Wanted: Quintessential Willie Gray Stories

Notes from Nan: And now, Spring.

BY HF Contributing Writer, Nan Parati

You know what I like about snow? It piles up. You know you’re getting somewhere with it. Unless rain gets totally out of control, it just goes into the ground and maybe runs down the street a little bit, but you never get the full sense of what you’ve got there in a rainstorm unless you’re Steve Sauter or Russell Fessenden or somebody. But with snow! In 1993 I passed through Ashfield on my way to New Orleans from Minnesota on the train. (I was going the circuitous route, having ALL the time in the world in those carefree days!) and I remember that the snow in Ashfield was up to my butt and I thought, “Now this is one place I would like to live!” And here I is! Up to my butt in snow again! (Well I would be if it hadn’t rained that one day. I thought that was an unfair waste of a good snow day, but Rob the Snow Removal Guy seemed glad for the respite.)

But you know what else I like? I like that it’s 39 degrees this morning and the sun is out, melting the glacier on my truck windshield. (I backed it up in the driveway so that the sun could get a better shot at it) and outside Harry is tapping trees in our front yards for sap. People say, “It’s spring! Spring’s coming, you can feel it!” and it is! At least for now. Sugaring season is kind of like New England’s Carnival Season—it’s happy and people dress like Willie Gray in their plaid shirts, ear-flap caps and over-sized boots, out drilling holes in trees, happy for what’s to come next.

Hey guess what! Tom McCrumm’s Southface Sugarhouse opens this weekend!

Speaking of Willie, yesterday morning I was talking to Marian Gray and her daughter Doris and we were telling Willie Gray stories and we thought we should collect them before they get forgotten. Collecting stories is nearly always my idea, but I asked Marian if she thought that would be okay and she laughed and said she thought it would be good.

If you have any quintessential Willie Gray stories, email them to me and I’ll collect them all together. I’m not sure yet what we’ll do with them next, but at least we’ll have a pretty good compendium of them.

I was talking to Norm Nye yesterday afternoon and he said, “Willie’s always seen going to bed as nothing but an interruption of work.”

My personal favorite Willie story took place when I first moved to town and needed someone to help me paint the interior of Elmer’s. Anna Fessenden told me to call Willie, and so I did, even though I had only met him once. That evening I found him home and asked if he might be available for hire. He thought for a moment and said, “Well, I got a lot of chores to do in a day, but after I finish ‘em I’ll call and see if you still need help.”

The next morning at 7:30a.m. the phone rang. Being a regular person, I was still asleep but I answered the phone anyway.

“This is William Gray,” the voice said, “I finished my chores. You still got any paintin’ left to do over there?”


Thursday 03/03/10: By the way, we’ve expanded our delivery borders. We don’t exactly know where they end anymore, so give us a call and we’ll let you know if you live inside them. – Coconut Thai beef Curry with potatoes, tomatoes, chick peas, green peas, peppers, onions, Thai eggplant, cilantro, peanuts, mushrooms & fresh basil; Vegetarian: Vegetarian Coconut Thai Curry with potatoes, tomatoes, chick peas, green peas, peppers, onions, Thai eggplant, cilantro, peanuts, mushrooms & fresh basil. Pick up or Free Delivery. 628-4003

Friday 03/05/10: Grilled Jerk Chicken with Caribbean Lime Rice, Braised Greens & Cornbread with Maple Butter; Vegetarian: Jerk Tofu with Caribbean Lime Rice, Braised Greens & Cornbread with Maple Butter. Pick up, Free Delivery or Eat at Elmer’s.

Elmer’s Store | 396 Main St. | Ashfield, MA 01330 | (413) 628-4003



Nan Parati - Elmer's StoreNan Parati

Nan is the proprietor of Elmer’s Store in Ashfield, MA. A New England transplant from the Deep South, Nan shares her southern wit, wisdom and charm every week in her column, “Notes from Nan.” Share dinner with her every Friday at Elmer’s. Menu’s are posted with her column. nanparati@aol.com

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