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, February 25, 2008

"Marge, Have You Checked the Twins Lately?"

I guess every village does have one.
I found the following article in the Worcester Telegram today.

We are not alone.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Billboard gets too personal for officials

Others welcome signs often marked by dissent

BROOKFIELD— A large sign prominently displayed on Route 9 frequently features its owner’s political views and has become a thorn in the side of some residents.

The 8-foot by 4-foot double-sided sign, across from the local elementary school, belongs to John D. Holdcraft of Allen Road, who has a reputation for speaking out on local issues.

Mr. Holdcraft, 54, believes he is exercising his First Amendment rights, but Selectman James W. Allen thinks the man has gone overboard because he takes shots at town officials, mentioning them by name on the sign. Mr. Allen believes that makes the comments too personal.

“If he was more positive about things, more sensitive to other people’s feelings, I’d be more empathetic with what he’s doing,” Mr. Allen said. “I feel he shouldn’t be making personal comments up there. If he wants to make general comments, fine.”

Mr. Holdcraft said he has received encouragement about the sign, but it worries town officials because they don’t know whose name will be on it next.

“They’re really scared of it,” Mr. Holdcraft said. “I go from good to bad. I give zingers and I let people know what’s going on.

“I’m just trying to be a voice in the town and they’re saying I’m negative, but a town problem is a negative. We’ve got to come up with a positive solution. You just can’t keep looking the other way. That’s what they’re doing in this town. They’re sugar-coating everything and then the problem’s still there.”

The sign has been visible for about four years, Mr. Holdcraft said. It followed a long legal battle with the town over his leaving unwanted items, such as used furniture, on the same Route 9 lot for people to take for free.

Town officials believed Mr. Holdcraft, who maintains property in Sturbridge and Brookfield, was leaving discarded junk there and it was creating an eyesore.

“Fifteen years I had fought them and I finally beat them,” Mr. Holdcraft said. “Now its payback time for them.”

After the legal fight, some handmade signs were installed at the site and eventually the billboard-style, two-sided sign went up, which has been used to oppose various efforts in town, such as the construction of a highway garage, purchase of a firetruck and bylaw changes and to express views on conditions at the local library and a youth center. The sign’s messages are not limited to Mr. Holdcraft’s political views. They frequently contain reminders of upcoming community events.

“There’s a feeling that the sign creates dissension,” Selectman Rudy Heller said. “The sign is obtrusive. The sign is negative more often than not and that Mr. Holdcraft uses it to further his own personal agenda.”

Mr. Holdcraft said he would gladly give opposing views equal space on the sign, but “no one has ever asked me for that, though.”

Selectman Ronald J. Dackson has a different view from Mr. Heller and Mr. Allen.

“I have no problem with the sign,” Mr. Dackson said. “Anybody can express their opinion.”

“He puts a lot of things there,” he said. “The town meetings, the Christmas celebrations and Halloween activities.”

Asked whether residents had complained to him about the sign or Mr. Holdcraft’s views, Mr. Dackson said, “I haven’t heard anything.”

Mr. Holdcraft said residents have told him that they support the signs.

Mr. Holdcraft serves on the town’s Cable TV Advisory Committee, the Police Study Committee, the Cultural Council and the Advisory Committee on town finances. Recently there was a petition with 47 names, presented to selectmen asking for his removal from the Advisory Committee.

Residents have indicated that his activism goes counter to what the Advisory Committee is all about.

“This is a gentleman who hasn’t shown objectivity and the advisory board needs objective thought,” Mr. Heller said. “The advisory board does itself a disservice by appointing somebody who as soon as somebody walks into the town meeting and sees him sitting on the Advisory Board they lose credibility.”

Mr. Holdcraft believes that sentiment is foolish. He is trying to be informative and working for the betterment of the town, he said.

The real reason for the opposition, he said, is “I’m against their little clique, you know. They’re worried about their clique.”

From the Worcester Telegram & Gazette Feb. 25, 2008

Comments to this particular post have been discontinued due to space. Thank you for your comments.

Sunday, February 24, 2008


The other day I went for a drive in town and took my friends dog, Timothy. After a little while of enjoying the sights around town we headed east on Route 20 to New Boston Road.

We waited at the opening in the median in front of New Boston Road for a little over five minutes, until we had a brief opening in the west bound traffic. It was only a tiny opening, and behind that small space in the traffic it looked like the opening lap at the Indy 500.

I had to make my move. I judged the distance, and speed of the oncoming traffic, and tromped it.

I made it onto New Boston Road with my heart in throat, and Timothy's butt in the trunk.

A traffic light at this intersection would be really swell.

Timothy agrees.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Always Liked This Commercial

I was reading the newspapers yesterday, and this commercial came to mind. Don't know why exactly, maybe the idea of the masses being led by a big talking head until someone comes along to put an end to it. Sort of a Wizard of Oz thing. You gotta love Toto for that.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Every Town Needs a Village, and Vice Versa

The times they are achangin'.

