Our New Hampshire homestead experience was rich with the everyday happenings that never happen anymore. This was the last time I experienced a true country lifestyle.
We always entered the house at the side, through the kitchen door. I didn't know there was a front door, or even a front porch for a while, because it was never used. The kitchen was small and had a big white sink next to a hand pump to bring up the well water. This is not as easy as having modern indoor plumbing, but was much easier than having to lug buckets of water from an outside well.
In the dining room, large windows with many panes stretched along one side of the house. The glass was old and appeared to have melted to the point where it was twice as thick at the bottom as the top. All the floors in the house were wooden, but I only distinctly remember the dining room floor. I spent a lot of time under the table in there, taking every advantage of being small and flexible. The old wooden floors were painted grey, and walking across them made the most satisfying clomping and creaking sounds.
At night, for a brief time between sundown and bed time, our old farmhouse was lit with hurricane lamps placed here and there. We had no television or radio, or even electricity. We entertained ourselves and each other. This was the same for most people around those parts, so it was quite common for people to stop by unannounced. It was the country way.
One cold evening, before the snow, a man with a fiddle came to visit.
No one can tell me who the man was. This was the only visit I remember from him. He could have been a complete stranger who was passing through and saw our lights. Who would turn down the company of a man with a fiddle?
He was a nice man. ( I say this because I believe I was a good judge of character at age four. With all the people coming and going from my life by then, I had more than the good and evil detector of youth, I also had a little experience.)
The fiddler was a nice man. I watched with great anticipation as he took his fiddle from the case. He showed me the instrument and allowed me to pluck the strings as he tightened the hair of his bow. Somebody said something about cat guts that I didn't understand. I was warned to be very careful! but I didn't need to be told this. This instrument came out of a velvet lined box, so of course I knew to be careful.
I took my favorite spot under the table. I didn't want to push my luck and get sent to bed early because I was in the way. Through the legs of those standing around the room I saw the fiddler raise his bow.
Immediately my hands shot up to cover my ears when he started to play. It was pure reflex to the intensity of the sound that burst forth from the instrument. The sound filled the room. It bounced off the wooden floors and sagging glass windows and found me in my hiding spot.
After the initial shock was over, my ears adjusted, and I began to hear that the sound was actually the most delightful music. It must have been a jig. Jigs have a driving, irresistible beat that even the shyest people find they must force themselves to NOT clap.
I watched in amazement as the adults who always seemed so stern, began to clap and tap their feet. After a "whoop" or two was let loose, I knew it was safe to come out from under the table.
Quickly, the music took over and I began to DANCE! I didn't know how to dance, but the music taught me, right then, right there. I remember my shear delight looking down at my legs as I hopped rhythmically back and forth. The brown corduroy pants I wore swished and swiped while my hard shoes kept beat with the music The adults clapped to the beat with smiling faces, making it all too irresistible.
The visiting fiddler left sometime after I had gone to bed. Naturally, he hadn't come to see me, but I was forever changed by his jig.