June 17, 2014

I Hit The Nice People Jackpot (Part One)

I Hit The Nice People Jackpot (Part One) 
By John R. Greenwood

Mrs. Forster and Daughter, Schuylerville
Thank you Jack Lewis for assembling a fifty year old book that continues to provide me with so much joy and in this case also hand delivered two of the nicest people I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting. It all happened as a result of my research into Jack’s painting odyssey down the length of the Hudson River in the early 1960’s. 

This afternoon I experienced nothing short of a lottery jackpot win. I began my work day at 4am so I jumped the wall at 2pm and headed home to grab a late lunch. My plan was to get on my motorcycle and head over to a couple of places Jack Lewis had painted in his book The Hudson River. I picked the closest possible destination which happens to be nearby Schuylerville. The focus of today's journey was the painting of a farm just north of the village. 

Large Elm, Forster Farm, near Schuylerville

The name on the painting said it was the Forster Farm. I Googled the name “Forster in Schuylerville” and, “The Yarn Shop At Foster Sheep Farm” is the first thing that popped up. The location was similar but the name was different. Was it possible that the fifty year old book had an error? What were the odds? I slid the book in my backpack and strapped it to my bike and headed east toward the river. It’s only about 10 or 12 miles from my house to the address of the Foster Sheep Farm so I was there in no time. The feeling I got when I pulled in the gravel driveway was somewhat spooky. I felt like I’d been there before. It was classic farmhouse-quaint, and it did look just like the painting. I wasn’t overly optimistic but I never hesitated a second. I parked my bike, pulled out the book and headed toward the yarn shop door. Whoops! I almost forgot my camera. I patted my side where I carry my little Sony on my belt. It wasn’t there? What the heck!  I forgot that I had changed into my jeans when I got home and I never grabbed the camera. I don’t go to the corner without it and here I was on a beautiful sunny afternoon in the country, along the Hudson, on a old farm, camera naked and feeling like somebody just ran over my chest. Oh well, the show must go on. I petted the head of the black and white dog with the brown belly sitting out front and went to the door. It was a screen door and a voice with an Aunt Bea gentleness said, “Come on in.”  In retrospect I found this extra heartwarming in itself, because I’m a six foot, 250lb. man who just got off a rumbling motorcycle and I’m walking into a yarn shop and the proprietor never flinched a muscle. She welcomed me in like a lifelong neighbor. This had good karma plastered all over it. 

I stood there a minute trying to assemble my speech. I wasn’t quite sure how to begin so I dug right in, “Is this the Forster Farm?”, I asked. 

“No,” she said, “It’s Foster, not Forster” 

My heart sank. 

There was another women sitting there knitting. She emanated kindness with her smile alone. I felt like she might have some angel like powers. I smiled back. Something good was about to happen. 

I was in this far, I might as well explain the reason for my visit. 

I introduced myself and then proceeded to explain that I had this old book full of watercolor paintings from the 1960’s that were done from various places along the entire length of the Hudson. I told her I was trying to retrace the route to see if I could find where some of the scenes were done. I handed her the book and opened it to a women and her daughter. I meant to open it to the painting of the farm with the big old elm tree out front. 

She looked at the picture and without winking an eyelash said, “That’s my mother-in-law!” 

I almost dropped dead in the middle of a yarn shop. 

I said, “You’re kidding right?”

“No, that’s her. And that’s my husband’s sister.” 

She turned the page to the painting of the house.
“Yes, that’s this house. Where we're standing used to be the side porch and that elm used to tower over the house right outside the screen door where you just came in. The tree got Dutch Elm Disease and had to be cut down.”
I felt like Jack Lewis was standing next to me grinning from ear to ear. 

I knew at that very minute that this journey was just beginning and that it was real. I knew that this was something I was meant to pursue and that it would take an army to keep me from documenting this story in some way. The best part was--the best was yet to come. Carole Foster my newest best friend in the world was about to turn my day into a lottery win for the ages. 

She said, “Let me call my husband Tom. He met Jack and I think his sister has the original painting of the house. It hung here in the house for years and when my husband's mother passed away I think his sister kept that painting.” 

All I kept muttering was, “I can’t believe I forgot my camera!”

To be continued...         Part Two: Click Here

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