This past January Old Sturbridge Village rebounded big time. Their attendance for the month of January increased by 23% compared to January 2007.

Under the direction of CEO James Donhue, everything old is new again. Mr. Donhue has concentrated on bringing back what made OSV so successful years ago: more humans.

More costumed interpreters for the Village to explain things to people and to share stories. More things to touch and to become involved with. The construction of the new "Small House". As strange as it may seem, the Village is actually going back in time. Back to how things worked well. Sometimes it takes new eyes to see things better. As technology changes and becomes more advanced we are often tempted to follow the road it is leading us down. OSV has decided to take a different path, the old road.

When one walks through the doors of the vistors center, steps onto that dirt road and looks over the split rail fence into the hollow, one is immediatley transported to a much earlier time. There is smoke coming from the chimneys of the houses along the common, people walking on the roads, and working in the yards and fields. Animals in the fields. There is nothing from this century, or the last century in view, only a time, a moment, and there are people there to aid in your transition to this other world.

This is how the magic happens.

Walt Disney knew this. To make the make believe real, one needs to use what is real, and familiar. A live Tinkerbell on a wire over the Magic Kingdom at night lit only by a single spotlight gave such an illusion of reality, that it did became real. James Donahue seems to know this as well. If you want to teach some history, you need to make it as real as possible, and remove the modern day technology from the picture, and keep it hidden, and where it belongs, in the 21st century. By using more real people as interpreters from the past instead of brochures, pamphlets, and videos, one can not only learn about the past, but actually feel the past. Save the technology for when the visitor passes through the doors again into today, then use it wisely to educate further.

The decision to reopen the Oliver Wight Tavern at OSV was a bold move. Only opened a few years ago, it was not given the chance to build a reputation before its plug was pulled. But, those times were tougher. Money was very tight, and something had to give. Now, with more money coming in from fund raising, increased mememberships, grants from the Commonwealth, and a very generous anonymous donor, some breathing room has been made, and the changes responsible for OSV's remarkable comeback could be made.

Recently, Alexandra McNitt, Director of Central Mass South Chamber of Commerce stated, "
“They’re on the right path, but I think they still need a lot of support from the community.” She spoke of businesses coming to town that would complement OSV. Businesses like art studios, craft shops, and "outdoorsy" businesses.

Sounds familiar. I like the way she thinks.

Maybe we've been thinking about this whole ecotourism, attracting folks to Sturbridge thing the wrong way. Maybe we, too, need to get a new set of eyes. Seems we have been thinking about utilizing what we have here like the outdoors, lakes, shopping and restaurants to attract people to our area, which is fine, and a wonderful mission, but maybe we could tap into a resource already here to get things going. Something like Old Sturbridge Village.

By promoting what we have directly to those that come here for OSV we could jump start the rest of the mission. The people are already coming, now to capture their curiosity and show them the rest of the area.

The most basic and easiest way to tap this tourist resource is with signs. I know, after all this talk, discussions, all the meetings, and written opinions --signs?

Now, before you start about sign bylaws, and size and color of signs in a historic area, and the rest of the stuff that gets folks bogged down, think about it. You are a visitor leaving Old Sturbridge Village, and you are exiting the parking lot. Where to? Are you ready to get back home right away? Do you have some time to poke around town a bit? Well, if there was a sign as you came out of OSV on Stallion Hill Road pointing to the trails at the top of the hill, and you were in the mood for a walk, you just might follow the sign.

But, what if you are just in the mood to do some shopping, or are a bit hungry? Well, after you took a right out of the parking lot and were driving east on Stallion Hill Road, and just at the intersection where you decide whether or not you want to go the way you came , by taking a right onto the back road to Route 84, or a left onto Route 20, you see a sign pointing to things like The Publick House Inn, or The Town Common, Yankee Candle, The Yankee Pedlar, New England Traditions, The Tin Smith, Antiques or any one of a dozen other shops. Suddenly, instead of folks driving back to New Jersey on 84, they are being filtered into the town.

People need to be led. We're sheep, for the most part. Point us in a direction we might like, and we'll go there. But, we need to be pointed in the direction first. Signs would do a great job of pointing. They are a simple thing. Sort of old fashioned, really. No flashing lights, or LED's, just a board with some words painted on it, and an arrow. Take a lesson from James Donahue, keep it simple, and go for things you know work.
Who knows? In a short time we can post a few of these signs as well.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Dam the Brook Trout

I enjoy learning. Trouble is, with my coming to understand a particular subject, my head generates so many questions that folks start looking for the duct tape to put over my mouth and a closet to stuff me into.

So, fair warning, get the duct tape ready.

