"SQUEEDUNK" (from "Remenisence of Yesteryear")

Mar 5, 2017
Houston, TX
(thoughts and memories of life's journeys)

by Rabbi Jacob Ben Avraham


What in the world is a “squeedunk” one might ask? Is it some kind of animal? Some thing to eat? Or a place tucked away in some remote corner of the world?

Well, I can sincerely say that it is a “place” perhaps not mentioned on a map, but definitely a “place”. It is a place that I often visited when I was young, a place where my aunt Solveig lived, lovingly known as “Tante Mackie”. A place in the city of Hacketstown, New Jersey, a rustic little area which also carried the name “Rustic Knolls.”

It was a place that still exists in my mind's eye, with about 10 metal mailboxes at the entrance of a long, dirt and gravel road. Mailboxes with the names, “McDonald”, “Petrecelli and Rullo”, “Montavo and Lugo” “S. Petersen” “Catcher” and other names which now elude my memory.

My mother and father would often visit Mackie (my father's sister) during the summer months, or during a Thanksgiving vacation. We would drive down from New York in our 1960 red Studebaker, and past the supermarket on the main road, past old Joe Padock's place, where the residents of Rustic Knolls would visit to fill their water jugs with fresh well water, as Joe was the only one with a well in those days.

We would make a right turn on that rustic, dirt road and head down hill. We would pass a nice looking house with spacious property on the left. It was owned by a lady who had a lamb. Sometimes the lamb would be tied up outside when the weather was nice.

Once past the “Lamb lady's” house, the forest took over. There was wooded area on both sides of the road. The road would bend and curve this way and that. Half way to Mackie's place, my father would honk the horn to warn any cars coming in the other direction that we were coming, as there was little room to pass on either side.

Once we got to the bottom of the road, the road would fork into two directions. The road to the left would go up river, to the right would end at the swimming hole.

The river that ran near my aunt's house was (and still is) the Musconetcong River, meaning “rapid stream” in Native American language. It is a river with a rocky bottom that would attract fishermen during the Spring, as the Hacketstown Fish Hatchery would stock the river with trout.

I remember fishing in front of my aunts place. I never caught any trout though, only sunfish. A few times I would venture across the river, either wadding across or my the rock dam that residents would build, to separate their properties from their neighbors'.

Across the river was all wooded area, going uphill of what I remember being a small mountain. I never reached the top though, I just explored the land to the right of my aunt's property dam. I remember an old rusted car with a lot of bullet holes in the middle of a small clearing, a memory of the Bonnie and Clyde days.

Around the edge of our neighbor's part of the river was a huge boulder where a Korean boy named Lee, a friend of the MacDonald family once caught a very big large mouth bass. My aunt showed me the newspaper clipping of that event.

My aunt's house was built with foundation stones which she and old Joe Padock got from the river. The two of them built it with these stones and fashioned wooden planks for the walls. It was a cozy little house, with two bedrooms and a sleeper-sofa which in front of the dining room table. I can close my eyes and still see it.

There was a stone fire place with a driftwood mantel, shelves on which were stored many volumes of National Geographic magazines, whatnot s, a few pictures of grandfather, one with him holding “Ousi” his pet cat, and a painting of a fly fisherman in a river.

A porch was constructed outside, with a far sighted view of the river. There was a little “frog pond” where a few spotted leopard frogs found their way to, a sign above the pond with the word “Timberdoodle” which my father had made. My aunt had also a tool shed which was close to a large white hammock, tied between two large trees.

The property, instead of green grass had white gravel, which made a crunching sound beneath my feet when I ran outside. Out there in the fresh, country air, I would play with “Ingaborg” my aunt's little black Dachshund, whom she lovingly called “Inky”.

My aunt would sometimes tell us of local happenings, of different people in the area. She told us of the “Tyner boys” whom she called “no good lazy louses”. One of them returned from Vietnam with a snake in his rucksack she claimed. She always spoke good of old Joe Padock, who helped her build her house, and of “Sophie” her best friend, who a lovingly called “aunt Sophie” who lived down the road near the swimming hole.

Sophie was a stout sort of woman who I always saw wearing farmer's overalls. Sophie's house was similar to my aunt's. Her house also overlooked the river, and she also had a hammock strung between two trees. Inside her house there was a stuffed moose head on the wall mixed in with a lot of ornaments of nature.

And so it was in that small section of the world called “Squeedunk”, that little place tucked away next to a quiet rocky river, surrounded by woods and nature's wild things.

I remember it was one summer morning when mom, dad, and me where there visiting that my dad woke me up so early in the morning. It was still dark outside, and my dad and my aunt got together some fishing gear and a heavy box-like lantern. It was one of those 60s lanterns that you could open and put in one of those big, heavy batteries. It had a handle with which to carry it and swing it here and there.

We started walking down the dirt road that lead to the swimming hole, and that' where the road ended. Yes, it was kind of scary dark, at least it was for young teen like me. I had on a T-shirt with the words “Sock-it-to-me” which was one of the sayings on the then popular TV program; “Rowan and Martin's laugh-in”. My dad reminded me, “keep your eyes on the light, walk in the light of the lantern, and you'll be safe, you won't trip and fall.

So we walked down the road to Sophie's place first to do a little early morning fishing, and after that, tried our luck by the swimming hole. There we were, the three of us, three pairs of shoes, walking in the beam of light that came from Mackie's lantern.

I was reminded of scripture, which speaks of light, of walking in the light, the light being God's Holy writ, the presence of the Almighty God among us, that substance which chases away the darkness.

That early morning fishing walk reminded me of 1 John 1:7;


Yes, indeed we did have a nice fellowship one with the other that early summer morning in the very early 60s. My father, my aunt, and me, walking down the dirt road, fishing gear in one hand, lantern in the other, talking about...well...can't really remember now, but I do remember that we caught a sucker. We threw it back in on account of it was a “garbage” fish. My aunt put some pieces of bacon fat on the hook as bait. Well, what can you expect? Not so kosher bait brings in not so kosher fish.

So many years have past, yet this memory is as clear as glass. Mom, dad, and Mackie are all buried, but their memories are still alive, their teachings still alive, and the love and respect I had for them still remains in my soul.

By rabbi Jacob Ben Avraham
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