Autumn in the North Cemetery.

Sixty miles west of Boston, Massachusetts there is the small New England town of Sturbridge. Located at the junction of I-90 (The Mass Pike), and I-84 it has become known as the "Crossroads of New England". The town was first settled over 300 years ago, and like other small New England towns it has grown just enough over the years to be in a difficult place today. How do we embrace the future without forgetting how we got to our present? How do we attract the right kind of growth, and maintain who we are? And, what about our culture out here in Central Massachusetts?

These pages will cause one to think about how to protect what we have, our future direction, and how to move on in the very best way.

Those thoughts, and other ramblings, will hopefully inspire more thought, conversation, action, and occasionally a smile...

...seems to be working so far

Monday, December 29, 2008

Buildings And The Brook

I have a couple of things rattling around upstairs that have been bugging me a bit. One is the restoration of the Hamant Brook. I know that the state biologist has stated that restoring the brook, and draining the ponds in the former Robinson Crusoe property would be the best thing to do in order to restore the area, but I'm still not on board.

This brook is one of the last areas in Massachusetts where Brook Trout reside east of the Berkshires. They are there because the area has not been "touched" by man for decades. They have not been "fished out" of the area, either. When the dams are taken down, and free access to the Quinebaug River is allowed for these fish, what then? They'll swim down stream to Southbridge, get sucked through the inlet at the Westville Dam, and then off to parts unknown.

No more Brook Trout.

I've been told that they won't venture that far, and they will return to brook to spawn. I hope so.

I also am having a hard time seeing the ponds disappear. I know they are man made, but they are beautiful. I'd hate to see them gone.

I'd like to have some reassurance about the trout, and just how the area will look after the dams are gone. Also, there is another pond at the top of the mountain that flows into the brook. this pond may have started out being a small one at one time, but beavers have dammed it against an old stone wall a the crest of the hill, and it is quite large now. The overflow runs down the mountain at an incredible pace, like a waterfall, and follows the tract of a stream that has been there forever. It flows between the stone remnants of an old mill. Will the plan to restore Hamant Brook involve removing the beaver dam as well? It is only a matter of time before it bursts on its own, and the volume of water held back will destroy anything positive done down stream.

Another thing that has been on my mind is the Town Hall / Center School Project. I expected things to be in progress at this date, but there have been meeting after meeting, and a lot of things to discuss, and work out. It is not the simple plan of refurbishment I thought it would be at the Town Meeting. I think they should put it on hold, and build a NEW Town Hall.

I am all for restoration, and using historic facilities to our best advantage, but to restore, retrofit, refurbish both buildings that have minimal parking, and awkward access I feel would not be the best way to go.

Build a new building somewhere else in town, and use some money to stabilize the deterioration of the Center School and current town hall until they can be salvaged for other purposes at a later time.

A new building can be designed to fit into the character of our town, and overall the cost of building new may be less expensive than retrofitting old building in the long run.

One thing I don't want to see is a grand restoration, and a few years down the road we have out grown the space of the two older buildings. It will happen eventually.

Parking is another issue at the current town hall site and across the street at the Center school. The town does not own any of its parking behind the town hall, the Federated Church owns it. The parking across the street is minimal, and the only access to the few lots behind the Center School is on one side of the building.

I know that the intention is a good one. We don't want these two old building to fall further in to disrepair, and saving a part of our heritage is always a good thing, but I guess the pragmatic side of me is coming out. A modern, well designed new building located elsewhere in town on land that would supply ample parking would be ideal.

So, what to do with the other buildings? Put them in mothballs till the time and money is there to refurbish them and utilize them for other purposes.

I know, kinda late in the game to be expressing this opinion, but I feel better, and I hope the towns current plan works out well.

I can't wait to see the results.

Monday, December 22, 2008

I'm In Deep Snow

It's December 22nd, and I have yet to start my Christmas shopping.

I know. I'm a guy, and guys always wait to the last minute, but that isn't the real reason. I like to wait in order to be absolutely sure I have decided on the best gift. I get buyers remorse real bad, and I always think I could have bought more, too. Laziness is a self preservation thing in a way.

I don't have an issue with shopping late in the game. I know what I want, I go to where they have it, walk in, and buy it. That's it. Next.

I avoid malls at this time of year. I like to shop at the merchants in the area. I'll hit JC Penny, WalMart, some gift shops in town and in the neighboring towns, and if I need that one thing that nobody around town carries, then I take a deep breath, and drive off to Auburn, or Milbury.

It's a simple game plan. Wrapping is easy. I can knock off a boat load of gifts in no time flat. Same paper for all the gifts. Some tape, actually lots of tape, a name tag, maybe a bow, and Voila!, done.

Hiding them is always a problem. Mary has all the best places to hide stuff, and since I no longer have a car with a trunk, I can't very well stash them in the bed of the truck. I will hide them well, though, usually right under their noses.

So, it's shopping today, a haircut, and then work later in the day.

No problem.

[Insert loud, maniacal laugh here]


Thursday, December 18, 2008

Time To Sit And Listen

Sometimes we need to call in the Pros.

We may have all the best intentions, work our gluteus maximus to the bone, and although we make some headway, we could really do it better, and faster with a little input from an expert. For a person to seek help from outside their circle of influence is a big thing. Number one, you can't be the least bit egocentric, mature enough to know your limits, and realize that seeing the same thing through another set of eyes has a way of opening up a lot of possibilities that would be otherwise overlooked.

Not many of us that fit that description.

One person does: Tom Chamberland.

Tom emailed me Thursday morning regarding my recent posting about town land, and what he shared with me is brilliant, and considering the source, it does not surprise me. Tom is a jack-of-all-trades around town. When he is not working for the Army Corps of Engineers as a Park Ranger, he is the towns Tree Warden, a Scout leader, an organizer and volunteer trail builder, writes a column in the local paper, and is the towns Veterans Agent. He does it all. In fact, I think he spayed my cats last summer, too.

Sometime in November, Tom attended a Trail Symposium and met a man named John Morton of Morton Trail, LLC, and shared what has been going on in Sturbridge regarding recent land acquisitions, and trail buildings. Tom also shared his vision for the trails in town. The following is from the Morton Trails web site.

"Founded by two-time Olympian John Morton, Morton Trails provides expert guidance in the planning, design, and construction of sport and recreational trail systems for cross country skiing, walking, running, hiking, biking, snowshoeing, equestrian and other outdoor activities. We also help landowners, state and local governments, developers, non-profits, and other organizations create sustainable, economically vibrant, active outdoor communities.
Our services include: (Click the bold links below.)

Trail planning
Trail design
Competitive venue design
Real estate and economic analysis
Construction oversight

Large or small, private or public, urban or rural, trails are now recognized as one of the most highly valued amenities for communities and property owners. On the following pages, you will find additional information about our work, how to contact us, and how we may be able to help you with your project."

"John Morton is the founder and a Principal of Morton Trails, involved in the design of over 100 trail projects across the United States and abroad. A seven-time Olympic participant, twice as an athlete for the US Biathlon Team and most recently as Chief of Course for Biathlon events at the Salt Lake City Olympics (2002), John began designing trails in 1989 after eleven years as head coach for the Dartmouth College Ski Team. He is a graduate of Middlebury College and served in the US Army in South Vietnam, released from active service at rank of Captain in 1972. In addition to remaining a competitive runner and skier, John is a frequent commentator on Vermont Public Radio and author of the novel Medal of Honor. He is a certified course homologation inspector for the FIS (International Ski Federation)."