I was reading in the Sturbridge Villager yesterday an article on the front page entitled "Brook plan draws locals' ire". The article reported that a series of dams on the Hamant Brook in the parcel of land purchased by the town from OSV should be eliminated in order to benefit the Eastern Brook Trout. It seems that this brook is one of only a very few left in Massachusetts that actually supports the fish today. With industrialization over the past hundred years the silting of the streams and brooks has changed the environment and made most them too warm to properly support the fish. The land in the Lead Mountain Parcel has been virtually untouched for one hundred years with the exception of some camp building that were constructed, and those small dams. No factories were built or other building was done along the banks of the brook to cause a silting of the water and the subsequent rise in temperature of the water. This has made the brook ideal for the cold water loving fish.

This area is essentially a time capsule, a forgotten waterway that has managed to support a species that in other areas of the state has become as rare as hens teeth. A biologist for the state Division of Wildlife and Fisheries, Todd Richards, suggested recently that the three dams along the brook be removed in order to improve the flow of the water on into the Quinebaug River, and restore the Brook Trout to the area. This suggestion is what drew the "ire".

According to Dale Favreau of the Sturbridge PLAC Committee if Sturbridge followed the recommendations of the biologist, "We're essentially going to take 10 acres and drain it. We'll lose a lot of habitat, and you'll have a hard sell."

I agree.

Now, hear me out, and if I don't make sense, please enlighten me, as I said, I really do enjoy learning.

The Eastern Brook Trout is a fish that will follow the brook if it is unrestricted with dams and it will swim on into the Quinebaug River. The river flows on into the sea. The Brook Trout is a fish that will want to return to its home environment to spawn. First question: How is this fish going to return home with the many other dams on the river itself. I don't know if any of the dams in Connecticut have fish ladders to aid migratory fish, but the dam at Westville certainly doesn't, and that is only one of the several dams on the river in Massachusetts. What then? Are the fish that we are fso ortunate to have here in Sturbridge due to the damming long ago of the brook doomed to exile? Then that would mean we would become like the other areas of the state, a region without Brook Trout. Right?

I also agree that if the dams were removed it would leave a ten acre mud puddle. The land was purchased for recreation purposes. Angling is a recreation. Why not market the area as one of the few spots left in Central Massachusetts that Brook Trout reside?

It usually takes a few years for an environment to come back in some way after it has been altered by natural catastrophe, or something man made. The eruption of Mount St. Helens is good example of nature responding to rebuild itself. With in a short time after those dams were placed, the environment around the brook began to adapt. New species came there such as water fowl, fish, amphibians, insects, and mammals. They, too, began to adapt to the changes in the habitat. Today, these species are an integral part of the Lead Mine Parcel. If the man made dams are removed it will adversely affect the species that have come to call this area home, and the Brookies will have a free swim to the sea.

To me, it's simple, and I consider myself environmentally friendly, leave the dams alone, and market the area as I stated above.

The other point brought up in the article is the about the three dams themselves. I have only been on one of the dams, so I can't report on the others, but unless they are a danger to the town, they should be left alone. Proper maintenance of the dams is something the town inherited with the purchase of the property, so that is something that should be explored further. There are many dams in the Commonwealth that do require restoration, and I am not an expert, but if the structures do need help, then we should do what needs to be done.

So, there you have it, my opinion on subjects I know little or nothing about, just learning, and using some common sense.

One more thing. Read the article below. It was taken from the New York Times from 1894. Carefully read the last paragraph or two. It's de ja vu all over again.

If you have a hard time viewing the document below, please go to:

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Mayberry 01566

A few weeks ago someone made a comment about Sturbridge not being Mayberry. I'm still not exactly sure what their point was, but I beg to differ. Editors Note: The comment actually did state that Sturbridge was Mayberry, and it was the writer of this post that misrepresented what was left in the comments. The writer has been severely punished.--ed.

Mayberry, was the mythical home town for the Andy Griffith Show. Although, attributed to Mount Airy, North Carolina, it is Everytown.

The characters in the long running TV show made the show what it was; it certainly wasn't the plot lines. The characters were folks we could relate to. We all knew a Sheriff Taylor, an Aunt Bea, or an Otis the Town Drunk.

Andy Taylor was Mayberry's sheriff. A widower with a young son, he lived in a fine old home with his Aunt Bea. He was a man of common sense, soft spoken and always seemed to get folks out of the jams they got themselves into. His method was simple. Andy would give his advice when asked for it, or if something struck him as being out of kilter. Take it or leave it, the advice was always good, but if one took his advice right away then there would be no show. Andy would let the cards fall where they may once he spoke his mind. Folks seldom ask for advice, and when given it, they seldom heed it. In the end, after the other character would go through some life altering events that could have been easily avoided, all was well when they remembered the sheriffs advice.

We all know a Sheriff Taylor. They may be a co-worker, a neighbor, or just someone in town that is usually steadfast, and always there when things get shaky.

Andy's deputy, Barney, played by Don Knotts, was usually the one causing most of the stirs in town. He was diligent, and took his job very seriously. He was also a klutz that didn't put a whole bunch of thought into the ramifications of what he was about to do. Andy bailed him out in almost every episode. He was great comic relief, and every town needs that.

