Thursday, September 8, 2011

End of the Road


By and large, Alleghany, like any small town, was in the grip of Boredom. Memory kindly obscures that fact, and tends to preserve the exceptions to the rule, the unusual episodes like these:

Dan D, the head of a chaotic household in a somewhat dilapidated house on the high road into town, agreed to install an antenna in a tall fir tree to serve Casey's and its customers, the payment being in beverage form, empty cans of which rained down during the ascent, installation, and descent.

My most reliable corrupter, JimmieB, took over his father's workshop in midsummer, in their house next to Alleghany Supply in the name of manufacturing a soap box racer, with a microscopic share of my help. When, predictably, the contraption shortly exhausted our scant interest in its pathetically limited mobility, we fell back on the entertainment of using the magnifying glass he produced from his pocket on the roadside weeds, and prevented a forest fire only by dint of concerted beating of both our shirts. Amazingly, no one happened by during the minutes of frenzy.

Maudie, an elderly Casey's patron, left the premises on a particularly active Saturday night in midwinter, beginning, as she thought, the climb up the hill to her house. The hill turned out to be a snowbank across the street which had ramped itself up to the storage shed roof, off which she fell into the snowbank on the other side. Another patron noticed legs sprouting from the snowbank, and she was extricated without serious harm.

An Italian-American schoolmate (I'll name him Panelli for lack of the memory to produce his name accurately) managed against all likelihood to get his aged 50 cc Honda running, and I got the mouthwatering invitation to accompany him to the covered bridge and swimming hole at the Oregon Creek campground some twenty miles distant. About three miles out of town at the ranger station on the ridge road, the bike died, we both got off, and he, suspecting immediately that the problem was electrical, pulled out the fuse - and it was indeed gray and opaque with carbon. Once he finished tossing the fuse and cursing loudly for several minutes, he cut off a bit of wire from elsewhere and used it to bridge the fuse contacts - by this time I was already a believer in magic - and we were soon tooling down the road with nary a care, then in the water, then eating the candy bars I cadged from my father.

My grandmother, a blueblood New Englander with a Christian Scientist twist, saw the poster that the proprietor of Alleghany Supply, the playful Joe Sbaffi, put in the meat department - a life-sized photograph of a nude adult African selected specifically for genital impressiveness. That, for us, was an event.

These isolated events, and no doubt quite a few forgotten ones, tie the day-to-day endurance into a picture, a picture of a place inimitable, and though still inhabited, mostly gone.

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