Banner photo of Larry Eugene Meredith, Ronald Tipton and Patrick Flynn, 2017.

The good times are memories
In the drinking of elder men...

-- Larry E.
Time II

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Mark Trail and Lost Stuff: Viewing Rockwood

We were on the downward path coming off the big hill. We had just passed a curious stump in which someone had carved, "My Wife's".

These trails around here have been fairly unmarred. Someone cares enough to keep them up. They say that is what the fee goes to. In fact, just today I ordered an annual state park pass from the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control, "Protecting Delaware's Environment for Future generations" and doing a darn good job of it. The DDNREC (or more commonly DNREC and pronounced "den-reck") is kind to we seasoned citizens. We get a nice discount on the pass.
It is amazing how well kept the Northern Greenway and its string of parks is. I never see little blowing about at my feet. Even those covers of fallen leaves have been blown off the walkways. One day as I strolled through Bringhurst I noticed a white truck parked by the side of the road. In a bit two fellows came walking toward me, crossed the lot and drove off in the truck. When I came to the entry of the next road cutting through I met them again. The truck was parked along the curve. They were walking through the path, bit by bit, picking up any stray paper or other offending non-natural object along the way.

Outside of the carved stump I've never seen graffiti blotching up the view either,  not until this morning, that is. There is one of those over-reinforced bridges in Bringhurst and some miscreant spray painted "Mark" at several intervals along the top rail.  You got to feel a little sorry for the dunderhead who did this. What a pitiful like on non-accomplishment Mark must lead to make his mark this way, by marring what someone else built for other's safety and enjoyment.  Mark the Malefactor proves all the turkeys weren't cooked on Thanksgiving. This one is still waddling about, loser that he is.

When I was a wee lad a comic strip appeared in our paper called "Mark Trail". I confess, I didn't read it much as a child finding it a bit boring and preachy. It was about a guy named — gee, who'd a thunk - Mark Trail.  He had adventures along the trails of parks, defending them against villains like Mark the Malefactor and his paint can. He would see somebody like this loser writing his name on anything and proclaim, "What th!", and then he'd go punch them in the nose.

Mark Trail was created by a national forest guide named Ed Dodd in 1946 and he first appeared in a comic strip during April of that year. I would have been four at the time, a couple months from turning five. I haven't seen the strip for a while, but apparently it is still in syndication, although Dodd retired in 1978, five years before Mark Twain gave up his ever-present pipe. That pipe was lost because one reader complained. Mark should have said, "What th!" and punched the guy in the nose.

For a while Mark Trail was everywhere, in the comics of nearly 500 newspapers, in comic books and coloring books, even in two radio shows.

I've had to watch it. A couple times I caught myself typing Mark TWAIN instead of Mark TRAIL.
Both names had meaning for people traveling.  Samuel Clemens took his pseudonym from the calling of measurements off of steamboats on the Mississippi, a cry that told the Pilot the depth of the channel. A measuring line was dropped over the side with indicators along its length. If it was at mark twain the depth of the water was 12 feet (2 fathoms) safe for passage.

Mark Trail doesn't measure length, but it does show safe passage in a sense. Explorers and pathfinders would mark the trail so others could follow. When I was a boy scout this was one of the tasks you needed to pass. The Scout master or higher ranking scouts would go out and mark a trail through the woods. It might be indicated by a small pile of rocks, a broken twig or a notched tree (but seldom "My wife's" carved into stumps), things which didn't harm the environment, but to a careful observer could be followed.

It wouldn't involve spray painting "Mark" every ten feet, either.

Anyway, we have come down off the hill to the main grounds of the mansion. I would divide the grounds into three plateaus. Think of looking at the park as a wedding cake.

The highest plateau is the hill. Instead of a miniature bride and groom on the tip-top there is a gazebo. This layer kind of swirls out of the back of the second layer, beginning with back trails, which bordered that development of oversized homes. After cresting the hilltop, it quickly runs down and into Bringhurst Woods. We have pretty well covered that whole layer.

The rear of middle plateau contains the Mansion and the Carriage House and we thought we were done with this layer too. However, I discovered a few things I had never noticed before, probably because I generally walked down the woods trail by Yuppieville.

Now I see there is a sign ahead saying, "Do not enter". Ignore it. It doesn't apply to us because we are special.

Actually it is for auto traffic coming up a drive to the Carriage House parking Lot. They need to turn off toward the right just before these pillars. Only authorized vehicles and we people of the foot may proceed straight. We are going to go up by the Mansion again and take one of the trails I formally overlooked and look at a couple things back between the Mansion and Carriage House.

We've seen the conservatory before, of course. Usually when I come here to walk I swing off to the left here as I approach the building and go down a path that circles The Yard. This time I went straight by the front of the house toward the far side.

They have been trimming up the trees and grounds with Holiday lights and wreaths the last week. There are light strings on limbs all about. They are having an open house next week just in case you have reason to be in Delaware.

ROCKWOOD HOLIDAY OPEN HOUSE: Dec. 3 & 4, 6-9pm; Dec. 5, 1-4pm

* Entertainment * Photos with Santa & Mrs. Claus * Costumed Characters * Holiday Gift Shoppe * Ceremonial Lighting of the big tree & reading of "Twas The Night Before Christmas" on Dec. 3 at 6 pm.

"Deck the hall with boughs of holly, fa la la la la/Tis the season to be jolly, fa la la la la"

The malls have had their boughs of whatever holiday decor since Hallowe'en. They sing a different song, though:

Deck the halls with mercantile folly            fa la la la la la la.
Lure them in by trick, by golly            fa la la la la la la.
Lure them in with faulty ads            fa la la la la la la.
Relieve them of their money wads            fa la la la la la la.

