August 18, 2013

Gift of old books stirs memory


---- — I’m opening a time capsule again.

While we were camping this summer, I received a phone call from Pat Lobdell. “Herbert H. Dewey,” she began. “What do you know about him?” I was in a vacation fog and begged her forgiveness. 

Slowly, the brain mist cleared. Herb Dewey — yes, I had heard of him. He ran a store in Cadyville before I moved here. He was an interesting character who loved to write poetry. Some of it was done in a French dialect.

My friends Ron and Millie Sears had told me about him. He sounded like a character I would find unforgettable. I wish I had met him. We would have sat for hours and palavered (there’s an old word for you). He had an interesting take on life, especially life in this area, and I enjoyed his view of the world. 

I hadn’t heard his name for years until Pat rang my number and asked if I would like a copy of his book, “Ramblings of a Convalescent: Homespun Philosophy And Dialect Tales in Prose and Verse.” It was written in 1950, and on the cover, he described himself as “The Rambling Poet of the North Country.” His little book of 102 pages was published by Moorsfield Press in Champlain.

I love treasures and told her I would gratefully accept her gift, which she promised to put into the mail post haste. But there was more. She had two books written by my friend the late George Abbe from SUNY Plattsburgh. Would I like them as well? Heck, yes!

I was like a little kid waiting for his Captain Marvel mystery ring to appear in the mailbox. Soon, my care package arrived, and I couldn’t wait to view the contents. 

Dewey’s book was there along with Abbe’s “Yonderville,” from 1968, and “Collected Poems,” published just after I arrived to begin my radio career here in 1961. 

Both Dewey and Abbe have been compared to Henry David Thoreau and his love for Walden Pond. I wrote a college senior thesis about him in 1960, referring to him as a “home-bred philosopher.” On the back cover of Abbe’s “Yonderville” book, he was called “as American as Thoreau, as indigenous as hickory nuts.” 

If you haven’t yet discovered Abbe’s work, look it up. You won’t be disappointed. He was loved and revered by all who knew him in and out of the local college community. My radio listeners knew that each time someone called me with news of an injured bird or animal, I would call George, day or night, and he would respond. Those were the days before we had licensed “wildlife rehabilitators” around here.

Inside the front cover of “Yonderville,” Abbe wrote “For Pat and Archie — faithful savior of our wildlife. In admiration and friendship. George Abbe.” 

He was a prolific writer with a special style, and I hope this little piece about him serves to keep his memory alive. 

As for Herbert Dewey, chances are, if you aren’t a Clinton County native, you’ve never even heard his name. Too bad. The title page of his book says he is “reflecting Fifty Years as Farmer, Salesman and Country Storekeeper.” 

He dedicated it to his eight grandchildren: Norris, Linda Lea, Betty, Kathleen, Donna Rea, Eileen, Dwight and Stewart. I have been told some of his descendants still live in the Morrisville area. 

Among other things, he writes humorously about his 1949 appendectomy performed in Plattsburgh by Dr. Litna.

He talks about going to the county fair as a youngster and recalls how his dad tried to steer his mother “past the Hoochie Show.” He writes of the D & H steam trains and included a wonderful tribute to Tom Powers, “a faithful and pleasant mailman for 37 years.”

His last poem ends with this line: “... the view one gets from Old Rand Hill Show the Whole World at its best.”

I’ve said the same thing about our River Room on the Saranac.

Have a great day. Thanks, Pat, for the memories, and please, drive carefully.

Gordie Little was for many years a well-known radio personality in the North Country and now hosts the “Our Little Corner” television program for Home Town Cable. Anyone with comments for him may send them to the newspaper or email him at