Soon after the symposium, David Lindahl of Morton Trials followed up with Tom by email. He offered to help Tom out with the ideas he has had about the trails in town, and how to make the very most of them. Tom got right on it, and about a week and a half ago he forwarded his emailed conversations with Morton Trails off to some of the "movers and shakers" here in town, and ran his idea by them to have the folks from Morton Trails come into town:

"...there has been a lot of general discussion in the town on Ecotourism the work these people do may be something we may want to explore further. With the close proximity of Leadmine Mt , Heins farm lands to the Quinebaug river lands and partnering with OSV the potential of putting together a program that would be large enough and able to support itself is possible."

This could very well be the kick we need.

So far, Tom has heard back from some of the people he brought his proposal to, and is waiting on the rest. It's been just under a couple of weeks, but I am sure Tom will hear back from the others very soon. Just sitting down with those folks from the Conservation end of things, the town administrator, a rep from OSV, and others with a vested interest in the land to listen to the people from Morton Trails would be priceless.

This is a no brainer. Call in people with some experience and know how, and sit quietly and listen to what they have to say.
I'll be waiting to hear how it goes.

For more information go to

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

If There Were 84 Cats Living In The Town Hall, I'd Understand

Every once in a while we read in the paper, or see on the evening , story about hoarding. Now, this isn't the hoarding one would normally expect, like buying three gallons of milk the day before a snow storm, but what is actually a neurosis. We've all heard a story about the "crazy cat lady" that has 84 cats living with her, or people that have gone into a the home of a person only to find it completely filled with stacks of newspapers, used gift wrap, QVC purchases, canned pineapple, and other bizarre mementos. This is called hoarding. People find a compulsion to collect random things that mean something to them, and to collect it till the day they die. Often times the collected items take over their home leaving only small passageways through rooms from the kitchen to the bathroom. The bed is usually covered with items so sleeping in it is out of the question. the couch or a soft chair in the living room becomes their nighttime getaway, if they can find it.

This kind of hoarding is an illness, and if not treated early, can fully control ones life. The reasons given for such behavior range from "I just like cats.", to "I don't ever want to be caught short of canned pineapple." to "I want to finish reading that issue of Life magazine."

I saw a program on TV where a middle aged man collected all sorts of stuff he found at the curb on trash day. He'd bring his treasures home and store them in his garage, basement, and under one of the dozens of tarps in his yard.

"I could use this thing someday." It's too good to just throw away."

By spending time with the man, listening to him, and understanding just how much the behavior controlled him, the producers of the show, with the help of professionals, were able to begin the long process of desensitizing him tho his compulsion, and begin the separation process between him and his treasures before his wife left him.

Hoarding things for an emergency can be fine, if it s batteries for a flashlight for the "Storm Box", or bottled water for an emergency, but this isn't actually hording, but rather just stocking up.

Towns can hoard, too.

Towns can buy up a lot of land with the intent of preserving it from development, and keeping the town from being overbuilt. They will promote the recreational activities the land could support, and eventually, the towns people will concur, and vote to make the purchase.

Heck, sounds good.

Then another parcel comes up for sale, and the town grabs that one as well having done nothing with the first piece of land. This can go on for years. Each time another parcel, more promises of what it could be used for like ball fields, canoe launches, nature trails, and picnic groves, and nothing is ever done.

Volunteers finally step up, and organize. They plan out a trail system, get contractors to volunteer time, equipment, and materials, and rely on a crew of loyal towns people to volunteer their labor.

The town, in the meantime, looks for an appropriate logo to put on some signs at the entrance to the land.

When a town announces plans to purchase a property, and offers all sorts of plans for it, those plans should be part of the article entered into the town warrant for the purchase of the land along with the cost. Just putting in an article for the purchase of the land for a certain amount does not guarantee anything will ever be done with the property, in fact, the town could change the proposed use of the land to suit its needs at any time.

Hoarding of land by towns, just for the sake of hoarding, and then letting them sit does little for the town, except cost it money.

So, of course, I've been thinking. From now on if the town proposes to purchase land for a particular purpose it must be first proposed by an elected board. Call it the Land Acquisition Board. Now, when word is on the street that a particular parcel is up for sale, and the town is interested in it, the boards job will be:

  • Have a definite purpose for the land that will be beneficial to those living in town.
  • Develop, and institute a viable plan for that purpose for immediately after purchase, two years out, five years out, and beyond that.
  • Research costs, and include them in the proposal.
  • Develop a manner in which the costs will be covered beyond taxes. This would include membership fee's, grants, State and Federal money.
  • Allow for input from the resident in town as to just how the land should be used. Allow for a variety of ideas beyond the original scope, and tailor the final plan to be as beneficial to as many in town as possible.
  • And, finally, how will the town recover its original costs? Or will it? This must be included in the original plan.
Without a plan, or a defined purpose the buying of land because it is there is akin to the old man and his 37 Dachshunds living in his single wide trailer.

Recently, some folks in town offered some plans for the Leadmine Property. It was nice to see. The land is the site of the very first co-ed summer camp in the nation. A part of Sturbridge history, of course, but a part of our nations history as well. Something should be done to make note of this. A bronze plaque on a large stone would be great. Of course that is like giving a dozen roses to ones wife. You give the roses, but the vase is too small, so you get a new one, and the table in not the best place to put it, so you buy a new table cloth, but it makes the walls look drab, so you repaint the room, only to find the curtains look dated, so new curtains, paint, tablecloth, and vase later the roses finally get placed in the center of the table.

By then, the petals begin to fall off the roses.

Placing a monument to Camp Robinson Crusoe is a great idea, but as announced at the meeting, there is a lot of housekeeping to do in the area beyond the building of trails. Much like placing a dozen roses in the middle of a thicket. It takes vision to see beyond the purchase and sales agreement. Town officials, if lacking vision, should rely on those that have it.

Like the middle aged hoarder of stuff that TV producers brought in professionals to help, the town needs help, and they will refuse a lot of it because they are "fine". It's gonna take some tough love, but in the end, things will be so much better for everyone.

Listen to those that have a vision, and if they offer a way to make it happen, listen harder. Then, when all is said and done, make it happen.

And It's Only The Begining of the Season

Here in Sturbridge we escaped much of the wrath of the recent ice storm that paralyzed much of Worcester County and beyond. Just a couple of miles east of us on the Mass Pike there are broken trees on the side of the highway in Charlton. The damage is far worse north and east of us.

Mary headed out early that day to go to work in the heart of the damage. Her boss called the house looking for her, and she spoke to her from her car just as she was heading north up I-190. Her boss told her that nobody else from their department was able to come in that day, things were in Emergency mode, and she would be the only one there from her department. She told her that she should turn around and go back home.

Woohoo! An ice day!!

So, after crawling, white knuckled to where she was, north of Worcester, she found an open exit ramp, and turned around towards home. One of the amazing things about Mary is that she is not only dedicated to her job, but brave as all get out. That drive must have been one nerve wracking ride. She called me on her way and described the damage she was seeing on the side of the road. It would be a long time before the damage was cleaned up, and power restored to everyone.

On Sunday evening, on my way down the Pike towards work in Boston, there was a caravan of out of state utility trucks from Indiana heading east. I know National Grid heads out of state to help others in a disaster, but it is always nice to see the mutual help when it is our turn, and they came from all over.

In Fiskdale, all we got was a lot of rain. 4 inches or so, I'd estimate. The stream behind the house was gushing from the culvert under my neighbors driveway, and the stream itself grew 25 feet across. The following morning, the splashing of the water from the culvert exposed the frozen artwork that had occurred overnight. As pretty, and fragile as it was, it was a reminder of just how bad things were just a few miles away from here.

