Memories Are Made Of This—George Davis
December, is often the coldest Northeast winter month in Maine. Nonetheless, December 4, 1948 was mild, almost balmy in the little settlement of Bickford, Maine.
The Norris brothers spent the morning looking for a Christmas tree in the woods behind their house.
“There ain’t any good trees here, Myron,” James Norris said to his big brother. “There’s bound to be better trees down by the river.”
“Momma don’t want us going near the river, James.”
“We won’t go swimmin’ Myron. We’re just gonna cut us a nice green spruce tree.” The two boys crossed over the road and under the barbwire fence old man Tomlinson put up to keep his horses in the field.
The boys took their small mixed-breed dog, Sandy with them. The river was ice-covered with a layer of new snow on the surface that glistened in the rays of the noontime sun.
“Myron, look, Sandy has fallen into the water,” James said. “What’ll we do?”
James the younger ran across the ice to where Sandy had dropped into the cold dark waters of the Sagamore River. Watching the dog trying to free himself from the icy prison made James apprehensive, fearing Sandy would drown. James not only heard the ice crack beneath his feet. He felt the frozen water give way as he plunged into the frigid water.
Down and down he went, unable to swim, he treaded water. His thin legs thrashed in the freezing depths. With every ounce of strength the young man had, he pushed himself up toward the sun-rimmed hole in which he had fallen. First, his head hit ice, and he was forced to push upward again. This time his torso rose above the icy surface long enough to see his brother Myron coming across the ice. “Hang on James. I’m coming.”
Myron jumped into the water and went down under his little brother’s feet. Pushing him upward, James could grab a tree limb that was hanging over the water. He pulled himself up and free of the icy water followed by his brother Myron.
It was one mile from the opposite river bank from their home, and the two boys ran as fast as their little legs would carry them. Myron was twelve and James was ten.
Safely at home, the two boys were changed into clean, warm clothes and given hot chocolate with marshmallows to drink.
Forced to take doses of cod-liver oil, FatherJohn’s, and Doctor True’s Elixir as well as doctor prescribed sulfur tablets.
The Sagamore River still holds a fascination for James. Though that fateful day was seventy-four years ago the stigma lives on. “I can’t cross over that river without dragging up the memory of the day I fell into its icy river.
It should have left me with a fear of water, aquaphobia. For whatever reason. I have no fear of water to this day.
Now, the fear of heights is another question. I get squeamish to my stomach watching any TV show that takes place on a rooftop or a skyscraper. Most times and I put my hands over my face while the stunt doubles hang from helicopters or dangles on the edge of a tall building.
My hometown, Bickford, Maine is in the Northwestern part of our great state. Winters there are not as severe as they were when I was a youngster. Call it climate change, or weather variance it was much colder, snowier, and we had more blizzards in the forties and fifties. I remember the Blizzard of ’52. We got buried under more than two feet of snow. My father and I spent two-thirds of the time shoveling our massive driveway.
The snowplows were not prepared for the storm, and consequently, our street wasn’t plowed for three days. To my knowledge, there hasn’t been a storm like this since, or maybe there has been and the modern plows made quick work of the huge snow bankings along our main roads.
After that terrible storm, my father bought a huge snow scoop. Snow blowers weren’t on the market in ’52. He said, ‘I won’t get caught again without good snow removal equipment.’
It thrills my heart to see new buds coming on the large maple tree in our front yard. Those little buds are harbingers of spring like the robin, and the crocus plant under our front room bay window.
Time for planting. I raked the front lawn, preparing it for my mammoth rock garden. The plot takes up three-fourths of the lawn. The rocks are ones I collected from the gravel pit next to the town dump. My collection of stones is all close to the same size, white, grey, and speckled rocks stand sentinel over the soon-to-be mass of multicolored blooms.
I try to maintain a well-manicured lawn with little or no wild weeds in residence. Four years ago, I spent two days on my knees pulling crabgrass and other annoying plants from my yard.
By spending every weekend caring for my yard, I have little time to spend reading and watching TV, not that there is anything on the tube worth my time or effort.
I just remembered every time I draw my bath water, I think of that day down by the riverside when I unwittingly fell into the icy water.
I have lived that day over and over through the years. It’s almost like that movie Groundhog Day where the star keeps reliving the same day over and over again. It is like a hamster wheel it spins as you recall those old memories going through them again and again.
You might be interested to know. James Norris is still alive, and he still lives in the same house in which he was born in Bickford on Mellen Street, near the Sagamore River.
James with his wife, Mona often picnic down at the river on the bank he left to save his dog, Sandy. Mona loves to hear the story and knows her husband is here by the Grace of God.