Growing Up In Genegantslet
Ralph Beardsley was born in Genegantslet, lived in Genegantslet most of his life, and in 2004 died in Genegantslet. He had an abiding enthusiasm for the hamlet’s history, remembering the warm, caring people who had made it a neighborhood in his growing-up years.
Leon and Alice Beardsley, newly married, moved to the house at the sawmill in 1918. That’s where they raised their family as the boys came along—Raymond, Don, Paul, Ralph, and Glenn. The house and the sawmill remained in the Beardsley family for 80 years.
Ralph liked to reminisce about his childhood and early days at the mill, and some of his memories have been preserved—stories of home and school, neighbors and family.
The 1930s and ’40s found the Beardsley boys attending school, working on 4-H projects, and busy with chores. Ralph remembered there was always plenty of work around home, but his parents made it seem like fun to do it. Some of the chores assigned to the boys were sawing slabs into firewood, stacking wood into one-cord piles, and keeping their mother’s kitchen wood box filled. They worked in the garden, milked cows (numbering between two and eight), and cared for chickens, ducks, geese, and turkeys. During summer recess Leon Beardsley paid the boys for their work, and they would then have to stretch out their summer earnings to last the school year.
Of the many chores the boys helped with, this story was one of Ralph’s favorites:
Mom and Dad used to keep a lot of potatoes down in the cellar over the winter. By springtime, nobody wanted any more potatoes, and many were quite rotten and smelly. Dad always managed to get us boys to do projects using different incentives.
One nice spring day he told us that if we would clean out the potatoes in the cellar, we could use the sawmill pickup truck to get rid of the smelly potatoes. We were all pretty small, with Raymond being the oldest at maybe 10 or 11 years old. Don, while the second in line, was always the most daring and often led us into various fixes.
We all thought that a chance to drive the truck (a converted Overland touring car) was too good to pass up, so we all pitched in to clean the cellar. When we had the truck filled with rotted potatoes, we began to complain amongst ourselves that we would have quite a job shoveling all those stinking potatoes off the truck. Don said not to worry; the stuff was so sloppy and slippery that all we had to do was back up the truck, jam on the brakes, and everything would slide off.
We were pretty impressed with Don’s knowledge and insight on such matters as we drove over to a small gorge leading to the Genegantslet Creek. Don found the perfect downhill approach to the ravine, and away we went backward at a good clip toward the edge. Don was right! We didn’t have to shovel any potatoes off the back of the Overland. (Ralph paused telling the story.) Of course, it took us a few days of hard work to get that old truck back out of the ravine.
In addition to school and chores, the Beardsley boys had free time for fun. Genegantslet young people of the Depression era were creative enough to make their own amusement. Neighborhood activities were inclusive—all the kids participated, both boys and girls. They explored the creek and woods, helped with community parties, and visited their neighbors, many of whom kept livestock of some kind.
There was a bull in the Genegantslet neighborhood that all the kids were afraid of. It was large and snorted and pawed the ground, spraying dirt. One day when we were talking, my brother Don declared with bravado that he was going to ride that bull. The bull was in its pen, and all the kids gathered around as Don climbed up the enclosure and onto the bull’s back. Everyone speculated about how long the ride would last. As we opened the gate, the bull threw Don off before it ever left the pen. We kids scattered, concerned for Don’s safety—and our own—as the bull ran free, but the bull simply ambled away, and no one was hurt.
Although we were all afraid of the bull, the animal we most feared was a mean old cow. We Beardsley boys and some of the neighborhood kids were standing near the cow talking about how mean it was. One of the boys, with his back to the cow, bragged that he was not afraid of it. As we all watched, the cow seemed to hear the remark. She lowered her head and hooked her horns under the boy’s buttock. Then, lifting him, she tossed him easily over her shoulder. The boy landed on the cow’s back and bounced to the ground. Fortunately, he was not seriously injured. The cow maintained its reputation.
When Ralph Beardsley died, the community lost a fine man, and we lost a friend. We are glad to have some of his memories of how it was growing up in Genegantslet. Stay tuned to hear about the mysterious schoolyard fire…
- Christine and John Buck
Genegantslet Brothers: Don Beardsley holding Pedro the Duck, Ralph Beardsley, and Paul Beardsley circa 1937