Most of us here in town were spared during this last kiss from Nature, but the winter hasn't even officially begun, and there will be other storms, more ice, and more snow to come.

I can't wait.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Let's Face It, It's A Brave New World

Society. It's the world around us. Not the infrastructure, or our environment, although their status can be the result of what goes on in our society, but our culture, and moires. That's our society. Communicating within a society is important, for without good communication there would be no real society, just people going about doing their own thing never knowing what the rest of the their world is thinking, and doing.

This can lead to chaos in some ways, but will stymie growth as well. So, over time man has developed systems to communicate with others. In the beginning it was simple, just yelling out of the cave to the next cave.

"Hey, Bill, I like that woman living with you in your cave. Can I have her?"

Communication like this led to some basic social rules. No, you cannot have your neighbors roommate, even if you really like her. Of course, rules were broken, so to enforce them and make them known for the masses, they were written down. Stone tablets recorded a lot of rules. Moses had some tablets, and did a fine job spreading the rules to the masses. The Babylonians had clay tablet, and recorded a lot of rules and events, not to mention the Egyptians and their recording of life and rules on the sides of stone structures, and even better, on papyrus with pen and ink.

The better the communication in a society, the more a society grows with most everyone going in the same direction. For the most part.

Monks cornered the market on writing on paper, and storing the pages into what became books. Well to do people learned writing, too, and soon there were literate people that numbered in an amount that made sharing one monk made book difficult, so society invented the printing press. Books were printed enmasse, and distributed, and again, society read, learned about things, got all on the same page, essentially, and moved on.

Well, except for that period called the Dark Ages, but that was only because it was dark, and it was difficult to read.

Societies grew, prospered, fought wars, and spread their influence with new methods of communication. From books to music, to theater, the telegraph, radio, motion pictures, television, the computer, and the internet, our world has grown exponentially as each new form of talking to one another has evolved.

Until now.

Now there is Facebook, and society as we know it will come to a screeching halt as this form of communication takes over our world.

Facebook is what is referred to as a social networking internet web site. People sign up for free, post some information about themselves for the world to see, some photos, then search the site for others they may know, and include them in their list of "friends". On each persons homepage they can post what they are doing now for the world to see, and when posted it shows up on all the friends pages as well.

"Bill is walking the dog, and then taking a nap."

Now, the world knows Bill likes animals, but can't tolerate exercise.

One can put in their likes and dislikes for music, movies, books, anything they want to share, and the world knows it. Of course, you can select who you want to share your information with, but essentially, if you're posting anything personal online, you are probably posting more than just where you went to high school, and people do.


People post anything, and everything.

"Kathy is on the pike on her way to her OB/GYN appt."
"Tom is dancing a victory dance in his underwear cuz the Pat's won."
"Jill has become a fan of Britney Spears, again."

This is mild. There is a messaging function in the Facebook where you can instant message those of your friends online, or leave little messages on their "wall", or send them a email. People live for this communication and voyeurism. They will log on from their phones, laptops, desktops to check who is doing what , to whom, and where, and whatever, and to post where they are, what they just ate, how they slept, a photo of their new dog, or a picture of friends at the bar.

Nothing is secret. Nothing is kept to oneself.

It's all out there. Everything. Things are posted in the beginning for a selected few friends, but the friend network grows fast, and soon everyone knows about a date gone bad, a rash that won't go away, and anything else in your life that you've chosen to post online.

So, with all the media attention given Facebook, I had to check it out. One thing I found that you can't randomly search it's pages without becoming a remember. I became a member.

Arrghh. First step to sharing.

Once I got a little Facebook place I began to search for people I knew. Found my daughter, she has over 600 friends. Found my brother, his kids, his wife, my sister, co-workers, old classmates, and friends. Each one of them had a little bit about themselves online. I searched their friends for people we knew in common, and found some. I got messages from people giving me a hard time because I only had three friends, and to "step it up". I got messages, emails, and comments.

Seems everyone on the planet is on Facebook. Everyone.

I even found my Dad on Facebook. He turned 75 years old in August, and there he is, big as life, on his own Facebook page, photo and everything.

"Bob is writing music this morning, and hoping to get something published soon."


They've not only stolen our young, they've taken our parents, too.

Makes one pine for the good 'ol days of blogging.

Friday, December 12, 2008

To My Everything

Four years ago today we met for the first time. My heart flew out of my chest that night, and I've been chasing it ever since.

You are my everything.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

If You See Jay, Tell Him I'm Doing Fine.

How the heck I ended up doing what I am doing now is a long story, but as much as I really enjoy, and love what I do, it was not my first choice.

Back in high school I found a place that kept me relatively under control, and gave me some purpose. It was acting. I was not that good, although the reviews were awesome. Small towns are like that. They always give credit to those less fortunate. The town paper couldn't very well write, "His acting is like a hand puppet on methamphetamines." No, that wouldn't work. "He did a brilliant job capturing the essence of the crazy uncle, Teddy. It seemed to come so natural."

Better. And, kinder.

I directed, and acted in several school productions, and in others, I worked the lighting. My Dad was the music teacher in school. Each spring he would produce the the annual spring musical. "Oklahoma", Bye-Bye, Birdie", and "Fiddler on the Roof" were just a few of the countless musicals he musically directed.

I was in the chorus. I never had the brass to audition my voice in front of Dad except for once. I tried out for the Glee Club, and miraculously made the cut. To this day I think it was a pity choice. My sister, on the other hand, well that's another story. She was always throwing her voice around the house, ever since she was an infant. Now, she teaches music, and sings with the Boston Symphony's Tanglewood Chorus.

I should have yelled more as an infant.

Anyway. I dreamed of attending Emerson College in Boston to study theater arts.  My skills could be honed, and I was willing to learn everything there was to learn. My only talent, that was obvious at the time, was my voice. All my adult life people have commented on the sound of my speaking voice. Gets embarrassing at times. They say it reminds them of the guy on Magic 106.7 in Boston that hosts "Bedtime Magic" every night from 8PM till midnight.

The voice came as a result of "therapy". When I was around 6 years old, or so, I had a stutter, still do if caught off guard. My mother took me to the local doctor, and he advised her to have me read aloud for about ten minutes every night, and to watch my pronunciation, my diction, and the cadence of my speech. She was to correct me as I read aloud. We did those exercises a lot, mostly in the afternoon before Dad got home from work. Soon, I slowed down my speech, thought ahead as to what I wanted to say, and began to adjust my inflection. Today I sound like a DJ, which is handy as heck since I have a face for radio.

But, like all old habits, if I am a bit stressed, as in proposing, or explaining the white paint splotches on my new jeans, I stutter like Mel Tillis. Porky Pigs got nothing on me when I am in full verbal overload. So, I modulate the voice, think of the next word to come in advance (not necessarily the meaning, just the word), and speak like I am hosting an NPR program.

So, why the heck am I babbling about all this? Well, each time I drive by the Sturbridge Information Center on Route 20, and read the the events on the sign out front I drift back to those days when I honestly thought I was Oscar material. The Stageloft Theater posts their performances on that sign, and a short distance down the road, the theater sits comfortably back from the road. I often daydream as I drive by, imagining past roles, and where I might be today if I had followed my dream.

Probably still sleeping in the back seat of my '64 Chevy Mailibu convertible as I did for a while that summer after graduation.

You see, sometimes we end up staring at a fork in the road, because the road we expected to travel is closed for some reason. In the summer of 1972, I was not only staring at that fork in the road, I was sleeping next to it. Plans change. Dreams get shelved, and if we are to survive, we start out exploring those new horizons down that yet untraveled road.

