this," I kept thinking, "I bet he'll be
sorry he didn't come with us when he finds out what he's missed."
After things had quieted down, we walked home and left
the automobile to be towed away to a repair shop. On the strength of
this experience my mother decided not to give the captain
any further instruction but to let him confine his driving to the
boat, which he understood much better.
Getting back to the Merriams, their large farm was so well managed
by the younger Mr. Merriam that it was considered a model of efficiency.
The great red barn, perhaps the largest in Middlesex County, had
entrances on three levels, including a ramp to the
upper loft to facilitate unloading hay wagons. On a summer day their
herd of cows could be seen grazing lazily in
the rolling pastureland. It was a very special herd and a source
of great pride to its owners.
About 1914 tragedy struck the farm, when an epidemic of incurable
foot and mouth disease swept through Middlesex County. This
viciously contagious cow sickness hit the Merriam farm full force; every
cow on the place had to be put out of the way. A large pit was dug in
the field and the cows were led into it and shot
and finally covered over with earth. It is said that
this unfortunate episode led to the younger Mr. Merriam's pre-mature
death. Weakened by sadness and disappointment, he contracted a bad strep
throat that developed into the pneumonia that killed him. His widow and
children remained on the farm
to keep house for Grampa. As Charlie grew older his grandfather's
automobile fetishes became increasingly hard to bear. Grampa must
have sensed this, because one Sunday afternoon in the
early twenties he called Charlie aside and told him he was going