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  • Writer's pictureSky Moss

Upstate Geechie - 1980: Route 17

I cannot remember if I was seven or eight. I do remember there was gas drama. It had something to do with OPEC. On the weekends we drove arbitrarily throughout the Southern Tier. We coined the brown station wagon, Bertha. She was accommodating, spacious and reliable. Usually it was me, Schir, rendab, Arabara, occasionally Acerett. (love). We drove to leave the house. We drove to explore seldomly traveled roads…

The back roads were captivating. The bends through Lowman, Millport, Lodi….. they all transfixed. We used to play this game, turn left, turn right. Six hours later we tried to find our way home. Memory and maps, memory and maps.

There was a stretch of route 17 near Wellsburg, east bound, that had an inexplicable off ramp. It drove like it was built by someone who lived locally. After curved right and crawled to a stop the sign read: Left Sycamore (2 miles), right Cedar (? miles). We always went left. The road was smoother and more open, the sun shined there even in January. Sycamore was an abandoned town. Its remnants sat along the Chemung River. My mom told me it was originally a Shaker community. It was actually celebrated as a needlepoint destination. In 1979 there were only five buildings left. The four outer buildings were sturdy. Each one had different roofing techniques. One thatched, one shingled, one domed and the other roofless, just open. It seemed to have been built to causeway snow and rain and funnel it underground. The one time mom let me stop I examined it. The lilac floor boards were contorted downward. That said the floor was level. Do not question me. I was eight and this is honesty.

The largest building appeared to be a communion Hall. It had a dug out basement, that was evident from the brick lattice soil based columns. Spaced purposefully 12 feet apart. The entire structure measured 25 by 50 by 25 by 50, farmer’s arms. To clarify, I only rode by here like three-four times in my childhood. The roof had tin on it? I am not sure when, who or how that was adorned. It had an elegant drape. There were three stories and the sashes on the top tier had faces. They moved without wind. That is the most vivid memory I have. Four serpentine faces and one was brown… Creeped me out, I was eight.


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