Wednesday, September 04, 2013

The Rest of the Story

I arrived home Monday night, played with the dogs, fed all the animals, went inside to rest for a few minutes, and woke up Tuesday. I had to catch up on commitments most of Tuesday (our new little free library grand opening next to my store, for one), came home, fed the critters, went inside to rest for a few minutes, and woke up this morning. Had to catch up on commitments (painting class) most of Wednesday, had dinner with friends, came home and finally brought my laptop inside.
My father, if he was still alive, would absolutely croak if he knew what I did on the way home.  He planned our trips to the last second.  He spent the winter with maps, a drawing board, and a little measuring wheel, and planned where we would go each summer weekend plus a three week camping trip. He planned where we would eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner and where we would camp every night and exactly how long it would take to get wherever. By the time I was in college and had summer jobs and no more family camping, I had slept under canvas in most states of the union and all over Canada.  My dad's planning worked well for us - but somehow, I have not been able to be that precise (did I tell you my dad was an accountant?).
I left Old Salt early Saturday, got to Amherst, NS about 2:00, visited Deanne Fitzpatrick's shop (where I learned there were no more stone handled hooks :( but there were lots of other great things) so I then went to Frenchy's where I didn't find any good wool but did get some dog toys and a Dick Francis book.  The next time I stopped was at a McDonald's in Monkton, NB. where I ran my seat back and picked up my Dick Francis book to read for a while.  A car pulled in next to me and the driver made a pleasant comment.  When they came back later, they noticed the Ann Arbor car dealership ad on the front of my car and told me they live in London and have spent a lot of time in Ann Arbor.  They said they travel back and forth a lot and suddenly had me talked into traveling home through the states.  I knew I could go into Maine at Houlton, but followed their advice and went to Calais - which was a lovely ride through Bay of Fundy influenced land, much more interesting than the Houlton route, but it put me on a small, windy road when I got into Maine.  The two-lane road might have been interesting in daylight, but a lot of fog lowered visibility early and made driving after dark hazardous - but there was nowhere to stop.  It took hours to finally get to 95, the main expressway that goes south through Maine. When I found the first rest stop, I crawled into the back seat and slept for 8 hours.  I did that part of the trip without planning or a map or anything and was pretty darned pleased I reached somewhere reasonable, but I could picture my dad shaking his head.

By the time I got down to Massachusetts the next day, I was doing the same thing I did on my trip to California - I was thinking about my family connections along the way.  At one point, I even passed an Otis town line, and Otis is my mother's family name.  The Otis family came from England on the ship that came after the Mayflower (one of the Otis men married one of Richard Warren's daughters, so I can claim to descend from a Mayflower passenger.)  There are some great early Otis stories - one John Otis, I forget which generation, was captured by the French and shipped to Martinique where the French promised to return him and then poisoned him to death.  His son, another John Otis, went to sea against his widowed mother's wishes and was captured by pirates.  He was such a good sailor, the pirate captain agreed to let him free if he sailed with the pirates for a year.  The captain didn't keep his word, so John Otis and his friends mutineed, captured the pirate ship and turned in the captain to be hanged.  Massachusetts went by pretty fast while I was thinking about pirates, so I reached New York and stopped for the night.

In New York, I had a family story that is also part of the story told in rugs in one of the displays in the museum.  One Otis family moved to New York and lived in a block house.  One night, they made a huge mistake and let some of the local Indians spend the night in the blockhouse.  Those Indians opened the gates and allowed a war party in to slaughter and capture the entire family.  The youngest child was murdered in front of her father (another John Otis) who was then killed, and his third wife and two young sons were marched off to French Canada.  The boys were raised by priests who pronounced their name Oddise, and their mother was married to a Frenchman.  Years later, after the Frenchman died, she left her French children behind and walked alone back to New York. There was a surviving son in New York who was later killed by Indians when walking home from church.

Another, as yet unrelated, branch of my family was also in New York, and I'm reminded of this part of my family when I see signs for the Mohawk Valley and Herkimer, New York.  In Germany, in the 1600s, there was an area called The Palatines, where for decades people were starving.  Warfare and bad weather had ruined crops and thousands of people left.  Many walked to Amsterdam and found passage to England and too many stayed in Amsterdam. There was a false rumor that England would give them land.  Soon, there were too many Palatine refugees in London.  The English Queen (Anne, I think) solved a couple problems by sending the Germans to settle on land grants between the English settlers and the Indians, a clever buffer or line of defense for the English settlers.  One of the Palatine families was the Spanknebles (Anglicized spelling) and they had a son Johan (our family needed another John!) who fought in the bloodiest battle of the American Revolution, the Battle of Oriskany, under General Herkimer.  When this brave young man pioneered in Illinois many years later, his name had evolved into John Sponable.  His daughter married Harris Otis and became my second great grandmother.  Her beloved husband was killed by an exploding anvil when celebrating the Union winning the Battle of Vicksburg.  She took her four childen to Vermont to be raised with family back where most of the Otis family still lived (someday I'll get to go to a Green Mountain rug show and tell the stories about that era in the family) Last year, I met Otis cousins who live on the original Sponable land grant in Marengo, Illinois.  I slept Sunday night at a New York rest stop.

Somehow, on Monday, I stayed on 90 all the way to Buffalo and found my way to the bridge back to Canada.  In Buffalo, I thought about Millard Fillmore, nephew of my great-grandmother's great-grandfather, his grandfather would be my sixth great-grandfather but that is too complicated to sort out and I quickly got into Ontario and forgot all about family stories.  I was southwest of Toronto for a while and even toyed with the idea of staying there overnight and surprising Jo-Anne at her new store on Tuesday, but the pull of home and Gibby and Gadget and Patches was too strong.  A few hours in Ontario, the 403 to the 401 and then the 402, and then the Bluewater Bridge from Sarnia to Port Huron and I was back in Michigan, an hour or so from home with lots of fantastic memories of Old Salt and the Hooked Rug Museum.