They say you can't go home, and they may be right. I can't since my brother back in Pennsylvania sold my late parents house. We have photos of it on our computer, which is about as we'll get to going home.
|The 866-page paperback, Come Spring is a book I will long remember, in fact, likely never forget. Milt Gross photo.|
But the late Ben Ames Williams does a great job of almost taking us "home," home in his case being the town of Union.
A paragraph on the page opposite the first chapter states, "The attempt in this book has been to tell the story of the founding of a small Maine town, by ordinary people, in what was then an ordinary way. It was the way in which towns founded from the Atlantic seaboard west to the great plains, by stripping off the forest and putting the land to work. The people in this book were not individually as important as George Washington; the town they founded was not as important as New York. But people like them made this country, and towns like this one were and are the soil in which this country's roots are grounded."
I tend to call Come Spring the Maine version of Look to the Mountain, which fictionally describes the settling and developing of a New Hampshire Town. Or, more accurately, it is another book that tells the same story, only in midcoast Maine.
Originally copyrighted in 1940 by the author and published again in 2000 by arrangement with the estate of Ben Ames Williams in care of Harold Ober Associates New York, NY, Come Spring is a fictionalized account of Union, Maine.* Union is a midcoast town along the St. Georges River and at Seven Tree Pond.
The story begins with "Mima" and her father, Philip Robbins, the actual founder of the settlement that became Union, aboard a sloop named Sally as she prepared to enter the Georges River from the Atlantic to land at an established village with a fort. The time is during the American Revolution, and the sloop had had to avoid being intercepted by British warships.
It describes their going up the river to Seven Tree Pond, where Robbins cabin and later his house were located. The story covers generations of early families, concluding with the birth of a baby to continue the tale.
The author likens the tough times of pioneering and settling as if it were a candle.
Mima, now elderly, says, "I think sometimes getting old is like a candle burning down. A young one grows up and the first thing he knows he's in love and marrying; and you can see something new in his eyes, deep and strong. That's like a candle when you first light it, standing up so straight and white and slim and fine; and the flame's real pretty to look at.
"But the candle burns on. Maybe it melts crooked, but the flame stays just the same shape and brightness. Maybe if the wind blows, the flame flutters some; but when the wind stops, the flame's just the same again. The candle keeps a-burning, and the tallow runs down the sides of it, and it gets all lumpy and out of shape like a woman after she's had babies for twenty years, or a man that likes his victuals.
"But the flame still burns bright and pretty. The candle gets shorter and stumpier till there ain't hardly anything left of it; but the flame's still there, burning bright, clear and brave and fine, right down to the very end."
..."That's the way it is with the right kind of people," she says, adding a description of how people grow old but keep... "until one day the candle burns down, and all of a sudden the flame gets small and then it's gone."
But history continues, generation after generation, and today there is the town of Union where Route 17, 235, and 131 intersect.
When we drive through the town and nearby countryside, we note the ponds, the river, the farms, the historic Robbins farm, the new houses.
But, like all of us, it started small and grew.
Come Spring tells all that and tells it well.
It's like you were there when it all began.
* You can buy the 866-page paperback in area bookstores or order it from the Union Historical Society, P.O. Box 154, Union, Maine o4862 or find it at www.midcoast.com/comespring (phone 207-785-5444) for $24.95. The website itself is fascinating to read, containing information about upcoming events and the fact that the Union Historical Society Headquarters is at the Robbins House on the Union Common. Scroll down to "For Sale" to find this and other historical books.
Milt Gross can be reached for corrections, harassment, or other purposes at email@example.com.
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