The slow snow melt began in our small valley as winter came to a close. Throughout the tributaries, small streams formed, flowing water to our bass pond. The water ran so quickly that it pooled over the remaining ice sheet which still was frozen at the center of our pond. In the distance, our white-faced Hereford roamed about, eating the open patches of field grass that peeked through the slush.
Working in the barn, I managed to throw hay bales out the shoot door from the loft. My brother was stationed below, grabbing them quickly and stacking them inside the barn bottom to feed our heifers for the evening. While we worked, we heard a vehicle pulling up outside the barn atop the hill that overlooked our property. It was no doubt our grandfather’s truck as the diesel engine knocked about in the cool spring air and he was the only one on the block to have one. Grabbing a final hay bale, I threw it through the doorway and then made my descent through the floor hatch.
Climbing down, I saw my brother stacking the last bale of hay while my grandmother and grandfather were already in the barn. My grandfather was gingerly petting the tiny calves in the nearby stall and my grandmother, having little interest, walked over to me while holding a cookie tin. “What kind of cookies did you bake?” I asked as I pointed to the ornately painted tin which my grandmother held by two handles. “These are my chocolate-dippd peanut butter cookies. I made a few dozen today and I thought I would bring you some. You need to wash your hands first before you have one,” she said with a smile upon her face. Nodding my head, I went on to finish my chores and then the four of us headed out of the barn.
While we walked, my grandmother commented on the running brooks and streams in the field, all caused by the snow melt. She then paused as she watched a small sinkhole form by the pasture road culvert. “You know that sinkhole reminds me of a story from a spring long since passed that my great-grandmother told me when I was a small girl,” my grandmother said as she stared across the field at the running water.
In the winter of 1772, Donbridge faced a winter like no other. Snowstorm after snowstorm pummeled the valley and with the storms came frigid arctic air which locked the snowfall into a pack that never melted. The townsfolk were used to winters that were harsh and so their preserves and root cellars were stocked in kind as many knew it was always better to have more than just enough.
As spring arrived in late March, after just one more snowfall, a peculiar occurrence happened in the valley. The weather jumped from a low constant of 28 degrees to nearly 89 degrees. The snow began to melt all about the valley rapidly. This was lucky for the town, as a drought had occurred the previous summer and so the many ponds of Donbridge were below their normal levels. As the snow formed brooks and streams about the valley, the ponds began to fill at a rapid pace, and as the last pond filled to the brim, a problem occurred.
Normally, the snow would fill the ponds and channel away in the creek that ran through the valley, but because of the heavy snows, massive beech tree trunks had fallen over the creek, causing the water to back fill into town. In the past, the buildings of Donbridge were saved by means of a seamstress who fashioned balloons to lift the buildings from the ground. But since it was spring, most of the firewood needed to heat the balloons to create lift was now in short supply.
Before the town went into a panic, a silver miner by the name of Gerald Timmons, who happened to be staying at the Donbridge Lodge, saw a solution to the town’s problem. Being a prospector, Gerald dug test holes all along the riverbeds while searching for silver. With this practice, he figured, the town could use his prospecting equipment to dig trenches to aim the water away from town. Once the water was safely away, he then proposed that the town dig giant pits at the ends of the trenches. With the soil being rich in clay, the water could easily be stored for future use.
The townsfolk immediately agreed to Mr. Timmons’ idea and began trenching waterways all through the valley. Ahead of the trenches, folks could be seen hollowing out large pits to accommodate the trench-filled waterways. Each time a pit was finished, a trench would open up into the pit and fill it with running water. When the pit was filled, the townsfolk would drop a bucket tied to a rope and then close the top of the pit off with lumber. All of Donbridge worked nearly a month building these pits and by the time they were done, the town was saved and the entire valley now had water by means of these hidden springs.
When my grandmother finished her tale, my brother laughed under his breath at the story, for to him it seemed too farfetched. As for myself, I knew my grandmother and knew that with every story, there always seemed to be some truth. So parting ways, I decided to walk over to the culvert bridge in our field and investigate the sinkhole that emerged. As I looked down at the running water, I was stunned to find a couple of old rotten boards that were halfway covering the sinkhole. Tied to one of them was a rope leading deep into the waters below. As I looked up from the field, my grandmother was watching me all the while. When she saw me glance back at her, all she could do was just shake her head with the look of “I told you so” shining across her smiling face. Smiling back, I watched her walk into the house holding tightly her neatly painted cookie tin.
Chocolate-Dipped Peanut Butter Cookies
1/2 cup shortening
1/2 cup peanut butter
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/4 cups flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon of salt
Add cookie dough ingredients to bowl and stir. Chill for 30 minutes. Pre-heat oven to 350 F. Grease a 9x12 cookie sheet. Spoon cookie dough onto cookie sheet. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes or until brown. Let cool.
For dip: Requires 1 1/4 cups semi-sweet chocolate. Create a double boiler and melt chocolate. Once melted, pour into a bowl. Add 1 tablespoon of butter and 3/4 tablespoon of milk. Dip each cookie in the chocolate sauce and let cool on wax paper.