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The Farm in Belfast and the Monitor

I was not sure where the Belfast farm was when I was young but my family ended up there at least once during every summer. My great-grandparents immigrated from County Mayo in Ireland and ended up in

Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania. At some point they moved to the top of a hill just south of the Town of Belfast New York. To get there, we turned off of the main road and then into an almost imperceptible driveway and rode across a questionable bridge spanning a small creek. Further up and atop a hill lay the farm.

There was a farm house, but no indoor water, electricity or plumbing. A hand pump provided any water we needed. The outhouse lay a little farther away and down the hill a little. A barn, looking to be on its last legs, had a loft with hay but no sign of life. It provided us with a giant playroom when we were not out looking for wild berries.

The ground was mostly rocks and did not seem suitable for any kind of crops. There were plenty of weeds. I wondered what kind of farming took place. I thought of cows and other livestock as the only possibilities. No one lived there in the years we came to visit and had not for some time. Many of my mother’s relatives including my uncles, aunts and cousins came to the gatherings. The adults mainly visited and the kids made good use of the farm, especially the barn.

The adults wished to be able to visit without worrying about their kids wandering off into the woods. Instructions not to wander off were fortified by a family myth. There was said to be a nebulous creature living in the woods known as the Monitor. I was not clear what kind of creature this was but it was known to lurk in the woods and came to life at night. Strange noises in the woods at night were attributed to the monitor. This myth helped keep the younger children close to the farmhouse, especially as daylight began to fade. Stories about the Monitor entertained the older children.

At night, everyone found space anywhere they could in the house and made the best of it. Breakfast was cooked on the wood stove and no one went hungry. Some left early the next morning and others lingered until mid-day before returning home.  More about the Monitor later.

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