TALES OF HOFFMAN-- Bob Hoffman, Congregational Minister - Haddam Neck, Connecticut.
When Grace & I moved from B'klyn to Conn in early '41, we lived in Haddam Neck for about ten years. We became close friends with two couples who arrived on the Neck at about the same time that we did - Pansy & Bob Roberts, Dyed in the wool Tarheels, transferred from N.C. to manage the Canada Dry bottling plant in Hartford, and Arlene & Bob Hoffman - Midwesterners, Newly Ordained Minister, brought in to serve the Haddam Neck Congregational church.
The Hoffman's lived in the Parsonage, the Roberts rented the house next to the Parsonage, and Grace & I were "minding" Walter Johnson's new house close by - while Walter left for a short-lived stint in the Navy. We were all about the same age and in a short time the three families were as one, close knit, long lasting friends. We've kept in close contact over the years - the Roberts are gone - the Hoffman's are in Pa. still active in his ministry.
Bob Hoffman, minister, as you might expect is a gentle type person, easygoing and fun to be with - but prone to involvement in "unusual" incidents, alone or when we were doing things together. Like the times when-----
-1- Bob ran over a nuisance mutt- right in front of our house
-2- Bob "killed" (?) a deer with his car - just down the road from our house
-3- Bob was piloting a sleigh down the big Rock Landing winding hill ---- BIG snowstorm
-4- Bob was front-man as we pulled sleighs behind the car along the Upper Road - in zero weather
-5- Bob took Grace & I sailing and their beloved Poodle fell overboard --- Same sailing trip, and we ran aground in mid-lake
--- Bob thought it would be a nice "learning experience" to gut a hanging deer (But, that's the next tale - with Bob Roberts -- all by itself).
Yes, " Strange things are happening" - that comedian's line sure seemed to fit for Bob - things that we had a lot of laffs over together later on, tho some didn't seem funny at the time. Let me recall a bit -- I just gotta chuckle thinking about those good times we had ---
THE ****** NUISANCE MUTT
Grace & I had "imported" a Chesapeake Retriever pup from Maryland, a replacement for another Chesapeake Dog that did not return from a romp in the woods with Lobo the next door neighbor's huge German Shepherd. Neither dog came back and we believed them either caught in a trap or shot by a trapper. We knew of people not too far away who had a Chesapeake and wanted to breed him, so when Brent (short for her long titled name -- Brentwood --) came in heat, Grace was very careful to take Brent out for a walk on a leash.
Brent gets "waylaid" by the Ravitch's dog.
The Ravitch's had a chicken farm about a 1/2 mile away -- and a mangy looking mutt. Despite Grace's best efforts, the ***** mutt "had his way" with Brent. Result a litter of pups, that only "survived" for a short day.
One evening Bob Hoffman came to the door -
"El, I ran over a dog right out front. It's unconcious and bleeding - can I borrow your shotgun to put it out of it's misery?"
There's that Ravitch's mutt laying right behind Bob's car, bleeding and barely twitching. I almost felt sorry for it but couldn't help remembering the "rape/romance" with Brent. Bob insisted he should put the dog out, so he took the shotgun. I dragged the carcass by the tail to the roadside, content to have Bob do the honors and be rid of that nuisance mutt. Unfamilliar with guns, Bob was taking carefull aim, and the dog gave a great twitch, suddenly jumped up, and hobbled off into the field. If I'd had the shotgun he might not have made it very far.
--- Guess you can't win 'em all
DEER vs CAR -- DEERKILL (?)
Another time Bob came to the door, about 10PM.
"Gosh, a big deer ran out of the woods, right in front of my car and I could not avoid hitting it. It's dead, and I put it into the wagon (nice Ford station wagon). Will you come down with me and do the cleaning job?"
We talked a bit on how that happens pretty often, and he shouldn't be feeling guilty about running into a deer at nite. Went out to the car, and it's jumpin'. Both the car and the deer are jumping!! Bob started to drop the tailgate, and I stopped that quick! -- Don't stand there - come around and open a door - and stand aside, he'll be out the open door in a hurry. And, it did come out in a rush!!! Off to live another day.
Fortunate that Bob stopped by for help. I'd not want to be driving and have that "dead" deer start to jump all around in the car with me. Nice wagon too -- all messed up inside.
Them deer are hard to kill at times.
SLEIGHING DOWN THE BIG HILL TO ROCK LANDING
We lived on the Upper Road in Haddam Neck. A long - 3/4 mile long - winding road led off from the upper road, down to the Conn. River at Rock Landing. (Where the NYC to Hartford steamboat used to stop daily.)