Whoa. Heavy stuff. I know, I know, but things don't get totally lost. Strange things come about as a result. Maybe it's kharma. I never again walked the stage as an actor after that summer. I never did go to Emerson and join Jay Leno in that class of '76. I took two years "off", to "find myself" as we used to call drinking heavily, and staying out all night back then. Then, an epiphany: Nursing School.

Go figure. Don't remember much about the actual decision except that a friend of mine had actually applied to nursing school, and he waiting for his acceptance, and I, halfway through a case of 'Gansett, decided it sounded good. I had always thought that it would be something I'd like to do, now, with no other immediate options, it sounded even better.

Flash forward thirty plus years. It's 2 two o'clock in the morning, and the rest of the world is sleeping, except for me, and a little one armed, 12 pound 13 month old. She that is letting me know in no uncertain terms that she is hungry as heck, and is just not going to take it any more. I crack open a bottle of Enfamil, throw in some protein powder, and show her the bottle as I put on my gloves and gown. All the while, I am talking to her. Talking to her about stuff. My day, my cats, Mary, the other nurses that are way prettier than me. Anything. Softly. Soothingly. Calmly. She quiets down, and fixes her eyes on mine. Listening to the drone of nonsense that she does not recognize as her native tongue, but knows the tone, it is universal. She takes the bottle, still listening quietly. Still looking into my eyes. I change from my monologue to singing to her. Something I only do with those that are very young, and will not be able to retain the memory of the event. It's for their own good. A little Michael Buble, some Drifters, Maroon 5, and whatever else comes into my head. She still listens and drinks, and soon, the lids of her eyes begin to slowly come down like a curtain on the stage.

There are no cries for an encore.

Carefully, I return her to her crib, pull up her blankets, and pop in her binky.

My crib side performance was a resounding success. The reviews won't be in till morning, but talk around the room is that it went very well. I'll return later in the morning for another meal, some more nonsense-speak, a song or two, and maybe some hand puppet action.

I change out of my "costume", and toss it into the wastebasket, as I walk out of the dark room into the bright lights of the hallway.

I never did get to LA, Broadway, or even late night radio, but I continue to perform most nights, for an audience of one, or two. Sometimes, the reviews are amazing, other times, not so good, but I'll be here for the long run, and tomorrows show will be that much better.

There's a lesson to be learned in all this somewhere, but I haven't clue just where it is. Maybe, those road blocks at the fork aren't detours after all. Maybe, they are are guideposts instead. And, maybe an Oscar was never in the cards, and instead it was a "Florence" all along.

I still get to daydreaming when I read the "Hollywood in Sturbridge" blog, or drive by the theater, but I think I'll stick to this role till the show is canceled.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

They Gots No Vision

From the Worcester Telegram

Dec 10, 2008

Big park plan at old camp cooly received

STURBRIDGE— A bemused town administrator and baffled Board of Selectmen expressed bewilderment Monday night over a proposal for a memorial garden about three-quarters of the size of a football field. The garden would commemorate the former Camp Robinson Crusoe, which used to be an outdoor retreat primarily for New Yorkers. Conservation Commission Chairman David M. Barnicle talked yesterday about creating a 175-foot by 250-foot lawn-memorial garden where the camp was located. “We want to take down all the white pine. We want to take down all the vegetation. We want to drub the roots,” Mr. Barnicle said. “And then we want to chip everything that we have taken down and use the chip material for the ground cover. And then, in four or five corners, we want to do some planting.”

The camp site consists of 826 acres that the town purchased for $3.8 million from Old Sturbridge Village in 2007. Located at Old Sturbridge Village, the property was closed because of unsafe conditions at 15 buildings on the campgrounds, but they have since been removed and the area is now open for recreation. Mr. Barnicle said the proposal was the brainchild of Robert J. Briere, who did not attend last night’s meeting. Mr. Barnicle said Mr. Briere had talked to some of the former campers about the possibility of developing a fund to pay for maintenance. “If somebody has to go there and mow the lawn, that’s crazy. That’s an expense that we don’t want,” Mr. Barnicle continued. “If somebody has to go in and remove a trash barrel, that’s an expense. We don’t want to add expenses to this.” Mr. Barnicle said he would like to see some benches there so people would have a place to sit and contemplate. “And, as it happens, when you take down all those sticks, the white pine sticks, you’re looking straight out to one of the larger of the ponds,” Mr. Barnicle said. “It’s really pretty. It’s a really, really very nice venue.” Town Administrator James J. Malloy said he hated the idea. “The idea of putting a common or a big lawn that isn’t a lawn the size of football field next to a pond isn’t a great idea,” Mr. Malloy insisted. “It’s better the way it is and if it goes more natural, that’s even better with the exception of the trail.” Even when the dilapidated buildings stood on the old campground, Mr. Malloy said, it was possible to walk through and visualize how beautiful that land could be without the buildings on it. “The contractor that we ended up with, even though he was the low bidder, did a beautiful job removing those buildings and leaving most of the trees there,” Mr. Malloy said. “One of the beautiful things about this parcel is the fact that it is heavily wooded, has a nice trail on it.” Selectman Mary Blanchard agreed and questioned why the town would have a memorial for Camp Robinson Crusoe, which catered to out-of-towners. Selectman Steven G. Halterman said he was also confused by the mammoth size of the project, as well as using chip material for ground cover rather than having grass. “I’m not sure how that’s going to come off without costing the town annually,” Mr. Halterman said. “As soon as we start talking about that, then I think we’re talking about asking the town for a budget item. And I again, I’m not sure where it would go.”

It takes vision to see things as others can't, or won't. Leaving things to revert back to nature is fine, but limits many from using, and enjoying an area as well. To see what one park in Northampton looks like amongst the pines go to:


Tuesday, December 9, 2008

And, Our Survey Said...

In November, Thinking Out Loud In Sturbridge turned one year old. During that month I conducted a survey in order to determine if I was on the right track regarding my readership. I needed to know if I could improve anything, add anything, or leave things be. Input is always appreciated, otherwise I would think I was just writing for the wind.

Below are the results of that survey.

For the question as to how you would rate Thinking Out Loud, 7.1% rated it as adequate, 14.% rated it as good, 28.6 % felt it was well written, and 21.4% thought it was "freakin' fantastic". No one thought it was a waste of bandwidth, thank goodness. Well, for those 7.1 % that felt it as only adequate, I promise to do more in the coming year to correct that.

64.3% of you enjoyed the articles concerning the history of Sturbridge, and the same percentage enjoyed the articles about improving our Town. Those subjects will continue, and hopefully, with more frequency.

The answers to which particular blog was the most enjoyable was varied as my reading audience. Everything from history to Red Squirrels to the Ghost Story ranked high. Well, I guess there will be more history, humor, and fiction in 2009.

Of the features most enjoyed, 70% enjoyed announcements of meeting and events in town. 60% appreciated the links to other sites. Of course they will continue. Please feel free to submit any other sites to me.

The photographs at the top of the page were rated good by 21.4%, and excellent by 78.6%. Thank you. I will continue to post local photos, and please feel free to submit your own as well.

Half of the readers that took the survey forwarded a particular posting on to another person. I appreciate that. If you find something written that you feel would be enjoyed by another, click on the little envelope icon at the bottom of the post. Sharing the blog is a great idea, and truly appreciated.

And, finally, 100% of you that took the survey chose that you would continue to read Thinking Out Loud in Sturbridge in the upcoming year.


