This is a serialization of the new book written by Carl Flowers, owner of Silveus Plantation, the subject of “Groton’s Anonymous Mistress.” The 300-year-old home is accessed by Kemp Street near the boundary of Groton and Dunstable.
One day, without asking, I thought it would be a great idea to take one of the calves for a walk. I thought the calf would enjoy getting out of its pen to get a little exercise and a cool drink of fresh water from the brook. A problem arose when I tried getting the calf back to the barn. I just dropped the rope I had around its neck and ran off to see if Mrs. Simmons would give me a hand with my ill-fated venture. She agreed, but no matter how hard the two of us tugged we couldn’t get the calf to budge. In fact, the calf pulled harder against us than we could pull against it. We were losing ground. Mrs. Simmons decided she had better get Mr. Simmons. He could tie the rope to the truck and pull the calf to the barn. As it turned out, we didn’t need the truck. When Mr. Simmons grabbed onto the rope and began pulling, the three of us were able to get the calf back to the barn. Mr. Simmons wasn’t happy about the episode. He made the point quite clear to me.
My favorite times were the afternoon when we herded the cows in for milking. This chore was a big hit with me and in time, I got to do the herding by myself. I even got to do some of the milking, but most of the time I cleaned up and gave each cow a scoop of grain and a small pile of hay to hold them over until they were let out of the barn.
Hay season was another lofty hit. That’s when I got to ride on the tractor with Mr. Simmons. No matter whether we were mowing, raking or baling hay, my designated place was on the tractor’s draw bar. The only requirement was to hang on as tight as I could, and know where my feet were when we started to make a turn. This way they wouldn’t get snagged by the tow bar as it pivoted on the draw bar.
This can’t be done today because most tractors don’t have a draw bar. Everything is run by the tractor’s power takeoff system and pulled from a three-point hitch. With a draw bar, the equipment was pulled by the tractor, causing the equipment’s wheels to turn. The turning wheels of the equipment caused the required task to be performed. I got scolded a time or two when I stood backward on the draw bar so that I could see what the rake or any other implement might be doing. The rule was to always stand on the draw bar facing forward rather than backward. By standing forward I would be able to see what I could grab onto if I started to fall.
Back then, the adults engaged in an ongoing debate about the Mistress’ age. We now know how old she is, but in the 1950s, my Uncle Elmer said she dated into the late seventeenth century. My Aunt Marian, who was my mother’s other sister, said she was early eighteenth century. The argument was one of those great family disagreements to be resolved when I became an adult. The debate was placed on the agenda of things needing to be done, but with no specific date for completion. As it has turned out, my Aunt Marian was right and never should have been doubted. She was a United States history professor at the University of Wisconsin in Milwaukee.
These and many other experiences are what buried a hook deep into my heart. I think of the Mistress as my ancestral home. I can’t think of anyone on my mother’s side of the family who didn’t spend a few nights with the Mistress. The same is true for some of my father’s family. I haven’t missed a summer since 1949, even though some of the visits might have been only a week or so. She became mine in 1980 when my Aunt Esther and Uncle Elmer died. That’s when I started dreaming for the day I could be with the Mistress full-time.
Between 1980 and 1998 when I took early retirement from teaching in the Broward County School System, I nibbled away at modernizing the Mistress to restore her to what she had been decades earlier. It’s important to understand that when the Mistress became mine, I had to dig into my savings to pay some of her inheritance tax. The tax wasn’t a lot of money, but who in their right mind pays to inherit something? If I hadn’t paid the money to the tax man, the Mistress could have been torn down and her surrounding domain bulldozed into house lots. More than one or two buyers were standing on the doorsteps ready to make offers for the Mistress’s domain.
To be continued.