A highway that wasn't, a Frog Rock that was

The road that runs past our family farm in Maine was laid out by the Pilgrims of Plymouth shortly after they arrived from England in 1620.

Perhaps you didn't know this. The Pilgrim story has been told in fanciful fashion so many times that the best parts are lost.

Did Priscilla really ride to her nuptials on a white bull? The Pilgrims had no dairy cows; why would they have a bull? The only milch cow in North America at that time was at Jamestown. Captain Argall had stolen it in 1613 from the French settlers at St. Saveur in Maine.

It was a French-speaking cow, and nobody at Jamestown could talk French. So Captain Argall stole a priest, too, Father Biard, so the cow had somebody to talk with. Father Biard took care of the cow.

Things about the Pilgrims depend on which historian you disbelieve. So you haven't heard much about the Pilgrim effort to do business down in Maine.

In addition to religious freedom and the right to live on clam cakes in Massachusetts, the Pilgrims had generous privileges to exploit the New World. They established truck stations or trading posts. But they had little skill at dickering and soon failed at this. One of their dreams was an east-west highway to open up western Maine, and western North America, to trans-Atlantic shipping.

The Pilgrim highway began at the falls of the Androscoggin River at what is now Lewiston, and ended about 30 miles east at Abagadusset Point at tidewater on Merrymeeting Bay in the present town of Bowdoinham. The Pilgrims gave up before such a highway was built, but as an idea it came to pass two centuries later with the Grand Trunk Railroad from Portland to Montreal. But that part of the Pilgrim highway that runs past our old farm on Lisbon Ridge was built, and exists today as the Gould Road.

My grandfather was glad to have this remote association with the esteemed Pilgrims on record, and constantly spoke of it so we all knew, but I think the matter may be forgotten now by everybody save me. My grampy also wanted us to bear in mind that one of our ancestors married a granddaughter of Elder Brewster and if the old goat had known how to haggle we could be rich today.

If we didn't keep a hotel on the Chicago road, at least we'd have a good place to set up a highway vegetable stand. The Pilgrim highway has been passable from time to time all the way, but today a good part of the route has grown to forest.

While Grampy lived by such a famous road, he seldom used it, except for his weekly trip to town to sell his eggs and buy his groceries. The road was plugged with snow in winter and muddy in the spring, and there was no need to go anywhere, anyway. However, he always made a ceremonial trip to Abagadusset Point every spring to get a load of tommycods to feed his pigs. I never made the trip with him.

The tommycod is a sea-run fish that comes into fresh water along with the spawning smelts. Spring smelts are a delicacy and tommycods are not considered so. In times gone by, spring smelts were netted through holes cut in the bay ice.

Tommycods netted with them were tossed aside on the ice as trash, and the smelts were boxed with ice and sent to market. The tommycods, all a-wiggle at being taken out of the water, would freeze instantly upon hitting the ice and curled up like chips. My grampy knew about this and took advantage of the Pilgrim highway. He'd tie barrels on his two-sled and use the last of the winter's snow to get a load of cheap hog feed.

Being frozen, the tommycods would keep some time, and he'd boil a bushel or so every other day on an arch in the barnyard. The pigs enjoyed them. Grampy would dump a pail of hot tommycods into the hog trough and shout, "Hooray for Plymouth Rock!"

A couple of rods uphill from Grampy's RFD box was another rock known as the Frog Rock. It was glacial granite, left by the receding Ice Age, and it took no imagination whatsoever to notice that it resembled a pop-eyed bullfrog sitting there, beside the road, waiting to snap at a fly.

It had been there a million years waiting for the fly. It was such a thing as the Old Man of the Mountain, except for size and location, and it was the thing to see in our district. When somebody came down the road, ours was the place just beyond the Frog Rock. Somebody coming up the road would be told, "If you go past the Frog Rock, you've gone too far."

The Frog Rock was not on our farm, but we always felt some equity in it and it was the outer edge of our extra territory. "Don't go beyond the Frog Rock!" the children were cautioned.

When automobiles came to defile our heritage, our part of the Pilgrim highway was the first to be paved. Before the hot tar was applied, the crew straightened a few curves and made shoulders with ditches.

Bulldozers were not yet in use, so they rigged tackle and tipped the Frog Rock over into the swamp so it sank into the mud and disappeared. My grampy told me that when he found this out he cried, hurt within. "Not so much," he said, "for the lost Frog Rock, but for what has happened to mankind."

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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