Teen Comes to Dinner
by John Hull
Guess who's coming to dinner?, I asked one of my hutmen as I sat on the steps of Greenleaf hut to slip out of my
freighter packboard, loaded with close to 100 lbs. of assorted
supplies from the base storehouse.
"I'll bite, who,?", Bob said, steadying the pack as I stood up to untie it.
"Teen Dodge! She'll be coming in with a couple of friends tomorrow night. Swoop told me when he dropped off a load at the storehouse."
"Holy cow! What'll we serve them?"
Teen, of course, was Joe's wife, a lovely lady, very proper, almost the opposite of tell-it-like-it-is Joe Dodge, undisputed king of the Appalachian Mountain Club huts System, and a legend in the White Mountains long before I became hutmaster of Greenleaf on Mt. Lafayette in 1941. Teen was a
wonderful mother to her teen-age children, Brookie and Anne,
and ran the lovely woodsy home behind the Pinkham Notch Lodge, next to the Fire Trail. I used to serenade her playing
"Indian Love Call" on my clarinet on warm summer evenings
when I'd have a day off at the Lodge. She was most appreciative.
But she had never visited my hut, neither during my six
weeks running Zealand Notch hut during the end of the 1940
season, nor at Greenleaf during the couple of months I had
run it since opening in June, 1941. And now she was to be
there the next afternoon!
Needless to say, Bob Claflin and Frenchy Gall and I
madly worked to neaten up the place and to bake a few specialties and to make sure the yard was picked up. Not that she had any reputation as a complaining or critical visitor, but just that we all really revered both her and Joe and we didn't want to let either of them down.
She came up by way of the Greenleaf Trail, and stepped
onto the flat area behind the hut about 5 p.m. the next day.
One of her companions was Hub Sise, who had been a hutmaste some years back and was also legendary. I don't recall the name of the other one, but he was a doctor friend. We'll
call him Jim. I suppose they were all in their mid-forties,
and my two hutmen and I, all age 17 and all just graduated
from Phillips Exeter Academy, were honored and in awe to be
their hosts for the night.
Many details are fuzzy in my memory, but I think we had
another twenty or so guests also spending the night. The
usual collection of young and old, novices ("goofers") and
experienced hikers. The dinner went well, with no complications. The dishwashing and drying was the usual social affair with a half dozen guests pitching in to help. Following that job, we got the kitchen organized for the breakfast routine, and
turned in, the male guests in the men's bunkroom (18 cots,
three high, plus a washroom and toilet), the women in the
women's bunkroom (ditto), and Bob, Frenchy, and I in the
crew's bunkroom off the kitchen, three stacked cots.
I was awakened about 3 a.m. by someone shaking my arm.
It was Hub Sise with a partly shielded flashlight.
"Teen's very sick, John. Jim thinks it could be peritonitis.
We've got to get her down the mountain to a hospital."
The next hour was a series of hushed discussions among
Hub, Jim, my two hutmen, and myself, with occasional words
of reassurance to Teen. As I recall, most of the guests
were sleeping soundly despite the drama unfolding in their
We unscrewed one of the steel-framed bunks from the
wall of the men's bunkroom, to use as a stretcher. We
recruited two of the men guests to help Hub, Jim, Bob, and
me as stretcher bearers. We appointed Frenchy, the smallest
of the crew to handle the breakfast for the other guests.
We elected to go down the Greenleaf Trail, as it was a mile
shorter than the Old Bridle Trail, our usual pack trail, and
also because Hub's car was parked in the field next to where
the trail met the highway that goes through Franconia Notch.
We were ready just as the first light of dawn arrived.
We carried Teen to the cot, covered her with a couple
of blankets, and put a pillow under her head. We then lashed
her to the cot to prevent her falling out. She seemed to be
in considerable pain, but, ever the lady, was most appreciative
of our help and most apologetic that she was the cause of the
disruption of our routine.
I carried the front end, with the end frame bar lashed to the lower end of my packboard. Bob, using a makeshift rope harness, carried the other end of the cot. The other
four stretcher bearers, two on each side, held the steel
bars with one or both hands.
Teen was probably 5'l0" and weighed, we estimated,
about 140 lbs. The steel cot probably weighed 50 lbs.
Carrying it on a level surface meant about 30 to 35 lbs. per
person, which was not at all difficult as we shuffled over
the 30 feet or so of relatively flat ground to where the trail
sloped downward to begin the actual descent. And that's where
carrying became very difficult.
, being in front, and Bob, being in back, could walk
in the path, with our well-broken-in hob-nailed boots gripping
the uneven rocks well. But for the two carriers on each side
of the stretcher, it was an almost impossible job. First of
all, the path was generally one to two feet wide. Very rough
boulders and rocks on each side rose at least several inches
above the path, often as much as two feet above the path.
