Where in world...?

An old friend phoned the other day. He never phones. But this time he just had to know: "What are you doing living in Florence?"
He thought I was in Florence, Italy. I told him it was Florence, Massachusetts.
Here are some answers -- my occasional wanderings through Florence, MA and the surrounding Pioneer Valley.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

The Hatchet Lady at Taylor Farm

Photo by Callie Bundy; norwalk.patch.com
A long time ago, when I was growing up on Long Island Sound in Connecticut, I was brought to this place by a day camp counselor or two. One of them singed her eyebrows trying to start a barbecue for us, while the other one insisted on sending us away to play hide and seek after scaring us with a story about the hatchet lady who lived in the thicket of trees at the top of the Taylor Farm property. Making this problematic was the fact that people would often park their cars at the farm when watching the Fourth of July fireworks at Calf Pasture Beach across the street. Wouldn't the hatchet lady have them for dinner on the Fourth?

I was visiting my family for the Labor Day holiday weekend so that they could meet Joey. We had never been to a dog park, since they weren't really popular when we had the family dog. At first my brother suggested going to the other dog park in town because he remembered Taylor Farm and Calf Pasture Beach lay underwater for days after Hurricane Irene. But the beach is irresistible.

Photo by Callie Bundy; norwalk.patch.com
This time: no hatchet lady, no stupid camp counselors, but just lots of dogs and dog owners ready to make conversation. It's interesting to imagine how the Taylors (if they were the farmers) held this piece of land with their cattle grazing on what is now our city beach, across the street from the farm.

As a kid growing up in this town, we learned nothing of its history, not how this piece of land came to be a farm, or how there had been a vicious Revolutionary War battle fought a half mile away from my former middle school. We weren't even told that my former middle school was once an airfield because it sits at the highest point in the town. Even worse, I certainly never remembered writing down "1651" in my third-grade notebook for the town's incorporation. In fact, it was incorporated on September 11, 1651. This means Norwalk is 360 years old at the end of the week.

Calf Pasture Beach (wiki.worldflicks.org)
What I do know now, besides the fact that I had some pretty crummy public school teachers and will not excuse their failings, is that the name of this town is only one of two municipalities in Connecticut to retain its original Native American name. The name "Norwalk" is deceptive when placed against the other Fairfield County place names such as Westport, Ridgefield, and Easton because it looks like a match. But in fact this was the name of the Native American tribe that lived here on the water, digging up oysters and clams, catching lobsters, and fishing for dinner. I wonder what they did with the horseshoe crabs that I used to see lurking near shore.

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