Wyvis’ Fence

When Wyvis Bushway bought the McKean place sometime after the War, farms cost less than a used car today. Those who knew Wyvis had no idea where the money came from, but it was gone within a month or two. Some said it was his G I Bill money, others opined that it was an inheritance from his uncle on his mother’s side in New Hampshire.

The McKean place was an ornery stretch of land, set right on Route 15 just north of Wolcott. In spring, the front meadow near the road was a boggy swale through which no one would drive a team of horses, much less a tractor. The price seemed right to Wyvis and he needed to begin an enterprise and generate income to feed the brood that Peaches began to bear shortly before their wedding in Morrisville at the Puffer Methodist.

Not sure what enterprise suited him, Wyvis threw himself into several. He bought a pig, two heifers, a pair of Belgians recently retired from logging, a ‘43 Ford, and a 1936 John Deere H with a cast iron capstan bearing the John Deere logo. To start the cranky kerosene engine one hand to spin the heavy capstan by hand. The H ran on kerosene which was cheap, but had to be started with gas so there were two fuel tanks beneath the rusty green cowl. There was no rubber on the back axle, just four-foot cast iron wheels with opposing diagonal ridges for traction in a dry meadow. These became anchors in a wet meadow. The power takeoff on the rear had a belt-drive wheel for which Wyvis bought a rusty, but sharp 42” steel saw mounted on an oak frame with a large fiber belt to connect it to the tractor. He then walked into Graves Hardware on Portland Street and unceremoniously bought for cash one of every practical tool he could find. This last purchase depleted his reserves, leaving only enough for four bottles of a home-made liquor known as “screech” and a large fly-specked ham haunch curing in Patch’s walk-in cooler.

Peaches was delighted with the last purchases and tucked into them both with glee. Often with child, she had the innate sense to drink only a couple of glasses of screech, but then again, a couple of glasses of screech usually left her snoring on the sofa with ham grease on her chin, which, after the birth of Godfrey, had sprouted a distinctive stubble.

Through good luck and hard work Wyvis’ various enterprises grew. He borrowed a neighbor’s bull, “freshened the girls” and began a small milking herd. Peaches taste for ham led to an early demise for the new pig, but the sale of one salt-cured haunch led to the purchase of two piglet sows and a bristly young boar that lived happily in a new sty made from vertically arranged hardwood pallets scrounged from the grain dealer in Hardwick.

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3 Responses to Wyvis’ Fence

  1. Karla Bushway says:

    Was Wyvis Bushway his real name, or is he based on somebody? He’s from the same region as my g-g-gf, so I’m naturally curious to see if he might be related.

    • Sorry for the long delay, my site has been undergoing an overhaul. Name is made up from Bushways and a Wyvis I knew. I went to school with a Jimmy Bushway and new a Wyvis Fiske. Bill

  2. schubart says:

    Karla,
    It was a made up name and character, drawn from several characters I knew in the Fisk family and the Bushway family. Jimmy Bushway was a classmate. Is he your uncle?
    Bill

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