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Sunday, January 18, 2015

Woodswoman


Every now and then something triggers a series of memories that puts me in a dream state that occupies my mind off and on for days. I ran across some names of people and places I knew for a few summers.

Way back, when I had hair, I worked for an older couple on a lake in the Adirondack Mountains of New York. It was the summers of ’70, ‘71, and ’72 and I was a college student making money for school. I was their “boy” in charge of cleaning, chauffeuring, shuttling guests and goods, laundry, maintenance, occasional shopping and cooking, wood splitting, fire making, and dish washing. The “camp” was built in the 1920’s primarily by a man named Earl Covey who was also a local legend. But he is another story. I got room and board and fifty dollars per week cash plus a day off and use of the car on that day. 

From Utica, the last bastion of “civilization” when entering the six million acre park from the southwest, you head up to Old Forge. It’s an artsy, touristy little community not unlike the town I now live near. From there you go on to Eagle Bay, north to Big Moose, and then to the public landing at Twitchell Lake. That is when you start getting all wildernessy. Jump into a boat or canoe and make your way up the lake. The “camp” consisted of the main two story cabin, a small guest cabin that could sleep about six or eight depending on how friendly everyone was. Also, there was a boat house an ice house (mostly used for firewood) and my sleeping cabin. There was no electricity or phone, but we had gas appliances and lights. 

I first remembered seeing her zooming down the lake with her motorboat and 150 pound German shepherd sitting in the bow as a counter balance. She was blonde with pigtails and wore a plaid jacket. “These are my people,” I thought. Unfortunately, she was a very private person and about 18 years my senior. I still thought she was hot. 
 

They said her name was Anne Bowes, but she was divorced and changing her name back to Anne LaBastille. She had been married to a resort owner C.V. “Major” Bowes (not the old time radio personality)on a nearby lake. She was a recent Phd. and radical (at the time) environmentalist. She was considered a bit eccentric, but she was in good company on that lake. 

Her book, Woodswoman, came out in 1976 and I discovered it a couple of years later. To protect her and everyone else’s privacy she called the lake Black Bear Lake. There were plenty of black bears around, but it was really Twitchell Lake. It was the first in a series of Woodswoman books and the first of at least a dozen written by her. 

 


We never did more than exchange pleasantries at the boat landing, but I did have a bit of a crush on her.
Twitchell was seasonally visited by most, but Anne and a man named Bill Carmen were year round residents. They were political opposites and didn’t get along, but I suspect they probably kept an eye on each other when no one else was there. They both loved the forests and lakes of the Adirondacks. It was the common thread amongst everyone that came there. 

 

Anne died in July of 2011, a victim of Alzheimer’s disease. Her cabin is being moved to the Adirondack Museum in Blue Mountain Lake. I have been to the museum about three times, but not for over forty years now. It was an amazing place with beautiful exhibits and I am sure they will do a fine job of interpreting Anne’s life. There was much more to her life, but this was the part I knew about. If you enter her name in a search engine you can find out much more.
 

16 comments:

Pixel Peeper said...

Though I lived in New York State for 20 years, I never made it to the Adirondacks. I understand it's a beautiful area. My former English teacher vacations every year at a camp on Saranc Lake.

I can see how you had a crush on Anne LaBastille - even in old age she looked beautiful!

John Gray said...

She had one of those " that face has seen the world" kind of faces

Dawn@Lighten Up! said...

Whoa! Now I have to Google her. She sounds very interesting. Loved the story from your youth, too, and the way you describe things!

Agi Tater said...

What a fascinating and intelligent woman. I read that she died in a nursing home. Such a wrong place for someone who loved the outdoors …

Donna Banta said...

What a beautiful woman, inside and out. Thanks for sharing part of her story.

A Beer For The Shower said...

What a great story. She sounds like an incredible woman, and she was a looker, too. I can understand the crush.

Sioux said...

So, it sounds like there could have been some cougar-cub action back then, if only you had made an overture.

She sounds like an interesting woman.

Jono said...

PP, It is a big state with a lot to see.

John G, yes she did.

Dawn, It was a coming of age time for me and there are more stories from those three summers.

Agi, yes, it was sad to see someone so brilliant and independent lose it to Alzheimers.

Donna, I think she has influenced many thousands of people.

A beer for the Shower, She was easy on the eyes and had a great mind. I was saddened by her passing.

Sioux, I was pretty shy back then, but she was the stuff of a young man's dreams.

jenny_o said...

She was way ahead of her time, with environmental concerns. At the leading edge, I would think. Interesting stuff.

Your job that summer sounds like an interesting one as well. Did you keep in touch with the elderly couple after that?

Jono said...

Jenny_o, She was pushing for a lot of awareness of the problems of that time. That lake was very clean, but the acidity of the water made the trout die off. I did stay in touch and went back 10 years later to reprise my old position for three weeks. It's yet another story.

jenny_o said...

I hope you tell it, and the others you referred to in your reply to Dawn. I'm a pretty bad storyteller but I love to read/listen to good storytellers.

Diane Henders said...

How cool - what a fascinating connection! I hadn't heard of Anne LaBastille, but I just went over to Amazon to check out her books. Now I have some more books to add to my TBR pile! :-)

Professor Batty said...

The Sigurd Olson of New York!

Great story.

Ol'Buzzard said...

A number of years ago I read Woodswoman: thanks for the recall.
the Ol'Buzzard

vanilla said...

Brought back some memories. My late wife in her youth "summered" in the Adirondacks, near Malone on the border. I've been in the area only once, and that was in the '50s.

Your Anne was an interesting individual.

Shoshanah Lee Marohn said...

You also bring back some memories for me of long-forgotten crushes on amazing people. Even when they don't return our feelings, they give us these great ideals to strive for. You certainly have good taste in infatuations!

As a forty year old woman, I suddenly have been noticing all of these men who have been infatuated with older women at one time or another. I find it quite comforting.