Having "Barneys" around is fine, but they need an Andy within earshot otherwise they'd end up shooting themselves or burning down the Sheriffs Office.

There was Otis Campbell, the town drunk with a heart of gold, and Goober who owned the gas station. Goober didn't have much going on upstairs, but he knew cars. I know people like that. They have enormous know how, and skills pertaining to just one thing. Take them out of that environment and they are lost. Goobers are also great to have around as long as we use their knowledge and skills as they are, and know their limitations, too. We also need to make sure they don't expand their horizons too fast, otherwise we'd be calling Andy.

In the old show there was Floyd Lawson the barber, Howard Sprague the County Clerk, Emmett Clark the Fix-it man, Helen Crump, the sheriffs girlfriend, and of course, Opie, Andy's son. There were many other recurring characters in the show, each with a definite personality, and each had a particular affect on the the town of Mayberry. If we think about it, we can identify many of those personalities with folks we know right here. I certainly know an Emmett Clark, and a Howard Sprague.

My favorite character, besides Barney, was Ernest T. Bass. Ernest had a recurring role on the show. He was the simple minded mountain man that would come down from the hills on occasion to raise a ruckus. He had a one track mind, and seemed to always be thinking that Andy was after his girl, Charlene. Couldn't shake him from that line of thinking, so they would have to outsmart him. He also liked to attract attention to himself. One way was to stand outside the sheriffs office and chant, "It's me, it's me! It's Ernest T.!" Then he'd throw a rock through the window to punctuate his message.

I've known a lot of Ernest T's. I know one now. Single train of thought, constantly raising a ruckus, and always trying to extend his fifteen minutes to an hour. He does a lot of chanting outside the office, and when his message is said, he throws a rock through the window to punctuate his thoughts. He's a hoot.

Yep, Mayberry is Everytown. Our town is no different. The landscape is all well and good, but it take characters to make a village. As long as we know who the players are, and their purpose and limitations, then all is good. We need everyone one of them, even the Ernest T. Bass's. They are the ones that keep us on our toes, and sharp enough to duck when a rock flies through our windows, and their antics most always make me smile.

Sometimes, when I am reading the paper I can imagine the words, "It's Me! It's Me! It's Ernest T!" coming off the Opinion Page. I wouldn't want it any other way, after all, every village needs one.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

"Marge, Grab me Some of That There Botox! It's Time!"

The following is from the Social Security Online
News & Announcements Updated:
February 12, 2008 (En EspaƱol)

Nation's First Baby Boomer Receives Her First Social Security Retirement Benefit

Kathleen Casey-Kirschling, the nation's first Baby Boomer, today made history as the first of her generation to receive a Social Security retirement benefit. Having applied online for benefits at, Ms. Casey-Kirschling, who was born at one second after midnight on January 1, 1946, today received her first payment by direct deposit.

Monday, February 11, 2008

A Night in the Country

Last evening we lost our power here in Fiskdale. Normally, this would not be a big deal, but last night it was.

First of all, the weather reports said the temperature was going to fall into the low teens and single numbers. I don't own any fleece underwear anymore, so of course this temperature thing was a concern. I also had gone through all but three logs I had bought for the fireplace. But, I did have a bunch of pine left over from a concrete project I did last summer. Survival mode kicked in, and soon the flashlight and hand saw were working on that lumber. The little heat the fireplace gave off was enough to augment what the steam bolier had already done.

We had candles. Lot's of Yankee Candles. House smelled really good. Sort of a Rose Bush, Daffodil, Midsummers Night, Seashore thing going on. We also had a battery powered portable radio. I figured I'd turn that puppy on, and tune to WBZ AM at 7:00 for the radio version of 60 Minutes. No dice. This radio can pick up a Laplander radioing for supplies, but local AM? Not a chance.

In December we replaced 19 old windows with new replacement windows. Replacement windows with Argon. Nice. Nine windows had already been replaced sometime before we bought "This Old House", but the others were about 35 years old and were so drafty that the wind would actually blow out those Yankee Candles from across the room. After an hour into the power outage, the house was not drafty, and the heat had only dropped a couple of degrees. Ahright!

But here is the kicker about the power outage last night. The night before we lost power, Mary and I had decided to watch the movie , "The Bourne Supremacy" on network TV. We then ordered up the latest movie in the series, "The Bourne Ulitmatum" on pay per view. The movie was great. The ending is still a mystery, though. Seems that Worcester had a power outage that night, and during the final 15 or 20 minutes or so, the cable went dead.

So a phone call to customer service, the usual "unplug this" "plug in that now" scenario was dictated over the phone. Cable did come back, but not the movie. So, last night we planned on pulling up the movie again, fast forwarding to the spot where we left off. We were just sitting down to do this when..."poof". No lights. Coincidence? I don't think so. It's those people at Charter Cable having fun with the guy in Fiskdale.