There will be changes in the future on the blog. Can't be same 'ol, same 'ol. In the upcoming year I want to write more about Central Massachusetts, and more about the individuals here in town. It was suggested in the survey to have more photographs of people on the blog. That is something I will work on, and do where appropriate. There will be other things that I look forward to doing as well.

In the end, I want to keep the purpose of this place as it was originally intended, a place for me to unscrew my head, and let things just fall out onto the table for others to play with. No pretensions, no political agenda, no enemies list, just thoughts.

Thank you to all that participated in the survey. Your input, and comments mean a great deal.

The Accident

I have written about this before. I don't like to repeat myself, but this time I feel it may be a good idea.

Children are a reflection of what they learn, see, and do. Most of that input has traditionally come from their parents. In the past, books filled in where parents may have left off, followed by the theater and movies. Eventually, TV filled in the holes. Today, the internet and computer games fill in gaps that are not touched on by parents. In touch parents will augment the "teachings" of the latter with their own take of life. A balance is sought. Of course, the child's own DNA plays a part in the interpretation of what is seen, learned, and experienced.

Poor judgment is something that comes naturally to people. We all make bad calls during our time here. Sometimes they are inconsequential, other times there is a price to pay for not thinking things through. Last summer, here in Sturbridge, there was one of those moments. When I last wrote of the incident, I used the word "stupidity". I regret that choice of wording now as it pertained to the injured party. I was misinformed as to how things had actually occurred, and I was wrong not have looked into it further. That is my only mea culpa.

I won't remove that word entirely, it can easily applied to others, nor will I shrug it off to being "in the wrong place at the wrong time". The event was talked about town as just what it was. Children and adults knew what they were attending, and knew that it was on the sly. When it became obvious that those in charge of the event were impaired by alcohol [ CORRECTION: referring to eye witnesses reports that man in charge of lighting fireworks was under the influence of alcohol, and had an open beer in one hand, and dropped the road flare onto a firework causing it to launch horizontally towards the beach. --ed.] it was the duty of those attending to either stop it, set an example, and leave for their own safety. Maybe some did try to stop it. Maybe some did leave, but most stayed, and as a result a person was hurt. Stupidity still plays a role, and from several directions.

Was the injury the result of an illegal event? Of course it was. Was it also the result of an impaired person playing the god of fire? Yep. And, finally, was it the result of those that knew that things were not on the level, and not safe, sticking it out, and exposing themselves and those with them to danger. You guessed it, the answer is yes as well.

So, what's with the Grand Jury? Well, to point blame for one at those responsible, but aren't all those in attendance at an illicit event complicit in the wrong doing?

I think we should just sit tight, and wait for the Grand Jury to do whatever Grand Jury's do.

In the end, this was an accident. A terrible accident. No one would have ever figured that something like this would happen to them, but it did. Could it have been avoided? Well, duh, of course it could have been avoided.

And, what is all the hullabaloo about the Selectmen not sending a card, or contacting the victim after the event to check on him? It was an accident in town, how does the Selectmen become involved? When I took an ambulance ride a few years ago I didn't get a follow-up call from Town Hall. I got a bill. A bill that had been paid by the insurance, but was sent to me to pay again. I fixed it, but that was the only contact I had with the Town Hall. Was I supposed to get a call, or a card?

What about the countless car accidents here in town, falls off ladders, slips on ice, bee stings, sliced fingers, and broken legs that happen to folks here in town? Is the town required to respond to each and every event with a bit of Hallmark and a home visit?

No, I didn't think so. So instead of trying to make the lack of a Hallmark moment a focus during the upcoming town election, move on.

Let's not continue to use someones unfortunate event as fodder for negative pre-election campaigning. It is what it is, and accident, nothing more.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

First Snow

Our first snow is laying on the grass this morning. Not much, just a coating, maybe half an inch or so. Still, just enough to cover the branches, and accent the trees against the early morning light.

I like to look at snow. It offers a good contrast between the gray and black colors of late fall, and adds definition to the landscape. When the sun hits a field of fresh snow at just the right angle it can take your breath away.

No sun today, but as I stare off in the woods behind this old house, and study the tree branches that cover the stream, and the ground along its banks I realize I am only watching the first few brush strokes of winter.

This winter landscape is far from finished.

Friday, December 5, 2008

A Time Of The Signs

I like 'em.

There's something new hanging from the utility poles on Main Street: Banners. These banners are just like the ones that one sees in Boston, and in other tourist towns in Massachusetts. The banners that were placed on the poles a week, or so ago, and read, "Welcome to the Town of Sturbridge", and there is a large Old Sturbridge Village logo in the center followed by "Home of Old Sturbridge Village". The colors, a red and sort of a dark yellow, that were chosen for the banner go great with many of the colors around Main Street.

The banners give a sense of uniformity to the jungle of utility poles that line Main Street. They also show the visitor that we know who we are, and take pride in what we have to offer.

Some thought was put into this project, although it take forever to get them out of the town administrators office.

Besides the actual banners, the very idea of them is a good sign. ( Great pun, but not intended.) For one, it shows that Town Hall does actually acknowledge that we are a tourist town. This is big. Why else would the banners be hung? Certainly not for the locals. The "official" acknowledgment of our towns status will be a good thing when other improvements are suggested, and made in the future.

The current banners are seasonal, and may be changed as do the events here in town, I imagine. This was the less expensive way to go. Verizon charges $3000.00 for permanent banners, and the actual status of the utility poles on Main Street is tentative since the town wants to bury the lines sometime this century.

We could be on a roll. Next we should think very seriously about a large "Welcome to Sturbridge" sign on Route 20 right before Route 131 heading west. Looks like it could be a great job for the high school. The whole design and construction of the sign would be a great lesson to be taught and learned. It would be a win-win. We'd get a stellar job done, for a lot less money, and the students would have a hand in constructing something for the world to see and admire.

Now, let's see how long the banners stay in place. This being Sturbridge and all, I have a feeling that as great as these are, there is something in the wings that will dampen the spirit of the signs.

Call it a hunch.

And, speaking of signs, the new sign by-law (something I have yet to fully understand its purpose) has been in effect for a few months now, but there are still businesses that are ignoring the by-law. Maybe it's me. As I said, I don't really understand the purpose of the by-law to begin with, and maybe others are having a hard time understanding it, too.

Click here to read the by-law.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Have A Mice Day

Mary came and got me a week or so ago and told me to come with her right away. She wouldn't tell me what was wrong, she kept telling me to come with her now. My heart was in my throat.

She led me into the back hall and down into the basement. At the foot of the stairs, she turned and pointed to the area in front of the dryer. There, on the concrete footing that the dryer is perched on was a motionless mouse. Just lying there. Very still.

A quick examination confirmed my worst thoughts: the mouse was dead.

Where did he come from? Why hadn't I heard him? Who was responsible for the death? It looked like a case for CSI: Sturbridge.

A year, or so, ago I found some other mouse bodies in the basement. Could there be a serial killer in the house?

Probably not.

The last batch of mice were dispatched with the help of D-Con, however this guy expired long after the D-Con was gone. Old age? Was he ill? An overdose? Or, was it foul play? All these questions were running through my head. Soon, I began to hear muffled words that were getting clearer and more pronounced, "Take him away! Wally, get rid of the mouse!" Mary was standing behind me offering directions.

I picked up the mouse by the tail, and brought him out into the back yard and disposed of the body.

Mary thanked me, and I washed my hands.

The fall usually brings these little guys indoors. Warm and snug, they usually have a source of food as well.

