In the heat of summer Frances would often pack up a picnic and lead the children down to a huge oak tree halfway down the grassy lawn that stretched to the road. Dolly would wheel her doll in a doll carriage to the event. Under the shade they would enjoy the cool, fresh air as they ate. Then Frances would relax and read while the children played and wrestled with Buster the dog.
There were several Busters and each was a collie dog. They were kind and even-tempered, just the right kind of dog to be with children. Frances could trust him to protect a baby even if they were outside on a blanket and Frances had to skip inside to answer the telephone. “I would just say, ‘Watch the baby,’ and he would.” One time she heard Buster barking and barking near Dolly on her blanket. “I knew that something was not right. I hurried out and he was going around and around the blanket, keeping – of all things – a snake from getting on a blanket.
That was not her first encounter with a snake at Lyon Hill Farm. Frances recalled her first experience and being “frozen with fear.” “I was bringing two five quart pails of water from the well to our kitchen when all of a sudden a snake appeared from the brush and blocked my path. I screamed and I could not move but I clenched the water pails’ handles in my hand so tight that when I really came to myself it was hard work to pry the handles loose. You have no feeling. It is just as if you were not there.”
As the children grew, “They were pals,” Frances said. “They loved to play hide and seek with Buster. They would bring him to me and ask me to keep him for ten minutes, then let him go. In the meantime they scurried off in different directions – but Buster always found them. What fun!”
Buster also knew how to round up the cows and bring them home for milking time. “But one night, for some reason, the cows had lain down out in the pasture. The lead cow had a bell on, but she had lain down also. Everything was quiet. When Buster came home without the cows, Grampa Plaisted, Leon, and Bob started out to find them. This time Buster found them and started the cows back home with the help of Gramp, Dad, and Bob. It was now dark and no moon, so it was Buster that brought all safely home. Of course, that night chores were late and as soon as we could, all were ready to tumble into bed so as to be ready for the next day.”
One day Frances looked out the back door of Lyon Hill Farm and, to her horror, she saw small flames licking at the dry grass around the old well. The children and their friends were staring at the flames in fear. Frances recalled, “I grabbed my broom and started to beat out the flames but I could not handle it.” Grandmother Plaisted, who now lived with them, looked out her bedroom window, seemingly stunned. Frances yelled for her to call for help, but Nany didn’t seem to respond at first. “I spoke three times – I was desperate. I said, ‘Do you want to lose your home?’ After she went to the telephone, Frances feverishly tried to stamp out the fire. Soon the neighbors came and the house was saved without being even scorched. “How thankful I was. I was exhausted.” She never forgot the terror. “Fire in the stove or in the fireplace is useful and gives us comfort. But a fire out of doors and out of control is unbearable and so horrifying as to make one shudder, as it does me now after all these years.”
As the kids grew, when the snows came, Frances dug the path through drifts for the kids to get to the school bus. They now had a “closed car with real glass windows that would slide up and down and would keep the rain, snow, and sleet out.” They still kept warm with a “beautiful, plush robe made in the Sanford Mills,” where her father was the Chief Electrical Engineer. For fun in the winter, the children loved to sled down from the top of Lyon Hill into the meadow. Years later the airport was built nearby and they sheared off the top of Lyon Hill “on account of the downdraft when the planes came in.”