After, the first minute of looking at each other and making statements like, "Can you believe this?" "It's a conspiracy", and "Where are you, Mary?" , we lit the candles, and the logs, got the radio, and abandoned hope for a hot meal. I was just planning on foraging for food in the kitchen when Mary said, "Lets go out for sandwiches."

Duh. No brainer. My head was still stuck in survival mode.

So, the truck and I headed south down Route 148. Strange seeing it so dark. Not a streetlight, a house light, or a traffic light on. I then headed east on Route 20, and thought, "This is how the village must have looked a hundred years ago. Neat". I can amuse myself in any situation.

It was dark till I got to the electrical substation, and the only light there was a yellow flashing light from a National Grid truck. A little further down the road, at the intersection in front of Old Sturbridge Village, the traffic lights were working, and the rest of the world was lit. HooYah! I pulled a "u-ee" and headed in to McDonalds, bought some supplies and headed home.

Once home, we began to divide up the bounty, and then I had a brainstorm: The portable DVD player!! It's battery powered! Yes! We're saved! I found it hiding in the closet, we popped in a Pirates of the Carribean DVD, and sat back for some 21st century entertainment.

We had food, we stoked the fire, got some drinks, and fired up the portable DVD player, and sat back and waited to be entertained. We were going to be fine. Yep, we are survivors.

While we waited through the five minutes of mandatory "Coming Attractions", I looked around the room and noticed how peaceful it was. The candlelight bouncing around the room, the firelight from the fireplace flickering on the wood floors and in Mary's eyes, and Jen was curled up in the big over stuffed chair. The scene looked like a Rockwell painting.

This was really nice. Really nice.

Then the lights came on.

I think we are going to have some mandatory power outages in the future. In fact, I know we are.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

VIDEO: Winter on the Common

I found this video I did a few years back lurking in a box in my closet. Figured I would share it here.


Saturday, February 9, 2008

Wanted: Your Photographs

As you can tell, this Blog enjoys photographs. There is something about an image that when used just the right way can help to tell the story. I've been fortunate to accumulate a lot of old photographs, and postcards of Sturbridge from times gone by, and since my arrival here a few years ago, I've taken my camera with me most everywhere I've gone. who knows, in 50 years some one will fall upon them and remark, "Wow. Things haven't changed much." or just the opposite.

Photographs are recorded history. They show the dress, the architecture, the landscape and the people of an area. They preserve it for us to view years later. We can tell much more from the photographs as well, things that the camera didn't quiet capture with the light. Things like emotion. Happiness, sadness, fear, surprise, contentment and joy are some of the feelings one can pickup from a photograph.

Starting today, I want to open the blog to you and your photographs. The photographs can be old family images taken in Sturbridge at anytime, or recent ones. You can do one of two things when submitting your images:
  1. Submit them via email to Try to make the digitalized version of your photograph in the best resolution possible. If it is old, and has signs of age, don't worry, I can usually bring it back. Include the location the photograph was taken, the date, or approximate date, the identity of any persons in the image.
  2. Submit the photograph as outlined above, and include a paragraph or two about the photo. Be creative!
Either way, please identify yourself. If you do not want your name used when the photo is posted, then let me know, and choose a pseudonym.

So, what do I plan to do with the images? For starters I want to post them here, with your words, or captions. I've found that this blog is read by people all over the country, and in several foreign places as well. Your photographs will do a great deal in promoting the area and sharing "back home" to those overseas, or transplanted elsewhere. So, continue to click the little envelope at the bottom of each post, and send off the ones you like to others.

Eventually, I plan to put my many old images into book form. If you would like your old images included, let me know.

Every so often I will choose one of the best images and make it the background beneath title of this Blog, and at the end of the year the best recent photo, and the best old image will be chosen and a nifty prize will be awarded.

By the way, the photograph at the top of this posting was taken many years ago on a front porch somewhere in Sturbridge. Click on the image for a larger view. If you can help to identify the location, or the people in the photograph, I would appreciate it. I wrote about how an image can convey things other than what the light transmits through the lens. Can you see what I mean in this photograph? What else is it saying.

It's Back

Just behind our house, down a sharp embankment and beyond the property line is something called an intermittent stream. When we bought the house in April of 2006 the stream was flowing hard. The sound of the water coming out of the culvert and onto the rocks was soothing. There were times when the flow was reduced to a trickle, but it was always there to some degree. That was until last summer.

This past summer, sometime around half past June, the flow stopped completely. After several weeks the stream bed was dry enough to walk on and not sink in up to my knees. I had walked on it the previous March and sunk up to my calves. I thought I was going to have to use my cell phone to call 911 for an extrication, but I wiggled around for awhile, and escaped. I must have looked mighty stupid standing there, jerking about like I had found a great tune on my iPod. I didn't do that again. I guess this is what is meant by an "intermittent stream". It's a stream, intermittently, and mud the rest of the time.

The stream remained dry for months. In December it began to flow again for a short time, and soon fizzled out until January. The photo at the left is how it looked this past week.