What is interesting is in the weeks prior to the discovery of the body, our cats were acting a bit peculiar. I first noticed them going to a corner of the living room and sniffing around the baseboard, then standing up with their paws on the wall. Strange.

Next, they would gather on top of the washing machine, which is in the first floor bathroom, and stare at the walls, and often to the same stand-up-and-touch-the-wall thing I had witnessed in the living room.

They heard something in those walls. They knew we had visitors, but did they let us know? No. Not even a note. To tell you the truth, I think they are all in cahoots.

Where there is one mouse, there are usually more mice. One single female mouse can have up to two trillion offspring in a six month period, so it was off to Wal*Mart for some "mouse food". Now, don't get all Green Peace on me. It has to be done. There is no way one can reason with a rodent. Remember the Red Squirrels? And, catching them alive and transplanting them elsewhere will do little good since I would be playing catch and release for years to come. No, I had to stop the mice in their little mouse tracks.

The cats aren't allowed in the basement since there may be remnants of the previous "mouse food" in the nooks and crannies, so they would be little good in eradicating our problem. They can do what they will with any stragglers that show their faces upstairs, but the basement is off limits. Cats are neat when it comes to catching mice, though. They often leave their catch at the feet of their owner as if to say, "There. All set. I got him. Now, give me a treat."

I hope they don't catch one upstairs and deliver it to Mary when I am not there. She would not do well sitting in the chandelier till I came home.

I left one of the "mouse snacks" in the basement above the dryer in a crawl space. The following day I examined it and found it had been nibbled at. There were distinctive teeth marks on the "food". The next day, more of it was gone, with more teeth marks. Soon, these interlopers will be no more.

I don't like to think of what happens to them after they have had their fill. I think the "mouse food" package said something about them dissolving into thin air never to be seen again. Yeah. That's what it said. Amazing product.

So, life amongst the fauna here on Brookfield Road in Fiskdale continues. From salamanders to deer to coyotes, squirrels, chipmunks, and now, mice. I should be on Animal Planet.

I do have a fear, though. See, when I was living in a little house I rented before we bought this old house, I had my first run in with mice. I set up a conventional mouse trap on the kitchen counter, and nailed two of them on consecutive nights. Their family never showed up inside my place again, but my 2000 Chrysler Sebring that I had parked in the yard after buying the truck was never the same. They go their revenge by sneaking into heating system and building nests, then filling them with hundreds of acorns. Yep, the car was never the same after that. Mouse fur, and acorn pieces would fly out of the vent whenever I turned on the heat and set the fan on high. I could hear them giggling from deep inside the dashboard.

So, if you don't see anything new posted on this blog for a week or more, you can assume I've been "taken care of" by the survivors. Little four legged fur balls dressed in black suits with little white ties have put a contract out on me.

Please send Mary a sympathy card, and maybe, some more D-Con.

Above photo: Actual photo taken of one of our cats plotting with one of the mice. Help.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Thinking Turns One, And He's Just Learning To Walk

It's been one year since I started writing this blog. I have to tell you, it has been great therapy, and it keeps me off the streets at night. This whole experience has been a learning one. After a year of writing, I am only now learning to walk.

I chose the title of Thinking Out Loud In Sturbridge because that is exactly what this space is all about. All those thoughts that one normally thinks, and then shuffles off to some quiet corner of ones head I choose to put out there. Why? Well, I think that a lot of those thoughts deserve to be seen by others. Exposing my inner most thoughts is a great cathartic. They are good enough to share. Then there are other thoughts that only confirm that I may need medication.

I like those thoughts the best.

After living in town for a while I wanted a venue to share the ideas I had with an audience, and maybe, if the those ideas were sound, they would gain a life of their own. Over the past year, some have, and some haven't. The speed limit situation here on the southern end of Route 148 is still a stickler, but I have come to the realization that even the most well meaning people can become paralyzed with inaction because they don't really know what to do, so they "hide" away and ignore the issue.

My intent was never to change my world, but rather to share. Sharing an idea, or thought can foster change as well. Sometimes when we hear, or read of someone that has a similar view as us it confirms that maybe our thoughts aren't too far off. I have received a lot of comments that support this. It's good to know that I am not "too far off" on a lot of my thinking.

There were other times, over the past year, when I enjoyed just being silly. As I said above, my thoughts have a way of leaking out onto these pages, the good, bad and the silly. No pretensions here.

One of the things that I most enjoy is writing about our town of Sturbridge, its past, where we are now, and where we could be in the future. Seems a lot of you enjoy those thoughts as well according the the survey currently being taken on this space. More on the survey results on a later post, but be assured, I will write a lot more on our history over the upcoming year.

What is happening here in town at the present is something that always gets a good response from readers. Writings on our environment, our woodlands, our roads, and businesses all seem to touch a nerve, as do the visions of Sturbridge in the future.

One thing I will continue to write about is the silliness, stupidity, ignorance, laziness, of folks in town whose actions either hurt us as a group, or individually. Can't help it. I think that my sense of what is right, and what is not right is quite good. Why? Well, if we ignore the questionable behavior of some, and don't react to it, then it is as good as condoning it. Someone has to speak up, and it might as well be me. There isn't another forum around that lets one express themselves about issues of behavior regarding our officials, residents, and businesses. People have to know that their are consequences to there words and actions, no matter how benign they may seem at the time. I do hope that these writings will be few. I do respond to what I see and read, and I do call 'em as I see 'em. That being said, I will also continue to recognize those that do us all proud. The individuals that are often overlooked, or get lost in the shuffle of everyday life, and sometimes yesterdays fools, can be tomorrows standouts.

Life works that way.

So, here I go onto a second year of exposing myself on the web. Wait. That does not sound good. Let's try again. So, here I go onto a second year of exposing myself on the internet.


Survey results will be posted on a future posting.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Give Thanks Everyday

This Thursday is our traditional time to give thanks for all we have in our lives. I always thought that appointing one day to give thanks was a bit odd, but there is far more to the day. We are celebrating the Pilgrims that survived that first year in Plimouth, and their giving thanks for their survival. So many of them did not survive that first year, and they may have all perished if it were not for the Wampanoag.

The Pilgrims took those bad times and built from them. Having their heads all in one positive place helped to insure they were all on the same page. A celebration of communal survival was something they could all be part of, and also set the stage for the times that were to come.

A football team doesn't usually celebrate a loosing season, but they should. They may not have made it out of the season in one healthy piece, and may have not made the best of choices during the year, but they finished, and the experience was something to learn from. Instead of going their separate ways after the last game, and reuniting the following July, they should celebrate, and give thanks for what positive things did happen.

Acknowledging the negative things, as well as the positive is the very best way to insure that the mistakes of the past are not made again.

The Pilgrims grasped this concept.

But, getting back to that one-day-a-year thing. It is a great way, and excuse, for rounding up family and friends, dressing up, and sharing a meal. The day is a low key one. We need that. Our lives are too crazy. We need to shut down, and take the time to let our bodies, and minds have a holiday. I think it is great that most businesses are shuttered on Thursday, and Friday. This way one is not stressed to catch up with life the following day. You can do that on Monday.

Yes, we need this one day a year to shut down, and when we are sitting in that comfortable chair, watching the Macy's parade, and waiting for the bird to come out of the oven, look around, and start acknowledging the things in your life. Start giving thanks then.

Give thanks for your being there in the first place. You survived another year. Then seek out your partners face in the room, and give thanks. The little faces spread about the room, the older ones talking in the kitchen, the table that is set so nicely, and waiting for the meal, the seven year old van in the garage that hasn't failed you yet, the roof that is not leaking, and anything else that has touched your life. Acknowledge it all, and give thanks.