We couldn't use the flashlights because our hands were
occupied trying to keep the stretcher on a more or less even
keel. And although the sky was beginning to change from dark to slightly gray, the rocks were not easy to see and to judge for sound footing. With extreme difficulty (and very conscious of our sensitive cargo), we would advance about three feet, then pause to identify our next two or three steps, then more forward another two or three feet. It probably took us
twenty minutes just to get down the trail the fifty yards to
where the pump and water spring were located for keeping the
fresh water tank filled, in the rafters above the kitchen.
Visibility became a bit easier as daylight increased,
but the Greenleaf trail is rugged and narrow even for an
unburdened hiker. Our descent was especially difficult where
we had to inch past the several sections where head-high
rock outcroppings required narrow footing around sharp turns
in the trait. Eagle Pass was a real tough one.
It was about 9 a.m. when we reached the first of the three
major landslides that had occurred in years past, essentially
obliterating the trail. Several seasons of hikers since the
slides occurred had generated footholds on the steep slope
but had not reduced the roughly 45 degree angle of the terrain
upwards to the right and downwards to the left. To traverse
the slides was, at best, about 40 to 50' of breath-holding
balancing and crouching and concentration on each cautious
step. It was obvious we could not negotiate Teen and the
stretcher across the slide.
Fortunately, Teen seemed to be in less pain by this time,
and even suggested that she could crawl across each slide.
A suggestion that was swiftly rejected by Dr. Jim, as well
as the rest of us. Also, fortunately, we were within a half
mile of the highway.
The consensus was finally reached that I would piggy-
back Teen across the slide. Teen was agreeable. I did not
feel imposed upon, especially in as much as I had been carrying
heavy loads up the mountain all summer, and even held the
record of carrying 188 lbs. up the Bridle Trail. (It had taken
me over five hours, and included several inevitable tumbles.)
So, after I had slipped out of my packboard, the others
lifted Teen from the stretcher and placed her on my back.
I started across the traverse, planting each foot firmly and
then cautiously shifting my weight for the next step. Two
of the group preceded me and the rest followed. No one spoke
until I had reached the other side of the slide where the
trail was on solid ground.
"This is not bad," I said, considerably relieved. "Let
me keep carrying her for awhile."
And so we went to the second slide, and another cautious
and silent uneventful crossing.
It really wasn't that difficult, carrying someone downhill that way. And we were making much better speed than
before. On to the last slide, across it, and down the final
slope to the relatively flat field and to Hub's parked Ford
Hub rushed ahead to unlock the doors. Others transferred
Teen from my back to the front passenger seat. Jim climbed
into the back seat. Hub opened the trunk and set a half empty
case of beer on the ground. Then he slammed the trunk lid,
climbed into the car, started the engine, and sped off toward
the highway and the hospital.
The rest of us sank to the ground, exhausted. Bob
opened beers and passed them around. What an incredibly
refreshing elixir of sheer ecstasy! I had never drunk beer
before, but nothing could have so quenched my thirst as that
bottle of warm beer. The four of us groaned with relief,
thankful for the success of our mission.
I don't recall how long we savored the inaction, but
I know we did return up the mountain to the hut and resumed
our normal routines.
We learned later that Teen had been thoroughly examined
at the hospital and no exact cause of her distress was
discovered. She recovered within a day, and was driven back
to Pinkham Notch. We got a lovely thank-you note sent via
the next supply run to the storehouse.
Several weeks later, Teen and some friends returned to
the hut, where she insisted on cooking us a dinner, including
the fifteen or so guests who were also lodging for the night.
She was a real lady. And I had learned to like beer.
In the fall of 1941, John Hull entered MIT, graduated in
1944, was commissioned a naval officer in early l945, and
ended up on Guam in the Pacific in mid-l945. A year later,
he separated from active service, flew to China, and spent
two years there with the United Nations, where he also married Buz, an Australian UN lady. Then followed two years in Munich, Germany, with the International Refugee Organization, followed by two years in Melbourne, Australia, working as a design engineer with the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation. Back in the States in 1952, he and an older brother started Hull Corporation to manufacture industrial process machinery. Still busy as vice-chairman of the company, John and his wife continue with their hobbies of camping, canoeing, skiing, sailing, and tennis. (And for 35 years, John played clarinet in a symphony orchestra as an avocation.) John and Buz spend weekdays at their condo near the main plant in Hatboro, Pennsylvania and weekends at their shore home on Barnegat Bay, New Jersey.