It's back!

So, what excactly is an"intermittent stream" officially? Well, the following is the official definition taken from the Towns web site:

4.22.1 Intermittent Stream Generally, a body of running water which does not flow throughout the year, has a watershed less than 1 square mile and is shown on the USGS topographic map as intermittent. A dry stream bed must be present for 4 consecutive days at a minimum of 24 hours separation each (i.e. a minimum of 96 consecutive hours), or the stream has a “positive flow” less than 99% of the time. Occasionally a body of running water which does not flow throughout the year is perennial (dryness may be due to drought, impoundment or other unusual or unnatural circumstances). The determination of stream status will be made by the Commission on a case-by-case basis. The determination will be based on best professional judgment, local site knowledge, scientific data and current... .

Any clearer?

I thought not.

Well, apparently whatever the heck it is, it's handled on case by case basis.

We bought the house from a couple that had bought it from an estate. The couple whose estate it was had lived here for 60 of its 150 years. The yard was severly overgrown. It must have looked awesome at one time. There is an old well, near the stream, that is about 15 feet deep, and still has water. There was no cover on the well when we moved in so when I rebuilt the roof and supports, I built a cover with a couple of locks, too. Now I can sleep easier knowing my neighbors aren't going to go for a swim.

As we removed the overgrowth and brush, we discovered flowering bushes and tree, perenials and shrubs long hidden. Old tree limbs had fallen into the stream bed, and there was a large amount of plain old junk strewn around admist the overgrowth up on the embankement. Thirty pick up truck loads of brush, dead limbs, and sundry dead trees and vines we took out from along its banks . There are at least 5 more loads in the pile out back,and more dead wood to be taken out of the stream bed.

Judging form the trees, shrubs and flowers we found underneath years of debris it seems the couple that lived here for six decades loved this place. It's only right that we bring it back, and put our own spin on it. Just so happens we love playing in the yard.

But, this intermittent stream thing has me puzzled. I want to be able to do what is best for the stream, and whomever lives down there, but I'm at a loss as to how far one can go. Will the Conservation folks slap me with a cease and desist for clearing out the stream of debris to ensure its flow? I promise not to threaten any 4-toed salamanders, or 3-toed sloths while cleaning the stream. Once the area is cleared of the debris it will look great, and flow quite well on into the Quinebaug.

There is one other issue, though. A few days ago I spotted a small tree stump about 2 feet tall. On the top of the stump was fresh white wood shaped in a pyrimid, and it looked liked small pieces of wood chips on the ground below it. It is about 50 feet away across the stream so I had to use my binoculars to get a closer look. The first thing I thought of was beavers. But beavers here? In this little stream? There was no flow for six months, why now? And where the heck did they come from? Are they on a mailing list? The last thing I need is beavers. I've seen them before, down in the Hobbs Brook area off Charlton Street. They look like fat little toddlers in fur coats.

I have also noticed that the width of the stream is increasing. This may mean there is an obstruction further down stream. There is a culvert at the end of our property that the stream flows into and then under Route 148. It eventually joins another stream that comes down from Clark Road, and they both take a hidden path on to the river. I checked out the culvert today, and it is fine, so if there is a restriction it is most likely further down, and on the other side of the road, or even in the culvert itself.

I think most of us have a few special places that we gravitate to, this stream is one of mine. Sometimes I just walk over to the well, and stare off into the water pouring from the culvert, and let all those things that have velcroed themselves to me from the week fall off and flow downstream.

Want some unsolicited advice? Find a stream, or meadow, or a pine grove of your own, and once in awhile visit it. Let all those things that have sat on your shoulders for way too long fall free, and clear your head. You will be surprised how good you will feel after a good stare off into space.

Friday, February 8, 2008

I Felt the Ripples

Every once in awhile something is done that may not seem earth shaking at the time, but the ripples sent out from that one kind act touch us in such a way as to make many of us nod, and smile, "Yes!"

At the recent Town Meeting, funds were not approved for the pruning and cabling of the McGilpin Oak. Opponents to the tree continuing its days alive and as firewood, were like the crowd around the guillotine in Tale of Two Cities; they wanted it dead, and gone.

Well, that wasn't going to happen, but the pruning and cabling was something that did need to be done.

What to do?

Linda Cocalis of McGilpin Road knew exactly what to do. She ponied up the $1600.00 herself to pay for the cabling and pruing of the oak.

The giving of the money says one thing, but the act itself says far more, and all I can say is, "Thank you", and "End of story".

Wednesday, February 6, 2008


"OSV Claims Record January

The Worcester Business Journal
Written by Matthew L. Brown

Wednesday, 06 February 2008
Old Sturbridge Village reported that last month, it had its best January attendance in 10 years.

January attendance at the recreated colonial village museum increased 23 percent to 4,016 over January 2007, and village administrators say the strong month could be an introduction to "one of our best years of the decade."

