Gone Exploring

My first four years of school days were at the North School on Old Main St., Marshfield Hills. I was one of the first to be picked up by Horace Keene in his big yellow Ford bus. It was  a 45-minute ride, picking up about 20 kids from Seaview and the Hills. After peering out the bus windows for four years, I knew every nook and cranny of interest to me.

The fifth and sixth grades were held in the South School known as The Alamo.  This now was a longer bus ride through new territory, which offered much more to see and new places to explore.

There was no entertainment provided for kids in Seaview, nor were there any kids the same age. Entertainment was self-made.  My choice  was the woods and my dog. The woods always offered something of interest……..trees, birds, small animals, berries to eat, a drink from the spring-fed stream.  My dog was my pal, my slingshot was my friend.


A new & readied  maple crotch


                                                                Ready to go with a good supply of round stones.

Some of the kids I knew had a home-made slingshot or wanted one.  These were used for sport rather than hunting… the sport of shooting every tree in range, every old post holding the barbed wire fence that once kept in livestock.  Anything that moved was a target also… squirrels, rabbits, jays and the huge flying grasshoppers.

The best ammo

Homemade was the only way I could afford one. I was always on the lookout for a fork in a tree of the right size. The fall and winter was the best time to search for the perfect fork.  The best searching was from the school bus ride to or from school. I found the greatest  source was on Church St., near the corner of Ferry St., in this once grazing field. There were sprouting Maple saplings by the hundreds.  Maple tree forks were very desirable.
After many trips passing by these trees and spotting a number of crotches, it made a bike trip worthwhile.  My bike and my saw!  Yes, saw, not a hatchet, as hatchets make noise that attracts attention, and I was on someone’s property without permission, cutting down trees… but just small ones!  One afternoon I ventured to Church St., found a spot to conceal my bike, and headed to the area where I had  spotted saplings with  perfect forks. The only way to retrieve  the forks was to cut the sapling down. After retrieving 4 perfect forks, it was time to leave and I was hoping not to get caught!  Then a speedy bike ride home to admire my loot!  Next came the long process of skinning the bark, drying out behind the kerosene stove, cutting it to size, notching for the tie strings, cutting the pouches out of old shoe tongues, and carefully cutting  the rubber bands from a used red rubber tire tube.
Old tire tubes and ball bearings were readily available from my mechanic friend at  the Seaview Garage two doors from my house.   You always had to have more than one fork ready for use because occasionally these broke and a back-up was necessary.

During this “slingshot-finding” excursion, I spotted another place of interest…. a cave opening not far from the street. It certainly needed to be explored . I asked a school-mate, who lived in the area,  about the cave, and he told me it was a winter tomb.  Well, now I wasn’t  very excited to explore this, and no  interest  to venture inside, so it remained a mystery  to me for many years.

Entrance to the mysterious  cellar

Recently, I have researched private tombs with a likeness  to winter tombs.  It didn’t take long to realize that root cellars looked like tombs. Upon further research,  and seeing the informal way the winter tomb was built,  with the entrance on the east side, and it’s location, all point to a root cellar. It may have been built as early as the late 1700’s….more likely near the time that the Ames homestead was built in 1855,  and used by that family.

The Ames homestead

Had I had known that it was a root cellar, I might have ventured inside as others after me had done.  It has been referred to, as the ”Beer Cave”, by a local resident. He told me  that it was a perfect spot for he and his friend to hide away drinking beer that was kept cold in the  spring water nearby.

As the root cellar looks today and a look inside.


As I explored further ,   I found  a stream that was lined with boards for a hundred feet or more. This was another mystery……possibly the remains of some kind of fish pen.   These  boards had been  driven in along both banks  forming a canal- like structure. I found a few worms under a nearby rock and tossed them in to satisfy my curiosity, and…. oh yes…. there were fish there. This meant a fishing trip was in order.

                                  The stream as it appears today, 70 years ago.


As I remember the board lined stream – sketch by Ray.

I returned a few days later, armed with a hook, string and a can of worms.  After leaning my bike against a big tree, I cut a  straight sapling, stripped some bark at the handle end, attached the string, hook and a juicy worm.  I got to the edge of the banking and tossed  in the hooked worm  and waited….nothing!  What happened? I must have spooked the fish!!  Well, after waiting a while and sacrificing some worms as bait,  I finally  caught one, not very big, but a Rainbow Trout.  Five more followed in a short time and that was enough for me—I mean, for my Dad.

One of the big ones!

Finding worms were no problem——-


——Keeping them were!

I strung the fish on a stick, hooked them on my handlebars and headed home before dusk.  My mom would have no part in cleaning them and I didn’t know how, so I wrapped them up and put them  in the icebox. When Dad got home from work, he said he would show me how to clean them.  As a youngster, fish blood and guts didn’t excite me, but I had to learn if I was to bring more fish home.  I  returned to fish a few more times during those war years, but as I grew older, It seemed the fish got smaller. and other interests prevailed.

I never found out who built this or why.(see note below)  I suspect that the land was owned  by the Ames family across the street.  Having Rainbow Trout  growing there, it made sense to build a containment structure so that  catching was made much easier.

With the recent help of a friend, remnants  of the structure have been found  in the water and along the stream banks.  Keep in mind, this  place is were I went fishing 70 years ago and the boards were rotten then!

Unbelievable find….boards used in lining the stream.

Today the Root cellar remains,  as well as the numerous springs.  The Trout still thrive, the cart path has been consumed with trees, and the town water department  has claimed the land for watershed.  Now, the springs and streams  will be preserved forever and the cold, clear water will continue to find it’s way to Keene’s pond, then over the dam, never to be seen again.

My mind goes blank, when,
I stare into a campfire.
I watch  and listen to ocean waves crash on the beach.
I listen to a bubbling stream.
When silence is so great, I hear nothing.

December 2019. I have received  a note from a long time friend and Marshfield Hills resident, stating  His Dad told him that members of the Marshfield Rod & Gun Club built a trout hatchery or containment area on the stream leading into Keene’s Pond.  This was built to supply the pond with Rainbow Trout for the members of the club. The pond was leased from Horace Keene and posted NO FISHING.  1930’s& ’40’s.


W. Ray Freden.
Seaview, Marshfield, 70 years.
Down East”, Maine 14 years