Left in Andover: Fairies among marsh marigolds

By Susan Leader
©2020 Telegraph Publishing LLC

Despite Covid-19, yesterday I paid a visit to some very old friends of mine, cheery yellow marsh marigolds who flourish by an obscure culvert along Weston-Andover Road. My older sister introduced me to them many years ago.

Marsh marigold friends.

She first made their acquaintance on her daily walks to and from grade school in Peaseville in the early 1950s, before Andover got a school bus.

Those treks offered her plenty of time to think up games to play with me when she got home.

Swearing me to secrecy one spring afternoon, she led me tip-toe into the woods behind Popplewood. There, pointing mysteriously to the curling flap of a jack in the pulpit, she whispered, “Shhh, this is where the fairies live. Don’t make any noise or you will scare them away.”

I don’t know if she had convinced herself of this as well, but I had no trouble believing her. I carried on the tradition with my own two daughters when they were young and we lived in the cabin.

Susan with her older sister in 1954.

Slipping into the nearby woods, ducking under a bent sapling, was how we officially entered Fairyland. I would knock gently on the ground and squeak, “Queen Bertha, Bertha, how are you doing today? What’s new?”

Though I never actually fooled my girls into thinking there was a real fairy queen, we had a lot of fun crawling around on the moss thinking up questions to ask her.

One time a fox came inside the cabin — or so my older daughter claimed. No Red Riding Hood, she climbed up onto our little red picnic table and ordered it to leave.

Raising kids in a primitive cabin really did come close to being in a fairy tale. Two self-employed artists surviving behind thin wooden walls in the forest with two little girls required a strong dose of magical thinking.

But the historical marker sunk into the earth just over our property line by an empty green hayfield is hardly more believable. The inscription reads, “3 1/4 Acre Common Proprietor’s Meeting House 44 x 50 FT 1803-1820.” Not a trace of it remains. A mirage, perhaps?

Susan’s very own flower fairies in 1992.

Abby Maria Hemenway humorously documents the only plausible Andover sighting of the trickster Puss n Boots in her tale of an 18th century Andover religious service gone amok.

Convened at a private home on what is now a forested brow of nearby Markham Mountain, the gathering’s surprise ending may have been just the impetus needed for the construction of the mythical Common Proprietors meeting house:

“In the kitchen was an old-fashioned sinque, under which were various cooking utensils, and among them a pot of stew which Mrs. Brown had intended for the minister’s supper…”

Suffice it to say that a house cat got its paws into the meat: “Jesse Carlton and another wicked young man, watching the cat instead of listening to the sermon, saw a chance for some fun … and put her into the pot.”

The meeting house marker.

“Services being over, Mrs. Brown pompously swung out the crane from the great fireplace … To her great amazement out jumped the cat from the pot to the floor, dripping with gravy. The audience could no longer restrain their risibles.”

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Filed Under: Community and Arts LifeLeft in Andover

About the Author: Vermont native and noted potter Susan Leader grew up on Popplewood Farm in Andover. At age 17, she was inspired to take up the potter's wheel by "a charismatic potter" from the Society of Vermont Craftsman. She spent 18 months apprenticing at pottery villages throughout Japan. She returned to Popplewood Farm, where she and her husband, fiddle player John Specker, raised their two daughters.

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