The archaeologist, Norm Meinholz, was digging at the site of Mather Inn again this month. This time, I managed to get back to Wisconsin while the dig was still open. Meinholz had uncovered part of the old foundation and established the exact location of the Inn, when it stood facing the Plank Road. The Mather Inn itself still stands a stone’s throw away–it was moved many years ago, and now faces what would have been the Section Line Road between the Mather and McEachron properties.
Just a few paces west of the foundation, the archaeologist had found the well. Stones formed a perfect semi-circle (only half had been uncovered). It was easy to imagine Katie pulling a bucket of water from the well, setting the bucket on the stone rim, and peering at her reflection–even though that scene was edited out of our book during an early revision.
Many scenes never made it into the final version of Plank Road Summer, including one which our mother particularly liked. This lost scene was the first introduction to the Mather Inn from Katie’s point of view:
“Katie walked past the grand front door that led to the parlor and the ballroom upstairs–that was for guests. She hurried round past the porch on the west side, which led to the dining room–that was for teamsters. At the back of the house she rapped at the kitchen door–that was for neighbor children. Mrs. Mather was very particular about the proper use of doors.”
As I walked around the original site of the Inn and stood where the front door had once been, I slipped back in time–back to when traffic sounds were the creak of a harness or clopping of hooves, and when water came not from the faucet but from a bucket drawn daily from the well. Had Hilda and I seen this circle of stones a couple of years ago, I’m sure we’d have kept the well scene in our book.
Click here to read a newspaper article about the first dig.