A mix of warm, indoor activities and outdoor events like sleigh rides and ice harvesting, as well as the reopening of the Oliver Wight Tavern, attracted visitors, museum administrators said.

Over the past two years, the museum has brought in about $4 million in grants and donations. "

"Marge, I'll have a little history with my lunch, please."

History has always amazed me, especially if it was something I could relate to. The history of my hometown is one thing that has always attracted my eye.

The document above was obtained by me on Ebay a few years ago. It is a very telling document. It is a first hand account of a battle fought for twenty years prior to the document being written, and one that would not be settled for many, many more.

The text of the document is below.

"To the Inhabitants of the Town of Sturbridge in Town Meeting assembled on December 9th, 1783. We whose names are underwritten being informed there is an Article in the Warrant for this meeting of this purport, viz. to see if the Town will choose a committee to take a View of said town and determine in their Judgment in what place a new Meeting House should be erected (unreadable) to accommodate said Town.______And, whereas we live very remote from the Public Worship of God, and are put to great difficulty and Inconvenience in attending the same, and as there is sufficiency of land and Inhabitants adjacent labouring under the same inconvenience with our selves, to make a Town, or District, ___therefore we are willing, and regret that the Town, by their vote, order said Committee if chosen, and attend, not to include us nor our land within their view, for we intend with some of the inhabitants of other Towns adjacent, as soon as convienient to Petition the General Court to Incorporate us into a town or District, that we may be relieved from the Inconvenience and difficulties above mentioned.

Joseuh Hamilton
Aaron Weld
John Boyden
Nathan Hobbs
Caleb Rice
Tabiah Blanchard
Edmund Nichols"

What this paper is referring to is the plight of several powerful citizens of Sturbridge. A new Meeting House was to be built in town, and its location was most likely to be on the Town Common, although the Warrant Article was just to take a "view" of the town in order to determine the best place for the Meeting House. The undersigned felt, after 20 years of up hill fighting, that the location would not consider those that live far out from the center of the village, and that to attend meetings at the Meeting house would continue to be a hardship. Some lived as far as seven miles away, as far out as where the rotary is now in front of American Optical in Southbridge. They really felt that they would left out, again.

So, how did they fight back this time? They tried reverse psychology. Yes, you can take a "view" of the town to determine the location for the meeting house, but don't include us in the "view" or our land in your "view". We have a better idea. See, we are going to petition the General Court to incorporate us into a new town, or district. That way we can build our own meeting house near where we live, so we won't have the commute any longer.

So, there.

I believe that the undersigned had hoped that the powers that be would be swayed by their threat of splitting from the town, and a centrally located meeting house would be built.

Didn't happen.

In the years that followed, the Town of Sturbridge did approve the building of a meeting house in what is now Southbridge. It was started in 1797, and completed in 1800. However, the year before construction began, Joshua Harding petitioned the town of Sturbridge that a portion of the towns land be set off with parts of Dudley, and Charlton. That article in the town meeting was voted "That this article subside", which is an easy way of putting the article off to the side, and not voting on it. They did it again in 1798, and in 1800, as well.

The petitioner's were ticked off. They refused to partake in events at the meeting house on the Common, and instead, attended services at the Baptist Church on Fisk Hill. Since the petitioner's were not successful in establishing a separate town, they formed a poll parish, and we successful. It was granted on June 9, 1800, and after one more meeting in the winter of 1801 where the towns of Charlton, Dudley, and Sturbridge were ordered to attend to voice any objections to the formation of the poll parish. what objections that were voiced were not considered significant enough to stop the incorporation of the Poll Parish. It became official on February 28, 1801.

One would think everything would be fine now, right? Not quite.

It seems that with the original petition it was only to apply to the original petitioners and their land. Once they began to die off the very survival of the Poll Parish was threatened. The residents of the parish tried to have the original document amended, but after three unsuccessful attempts all they could get was an improvement on the original grant. For eight more years, the parish would fight for their right to be a separate town with its own boundaries. Dudley, Charlton, and Sturbridge fought against it. Sturbridge was the strongest in opposition.

Finally, on February 15, 1816, Southbridge was incorporated as a town.

The rest is, well, history.

So, what can be learned from this bit of history beside the obvious? Well, for one thing, things have not changed in 225 years. There will always be an issue, or agenda that is close to one groups heart, and will be opposed by another. If the opposing group is the one in power, one can look for a long fight before it will become a warrant article, or even voted on, or put in place as a policy. But, the main lesson to be learned is that after 33 years, what was originally sought after, by those on the document above, happened. It took tenacity, and commitment of those involved. They never gave up. They were not distracted.

Today, although the issues may be different, the passion is the same. However, it is easier for us to become distracted from our objective than it was in 1800, after all, we have cable.