Don't take anything for granted.

When we place our minds in this place, and take an accounting of all the things that are in our lives that are good, and the things that weren't so good, but we learned from, we become that much more enlightened.

Although we set aside the last Thursday of November for our giving thanks day, don't let that stop you from giving thanks the remainder of the year. Give thanks each time you arrive home safely, when the flu begins to break up in your little one. Give thanks that there is at least one meal to be made still in the cupboard, and you have two quarters for a newspaper.

Take nothing for granted, the Pilgrims didn't, and neither should we.

Monday, November 24, 2008

She's Twenty-two Today

She's 22 years old today.

I remember everything about the day she was born. Everything.

The days, weeks, months and years that have come, and gone since that day I am blessed to have been able to store away as wonderful memories.

She's in her last year of college now. Far cry from playing with her Pocket Pals on the dining room table, and watching the Littlest Mermaid over and over again.

Dance lessons are history. The American Girl Dolls are neatly packed up so that she can share them her children someday. Those countless plastic Disney little people, that we collected together, fill a few large popcorn tins somewhere at home.

I still have a clothespin she taped a piece of fabric to and drew a face on the top. She made me a little person to play with so I wouldn't feel left out.

She's 22 today, but she will always be my little girl no matter how grown up she becomes. Dads have that right.

Happy Birthday, Mic.



Exit 9 Blues

Holiday traffic tie-ups forecast
Fiscal woes to take toll on Turnpike traffic flow

November 24, 2008 6:00 AM

By Steve Urbon

NEW BEDFORD — If you are traveling by car this Thanksgiving, especially if your trip will take you on the Massachusetts Turnpike, you might want to leave as soon as you finish reading this.
Tuesday, said Holly Sutherland of the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority, is no longer the easy traveling day that it once was. Better to leave at daybreak on Thanksgiving, and certainly not after 10 a.m. on the big day.
We haven't yet mentioned Wednesday. So here's the word:
Forget Wednesday.
"We're basically asking people not to try to travel during Wednesday," Ms. Sutherland said.
But that won't change the fact that many people will. The Pike will be jammed "just about all day on Wednesday," she said.

Those people will almost certainly enjoy an hours-long look at the bare-trees scenery approaching the tolls at Exit 9, which connects the Pike to I-84 in Sturbridge. The Turnpike Authority is strapped for cash, and there is no intention to clear the bottleneck by allowing motorists to use Exit 9 for free.

Asked about the policy in previous years to allow the state police to waive those tolls at their discretion, Ms. Sutherland took a lengthy pause and said, "Only in an emergency." And it is not an emergency if it takes people an extra three hours to get to Connecticut...

Friday, November 21, 2008

$1.89 Per Gallon!!

I can fill my tank again!!


Gas is now $1.89 per gallon here in Sturbridge. Still more than I paid when I first landed here in town 8 years ago, but a whole lot less than I have been paying. It is like getting a raise.

I have a Ford truck, and I bought it the week gas hit $3.00 plus per gallon in August of 2005. As soon as I signed the contract Exxon / Mobil raised the price of gas. They were watching.

The truck has a thirty gallon tank. Thirty gallons. I need a tank that big because the truck gets about 18 MPG on the highway, and that is where I spend most of my time. Poor choice for a vehicle? Not a very green choice?


I bought the truck for a couple of reasons. It is a temporary vehicle, for one. I needed a vehicle to transport all the things I would eventually buy at Home Depot for a new house I had yet to buy. That August in 2005 Ford was practically giving the trucks away. I took one.

When we purchased our home that truck sure came in handy. Even today I am about to run off to Home Depot and give them more of my cash in exchange for all sorts of guy what-nots and stuff. The truck has more than served its purpose, and it has years left in 'er.

But, when gas got to be way over $4.00 per gallon, it would have cost me over $120.00 to fill it.


I took the less painful way out, and limited myself to only $60.00 per visit to the gas station. The gas didn't last long, but it was easier to swallow.

Now, with gas at $1.89 at the Pilot Station at the old Sturbridge Isle it will only take $56.70 to fill 'er up!

Yep, I got a raise, and I got gas.

Excuse me.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Squirreley In Fiskdale

Now, about those squirrels. Red Squirrels to be exact. The ol' Tamiasciurus hudsonicus.

I grew up knowing only one kind of squirrel, the Grey Squirrel. We sang a song about them in grade school. These rodents were everywhere, and still are. Furry, little things that scoot along lawns looking for nuts. More than once I have caught them on my window sill pointing at me and drooling.

Here in New England they are as common as Super Bowl Rings.

I had never run into a Red Squirrel till I moved to Fiskdale. At first I thought that the chipmunks had started to climb trees. Red Squirrels are smaller than their grey counterparts, and more spastic.

And vocal.

Man, do they make noise. Sort of a high pitched chatter that is incessant. I can only imagine what he was yelling at me as I crossed my back yard. He would increase his volumes and get more crazed if a Grey Squirrel happened by. I actually saw this little fur ball leap from high in a tree to the ground and without loosing a beat, he ran off toward the grey squirrel. I always wondered what he would do if they actually caught one.

Well, I tolerated the noise for some time, and finally, me and Mister Hav-A-Hart got together and we captured the Red Demon.

I brought the crazed rodent to a happier forest, and returned home. After parking the truck, I walked behind the house and there on the well was the Red Squirrel screaming at me.

I thought I had entered the Twilight Zone.

The damn squirrel not only was louder, and more angry with me, he had actually beat me home from the Happy Squirrel Relocation Forest.

Or, so I thought. Come to find out it was another one. I thought I only had one, now there was a sibling, or spouse screaming at me, standing on his rear legs, little arms waving like mad.


So, I set the trap up again and waited for the sound of the doors closing tight. Didn't take long. And, off to Peaceful Squirrel Acres we went.

I came home, parked the truck, and went around back to kitchen door, said hello to the Red Squirrel sitting on the stoop, went into the kitchen, hung up my keys, and paused.

I slowly turned around, took a step toward the kitchen door, and peered out onto the step. There, on the top step was a this obviously ticked off rodent. Standing there, arms crossed, one foot tapping away. You know the look.

Where the heck did he come from?! I was awash in Red Squirrel Tide! No sooner did I remove one, than a extra from central casting was sent in to replace him.

That day I made a total of nine trips to Happy Squirrel Land with a very upset squirrel in the back seat of my truck. I made an additional trip the following day. Ten trips. Ten squirrels. Strange thing is I never saw more than one of them at any one time. Must be the way they operate. Sort of a one-man show. Funny thing though, the more I took away, the louder, and brazen the remaining ones became.

Finally, after a lot of peanut butter bait, multiple trips down the road to the woods, there was peace in the valley once more.


After awhile the grey squirrels showed their faces in the yard again, the birds returned to the feeder, and I wasn't scolded from the treetops any longer.

This Wild Kingdom moment happened during the summer of 2007. In August of 2008 I was sitting on the back step, peering out into the tree by the well when something caught my eye. It was either a chipmunk in the tree, or we had trouble in River City again.

It was the latter.

I only saw him a few times after that. This one was very quiet compared to his deported friends. I let him be after I had a few words with him one afternoon. I explained my position, and my expectations to him. I think he understood.

I then turned and walked back to the house confident that my position was well stated, and that my four legged, red neighbor would be a good neighbor.

