The routine: door closed, music cranked up, paint brush moves to the beat. Time flies agreeably as a painting takes shape. Yesterday’s soundtrack: Warren Zevon, Talking Heads and the ever-energetic Rolling Stones.
These are places of rich history. The beautiful ruin of an apple-cider mill on Nelson’s Brook, for example. In 1815 it operated not far downstream from Sanderson’s tannery, now a beautiful ruin, too. The water swept effluent away from the tanyard, then turned an apple-grinding apparatus less than three hundred yards away. Maybe not that much water went into making cider, but the recipe isn’t currently available. One can only guess at cross-contamination. I once visited living-history Sturbridge Village where a Red Devon ox named Henry turned a whole-birch-tree sweep in circles, grinding apples. Flecks of pulp spat out from between the wooden gears into a wasp-buzzed box. I listened to a docent in a stovepipe hat describe how early American cider-makers added secret ingredients for a harder kick. Dead mice are rumored. It’s not a stretch to imagine a cider-maker topping off the barrel with a bucket of brook water .
Somewhere before 1850 both the tannery and the cider mill on Nelson’s Brook went bust and the dams got dismantled. Now wood frogs and red efts inhabit the riffles and ruins, and warblers come and go undisturbed. The big wheels are gone. There’s lots of moss gathered on these rocks, and very, very few rolling stones.