So, no matter your endeavor, stay focused and committed, and keep in mind that compromise is not a "four letter" word, "quit" is.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

It's Smile Provoking

I often wonder what is it that attracts people to rural America. Of course, birth is probably the main thing, but when one is somewheres else, what makes them pack and move to the country. And by country I don't mean suburbia. Sure, they have woods, and fields, and maybe a horse farm, but I mean out where folks still milk cows, grow acres and acres of corn, have fairs, and tractor pulls, and sit and listen to a band on the common on a summers evening. A place where one can run into a farmer wearing a baseball cap and overalls at the hardware store buying a cotter pin.

What causes folks to leave what they have always known, their comfort zone, and move to a quieter, calmer place?

Besides country lanes, farmers in overalls, and tractor pulls what is it that attracts people? I think I know. It is the culture. Most places out past suburbia are small town and villages, with equally small populations. Everyone knows everyone else. One can't get lost in the shuffle, or misplaced, or overlooked. You're there, and they know you're there.

"'Morning, Mayor."
"Good Morning, Sam. How's the baby's cold doing?"

They not only know you're there, they know you. Quite different than suburbia. In suburbia only some may know you, and only some of them actually care about the little ones sniffles.

Some things inherently come with the culture of a place. Things like manners. Ever notice that more doors are held open for others the further out you go? Words like "thank you", and "please", and "take care, now" are said with sincerity, and not just grunted.

Respect is another trait that is still fairly pure. I would not go poking around in my neighbors mailbox to see what seed catalogs they subscribe to. I respect my neighbors privacy.
Even if I didn't know them. Children initially calling me "Mr. Out Loud" is respect. And, when I ask them to just call me"Thinking", and they do, that is respect on their parts again. They respected my request.

Respect is a given. It is a right, not something to be earned in passing. The old adage about respect being earned is used incorrectly. As it applies to ones self, yes, it is correct to a point. One has respect already built in, but through our words, and actions we must maintain it. We can't use the adage as it applies to others, either.

"He has to earn my respect, it is not just be given it" is wrong. He has your respect till something comes along to alter it. Kicking his dog is something that can lower ones respect for him. But, respect is a right. We all deserve it, and should receive it, but it is our responsibility to maintain it.

In the city folks become a faceless jumble. It is easy not to give respect to another without "seeing" their face, whether it be actually not seeing them, or just not choosing to. Road rage can come from this.

When folks live out past the high rises, the sprawl, and the traffic, this small town cultural thing is in their face. That makes people feel good. Oh, manners and respect are elsewhere, too, don't misunderstand me. It just seems that in a smaller world it is easier to see, and easier do.

Friendliness is something else that is almost universal in the country, with possible exception of the feuds among the mountain folk, and that is considered a sport by them. It's nice to walk into a store and be greeted by name, or at least recognized, or have your coffee already being poured and made just the way you like it as you walk into the coffee shop.

When you combine the things we know like the way a village looks early on a Sunday morning with a friendly greeting from a neighbor as they hold open the door for you at the store, the whole country thing hits home.

It's smile provoking.

Welcome to my world. Welcome to Sturbridge.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Happy Ground Hog Day

Sometimes I see art imitating real life, and vice versa. Ever have some events occur, or something happen, and think, "Wow, this is just like what happened to so 'n so in that movie." or "She reminds me of Sally Field in that movie...". Happens to me all the time. Not that I am film junkie, but movies can stick in ones head, and every once in awhile the similarities between a plot and reality are just too close to overlook. It can be very Walter Mitty-ish, though.

The movie "It's a Wonderful Life", starring Jimmy Stewart, is a good example. It takes place in a small town, Bedford Falls, and George Bailey takes over the family saving and loan business in town. All he wants is what's good for the town, and to put folks into a house of their own. Of course, there is an antagonist in the movie, Mr. Potter. Potter is a rich curmudgeon intent on taking over Georges business, and he'd do anything to derail it, and take the town to where he sees it should be.

I've always enjoyed that movie. Never did like Mr. Potter.

Another movie I have really enjoyed was "Ground Hog Day" starring Bill Murray. I've always like Bill Murray. He is the kind of guy I'd like to have a cup of coffee with while sitting on a bench on the Common. If there was one movie I recommend one to watch on this cold and rainy February 2nd, it would be this movie. Speaks a great deal about life, people, and how it is possible for them to change for the better.

For those that are unfamiliar with the movie, here is a short description from Wikipedia.

"Groundhog Day is a 1993 comedy film directed by Harold Ramis, starring Bill Murray and Andie MacDowell. It was written by Danny Rubin and Harold Ramis and based on a story by Rubin.

In the film, Murray plays Phil Connors, an egocentric Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania TV weatherman who, during a hated assignment covering the annual Groundhog Day event (February 2) in Punxsutawney, finds himself repeating the same day over and over again. After indulging in all manner of hedonistic pursuits, he begins to reexamine his life and priorities."

So, if you are chaffing at the bit the day before the Super Bowl, and are pacing so much as to cause your spouse to consider locking you in a closet till game time, then find the movie on cable, and loose a few hours. Movies about small towns can be entertaining, and very familiar.

And, I can't think of a better day, or time, to watch it.