancy,
      Thank you so much! My Sisters are a true Blessing! I hope you and Hank are doing well and I wish you a New Year full of peace, love and Blessings!

  4. Jim Fox says:

    Thank you Jackie. Your account of small-town kids’ fun-doings knitted into a community where every adult is charged with child rearing everybody else’s kids was nestalgic. You took this small town hick back home sixty years ago.

    • Jackie says:

      Hi Jim,
      I appreciate you taking the time to read my article and for your kind comment! My Sisters are amazing examples of the love and sibling unity. Without them I would not be who I am today. If it weren’t for my Sister Jeannie’s love and encouragement, I would have stopped writing years ago. I hope you had as amazing siblings as I have!

  5. Peter Henderson says:

    My father worked for a printing company that got its paper from Newton Falls Paper mill. My first trip to ADK, as a child, was with him to visit the paper mill – closed now. Then back to the north country for college at Clarkson, married a ‘townee,’ bought second home in ADK – Willsboro

  6. Jackie says:

    Hi Peter,
    Thank you for reading my article and sharing about your family. My Father, Wayne Goldie worked at the NF paper mill for 35 years. Life then was a great deal different! My Father started working at the paper mill for $3.25 an hour and knew what real physical labor was about!

  7. Richard Daly says:

    Jackie, As a person from away, I had to learn to navigate Ruritania-North. Newton Falls is a HAMLET (known population cluster, possibly with its own Post Office) in the TOWN of Clifton, St Lawrence County. — NY governments are a variation of the New England-based Town-dominant protocol. That’s why “You can’t get there from here” is often heard upon asking for directions; which, when offered, usually include landmarks that “used to be there.” ;-( PS: Thank you for using paper maps. They matter! 😉

    • Jackie says:

      That makes sense. Thank you for sharing, I learned something new. Yes, Newton Falls has a post office but it is only open 2 hours a day. We get our mail from Star Lake a neighboring town about 8 miles away. People seem to recognize the name Star Lake. I would assume it is because people have to go through this town on rt. 3 in order to enter the Western gateway to the ADKs

  8. John Reil says:

    Jackie, thank you for this article, you nailed life in Newton Falls. My sister and 4 brothers were born and raised there and it was the best of the best life. I return every year to visit my family and it is sad to see what it has become but, your story has brought back so many wonderful memories. Thank you!

    • Jackie says:

      Hi John,
      Thank you for reading my article and for your kind comment. Sadly Newton Falls is not even close to what it used to be. Unfortunately there are many what has been termed as slum lords that the town board refuses to hold responsible for turning Newton Falls into a ghetto.

  9. Kathleen Hanley Carranza says:

    Hi Jackie! Loved reading this and your poem. I remember you 3 girls well. My grandparents lived in Newton Falls. Grandma was known as Aunt Flossie by all of the neighborhood children. My father was the post master until his passing in 1977.
    The NF beach brings back so many sweet memories. I worked with your Dad at the paper mill, in the finishing room.
    I am always thinking about Newton Falls and the meaning that it had for me. As you said…we were just one big happy family. ❤️

    • Jackie says:

      Hi Kathleen,
      Thank you for reading my article and for the kind comments! After writing this article I realized how much NF meant to so many people and a true testament to the bonds built in our small communities.

  10. Roger C. Benjamin says:

    Jackie, Great article! Last time I saw you was at your mother and you weren’t the kid I remember. You’ve grown into a talented young woman. I still miss your dad. He was a great friend and loved working with him and all the things we did together. The memories of life back then. He was taken way to early at 59. Best wishes in your life and keep up the great writing!

    • Jackie Woodcock says:

      Thank you so much for reading my article and for the kind comment and encouragement. Your support is a Blessing to me.

  11. Mark Friden says:

    Hi, Jackie –
    I hope you don’t mind, but I have printed out your story to save in the Clifton Town Museum’s collections. Since it was public here to begin with, I hoped it would not be an issue. I am your Town Historian.
    – Mark Friden

  12. David Bower says:

    Sweet story about an idyllic childhood. I’m native Texan, but love the ADKs and come up every summer with my wife, a native of Norwich NY. Love your writing!

    • Jackie says:

      Hi David,
      Thank you for reading my article and for the kind comment! I appreciate your kindness and support! I usually write about wild animals but I thought this time I would write about my favorite subject- people, especially my Sisters. Have a great week!

  13. Grace Caru says:

    Thanks for this article. We are from a small town also and although not close as children I have recently rekindled my relationship with my older sister.
    It has been a joy to get to know her.
    All of your articles are wonderful, keep up the writing!

    • Jackie says:

      Hi Grace,
      Thank you for reading my article and for your kind comment. I am so happy to hear that you and your Sister are mending your relationship!!! I wish lots of Love and Light to you both as you build your sibling bond! I don’t usually write about personal things but I absolutely love my family and it was a joy and blessing to write about my Sisters! I really appreciate your kindness, encouragement and support!
      Have a great week!

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