Libby

Activated Stories by

Activated Stories artwork

Thu Nov 8, 2007 • 10 min

We've just concluded our month of being a family of four rather than three; for the month of October and even for a piece of November, we "adopted" Zephyr's friend Libby from the San Francisco Bay Area. This week, rather than bring you a story as usual, we catch you up on what we've been up to during the busy three weeks (Yes, three. Yikes!) since our last podcast. And Libby gives her impressions of what it's like to be a fulltime traveler. Well no, she doesn't really do impressions of us, but she does tell of her experiences with us. It was a fairly busy time for our business, so we went to a number of schools; but one of the more memorable schools was a red one-room schoolhouse that only tourists enter these days. Its most famous visitor ever was not a person but an animal -- specifically a lamb. And the lamb's owner was a little girl named Mary. No, we're not kidding -- that little poem, one of the most famous in the world, was inspired by a true incident, and not even names were changed to protect the silly. This schoolhouse, built in 1792, was once attended by young Mary Sawyer, who secretly brought her pet lamb to school and hid it under her desk. Just how you'd keep that a secret is beyond us, but it definitely depends a great deal on the silence of the lamb. And this one didn't cooperate for long -- when Mary went to the head of the class to recite something, the lamb stopped being sheepish and made so much noise that Mary was no longer able to pull the wool over the teacher's eyes. The rest of the class was delighted, including John Roulstone, who was visiting from another community. Later, he scribbled down the first few lines of the soon-to-be-famous verses and handed them to Mary. In 1877, the little snatch of doggerel (sheeperel?) would provide the first words ever recorded on a phonograph -- recited by none other than Thomas Edison himself. The schoolhouse, which is open for tours during the summer (we just missed the season, but we were able to to peer into the window at its period furnishings) originally stood in the nearby town of Sterling. No, it didn't crawl or slide to Sudbury; it was moved in 1923 by none other than Henry Ford to its present location, a very fitting neighborhood for popular lines of poetry. Such as "I shot an arrow into the air./ It fell to earth I know not where." Or "Beneath a spreading chestnut tree/ The village smithy stands." Or "into each life some rain must fall". Or "ships that pass in the night". Or "I heard the bells on Christmas Day". Or "This is the forest primeval." Or "Listen my children, and you shall hear/ Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere." All of these are from poems written by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882), who had a strong association with another building just a few yards from Mary's lamb's schoolhouse. It's the Wayside Inn, which Longfellow immortalized in his collection of narrative poems entitled "Tales of a Wayside Inn" (1863), including the celebrated verse version of Paul Revere's less than stellar ride, which Longfellow Hollywoodized into an epic achievement. The inn has been in operation since 1716, making it reputedly the oldest operating inn in the country. Many of the rooms have been preserved as they might have appeared nearly 3 centuries ago. Well mostly, restored is probably a better word than preserved, since the property was heavily damaged by a fire in 1955, revealing for the first time in ages a stairway that had been sealed off, and is now open to public viewing. From Sudbury, we headed to Salem for Halloween, hoping to land jobs at a haunted attraction as we did two years ago, and we scored. Zephyr was in hog heaven doing a Capt. Jack Sparrow impersonation. As always, we camped at Winter Island, the former Coast Guard Station that has been converted into a public park and campground. And before Libby abandoned us to head home to California, we took a train excursion to the Big Apple to catch a Broadway show. And then our "daughter" left the nest, and we're back to "normal", if that word ever applies. Happy Listening, Dennis, Kimberly, Zephyr & Libby

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