A New Homeland—Part III

July 20th, 2012 → 3:15 pm @ // No Comments

Everyone on board was emotionally overcome and some even had tears in their eyes as we gazed at the Statue of Liberty and the spectacular skyline of Manhattan. Our journey, however, wasn’t yet complete. After checking through Immigration we were given two train tickets to Albany, New York and before midnight we departed from Grand Central Station for northern New York State. As the train rumbled northward through the night we were disappointed in not being able to see the countryside that we were passing through.

Father and I arrived in Albany about three o’clock in the morning. A very warm and friendly man in his forties met us at the station. He led us to his car, a 1938 Chevrolet, and we drove off into the night. About an hour and a half later we pulled into a desolate farmyard, after having traveled along a dirt road for the last couple of miles. This was home, somewhere near Grand Gorge, about sixty miles from Albany.

Our driver escorted us to the porch of an old two-story run-down farmhouse and opened the door that led into a poorly lit and unkempt living room. He then, very politely, introduced us to the three people who lived there and who had obviously been anxiously awaiting our arrival.

The owner of the farm was a man about my father’s age and he welcomed us with a broad grin and a hardy handshake. Both of his legs were missing below the knee and he was sitting in a dilapidated wheelchair. He would later tell us that his legs were amputated because of bone cancer. Next, his elderly mother nearby, confined to an old wheelchair as well, greeted us warmly.  One of her legs below the knee was also missing due to the ravages of bone cancer. Behind the owner’s wheelchair stood a short, stooped-over fellow who appeared to be in his late twenties. He had a half-smiling confused look on his face and remained silent. We would soon discover that he was severely mentally challenged.

All three of the people we were being introduced to appeared to need a bath and a change of clothing. To say the least, it was a disillusioning beginning. Nevertheless, we were still happy to be in the United States and too tired to be much concerned about anything else at that moment. 

As the little guy was about to show us to our bedroom on the second floor, our driver bid us farewell and quickly disappeared into the night. That was even more disappointing for me. He was a very likable individual and I’d hoped that he’d also end up being a member of the household. 

The next morning, only after a couple of hours of sleep, I looked out of our bedroom window and was flabbergasted by the spectacular view of the countryside surrounding the farm. The rolling hills, meadows, and woodlands in the bright sunlight were much more impressive than I’d anticipated. The man who’d brought us here from Albany was also back. Maybe things weren’t as bad as they seemed before daybreak.

After breakfast in a dingy, fly-infested kitchen, Father was given an old pair of coveralls and shown his chores around the farm. He was also told that his wages would be sixty-five dollars a month, plus room and board. The sad fact was that from then on Father worked from dawn until dusk every day with limited help from me, trying to run a thirty-head dairy farm.

There was no powered machinery. The cows were milked by hand, and the hay for the winter was mowed, raked, and pulled into the barn with the use of two horses. Father got some help from the mentally-challenged fellow, but his time was primarily devoted to taking care of the two invalids.  Occasionally our driver friend would stop by and help, especially with the mowing and storing of hay, but most of the time it was up to Father to get the work done. 

To add to the discomfort, there was no indoor plumbing except for the running water in the kitchen. We took our baths in a small stream in back of the farmhouse. It was a good thing we’d arrived in the middle of the summer.  What would we do in the middle of winter? Finally, I don’t recall meeting any neighbors from the surrounding area. Our employers seemed to have few friends. Down deep we were determined to stick it out.

Tags: , , , ,

Leave a Reply