Thursday, June 19, 2008

Accord, NY: An Outsider's Perspective

Waking up in Accord, NY comes with a symphony of sounds. A lone rooster “cock a doodle dos” each morning beginning at 4:30 AM. He crows intermittently above the chirping songbirds and the squeaks of something our new friend Mary called “peepers.”

Mary is Ken’s wife. He is a truck driver who parked his load behind our coach on the blacktop Municipal Lot in Accord, New York. “Mind if I park here?” he asked from high up in his truck cab. We should have been asking him that question since Ken parks his trailer here each weekend. We were the “out of towners”. Ken grew up in this area bordering the New York Catskill Mountains. He welcomed us to this little town as warmly as if we had stepped over the threshold of his very own home. Ken and his wife aren’t the first people we met in Accord. When we arrived in town, we first met Tyler, Britton, and Dan.

Ed had driven the coach down Accord’s Main Street until he stopped to ask a fellow with his foot in a cast about the lay of the town roads. The news was not all good. We were headed on a country road with few options for turnarounds, but a municipal lot where tractor trailer trucks frequently parked was nearby. All we had to do

was turn around. Tyler hoisted himself on board and took over my co-pilot seat to direct us to a place he though could accommodate a big coach. His suggested location turned out to be too tight with trees and a

bridge that could collapse with our tonnage. Fortunately, a friendly man in a pick-up truck stopped to advise us of a place. He directed us to his nursery farm, a place where trucks turned around every day. We had to move a few flats of flowers to make the turn. During our ride Tyler said he left high school to work as a tradesman building stone walls. He broke his ankle racing dirt bikes. He told me that the most fun thing to do around town was to head to the swimming holes in Rondout Creek. At first, I suspected Tyler might be right.

You might think Accord is a ghost town. The first building on Main Street is an abandoned gas station. There are still two rusty and worn gasoline pumps along the street. They are protected overhead by the overhanging front room of the station owner’s second story house. The general store would have been below. The windows and doors are boarded up and locked. No trespassing signs hang eyelevel warning people to stay out of this structurally unsound remnant of a gas station, home and store. We found a feed store further into town in similar disrepair – leaning dangerously on its foundation, overgrown with weeds and tall grass, and displaying more no trespassing signs. Then, we noticed that the train depot had been converted to a house. People were living there with a red caboose parked on the no longer used tracks in the front yard. We wondered about this town – Accord, New York – maybe it wasn’t a ghost town after all. Soon this little town in the Rondout Valley started to come alive…

Britton let me interrupt his outdoor painting to peek in his Main Street shop. He is a potter and sells his creations at the Stone Window Gallery where I found vases, rectangular shaped tea pots, mugs, and dipping dishes.

Dan works with Baltic Birch, a Russian birch wood, in his shop behind the Municipal Lot. For 35 years, he has created wooden boxes for precision measuring instruments. His vendors don’t need large quantities of boxes so companies can still justify $25 per box for one of Dan’s handmade wooden boxes. To begin making the boxes, Dan created the tooling himself. He makes and sells another novelty. For $85, you can order Dan’s phonograph toy modeled in the image of Uncle Sam, a Vaudeville dancer with hair slick down the middle, or Mr. Potato head. The toy mounts on a Victor phonograph. The spindle turns the toy and as the record rotates, the toy performs a tap dance of sorts.

As our stay stretched from one to many, we came to meet more of Accord’s town folks.

Debbie works at the post office. She loves quilting and frequently lugs her sewing machine to the municipal park where she can sew over her two hour long lunch break.

Patty is the red-headed lady who has six Mallards swimming in a baby pool in her yard. Her husband only wanted one duck “because they we so cute” as babies but the store insisted on selling the ducklings in groups of six or none. They bought six.

We came to learn that the emergency alarm system mounted on the fire station annoys the people who live here too. And, it’s rumored in whispers that the town keeps the ear shattering horns to drive newcomers away. One family claims the sound is damaging their baby’s tender hearing. Some say it’s redundant and unnecessary, yet the alarm continues its blasts day and night even though I never saw an emergency vehicle careened away from the building.

I found quiet one afternoon in the yellow cottage of the Friends of Rochester, Inc. Museum. People come here to research family history with the help of a volunteer researcher. Had Accord been my hometown, I could have found links to cousins a century ago.

There’s a bike trail on the edge of town. It meanders on the rail path of the now extinct railroad that once thrived here. It runs three miles along the Rondout Creek and to the next town. I made the full roundtrip several times and stopped along the way to enjoy a deer or turtle crossing the trail. Several other times, I pedaled frantically to the safety after drizzles of rain erupted into threatening lightning storms. I always finished this ride either soaked with perspiration from the work-out or soaked with rain.

One weekend, Ed discovered a hotel tucked away on a road just past town. They were hosting a Car Cruise so we went wandering among the proud owners of these restored vehicles. That’s the day we learned that the host of Meet the Press Tim Russert died. The news flashed across the lobby TV screen. People reacted with shock and measured their own mortality since Russert was a young 58 years old. When I started reading his book Big Russ & Me, Russert was still alive; I finished reading the book in Accord with a somewhat sad perspective.

I kept writing my own book during our visit to Accord where we stayed for nearly two weeks, enjoying the people and appreciating their warm hospitality.

August 6 - 19, 2008

1 comment:

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