Constance Bauman Willows

This interview is with my mother, Constance Bauman Willows. She is originally from Essex Connecticut, but now manages Tall Willows Ranch here in Golden Valley Colorado with her father-in-law Joe Willows. It’s another long one, so I’ve broken it into several parts.

Part I

Ruth: Tell me about growing up in Connecticut.
Connie: Essex is a small town, with an artsy flair. It’s mostly white, upper middle class families. The Bauman’s settled in Essex… do you want me to go back that far?
Ruth : Just a little bit.
Connie: Ok, They came over from Germany in the 1800’s and and worked with ivory, manufacturing piano keys. That’s why one of the original village they settled in is called Ivoryton. Ivoryton was incorporated in with. . .
Ruth: (interrupting) OK, now about you Mom.
Connie: Fine. I had, what I guess, is a normal upbringing with my Mom and Dad and my younger sister Cecilia, Cee Cee.

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Ruth: What did you like to do as a kid?
Connie: We had lots of woods around us, and water. Our town is on the Connecticut River so we took sailing lessons and swam. From our back yard, we could walk through the woods to a stream that emptied into a small pond. Cee Cee and I would play out there all day in the summer, till it got dark.
Ruth: What else would you do?
Connie: My parents were insistent on “expanding out horizons,” as my father would say. So, we’d often go into Manhattan to see an opera, or the symphony, or Broadway show. I became very interested in art, so I took a lot of art classes. Cee Cee loved to travel. By the time she was seventeen, she’d take her money and hop on the train and be gone for a few days.

Ruth: Aunt Cee still loves to travel.
Connie: That’s why she works for the airlines.
Ruth: And you were an artist.
Connie: I started making pottery one summer in high school, and fell in love with it. I sold my pots in the Berkshires for quite a few years.
Ruth: But you went to college.
Connie: Yes, I have an Art Management degree from Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts, that’s how I ended up in the Berkshires and that’s where I met your dad.
Ruth: You were living in some hippie commune . . .

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Connie: It wasn’t a hippie commune! It was an artist community. I was renting a studio apartment- it had indoor plumbing and electricity, and there were other artists renting rooms and apartments. I also rented studio space from a local potter. I was working on my craft and selling my wares, and I’d wait tables a few nights a weeks to make ends meet. The whole vibe of the area was loving and serene. (She closes her eyes)
When I remember it I see green. The sun streaming through green leaves on the trees, the green carpet of grass under my feet. The whisper of the wind in the treetops. The smell of cool mountain air and fresh cut grass. It was a beautiful place, and a beautiful time.
(She opened her eyes and smiles) Ed was working for a surveying company. Some bigwig in Boston wanted to build a highway right through state forest lands. They already had the Mass Turnpike, they didn’t need to cut down trees to lay down more concrete. Everyone was up in arms.
Ruth: I thought you said there was a loving vibe.
Connie: There was, just not for the politicians that wanted to destroy our forests! There were all kinds of town meetings and a rally where a bunch of us protested in Boston. To make a long story short, the survey report said the planned location for the highway wasn’t feasible and that’s what finally stopped the project.

Ruth: What, did Dad report that just to get on your good side?

Connie: No, of course not. He didn’t even write the report. It really was a poorly planned project. But it did give Ed and I a chance to meet.

Ruth: So how did that happen?

Connie: He came into the restaurant where I worked one evening and we started chatting. He was tall and handsome, kinda quiet and all alone. I, of course, told him I was a potter. We started talking about pots of the Utes and some of the pueblos in New Mexico.

I told him to come by my studio and check it out. That weekend he did. And the next weekend too. The survey crew he was working with had to keep moving as the job progressed, but Ed kept coming back to my studio each weekend.

By the time his project was finished, it was almost fall and we talked about trying to continue seeing each other. His company was actually based in Connecticut, so I would make the drive down to visit my parents and see him on my days off from the restaurant.

Ruth: So you got married and lived happily ever after?

Connie: Well yes, but no.

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