A Crooked Little Brook, Orange County, New York

I am well aware of the many omissions and errors incident to the compilation of so small a historical narrative as the present one, and I trust the reader will accord a generous measure of charity for its imperfections. If I have brought to mind recollections of youthful scenes and incidents to the aged, and inspiration and renewed interest and ambitions to the young of the present day in their native county I shall be content, for no fairer land than Orange County can be found in any clime, though one search the world over. To those who have found homes in far-off places from their native county there will always be brought to mind some pleasant picture of her green fields, wooded mountains, lakes, rivers and little brooks that flow through her valleys and vales. In the Town of Blooming Grove, over in the valley of “the Clove” that lies on the west side of the picturesque Schunnemunk range, a few miles from the beautiful little village of Washingtonville, there’s….

A Crooked Little Brook

I used to fish in that crooked little brook when a boy. Crooked! A corkscrew is as straight as a gun-barrel, compared with this crooked little brook. It rises high up in the mountain in a tiny little spring, ‘where the trailing arbutus grows amid the snow banks in the early Spring and scents the mountain air with its delicate perfume. This crooked little brook lays tribute on a score or more little springs on its way down the mountain, until it has outgrown the swaddling clothes of a rivulet and assumes the dignity of a brook, fit for a trout to make its home in. It goes wandering through the green meadows as though all the year were balmy Summer and it had nothing to do but kill time and loiter about the green fields in shady nooks.

Crooked ! Not a trout with its red and golden hues, or a silver-plated shiner that flashes its glittering scales in the sunlight down in its limpid pools, can tell whether it is swimming up-stream or down. The purple-plumed iron weed and the bending goldenrod that bow to each other in the gentle wind with stately grace across this crooked, singing little brook, do not know whether they are standing on opposite sides, or if they are on the same side, which side it is. All the way across and through the meadows it plays hide-and-seek with itself, boxing the compass in its erratic wanderings every few rods.

When the mountain snows have melted in the early Spring it makes its debut in the meadows when the wind anemones commence blossoming way up in the hills. When the wild flowers put on their brilliant Spring decorations, when the violets open their blue eyes and the buttercups hold forth in all their glory amid the green grasses of the meadows, this crooked little brook seems to sing a sweeter song. Bye and bye the violets close their blue eyes, fade and droop, yet this little brook, never daunted in its lazy, wandering course to the mighty Hudson, on its way to the boundless sea, sings merrily to the wild roses that have come to adorn the meadows and the banks of this crooked little brook in full summer dress, each with its lovely pink bonnet and clusters of buds that nod and bow to all the other wild flowers in the gentle Summer breeze.

Even the birds knew of this beauty spot, and loved it well, for they built their summer homes in the trees along the banks of this crooked little brook. When the curtain of the night fell they sang their vesper hymns in unison with its babbling water. And oh, what a rare treat it used to be to listen to their sunrise concert. T. experience to the full the music of this sunrise concert, it was necessary to get a front seat in a spot where the willows and the maples overhung a bend of the crooked little brook, a few moments before the first colorful streaks of daylight appeared. When the first streaks of dawn began to disperse the night shadows the grand symphony opened with the carol of the robin piercing the cool morning air. Then followed in rapid succession the tremolo of the chirping sparrow, the clear, sweet whistle of the meadow-lark, the tenor of the song-sparrow, the gentle warble of the wood-thrush, the high-pitched voice of the scarlet tanager, the raucous laugh of the flicker, the sad minor notes of the blue bird, the phoebe and turtle dove. And the concert usually wound up with the explosive shrieks, whistles and cat-calls of that reckless, rollicking roisterer, the blue-jay. And so it continued all the livelong day.

And when the Fall came and the wild flowers had shed their brilliant colors, when the wild rose had thrown away her pink bonnet and put on her little red Winter hood, when the rushes were brown and the colt’s foot withered, when the golden rod was gray and the purple iron weed plumed with feathery down, this crooked little brook seemed just as happy as when it emerged from the mountain in the early Spring, although Jack Frost was marching across the gorgeous green meadows and sealing up the waters in the shallow pools.

I used to pause in wonder and amazement in boy-hood days and wish that the years of life would drift along as quiet and peaceful as the cool waters of that crooked little brook; that my days would be as full of frolic and fun as were the days of the frisky little fish that darted hither and thither in play among the roots and rocks that filled its course and impeded its wanderings. There were so many things to see and admire in those meadows, no wonder this crooked little brook loitered on its way. It had a habit of singing little runs and trills with the most inimitable melodies as it ran around and over rocks and stones that were largely interested in the moss business.

And when the Winter came and Jack Frost had sealed up the shallow water in this crooked little brook; when the merry birds of Summer had taken their departure for the sunny South, every frisky trout and shiner knew that he must hide himself away to the deep pools and while away the weary Winter months dreaming, yes, dreaming of the pleasures of bygone days, just as we mortals in the twilight hours of life are so wont to dream of the past.

Washingtonville, N. Y., October 1928.

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