Paul Bransom Letter to Helen "Kicki" Hays


The following letter was written by Paul Bransom, noted animal artist and long-time Lake resident, to the young Helen "Kicki" Hays.  The original letter was donated to the Archives of American Art by Helen Ireland Hays, Kicki's mother.  Click here to see the original letter. The thought bubble shows Helen diving off her family's dock with her brother Jim waiting his turn.  The bookplate that Paul Bransom is working on shows Helen diving.

Part of the charm of this letter is the focus on the quotidian aspects of life at the lake that all residents can identify with.  The daily routines like getting water and going to the post office, the awareness of the changing of the seasons, the observation of animal life, and even the awareness of water level are all constants in the daily life on the lake.  At the core of the letter there is the deep friendships that develop at the Lake. We have our biological aunts and uncles, but at the Lake we have our adopted aunts and uncles.  These bonds cross generations and are enriched by the common experience of the Lake.


















That Good Old

Canada Lake, N.Y.

Oct. 17th, 1947 


Dearest Kicki:


At last! I have a chance to really get down to write to you and to thank you for your fine letter which gave us so much pleasure.  It is so nice to hear of all your activities and to know that you are well and happy and that you think of us –as we certainly do of you.  We miss you very much indeed and each day we go “Post Officing” and  for “Watra” we wish that you were here to enjoy the beauty of the woods with us.


At one time about three weeks ago, it seemed as though we should not have our usual fall color sensation. There were several nights of below freezing temperature and many of the leaves on the trees in open places were just plain frozen –all curled up and black as though they had been burned!  Those leaves promptly fell off but those that were left eventually took their usual autumnal glory. 


The old trail along the short-cut and the road down to Barbours camp have been unbelievably beautiful –a lane of golden delight, and for the past two weeks a succession of warm, clear, languorous days.  As Aunt Grace and I walk through the soft colored stillness broken by the rustle of falling leaves and the swish of our own feet through the dry carpet, we muse on past days and those to come.  Now almost all the trees have dropped their gay dress and wait for the harsh advances of the north-wind and his rough caresses.  I cannot help reflecting how beautifully and gracefully the season ages and accepts its fate with resignation –so different from your recalcitrant uncle who is young with you in spirit as you play ball, climb trees, swim, and dive! and ski!


This reminds me to tell you that Mr. and Mrs. Gore came in to see us a few nights ago and showed us a very remarkable enlargement of a snapshot of Midge at the peak of one of her big moments in her sailboat.  It was taken by Doctor Bataglio  (?) as he sped past in a motor boat and it looked something like this.  You can see the whole keel and boat’s bottom out of [the] water –it’s really quite a picture.


Another thing you ought to see is the lake water level now! It is like it was several years ago when we had the broad beach all around and when the lake suddenly  came up three feet after the heavy rain, remember?  Well, we have the same thing now except for the rain which has been non-existent for almost a month –everything is very dry and the governor has ordered all the woods closed and no hunting season (I am glad for the latter!)  But, to get back to the water –at the end of your boathouse, just under your diving-board there is now just about six inches of water.  You’d have to make a very flat dive now.  As Aunt Grace told you we easily walked all the way around the bay and out around “Fort” Breeze point.


I wonder if your mother told you about all the blackbirds we saw during a short walk one Sunday.  We first heard their noisy chatter when we reach the Trobridge camp and discovered them bathing all along that little sandy cove between Eberly ’s bridge and his house. There must have been a flock of two or three hundred, and it was lovely to watch them splashing all along the length of the shore in the warm afternoon sunlight.  They would take alarm and all fly up en-masse into the pines lining the shore and in a minute the whole crowd would drop down to the beach to resume the bathing. Their performance -- up and down-- went on for a long while to our great delight. 


Speaking of birds and animals, reminds me to tell you that Miss Tymeson said that two small otters spent a morning playing and frisking around her backyard last week. So, those little fellows you all saw in your boathouse were evidently that same otter family.  I do hope that nothing happens to them during the winter and that we may have the fun of seeing them occasionally next summer –next summer—what a long way off that is. So many things to be done in the meantime.