See the ranting mob before us            fa la la la la la la.
Charging the display case in force            fa la la la la la la.
Grabbing sales goods in rips and slices            fa la la la la la la.
All marked up from last week’s prices            fa la la la la la la.

How we love that merry measure            fa la la la la la la.
Your extravagance becomes our treasure            fa la la la la la la.
Only one thing hinders our cheer            fa la la la la la la.
            Christmas comes but once a year                       fa la la la la la la.

Sorry, a little sarcasm slipped through there.

Anyway, I don't thing I ever walked down this wide gravel path that gave a view of the Mansion from this perspective. I think the reason is it led back to the maintenance shed, which was hardly attractive in its utilitarian facade. 

However, it also connected to this path that went back to another side of the carriage House and here is where I discovered new things.

Well, they are actually very, very old things, one kind of decretive and  all, but they were new to me. It shows how we become creatures of habit and thus miss much. We also misjudge the outer peel of the fruit of life, we fail to peel back the onion and banana and we miss the varied tastes that exist to enjoy. It is a lesson I have to constantly be re-teaching myself.

If I don't watch myself at my age I'll become as out of date and useless s this rusting wagon.

By the way, I wrote that poem a long time ago. I kind of started writing poetry by doing parodies of other poems and songs. It is called, "Deck the Halls". Yeah, I know, nothing witty there, is there? It is in a collection of my take-offs called, In Other Words.

Maybe you can see some of my early influences in this. I was very much a fan of Bob & Ray, Stan Freberg and Tom Lehrer growing up (heck, still am).  Freberg did a great burlesque of A Christmas Carol called "Green Christmas" and his own take on "Deck the Halls":

 Deck the halls with advertising, 

Fa la la la la la la la la. 
'Tis the time for merchandising, 
Fa la la la la la la la la. 

Tom Lehrer had some good ones on the commercialization of Christmas, too, such as: "Angels we have heard on high/telling us to go out and buy!" and "Hark, the Herald Angels sing/ Advertising wondrous things."

You know when I was walking the other day I began channeling a venquilitist and his figure. This dialogue ran through my brain, I'm not sure if my lips weren't moving or whether I was the dummy.

"Wanna sing a Christmas song?'

"Hmmph, it ain't that twelve days of thing, is it?"

"Why, what's wrong with the Twelve Days of Christmas?"

"Mean song, lots of weird things in it."

"Like what?"

"How about that thing about, 'ten lepers leaping'? Ten lepers leaping, wouldn't their toes break off?"

"That's leapers, not lepers. What's wrong with you? You shouldn't use that word anymore anyway."

"What, leapers?"

"No, lepers."

"Bah humbug!"

Here is something hiding almost buried back here where I never went. Now you might jump to the same conclusion as I and nine other leapers who suddenly appeared. At first glance we said, "Oh, a Spring House." We were wrong.

This structure is a Fruit Cellar. Joseph Shipley had it build and half of it is underground. It tended to keep a constant temperature year around and this allowed the gracious host, Joseph Shipley, surprise his dinner guests with things like still delicious pears at Christmas time. Man, I don't think my refrigerator can keep fruit juicy that long.

Obviously, if Shipley built this cellar it has been here all along; after all, he lived here between 1854 and 1867 far before I came on the scene. 

Since I hadn't discovered the old rusty wagon and the Fruit Cellar before, I decided to continue up this trail I had never taken before and see if there was anything else of interest. 

I continued around and crossed to the lane back to the upper parking lot. Here is a view of the Carriage House I hadn't taken before. It gives an idea of the size of the building.

The long roofed passage way pointing this way is off the porch where was where I took a photo of the back path by Yuppieville.

Perhaps you remember a path off of that trail completely covered with fallen leaves. Well, this is that same path from the other side. It has been swept clean of leaves, probably part of the preparations for the coming open house. 

What could this path and this lane be leading to beside the parking lot? 

There is a house toward the back, hidden back in the trees. In summer I wouldn't have seen this building. I had noticed it as I walked the main trail a few days ago, but I had never come up that side path to investigate.

I walk over to the place.

Who lived here?

It isn't a bad looking house. I am thinking some kind of caretaker.

There is an information plate, a large round disc atop a pole, near the front of the structure.

Here is what it says:

Gardener's Cottage

"Built in 1855, this house is called the Gardener's Cottage because Joseph Shipley's English gardener, Robert Salisbury was the first tenant. Shipley brought Salisbury to Rockwood to help him develop the gardens. Baltimore architects Thomas and James Dixon designed the cottage to compliment the mansion in style and building materials."

Now we know Robert Salisbury better for his culinary invention, the Salisbury Steak. (Naw, I'm just kidding about that.)

Okay, I think we have really shown everything we could on the Hill and about the Mansion. The only layer we haven't really covered is the lower one, the pastures and main parking lot area. This parking lot pictured here is the upper lot exclusively for the Carriage House. Now you might say, what is there to see below except grass to one side and macadam to the other. A surprising lot actually, so next time out it will be "The Last Plateau."

[Note: We joked a bit about leprosy, but this is an often misunderstood disease that has had dire consequences for people. The preferred name today is Hansen's Disease and if you are interested in learning a little more please click on the title and read this post, Affliction: Another Influential Person in My Life.]

1 comment:

Ron Tipton said...

Mark Trail, now that is and old comic book that is completely in the recesses of my mind. I had some of his comic books but I could never really get into them.

I still don't see anyone on these beautiful trails Lar. Where are the peeps?