As a kid, I was lucky to be able to ride my mini bike, spend lots of time at Camp Little Ponderosa in Houlton Maine.
A place for horse riding, arts and crafts, learning to swim, and pitching in on a Maine farm. There was haying, horse shoes, always something fun to do with the campers that came from all over the northeast to Houlton Maine to spend the summer in the country.
My Aunt Ruth never married, nor had any biological kids. But with a swarm of nephews, nieces and with paying campers coming to learn the fine points of English and Western horse riding disciplines, she had many kids who thought of her as a mom. And she was to many local children as well from her years teaching music in the schools around Houlton Maine. The woman could sing. Had been accepted at Julliard School of Music. So between all the school kids over the years that had her for a music teacher around Aroostook County, many who could not carry a tune if it had handles but with Ruth’s help, they did the best with the talent they had or lacked. Also, kids that just would have fallen thru the cracks with home problems and parents that just lets say were distracted, not there for the kids. Aunt Ruth was the “mom”.
Many of the kids who rode horses were either locals for a day program, or over night campers who came often for the entire summer. Some of the kids from large cities had never seen the business end of a barn shovel. The one used to shovel horse manure. Intially they were fish out of water. But kids watching other kids, and the way they keep each other honest, all the campers got a turn, became profficient at the art of cleaning out horses. Watering, graining, throwing down hay from the loft and preparing for horses shows was a big part of working together at Camp Little Ponderosa.
Once a week we went to the Borderland Outdoor Movie Drive In. Everyday we except Sunday we hit Cary Lake in Littleton for swimming lessons. Once a summer at least we climbed Mt Katahdin with Aunt Ruth’s “beau” who never married but was a fixture at Camp Little Ponderosa. More than once Freeman Taylor asked my Aunt to marry him, and they were the first couple I knew that lived together on the Callaghan Road farm. It never happened.
My Aunt Ruth was a strong willed woman, determined, more fun to get along with. Emotionally and able to relate on a higher level with kids. A little lower notch with some adults.
Her heart was big, she was generous to a fault.
She was not a business woman and would be the first to admit it when the going got tough. She would give her last dollar away and look over to you with a mental elbow in the ribs to nudge, make you question why are you not doing the same. Right now with a glaring force that “No” was not an appropiate answer. My Aunt Ruth died a few years back and it is amazing the number of kids now adults influenced by her in their life that approach me, share stories, tales.