Why itís important to keep the makings of stone soup handy

By Katy Nesbitt, The Observer February 26, 2014 09:36 am

On the right column of the Facebook newsfeed there are friend and page suggestions. Some worm thinks he knows my needs better than I, but sometimes they are so out in left field I wonder how “algorithms” work.

A couple months ago it was suggested I “like” a page for atheists. I wonder if the worm missed the part of my bio that said “unapologetically Episcopalian.” 

More recently, there was a suggestion for a page about “past life regression.” Nothing in my googling would suggest I believe in reincarnation, but when I was 3 years old, I told my mother, “In my other life, my name was Ping Lee.” Ping was a duck in one of my books, it turns out.

Now in my middle-age I wonder if I was a duck or a femme fatale in my past life. Perhaps I should wave a silk scarf and lean out the dormer window, delicately crying, “Help! Help!”

A couple weeks ago while suffering a cold on my sofa I heard a funny noise. I abandoned my fireside retreat, looked out the window and much to my surprise I saw a river running toward my house. I spun in circles a few times before I reached for the phone. I called the mayor. You know, the guy who had lost his shop to a fire four days prior? 

He said he’d come right over and after a quick assessment went to the neighbor’s for a backhoe. I found the landlord’s number and called another neighbor to warn him that his glacier may have melted as well.

Backhoe to the rescue

The neighbor on the backhoe diverted the river into the adjacent pasture, and with a shovel the landlord diverted the streams running into the crawl space. I grabbed a shovel and followed his lead, taking breaks to snap pictures.

The day of the flood was less than two weeks after I experienced another near-horror — one I will vehemently admit was all my fault. I usually have dogs on leash when I ski, partly because it’s fun, but also to comply with regulations and to keep them in my sight. When I got to the jumping-off place, I put the Red Menace in Finn’s old harness; hers was not in car. She quickly wiggled out of it, and we proceeded sans leash. Not long into our first ski of the season I heard the second most blood-curdling sound of my life.

I struggled out of my skis and jumped feet first into the woods slipping, sliding and falling over the icy forest floor until I came upon my dog with her toe caught in a trap. After I reached her, I began calling everyone I could think of, starting with Marlyn Riggs, the government trapper. I tried to ask him to tell me how to release the trap, but it took three attempts for him to understand me.

He said, “I’ll be right there.”

Too unskilled to open the trap, I called another friend who misunderstood me and thought I said, “Bridey was stuck in the truck.” A call to another friend dispatched a couple more people to my aid. While awaiting the National Guard, I called a wildlife biologist who tried to help me get Bridey free over the phone, but I couldn’t get past, “Put your coat over her head.” That made her struggle even more, so the best I could do was keep her still and wait.

Eventually help arrived. As Marlyn was putting a loop around Bridey’s neck, Clarence Norton walked up from behind and stepped on the trap, releasing the stuck toe and the dog attached to it.

Marlyn drove Bridey and me the two miles or so back to my car and we talked about his morning’s work of looking at wolf tracks in the yard of some friends on Alder Slope. 

That was the last time I ever saw him. He died 10 days later from complications of pneumonia.

Sunday morning, I heard the story of Stone Soup, a legend about neighbors coming together to make a splendid meal. I know if I’m ever in trouble, I can wave a silk scarf out the dormer window and help will come. I better keep the makings for stone soup handy.