River Days

Long River Winding

The River Below the Gatehouse

Whiting Street was one of the characters of the region. He was a heavy, smooth faced man, always well and always at work. He had the reputation of being miserly, and no doubt he has a passion for getting and saving money, but probably suffered no personal discomfort on this account; that is, he did not stint himself in food, clothes or housing in a manner to bring any suffering. He became quite wealthy, but he always lived in a big, unpainted farmhouse, well up on the hill on the Northampton road, about two and one-half miles from the present center. There he lived with a brother and two sisters.

Crest of the Dam

The Crest of the Dam

The cost of living was almost nothing. They had the garden and the farm to draw from, and he took pleasure in figuring up the actual cash expense, which he estimated was fifty-eight cents apiece per week. He was a very close man, but he was perfectly honest and honorable. He had no other place of business than his house. "His office was in his boots," so the saying ran. Accounts and memoranda he kept on little slips of paper, until he could deliver them at the storehouse at Northampton. He always walked back and forth to his business, even to his last days.

Mt. Tom from First Level Canal

Mount Tom From the First Level Canal
He had a horse, so this could hardly have been to save the expense of a team, his own explanation being that hitching up and caring for the creature was too much trouble. On a warm summer’s day you might often see him on his way to Northampton, with his coat over his arm, barefoot, and his shoes and stockings carried in his hand. Having made this saving of leather, he could, with a clear conscience, put his shoes on again when he approached the town. His shoes were always of stout cowhide, and he did not black them, for that made them stiff, but used grease instead. He wore a black slouch hat, which was only replaced at long intervals by a new one. A collar he never wore in his life, but his white cotton shirt had a turn-over fold at the top. His clothes, though cheap, were always clean and well mended. The farmhouse was neatly kept, and there was always plenty of wholesome food on the table. Mr. Street was fond of playing checkers and the old-fashioned game of cards he called “loo.” In this the opponents were in the habit of risking a cent or two “just to make it interesting.”
Dam before Apron was added
The Dam Before the Apron Was Added

Down to the last year of his life, he liked to drop in at some old friend’s of an evening and engage in one of these games. His acquaintances sometimes called him on his economy, and hinted he might as well spend his money as to keep it accumulating till his death for others to spend. His reply was that, "If people take as much comfort in spending it as I do in saving it, they will get a good deal, and I don’t grudge it to them."

Mt. Tom from Prospect Park

The Mount Tom Range from Prospect Park

Mount Tom.
Like a giant he lies—
With the swift flying rack
Of the storm at his back.
Let the hurricane shake him!
Let the thunderbolt wake him!
Let him stretch his huge limbs and arise
Till his head meet the skies.
Does he dream in his sleep
Where deep calls to deep,
Where the whistle resounds through the air?
Does he dream that the braves,
So long to their graves,
Are on the warpath? Does he dare
Our civilization—
The great Yankee nation?
I know not—and you do not care.

—Arthur Mitchell

© Laurel O’Donnell 1996 - 2006, all rights reserved
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This is an edited adaptation from the original publication.