Escape from Wilton — summer fun with the grandkids
One of the joys of the summer is having special time with our grandchildren in a different setting from the usual. Andover, Maine, offers that, and we have a great time there experiencing some things very different from our usual rest-of-the-year settings.
We go boating out on the lake, and the grandkids ride behind in a tube, or on a tamer level, they sit in a kayak while I pull it fast with a long rope as it shoots by me until the rope runs out as they giggle and scream at the momentary speed and the longer-lasting fun.
We also make gravel runs to the local quarry for replenishing our driveway —a year-after-year task but also a fun adventure when you have children along. These gravel runs are a regular project for my team of four workers, aged 4 to 8, and me. The work begins with a trip to the quarry. In the “old days” from a half-century to only three years ago, we’d go down to the river or back to our own pint-sized gravel pit to load up what we needed, but the new quarry in town has spoiled us.
Andover resident Steve Swasey created that quarry, and it is a massive operation. Steve’s company is one of the largest heavy construction operators in Maine, specializing in earthwork, excavation and material processing for road, bridge and other construction work, and nothing is too daunting for him or something his ingenuity can’t solve. For example, a bridge in town failed, making it very inconvenient for a number of folks to come into town by forcing them to take a long alternate route, and the state clearly wasn’t rushing to fix the bridge. Steve simply went ahead and put in something that looked like a kind of small-scale Bailey bridge (as we would call it in the Army Corps of Engineers: prefab like putting together an erector set, yet very strong) maneuvered into place using one of his large cranes and doing the job until the state got around to it —which it eventually did. I don’t know whether he had state permission to do that or just took matters into his own hands, but the latter is definitely the Maine way, well-practiced in Andover. Folks here are inclined to ask forgiveness rather than to seek permission when they see something that needs doing but “it ain’t happening.”
So our work starts with a run to the Swasey gravel pit. Kids load in our two-door (minus the actual doors) 1988 Jeep towing a big trailer (built on a rugged old truck axle). Eldest grandson Jack sits up front with me and is learning to shift the manual transmission from the passenger side (not out on the paved roads of course, but while driving around our fields and lanes). In back are the younger members of our work team, Jack’s brother Ellis and two girls, Jack’s and Ellis’ cousins Hazel and Nora. When all are safely buckled in, our adventure begins.
The gravel pit is three miles away, and as we approach it, we can see the looming face of the fair-sized mountain that they are gradually eating away and the mounds of all kinds of aggregate material in huge piles. The drive into the pit area is really quite an experience in itself. Not only are those huge mounds now on either side of our Jeep and trailer, but there’s also a whole lot of very cool earthmoving equipment all around us! My trailer gets about a third of a bucket load from a giant front-end loader and off we go back to the scales. Our load weighs in at about a ton, well under the minimum and costing us only $20; that’s Steve’s very thoughtful accommodation to his fellow local residents in what is surely at that price not a money-making sale for his company.
Back we go to pick up the kids, drive home, and spread the gravel. My younger workers have shovels sized to fit them, but Jack works with a full-sized one. After we’ve unloaded it all, the reward is to go to Mill’s Market in town for a choice of any collection of candy that adds up to $1.50 apiece. It’s a good lesson in math with Jack tutoring the younger ones to help them maximize their candy haul after their gravel haul.
So that’s how things work up here on one part of the grandkid front, and you’ve got to love it!