The Grotto

Grotto 58

I have recently connected with people I knew when I was five and six  years old from a place called Camp St. Joseph.  It was in the Catskill Mountains near a town called Monticello and it carries some of the most magical, and haunting, memories of my childhood.

St. Joe’s was run by Dominican nuns and as one so young,  I lived in fear of the old-school Catholic rituals that accompanied summer fun.  At that stage in my life, nuns terrified me: I was convinced that they never went to the bathroom, something I probably got from their floor-to-head habits  and rosary beads tied around their waists. With all of that encasing them, how could they possibly deal with a toilet? Each day began with a brief service in our own on-site chapel, with a full-blown, often including incense, Mass on Sundays. Our homes were quaint little red and white cabins, six or seven girls to a cabin, with a resident nun to keep things copacetic.

And so now, fifty years later,  there are two special things about St. Joe’s that have especially haunted my dreams, and they are both about a place.  But for now, I’ll talk about just one: The Grotto.

For an impressionable six-year-old, The Grotto was a magnificent, but very scary, place. It was Carved into the side of a hill, it housed a statue of Our Lady along with other relics, carvings in Latin, and a gated area where visitors lit votive candles in memory of loved ones passed on.  We had many special ceremonies there, singing chorus after chorus of the  hymn “Immaculate Mary,”  while we marched in procession feeling awe and fear that only the Catholic church could instill in young children.

The camp is long gone, burned down to make way for homes, golf courses, and country clubs, but for all these years, I have  wondered if anything remained, in particular, The Grotto. And so, just this past week, one of the former boys campers (the boys camp was on the opposite side of the lake from the girl’s camp) returned from a nostalgia trip to the land where the camp once stood, and of course, he looked for The Grotto. This is what he found:

(Photos courtesy of Bob Furia)



Buzzy Goes to the Dentist

Yep, my 845 pound Standardbred had his first visit to the dentist in a very long time the other day. Actually, the ‘dentist’ came to him and the ‘dentist’ was our vet who from a most practical point of view, always makes house, um, that is, barn calls.100_0618

To be blunt, Buzzy needed to see the dentist, as in badly. For the last few months, he was dropping grain and leaving great gobs of grass behind when he grazed. Fortunately, he hadn’t lost weight, but mainly because we’d upped the ante on his daily grain and hay rations.

Horses need dentistry because over time their teeth develop very sharp points that make it difficult for them to chew properly as well as potentially cause ulcers in their mouths. With Buzzy there is the additional complication that many years ago, he’d been kicked in the jaw and had it broken by an unwilling mare. He’d had to have emergency surgery to wire it back together. He came out of this ordeal with several missing teeth and one very pronounced snaggletooth, which he takes great pleasure in displaying.

So our vet Anne came and Buzz was first in line. Protocol is to sedate the horse and then Anne has this marvelous device on which she places the horse’s head while she does her job.  She gave Buzzy the standard amount of sedative for a horse his size only it hit him as if it had been the standard amount for a much bigger horse. We got his nose up from touching the ground, and two of us together lifted his head onto the shelf but then it became very interesting. Let it be said – his teeth got done and he is a new horse in many ways. But, in this process, it took two, sometimes three of us to keep him on his feet. Have you ever seen a horse swaying in the breeze? Or one who has fallen (hard) off the wagon? That was my Buzzy!

Like I said, now he’s a different horse. Today it didn’t take him 15 minutes to eat ½ quart of grain and he didn’t leave tufts of grass everywhere when he grazed. He even seemed happier with the bit in his mouth and that snaggletooth positively sparkled in the sunlight.

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