Smith’s Corner lies in the middle of some of the most desirable farmland in Bridgehampton just to the east where Bridge Lane crosses Sagg Pond. The old Smith family home still stands on the west side of the pond but I’m not sure the two are related. I met Dinwiddie Smith by chance in 2007. I was a volunteer EMT with the Bridgehampton FD. John White another member and EMT asked if I could help drive “Din” to the Hospital in NYC. Din was a past volunteer at the Fire Department and as a courtesy to it’s current and former members the Fire Department would allow us to drive Din into the city in one of our ambulances. Our trip was planned but tenuous. It was winter and we’d just had a heavy snowfall the day before but cleared out enough to make the long drive in. I honestly don’t know why I volunteered to do this, it would take up my day when I could be painting but I said I would. John and I drove the ambulance over to pick up Din. The first thing I noticed when I walked into the Smith’s house was that we would have to maneuver around a Steinway grand piano. No problem, move the sofa instead. The living room was open to the second floor and next to the piano was a pipe organ with pipes lined up to the ceiling. I was somewhat amazed but we were there to pick up Din. No time to ask questions. It would be a seven hour drive to and from New York City, uneventful except for rush hour traffic. I navigated by myself while John rode in the back with Din. I could hear Din telling stories, something he was good at and John carrying on with him. When we finally got Din situated in his room he asked for a cup of ice, then asked John to reach into his overnight bag for a flask of his favorite scotch and to pour him a cocktail. He winked and put a finger to his lips motioning to keep quiet. So very like Din! The next day Charlotte called to say thank you and insisted I come over for dinner. I agreed on one condition, that she play Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D minor on the organ. “Very well,” she replied. When I showed up for dinner at the Smith’s house a few days later Charlotte asked what part of Bach’s piece would I like to hear. She played the Toccata. Hearing this played live is absolutely amazing. Sitting right next to an instrument with a full body of sound was something else. The room filled with music. I found out later that Charlotte had been teaching piano and organ most of her adult life. Her students went on to become some of the most noted musicians of their generation. Charlotte was also the founder of The Choral Society of the Hamptons and she was the organist at the Bridgehampton Presbyterian Church for 40 years. I didn’t know it at the time but this was the beginning of an amazing friendship. Unfortunately that was the first and last time I saw Din, on that trip to New York. He passed away shortly after that. Dinwiddie left a Frederic Remington painting to the Frederic Remington Art Museum. I ended up doing an artist in residence there one summer in part because I was friends with Charlotte. Another summer Charlotte and I were co-chairs for a Habitat For Humanity fundraiser. Once a week we’d get together and discuss our plans and progress over dinner along with any other board members who came over. After dinner we’d ‘retire to the parlor’ and listen to Charlotte play something classical on the piano. She had a substantial library of sheet music. Occasionally other musicians were there and would accompany Charlotte with a stringed quartet. It was a great education of classical works in piano and organ.
In the summer it is also light enough to step outside after dinner and walk through the garden. The backyard was over an acre, designed and laid out with pathways through sections of flowers, ornamental grasses and an enclosed area for vegetables that kept the deer out. I also learned that Din had deeded a right of way to Sagg Pond, where anyone could park and access the pond. This is where I set up to paint Smith’s Corner, on the edge of the lawn by the old Smith home. The view looks north to Sagg Bridge, the sun has set illuminating the landscape in subtle pastel tones in the humid air before nightfall, the phragmites with their flowers a dark purple panicle stretching around both sides of the pond. I didn’t realize it at the time but I know now why I volunteered to pick up Din that day. The real reason was to help someone, to participate in my community, to be part of the solution of which I hope I succeeded. But the answer to my question on that first day when I met Charlotte and Dinwiddie presented itself in way I wasn’t able to calculate. When you help others something good happens in return. It’s been an invaluable lesson. It really wasn’t until I became a volunteer in the BHFD that I started to make a decent living as an artist. The more time I gave away the more time I had to make art.