SARA THE SNOWY OWL fable - 2016
Friends in Town
Saranac Lake is a friendly place. That is something Sara the Snowy Owl knew quite well. Anyone who spends time in the little village knows it.
Sara knew that Saranac Lake was not just a onetime visit type of place. She thought that in 1898, when she first happened upon the hustle and bustle of the village with a river meandering through it, but that lead to more and more visits. Just like Sara, and those who didn’t fly, would be thinking of their second visit halfway through the first. Ten visits later they would be thinking of a summer home... then if they could make Saranac Lake their new home.
You had to have a warm heart to live in a place where the high temperature of the open day of Winter Carnival 1963 was 10 degrees Fahrenheit. Even for Sara that was pretty cold and she was glad to see the Ice Palace was in place to protect her from the winds that rolled off Lake Flower. She referred to the Palace as her ‘wall of warmth’ but it was much more than a wall.
If it wasn’t so warm in the summer, the snowy bird would have considered Saranac Lake as a permanent home. When she thought about it, she had more friends in the former curing village than anywhere else.
While the village was no longer home to the Trudeau Sanatorium, it would soon be home to the Trudeau Institute, which was scheduled to open in 1964. So there has been a long history of helping and taking care of people.
Sara figured she had more friends in Saranac Lake than she had tail feathers. But all her friends were not Saranac Lake residents. Winter carnival was being held regularly every year and had become quite popular. Travelers were making Winter Carnival a regular part of their winter.
She had met so many people who were friends it was getting difficult to remember them all. Of course there were the regulars, like little girl Leda Ovitt who’s family drove up from Indian Lake each year and Leda would slide down the ice slide.
Indian Lake was a short drive compared to the couple Sara was to meet outside the Palace later on, but now she was on the way to see the king.
Sara couldn’t wait. After spending 11 months north with no one to talk to, she was going to see Saranac Lake’s adopted son and the 1963 king -- the legendary Larry Doyle. Laughing Larry, as he was often called, was not just legendary because of his baseball career of playing for the New York Giants (before they left for San Francisco). He was a Saranac legend because after he cured for tuberculosis in 1942-54, he stayed in the village and was one of the best story tellers ever. Sara, like anyone else coming to the Dew Drop Inn (where Mr. Doyle was often found), could be sure to leave with a smile.
Now Larry Doyle, Saranac Lake’s “most noted citizen,” was being honored as the King of Winter Carnival, along with Loretta Ann Rissell, who was that year’s Miss Rheingold. Sara caught up with the two at her favorite restaurant, the Belvedere. She usually dined there after the parade. This year she had plans to have dinner at the ‘Bel’ after going to the Fancy Cress Carnival on Ice. No one had to twist her wing to convince her to enjoy fine Italian dining twice.
Mr. Doyle was at a big table and had met his match for story telling with the Pharmacist and owner of Post Office Pharmacy - Carl J. Bevilacqua. If you watched Mr. B behind the counter you would see the serious man filling prescriptions, but if you were lucky to socialize with him, you would realize he was quite a raconteur. Mr. B and Laughing Larry were going toe to toe with funny stories. By the end of dinner everyone knew they would have sore bellies the next day from laughing so much.
As was the case, no one could wrestle the bill from Mr. B. He told the table that buying dinner for such a great group of friends was worth more than the price of a few meals.
Once she got over to the Ice Palace, the fortress that her friends built for her, she thought she would take a nap. She tucked her head under her wing and started to slip off to dreamland. Before she could land in the kingdom of slumber, she heard voices outside. She thought she recognized an accent, but between the teeth chattering she wasn’t sure.
She found Olga and Santiago who had driven their Mini Bus from Monterrey Mexico and it was clear the light jackets they were wearing might be fine in Mexico, but weren’t doing the job up north.
The two had heard about Saranac Lake and wanted to see a fortress made of frozen lake water. Sara sauntered over to her and started giving them hugs to warm them up. They said it never gets that cold in Mexico and Sara reminded them they don’t have Palaces made of ice in Mexico.
After warming the two up with her feathers, she found out they were in a dilemma. When they left four days ago, they never thought there would be no vacancies. Olga and Santiago found out the hard way that many people like Winter Carnival so much that the village hotels and motels were half full for the next year already. People would book their room for the following year when they checked out.
The big bird would have gladly invited them to stay with her, but the palace wasn’t very toasty for humans.
First things first... she got them over to Wilson's Clothing Company. Bud Duffy was just closing up, but when he heard their story, he kindly let them shop.
“Amigo, tu eres un buen hombre,” Santiago told Mr. Duffy. “Some day you should be king of Winter Carnival.”
Bud chuckled and asked that they put in a good word for him. Spending some time in Wilson’s and now attired in winter clothing, the chattering of teeth had stopped. That left one more task, housing. Then Sara thought of the solution. The two from south of the border would not have to find a motel, they would just have to find a friend. One with a curing cottage, that was no longer being used.
Sara had often joked that Saranac Lake had started the phrase: ‘cottage industry,’ because so many people in the village were able to supplement their incomes by building a curing cottage on their property and taking care of TB patients.
Within two hours they got a lead from a friend of a friend, who knew of a friend who had a place. Sara loved the social network of Saranac Lake. The heat was turned on and cottage housed the two intrepid travelers.
The owners made a little money and the two visitors were able to enjoy Winter Carnival. When the two return to Monterrey, they were able to tell great stories about Sara the Snowy Owl and bragged about the friendly and welcoming residents of Saranac Lake.