To The Manor Born

Yduj and I went to a dinner party recently.  I had met the host once, only briefly, and didn’t know the other five or six guests at all.   Apparently, most of these people knew each other through their children and soon, after introductions, the conversation shifted to the college application process most of their kids were immersed in.  My initial reaction was that I was in for one of those nights where I spend a lot of time in the bathroom.  But after about a half-hour or so the dinner party plane came out of its nosedive, righted itself  and non-childcentric conversation (mostly) took hold.  Everyone seemed smart, engaged and fun.

One of the guests was a very nice guy, Louie, who told us that he had recently bought some old bottles on Ebay he had tracked down that had come from a dairy his grandfather had owned near Chicago.  The bottles were embossed with his family name which was the name of the dairy.  I thought that was really cool.

I then offered that in somewhat of a coincidence my father had been a dairy farmer in upstate New York. (This remains one of my two “claims to fame”,  the other being my dancing calves.)  Of course, I got some much-needed attention from this factoid, particularly because it’s unexpected that a Jewish family would be in the farming business.  (When we have that drink that we’ve been putting off, I’ll tell you the long version.)  When I told Louie how jealous I was that he had found evidence of his legacy, he suggested that if my father’s business had a name, maybe there was some physical evidence I could locate — maybe a milk pail or some other artifact  — engraved with the name.

And, in fact, my father’s farm did have a name, Pataukunk Manor.  Named for a small enclave within the almost as small enclave of Kerhonkson, NY.  Surprisingly, this was the first time that it occurred to me that I had been born on a manor!  You’re probably assuming this is where my sense of entitlement comes from. Along with my fine manners and my penchant for the finer things in life.  So not true.  There was nothing manorish whatsoever about Pataukunt Manor.  It was just a big old farmhouse (destined to be a boarding house), two hundred acres of land,  a barn and some outbuildings.  And just for the record, no eponymous sterling silver milk pails are to be found anywhere.

The Manor's Hired Help

The Staff At The Manor

As far as I know, Pataukunt Manor still exists; at least, the farmhouse.  My brother, sister and I have made several pilgrimages over the last number of decades to make sure our birthplace is still there.  About twenty years ago when we stopped by it looked decidedly decrepit and abandoned.  At my sister’s urging to acquire some evidence of our birthright, I bolted from our car and, in a larcenous moment, stole one of the rotting balusters from the front porch. It’s almost as if I had discovered the chutzpah I’ve lacked most of my life hiding in plain sight in Pataukunk.  I guess when my family left in the 50’s, we were in such a hurry I neglected to take it along.

Some years ago, as a housewarming gift for my house in the country (some 20 miles from Kerhonkson), my sister presented me with that very baluster, embalmed in a plexiglass case suitable for hanging.  As if it were a museum piece.  It now hangs in a place of prominence in my living room.  Every so often, I feel guilty and think I should, as an act of redemption, return the damn thing.  But then I realize how very out of place a post encased in plexiglass would look on the porch of an 1800’s farmhouse.

That even scares the hell out of me

That even scares the hell out of me

Looks Like More Than A Baluster Is Needed

Looks Like More Than A Baluster Is Needed

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2 Responses to “To The Manor Born”

  1. Ymmij Says:

    Googled “Stein’s Dairy, Pataukunk” and, just as you said, I found no relics. But I did find this: http://www.progressivedairy.com/features/women-in-dairy/2662-stein-spearheading-dairy-tourism-in-new-york

  2. iron(ic)man triathlon Says:

    Nice find Ymmij! One of the things (actually the ONLY thing) that caught my eye in that article is that they’re making liquor based milk….or it might be milk based liquor. Must be a distant relative.

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