|Town of Olive before the reservoir, showing towns and land now submerged (in blue) and land now owned by New York City (in green), from town of Olive archives.|
|Part of the fare at the library table on Olive day. What you can't see: apples to the left, baked goods to the left of them, books all around.|
At Olive Day the sheriff was holding court, food booths included alligator and chicken (mixed together, I wondered, before or after being dispatched), and there were handcrafts and try-this's. It was 9/11. Kids ran around and got their faces painted. Sheep nosed for treats from their little exhibition paddock. EMTs sat at their HowToBeSafe table —some, no doubt, recalling the day and its aftermath not that many years back. A fellow chortled into a bullhorn about getting down and dirty in the upcoming egg toss. A tiny brown pony in a tiny western saddle got led around with a succession of kids, its head bobbing quickly as it fought the urge to trot.
|Not the toolbox at Olive Day, but a green one I loved.|
Like UPS brown? I played.
No, she said.
None of what she said was true. It was so not true that I somehow wanted to help her save some kind of face. I wondered if she was trying to connect with the vaguely patriotic (not so vague for some) tone of the day by selling military-looking things.
The box was olive colored. I offered, well you've got an Olive green box. That's right for Olive day. She saw no connection there and frowned. It's true, it was a terrible effort. She dropped me for the tweens riffling through her pile of string bracelets, dollars in their hands. I went back to wandering. There is something about being the guest writer that turns me aimless when otherwise I'd be mission-ready, hunting for vintage, trying all the food, shuffling around in jeans and boots.
There were a lot of American flags. There was an art exhibit. There were rows and rows of cherry 1950s cars I couldn't quite get to. There were fresh apples two for fifty, barbecue ladled into giant white buns, a sportsman booth with dozens of pelts strung up along the edge of the tent, many with heads and paws attached, and a murky tank of some kind of fish. There was a timber wolf pelt, which threw me back into my book for about three minutes, sent me scribbling some notes before I headed for the coffee stand.
And two currents ran under the whole thing. One was 9/11, which some people chose to bring up in conversation between hot dogs and pieces of home-baked pie. The other, literally, involved water, the currents of it, running from the Esopus into the giant reservoir that sits like a hole in this part of Ulster County, being snared into tunnels and aqueducts and sent southwards to the city, away from here. In the Olive town offices on the other side of the parking lot, there are framed photos and documents dating back to when much of Olive was first emptied of whole towns and townspeople and then razed to make the reservoir and give NYC fresh water. Thousands were displaced. People tell stories about families watching their homesteads and farms burn to the ground, about a man who jumped out of a hayloft as the barn was torched beneath him, and then ran right back into the barn. It didn't happen that long ago. It happened to grandparents, great grandparents. And if Olive has a bit of an underdog feeling this might partially be why.
|Giles general store, pre reservoir days, town of Olive archives.|
|Building the reservoir, town of olive archives|
I often run along the road over part of the reservoir, a road known around here as the lemon squeeze. It used to be the main way home. But they closed it after 9/11, for security reasons they said, and locals had to drive the long way home and once again felt like the city owned their lives. I run above the waters of the reservoir and the phantoms of hamlets.
|Shokan village, under water, town of Olive archives.|
|Old foundation exposed by low water levels, Ashokan. Taken by K. Barbariantz, 2008.|