After a heavy snowfall the Roberts / Hoffman's / Langdon's would get together for snow fun.
Even after the county plowed the roads, there was still snow, or ice, plus any follow-on snow on the road. Between us we had a couple of good sized Flexible Flyers. Sitting 2 or 3 on a sled we'd run down the hill to the Landing. One person would drive down and bring (or tow) the sleds back uphill for another run.
One nite - bitter cold, icy roads - Bob Hoffman was "pilot" on the first run. The girls had opted to all run the car down and let us check out the hill conditions. So with Hoffman as pilot, Roberts in the middle, and Langdon riding in back we took off down hill. Long, winding, icy road - flying along - and OOPS! There's a car parked on the road edge, on the outside of a curve, faced downhill so the owner could coast downhill to start the cold car in the morning.
- Roberts yelled to the pilot -- "Look out for PeeWee's car there!"
-- Pilot responds - "Yes, I see PeeWee's car."
--- Getting closer -- Roberts calls to the pilot - "Look out for the car !!"
---- Almost there, and the pilot yells - "I CAN'T TURN THE SLED ON THIS ICE !!!!!!"
Nothing to do but everyman for himself -- ditch the sled -- luckily we slid by the car safely. The sled slammed into PeeWee's car, an old junker fortunately, with a few dents and scratches already. (And, PeeWee Carlson worked for Bob Roberts in the Canada Dry plant - so no harm done.)
When the girls cautiously arrived, chains on the car for these forays, we decided to leave the hill for another time and ride the Upper Road behind the car. Shouldn't be a total loss, we can't waste all this fine snow & ice.
SLEIGHING - BEHIND THE CAR
So we repair to the Upper Road, where we all lived, "the mainroad", (the only road) along the crest of the hill that ran the length of the Neck - a mile long level stretch - never any traffic on that road - 9:30 / 10PM - bitter cold and windy. Now, we put the two sleds in tandem on about a fifteen foot long rope. Bob Hoffman, Arlene, and I on one sled --- Bob Roberts and Grace in back on the other sled, another 10ft behind us -- Pansy Roberts doing the driving for this run.
Great fun, 'cept the chains are throwing up a lot of "stuff", and Pansy is going pretty fast as icy as the roads are tonite. But, Pansy's a good driver. Arlene & I kinda hunched down a bit to get out of the wind, and hide behind Bob who was hunched down some himself.
Got to the end of that run - finally - to find poor Bob, the front man, COVERED SOLID with ice thrown up by the tire chains - and half frozen from breaking the wind for us. Close to the Roberts house now, thank goodness. So hospitable Pansy invited us in for "maybe a thimble full of N.C. Cornlikker" - while she'd "fix y'all some hot chocolate" and perhaps it will be better tomorrow nite.
SAILING - WITH THE HOFFMAN'S
One year Bob & Arlene had access to a cottage on a fairly large lake, about 25 miles from the Neck. They invited Grace & I over to spend the day with them. There was a nice 20ft sailboat at the cottage. After lunch Bob opined that we'd enjoy a sail on the lake. All was going fine, I was a bit surprized that Bob was an accomplished sailor - you learn something new every day. Then - their little Poodle, way up on the bow and barking at whatever, stretched a bit too far. SPLASH!! "Man overboard" -- and Bob, unruffled, just leaned out on the way by and scooped up the little darlin'. Happens all the time, he doesn't know enuff to stop doing that---and he'll shake all over you too.
Back to sailing along, nice easy breeze, and CLUNK! We're grounded on a bar - out in the middle of the lake. And cool Bob says - I should know that's here. It's shallow, not to worry. I'll just jump out and push us off. ---- With that Bob jumped out,and went down over his head. It was very shallow alright - on the other side of the boat. So he swam around to the shallows and pushed us off. All OK? And once again we resumed sailing. Bob calmly took off his shirt, shoes/socks, and his trousers - spread them out to dry - and we sailed along. With good 'ol Captain Bob, Minister - in his skivies. Good 'ol easygoing Bob.
We stopped to say hello a few years back --Their son David had a Custom Woodworking shop. Office Furniture primarily, but he also made fine Dulcimers - mostly on special order, and some that Bob would take to Craft Shows occasionally. Beautiful craftsmanship, and we admired one in the shop. Unknown to me, Grace asked David to make and ship a Dulcimer down to me - which he did. I admire and still enjoy that lovely instrument, even tho my playing is limited to picking away on a few simple folk songs.
Good friends - many happy hours spent together, and lots of good memories.
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