At the bottom of Herrietstown Hill, about 5 miles outside of Saranac Lake, NY is a northern Adirondack landmark. It holds as much meaning to area residents as the view of Whiteface or Slide Mountain. This is a family owned dairy called Donnelly’s. I worked there for over a year starting in the summer of 1980. I drove a refrigerated milk truck, making 4:30am home and commercial deliveries to Saranac Lake and Lake Placid. In those days, eggs, bottled milk, bottled heavy cream, cheese, yogurt, butter and other dairy products were brought right to the door step. It was the last hold-over of the horse-drawn milk delivery of years gone by, and I was very happy to serve our local communities in this way.
The centerpiece of the entire Donnelly “empire” was not it’s dairy, or it’s delivery trucks. No, that distinction came from it’s ice cream stand that stood in front of the farm. This sold, and still sells, the unmatched glory of “Donnelly’s Soft Ice Cream”. People drive from miles around, and never mind standing in line, to taste the creamy delight that pours out of those ancient machines. There are other places to buy ice cream, but none is quite as rich as Donnelly’s, and everyone knows it. The picture above is the sign in their window. It reads; “We pick the flavor, you pick the size”. It offers a “flavor of the day”, picked by the Donnelly’s, that is twisted with vanilla and gives an invatation for the buyer to pick how much of it they want.
To those who live in a consumer driven, cater to the masses, Starbucks-mentality kind of world, this is totally foreign. However, this business is a true reflection of simple, life unchanged in the Adirondacks. Those of us who are blessed to have generational roots in this place, know the rugged simplicity, and unchanged purity of life in these mountains. We also know and appreciate, the value of a good product that has stood the test of time. When I was a kid, the old timers always said, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. In other words, if it works, then just leave it alone. Donnelly’s “flavor of the day” is a clear example of that ideology. It basically all boils down to this; “Here is today’s flavor. Buy any size you want or step out of the line… NEXT!”.
This brings home a basic reality; life has the potential to be quite simple at it’s core. We all tend to make it unnecessarily complex, and full of pointless emotional drama. Our selfish demands, the desire for unending entitlements, and the need to satisfy the uncontrolled want for more of what we really don’t need, fuels the fire of complexity. We serve ourelves first, instead of looking for ways to help others. We do help, as long as it benefits us, and when it becomes an inconvience, we tend to find another cause to “support”. Many now march in the cities demanding change. They fill the streets with hollow voices that have no power, and make no real, lasting difference. Why? Because, these marchers have never paid a price for anything. Everyone knows a soft life has been handed to them, and genuine hard work, or the struggle to better themselves, is not part of their personal history. They are pampered frauds, demanding more of the things they haven’t earned, and don’t deserve.
These are the affluent unhappy, the entitled unappreciative. They live at a higher standard than most of the world and somehow still feel neglected, unheard and emotionally fragile. They demand change but offer no honest solution to their self-imagined problems. They are offended and angry when things don’t go their way. They resort to name calling and emotionally charged rhetoric when confronted by real facts. Worst of all, they use any position of influence or notatriety to degrade, insult, challenge and defame anyone who disagree with them. Listen to any Hollywood award ceremony and you will get an ear full. These have made living so complex with issues, emotions, fake news and vulgar comments, that there is no longer an ability to recognize the simple truths of an honest, honorable life.
This is where Donnelly’s ice cream comes in like a soft, sweet spring rain. It cuts through the excess baggage, eliminates the unnecessary, endless choices, and offers an honest, simple taste of reality in an unrealistic, liberal, snowflake world. They dont caters to every whim. They are not obligated to make you feel happy. It’s your job to be happy with today’s offering, and you get to pick just how much happiness you want. You can have the flavor of the day twisted with vanilla. That’s it! Don’t like today’s flavor, today’s situation? No problem. Keep smiling and come back tomorrow and things will be different!
This is life in its purest form, and you get to live it just the way it is, rather than control and manipulate it to meet your every want and need. Welcome to real, unrefind life in the raw. It’s a pure, personal, self adjusting kind of life that brings everything into focus. It hands you what’s out there, and you have to grow up, deal with it and learn to appreciate it for what it is. No sugar coating or chocolate sprinkles. No special blends of crumbled cookies and candies of your own choosing. Nope.. It’s the real deal, and you can either eat the flavor of the day and enjoy it, or go away grumpy, without it.
This is life simplified to it’s basic form. You either enjoy it just the way it’s handed to you, or you can come back another day and try another flavor. And what if you don’t like vanilla twist? Such is life, and this is not the place for you. You don’t get special treatment, you don’t have it your way, and no one is going to accommodate your wish for something else. My father put it to me this way one day when I was complaining. He said “Bill, life is not fair so it’s time to grow up, stand up and make the best of what comes your way.” Perhaps that is the point in living a simplified life. You might want 50 flavors but life brings you to Donnelly’s. The thing is, how you respond in that moment is more important than the flavor being handed out that day. Get back to the basics. Who knows, you might capture the life you always wanted.