By the time I reached the porch the thought hit me that I must have looked like a total nut out there talking to that squirrel.
Even luckier he didn't come out that tree, cold conk me and store me away for the winter.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Monday, November 17, 2008

Animal House

Here in Fiskdale the animals are taking over. Well, not exactly taking over, but maybe just taking back what we took from them. They're bold, and humans don't seem to bother them much. This can be viewed as a wonderful "country thing", and it can be a bit disconcerting as well.

Last winter I discovered tracks in the snow out in the backyard, and after doing a bit of research, I found them to be coyote tracks. Just 20 feet from the house. I didn't see the coyote then, but about 3 weeks ago, I did. I was standing on the back porch about 10 PM, when I heard a rustle in the leaves about 25 feet to my right, then a coyote walked across the back yard about 20 feet from me. I moved my arm and it drew his attention. He turned and looked at me then bolted off towards my neighbors yard at warp speed. Amazing.

We have a couple of feral cats that live around the house. One black and white one, a calico, and sometimes there is a white with black spots cat that shows up and wanders through the yard. After seeing that coyote that night I figured the cat population would drop sharply.

It hasn't. Feral cats are clever, and survivors.

A week or so after seeing the coyote I came out onto the back porch again and off to my left, about a hundred yards away near my neighbors driveway was a deer grazing on berries. I walked a bit closer, and stood very still by my well. the deer picked up it's head, stared in my direction, but didn't see me. I was down wind, as well, so I never tipped my hand. I went back inside and grabbed the camera, took some shots and watched as she grazed along the hillside and up towards the neighbors barn, and then disappeared. It was mid morning.

Yesterday morning I went out to my truck, and noticed a car driving very slowly in front of my house. After it passed I saw two young deer across the street in another neighbors yard, about 25 feet from Route 148. They were eating fallen crab apples and whatever else young deer eat on a Sunday morning. They picked up their heads, looked over at me, and then resumed grazing. They couldn't have been more than 80 feet away. The photo above, although a bad one, shows one of the deer, the other was hiding behind the tree.

I watched them for a bit, took some pictures to prove it to Mary, and then went back inside. This was 8:30 in the morning. Later, around 4:00 PM, they were back in the same place, grazing, with Route 148 traffic only feet away. They were not afraid. I expect them to come knocking on the front door next looking for handouts.

Last summer there was a photo in paper of a black bear taken about a mile north of me on Route 148.

Cripes. Bears, too.

I love wildlife, and I know that they are out there, but I have rarely seen them around the house till recently. Maybe they are just more comfortable with me. Their populations are increasing, and they are becoming bolder. We don't seem to bother them as we once had. There is a chipmunk that lives in the window well of my cellar window. He has escape tunnels all over the yard, and a certain shopping route he takes most days. He'll walk in front of me if I am sitting on the back steps, and not be phased by my presence. In fact, I think he is a bit too bold. He'll walk by me, stop for a second and stick his tongue out in my direction, and proceed on his route, cheeks all loaded up with spilt bird seed from the feeders.

Bold little bugger.

I know that we encroached on the animals long ago, then they, seeing that we had become essentially harmless, except for those wearing orange in the fall, decided to come back. The deer do little other than ravage our orchards, gardens and the bark from the trees in our yards. Deer fencing helps. The coyotes, on the other hand, have made a tremendous comeback, and our refuse, cats and small dogs are fair game for them. I wouldn't leave a small child in the backyard alone, either.

Then there are the turkeys. These guys are the boldest of them all. They'll find a spot, maybe your yard, and call it home for days on end while they eat everything edible there is to eat. If you approach them, the leader of the pack, the Tom, will let you know in no uncertain terms, that you are an interloper. He'll swagger over towards you, in an attempt to lead you away from his harem, and if you don't back off, he'll attack. You don't want this. Turkeys are big, and their talons are sharp.

We were driving along Champeaux Road last summer when we saw a bunch of them on the side of the road. We slowed down to enjoy the site when a Tom came over to the car, lifted his head up high enough to see who I had in the passenger seat, and simultaneously walked along side the car at 5 MPH. As I sped up a little, he kept pace. All the while lifting his head, and checking out Mary. I wasn't sure if he was just curious, or checking out a prospect to add to his herd, but he seemed to get a little agitated as we drove along, and gradually increasing our speed. After a bit I looked into the rear view mirror and saw him in the middle of the road, tail feathers all puffed out, head snapping from side to side. I think we just made it out of there in time that day. He looked like a cocky gang banger that had just protected his turf.

I don't want to tangle with a turkey, unless he is lying quietly on some bone china surrounded by potatoes and parsley.

Then there are the Red Squirrels, but I'll save that adventure for another time. They could still be watching me.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Sunday Morning

A cloudy, wet Sunday morning. Time for another cup of coffee, the Sunday paper, and maybe some music. No worries. A new week begins this morning.

This one's going out to you, Babe.


Sunday Morning - Maroon5

Saturday, November 8, 2008

The Sturbridge Trolley Company

I 've been thinking. I know, I know, but I've been thinking about this for awhile, and I want to put it out there.

Here in Sturbridge we have a great small town. Problem is that the businesses and retail stores in town are spread all over the map. We don't have a real downtown. Town offices sit off by themselves, the Post office does the same. The stores for groceries and sundries are off by themselves in plaza's on Route 20 and down Route 131.

Fiskdale does have a lot of stores on Main Street, however most are specialty shops, insurance agencies, restaurants, a convenience store, and one small grocery store.

We certainly ain't a walking village despite our small population.

This got me wondering about those folks in town with limited transportation. How do they take care of their day to day errands without a car? Do they wait for once a week transportation to the supermarket, and try to accomplish what they can all in a space of a few hours? Do they rely on neighbors, and family?

Where's the independence in that?

So, I was looking at an old photograph of a trolley car in front of the long gone Fair Grounds on Main Street, and it hit me: we need a trolley.

Not an actual ride-on-the-rails-trolley, but a trolley car like the other tourist towns in Mass. have. One that looks like 1903, but with windows that close to keep out the weather. And, it could run on natural gas, or propane.

We could start out with one trolley on a scheduled route from Fiskdale down Route 20, onto Route 131 towards the Southbridge line, and then back down 131 again to Hall Road to Route 20 and on to the Hobbs Brook Plaza, then back to Fiskdale again. This would be the rough route, it could be adjusted depending on where the need exactly was. A schedule would be made, and the trolley would follow that schedule from morning to late afternoon.

The fare would be reasonable. One could buy books of tickets in advance. There could be one price for residents, another for day trippers.

It would be nice if the town took on the role of running the trolley, but with the economy as it is, I don't see that happening, but it could be something that a private group could do, and with the resources we have here in town, do very well.

First, we do a search for a "previously owned" trolley. They're out there. Just Google it. Next, once we get an idea what they are costing, we raise the funds. Once we obtain the trolley we bring it on home to Sturbridge, and with the help of skilled volunteers in town, we get 'er on the road.

During this time, the private group has become either a corporation or a charitable foundation, meetings have been held in regards to planning, fund raising, laying out the route, and establishing the fares.

Expensive endeavor, but not insurmountable, the used trolley's run around $50,000.00. Donations and fares could very well pay for it. A large corporate donation could get their name on the trolley, and all the advertising they'd want.

A trolley would mean freedom for so many folks here in our "spread-all-over-Creation" small town. Just imagine tourists scooting down Main Street to all the different shops they'd otherwise miss, residents taking off for a picnic at Westville Dam, or taking the kids to Streeter Beach Recreation area, all without a car. Not only a great idea, but a green one as well.

Just a thought. Now, go back to reading the Sunday paper, but take a turn thinking on it, too.

It could happen.

Click here to view used trolleys for sale.

Another web site that has used trams and trolleys for sale.