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Have you ever experienced an event that at the time seemingly was unimportant, but which, nevertheless, lingered long in your memory, while others more important soon were forgotten?
Just such an event is the writer's remembrance of the only time he had the pleasure of listening to a talk by Dr. Joseph Bausman. It happened some sixty-six years ago, when I was a member of the 12 to 14 year old class at the YMCA in Washington, PA.
Each month, the class had a social evening, including a hot dog lunch, enthusiastically received. With somewhat lessened fervor, we usually heard a speaker, who stood up front with copious notes, frequently referred to, while we fidgeted as we looked forward to the hot dogs.
I had the good fortune to rent the house, in Rochester, constructed under Dr. Bausman's supervision for his residence.
But on the night Dr. Bausman was our speaker such was not the case. He had us arrange our chairs in a circle and spoke while encircling the ring's center. No notes, no advice for our future betterment, but rather, just a story, that held our interest from beginning to end.
He told of a fight between a mongoose and a cobra that took place in the far off land of India. Very vivid in my memory is his portrayal of the cobra's poisonous fangs lashing out in an endeavor to strike a vital spot, and the dexterity of the mongoose in avoiding every thrust, and finally it's triumph in winning the battle. In my mind's eye, I can still see Dr. Bausman's flashing eyes as he circled in our midst while portraying the cobra. Then his change of expression, when, extending his hands like talons, he played the part of the mongoose.
Many years later, when I had attained manhood, married, and with a family, I had the good fortune to rent for our home the house, in Rochester, originally constructed under Dr. Bausman's supervision for his residence.
And what a homey house it was. Eight high-ceiling rooms on the first and second floors, plus a three-room apartment on the third floor, which was Dr. Bausman's study.
Somehow, it seemed altogether fitting that a man who loved history and literature should have chosen ancient California redwood for the outside woodwork. The front door and firstfloor windows were surrounded by small leaded glass panels, which caught the sun's rays and reflected them in a myriad of color. Oak paneling within and a large crystal chandelier in the living room, with hanging pendants of a similar lead glass, and a winding stairway leading to the upper rooms, all combined to make that house a dream-like home, such as only a man of Dr. Bausman's ability could visualize.
But, after so many years, my mind's eye especially recalls that third-floor apartment. Dormer windows braced the front and side, giving an extensive view of the Beaver River, from New Brighton down to its juncture with the Ohio. One sees at times the historian leave his writing to stand at those windows, or, perhaps, sit on the cushioned seats beneath, and draw inspiration from the panaroma, so visible from that spot. Built-in bookcases lined the walls of the front room, and a huge fireplace served to ward off winter's chill.
Yes, it was a beautiful home, conceived by
a man of many facets and abilities. Yet, lurking in the shadows,
it sometimes seemed the phantom of that storyteller from my boyhood
days still lingered in the hall and stairways of the house he
once held so dear.