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Copyright 2001 Bruce Ling
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I am richly blessed with memories that are so strong, that by merely brushing up against a sensation recalls the tastes, smells, textures, etc. of a specific period in my life. There is a time in my life, in my late 20's, that jumps back at me when I experience a hot summer night on the river Catfishing, cold winter days watching the birds at the feeder over a hot cup of herbed tea, the smell of the Earth after tilling in preparation for a crop of vegetables, or a number of other sensations.
Dorothy and Miriam were two old women who had been roommates since they were in their 20's. Miriam was a famous Christian children's books author, and Dorothy had owned a restaurant for many years. Neither had ever married, and Dorothy told a tale of a suitor who had a fine horse and buggy, who came to court her and then became interested in Miriam. They agreed that he had no integrity, and was not worth their time. They had things to do, and no time for the entanglements of romance.
I got to know these wonderful, strong women when I became a member of a church in Cascade, MI. They were charter members, and my wife (at the time) Christie's father was a preacher, and had started that church. There was a history of membership established, and I was welcomed, through Christie, in to the "charter member circle." A warm spot at the core of the Spirit of that church.
A year after I met these women Miriam died. Dorothy was left without her best friend, and endured a long time of grieving.
Now, these gals lived upriver from me on what is called Thornapple Bayou. It's a bayou that runs in from the main river about a quarter of a mile, and has another quarter mile of wetlands in back of it, between two high ridges of land. There's around 15 houses on its shore. They're old cottages down there, from the turn of the century and earlier, and the area feels ancient and smells of Cedar swamp, water snakes, marsh marigolds, and snapping turtles.
Christie started cleaning house for Dorothy, as she was getting on in years; I started looking in on Dorothy from time to time, and soon it was more often than not. There were always chores that required a strong back, and carpentry, plumbing, and electrical needs also. She insisted on maintaining a large vegetable garden every year, so I would do the roto-tilling and get the Earth prepared, and she would do the rest.
Dorothy, having owned a restaurant all her adult life, was an excellent cook, and I love a good meal. One of her specialties was boiled Kale (a green) with ham and potatoes, a Dutch dish. Dorothy, like a lot of folks in west MI. was Dutch. There was always the smell of breads and cookies in her kitchen, and a plate of food, with a side order of deep friendship, always appeared in front of me when I sat down.
I'd fished that river up and down, since I was a kid, and I knew the productive holes and blow-downs. There was a good one right at the upstream side to Thornapple Bayou for Catfish, and I'd hit that one at least every other week for years. I'd fish it into the dark, when the lights in the cottages up in the bayou would start to twinkle. If I wasn't out too late I'd often stop in and have a cup of chamomile tea with Dorothy, and share my catch.
It was shortly after I got my first Mandolin, that found me with it in my boat as I fished that hole in front of Thornapple Bayou. I was thinking of the wonderful years of my life that had been spent on the Thornapple River, and was contemplating Dorothy's decline over the years. I'd miss her dearly when she was gone. These thoughts called the melody from our Creator, through me, and out my Mandolin. It was so strong that I played what I was told to play, pulled up the anchor, and headed for home. I was so shook up that I didn't touch the Mandolin again for a few days and when I did, the melody was still there exactly as it had been, out in the river in front of Dorothy's cottage. I think, with love, of her when I play this tune.
Dorothy Roeters died 11 years ago.
by Bruce Ling 3-2002