Sketches of life: a matchmaker’s ball
By Terry Berkson
The other day I was driving on County Road 16 outside of Schuyler Lake when I noticed the ruins of an old barn. Upon closer inspection, I realized that it was the remains of a block building that had been built and used by a man I once knew.
His name was Ziggie Pupecki and I was able to meet him thanks to the efforts of my Aunt Ruta, who saw herself as a sort of matchmaker. I was a kid from Brooklyn who loved farms and he was a farmer.
But that wasn’t the only game my aunt wanted to make. Ziggie was an eligible bachelor who was around forty at the time. One afternoon in August, Aunt Ruta asked Uncle William to drive us to Pupecki, where she intended to get a photo of the farmer that she would send to my Aunt Kay, who lived with her young. son in a furnished room in New York. City. In Aunt Ruta’s mind, there was a man who needed a woman and a woman who needed a man. She thought they would make a great couple and, once she had the idea, there was no stopping it.
I was about thirteen at the time and was not at all interested in my aunt’s plans. I came with my dog Pinky because I was told I was going to see how a farm works.
While Uncle William leaned against his Plymouth while smoking a pipe, Aunt Ruta was in the house taking the picture of Ziggie’s mother, who was plotting with my aunt to find a wife for her son. At the time, the farmer had no idea they had plans for him.
He came out of the dairy and asked my dog, “Does he chase cows?”
I didn’t know if it was right or wrong and I replied, “He hunts cats!”
It was almost milking time and I followed the farmer into the pasture to bring in a few stragglers.
He told me to let go of Pinky, and sure enough my dog pulled out some Holsteins trotting them in the right direction.
I had no idea that my little black and white mutt had shepherding abilities. Ziggie was very happy and invited me to stay on the farm for a while. I guess Aunt Ruta had expected the invitation because she had hidden some clothes and my new BB gun in the trunk of the car.
So for a while I stayed at the “Pupetski” farm – that’s what Aunt Ruta called it. I got up early to help with the milking and went to bed shortly after sunset. There was no television in the house at the time. Guess after a few days Ziggie sensed the town kid was bored so one night we headed to a movie at the Capitol in Richfield Springs. It was like a return to civilization. A horror film starring Bela Lugosi was showing. The farmer fell asleep in the middle of the show.
Besides working hard in his dairy, Ziggie had another job in some sort of mill or factory. Before he left for the day, he planned some household chores for me, but most of the time I had plenty of free time. One morning after I finished cleaning the barn, I picked up my BB gun and crossed the road to sit in the garden next to the house. I shot at different targets, a fence post, a bird, an old wooden bucket. Then my eyes fell on this shiny metal sphere which was about the size of a basketball. I thought he would ring like a bell when my BB hit him. He was seated on a cement pillar about three feet high. I aimed and fired a shot. Incredibly, the thing vanished with a crashing noise that sounded like a window had been smashed. The ball was made of glass!
Mrs. Pupecki came running into the yard to see what had happened. “What are you doing?” she exclaimed.
“I didn’t know it was glass,” I said.
“It was an expensive thing! ” she screamed.
I walked over to where the balloon was. Putting together the thousand pieces that lay on the ground was impossible. I knew I was in trouble and stayed away from the house for the rest of the day.
Ziggie’s mother came out to talk to him as soon as he got home. I braced myself when he came up to me and told me to take the gun. I imagined it folded and broken in a trash can. To my surprise, when I returned Ziggie had several beer cans lined up on a fence. He took the gun and shot two of them before returning it to me. Then he told me to shoot. The post was clearly done without a crossword.
I was planning to buy another bullet for Ms. Pupecki with money that I did not yet have. I felt guilty for a long time, but unfortunately I was never able to replace its precious ornament. I read somewhere that people used to put glass ornaments in their gardens to ward off evil spirits.
Aunt Ruta’s matchmaking plans seemed to have disintegrated like the ball. The photo was sent to Aunt Kay but I guess it wasn’t made for the country and Ziggie never got to meet her. I heard he got married a few years later and had a difficult life. He’s gone now. All that’s left is the block foundation of a barn and the photograph Aunt Ruta sent once.