Jean Wells, who was here recently to do some sewing for Aunt Grace told us that her garden and in fact all around Johnstown were many Praying Mantis. She says the place abounds with them now and if you were here you could have lots of them (all eating each other, I guess) I immediately thought of you and your pet mantis when you first stayed with us –remember?


I must tell about a lovely trip we had with the Trobridges last month.  We drove over through Benson to Northville and down the entire side of the Sacandaga Lake to the dam.  It was the first time we had ever been down that shore.  The day was perfect –heavenly color and the low lake level gave the waters’ edge a striking border of sand and gravel edging –a yellow fringe to the blue water with brown and red-gold hills all around.


At Conklinville, the site of the dam, the road rises steeply along the shoulder of one of the mountains holding the dam and there is a turn out where one can park cars and get out and look!  And what a grand “look” it is.  The top of the broad dam holding back all that water stretching away into the hazy mountains as far as one can see, and below the dam a thin rocky river winding its way down the narrow valley to keep its tryst with the lordly Hudson a few miles further on at Hadley.  After enjoying the view we also drove down to Hadley and just there at the confluence of the two streams there is an old iron bridge across the Sacandaga –a fine place to stop and see the eager waters meet and join and flow onward together rejoicing in their marriage. 


From there we drove along the Hudson to Corinth and thence to Saratoga Springs for dinner and back through Gloversville to home –quite a trip. One that we hope you will do someday –if you haven’t already done so.  Maybe we can do that together next summer.  Also I do want to show you that waterfall and rapids over at Griffin.  Perhaps you will remember that I wrote to you about that place?

Last Sunday, Mrs. Scott drove up from Cooperstown to spend the weekend with us.  She is teaching art and handicraft there at the Knox School.  Anyway she was anxious to leave early in the afternoon so she would get back before dark.  She has an old old Ford which she calls Louie.    We planned to have dinner about three P.M. and I was to do the chops outside.  At 2:30 I laid the fire and lit it.  Then people began to arrive.  I wish you could have seen me running back and forth, between trying to entertain company and keep that fire going.  I burned up wood and the fire almost go out. I’d run frantically to the wood-shed for the wood –get another fire blazing – come back in the house and visit. Excuse myself, run out to the fireplace and find the fire all burned out!!! Etc. etc.  Honestly, I burned enough wood to eventually cook those six little chops, to have cooked several whole oxen!!  Mrs. Scott finally got her dinner, jumped in her car just before dark and rushed out our back road.  She afterwards wrote us that she brashed [sic] off one of her headlights in her hurry!


I’m still working on your bookplate whenever I have a chance.  I’m sorry it isn’t finished yet.  Please be patient with me.  If you could see it now, it looks as though a dozen mice had been chiseling at it with tiny teeth. Wouldn’t it be nice if some of our mice could chew out a few letters on it some nights as I sleep like those who worked for the Tailor of  Gloucester –remember (NO MORE TWIST)


I must close now and to bed before the length of this letter will tire you and send you to bed too –Good night.  Pleasant dre-alms.


With much love as always

Your devoted

Uncle Paul


We leave next Wed. for 15 West 67 St N.Y. City.  All afternoon, I’ve been tying up packages.  It is so hard to say good-bye to the Lake –as hard as to say good bye to you.










Barbour: In 1930, Mrs. Frank Barbour, an heiress of the Beech Nut Packing Company, built for her husband as a birthday the camp now owned by the Kulleseids at the end of Barbour Road.  Mrs. Barbour was sister of the owner of Beechnut and her husband was the Treasurer.













Tymeson: Margaret "Peg" Tymeson lived in the camp on Decker Road now owned by the Castillouxs. 















Midge: Midge Gore Akers, a lifelong south shore resident. The star on the sail and the reference to a keel suggests this was a Star class boat. At least later in the 1960s, Midge sailed a Comet, a centerboard boat. 









Trobridge: the Trobridge family had a camp next to Charles Sarka's.






Eberly Hutchinson: built two camps at the end of Hutchinson Road.  In the style of Swiss chalets, one of the camps was made for his mother's sister, Mrs. Argersinger. This camp, now known as Redwood, was later sold to the Point Breeze Club and then bought by the Hackney family and still owned by their descendants.  The other camp, now owned by the Yuenger / Michaels family, was built for Eberly and his mother. 












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