A continuing tale of life in the boonies

No. 048

It was a very good year

1798 was quite a year. Lots happenin'! For example, the Irish peasantry rose up in bloody rebellion against the English and, in defeat, gave birth so some of the finest rebel songs of all time, songs that still give a good living to singers in Boston bars.

In this same tumultuous year, Farmingtonians revolted against the crushing rule of Rochester, and were a little luckier than the Irish, being incorporated as a separate town on Dec. 12, 1798.

Also, a few months earlier, scientists around the globe were dancing and hugging each other with the discovery of the element beryllium, which occurs in the gemstone, beryl. (Naturally this is much sought after by that Gang of Two, Bibbo and Bois, but more of them later.)

But by far the most earth-shattering event of 1798 was the first use of poison ivy as a medicine, credited to Dr. Du Fressoy of Valenciennes. This sharp-eyed physician noticed that a young man suffering from herpetic eruptions was cured after being accidentally poisoned by this plant, which we botanists and typesetters prefer to call Rhus Toxicodendron.

It is hard to understand how this miraculous cure of a modern scourge is relatively unknown. Twenty-five million people in this country alone stand to benefit! Admittedly there are a few minor side-effects like gastric intestinal irritation, drowsiness, stupor, delirium and occasionally rigor mortis, but no one is suggesting that the patient drive a motor vehicle immediately after the ingestion of the tincture.

And if these secondary inconveniences put you off, cheer up! Even more help is at hand in this most wonderful of columns! Growing right in Fernald Park, Farmington, cheek by jowl with poison ivy (against which Henry Sabine is waging a private war, incidentally) is nature's own antidote - the sap in the stem of spotted touch-me-not.

"Take me to it", I hear you cry, "a slug of poisoned ivy juice with a spotted touch-me-not chaser is just what I need." Well go easy. Caution advised. This stem sap is fine for slapping on the skin but taking it internally is described in Mrs. Grieve's Modern Herbal (1931) as being "wholly questionable." Research needed here, but already I think I have pointed medicine in the right direction, sufficiently so to merit some distinction, like a lawsuit from the first bozo to eat a poison ivy sub, I shouldn't wonder. Perhaps you should bug your personal physician first.

Footnote: A version of this article first appeared in the minutes of the Farmington Parks and Recreation Commission June meeting. A full text, including an extremely witty remark by a Mr. Ken Hoyt, can be had on request for a nominal fee.

Kite News: While in the field of dates, it is worth mentioning that it was in June 1752, that Benjamin Franklin shocked the world and himself by proving that lightning was electricity, with ye olde kite in thunderstorm. And in June 1986, Mr. Joseph Bean, in recognition of his distinguished services to kite-flying, was presented with a kite-flying T-shirt by an official from New Hampshire Parks and Recreation Society. The Bean family crest, a red kite, is proudly flown from a tree in Meetinghouse Hill Road, and though stormed at with shot and shell, bravely it waves, and well!

Gang Of Two News: Jim Bibbo and Randy Bois, the men who always get their rock, are taking advantage of summer vacation to attend the Rambo School of Minerology, somewhere in New York state. They hope to obtain their heavy equipment operatorsí licenses and, after an intense study of the Anarchist's Cookbook, should gain a proficiency in the use of high explosives. Then itís off to Paris for the bold pair - Paris, Maine that is - where they are going to launch a full frontal assault on an old gem tourmaline mine. I bet we won't see them for dust.

Farewell News: Outreach Director of Farmington Community Action Program and record holder for longest title in town, Gayle Richards, is leaving her post to become director of Hawthorne College (Rochester campus). Although her new title involves a loss of eight letters, it is believed that compensation comes in the form of a few more cents per hour. With her old job terminating on July 4 and her new one commencing on July 7, Gayle will take the opportunity to have the cruise of a lifetime - to Blueberry Island on Lovell Lake. Nine bean rows shall she have there, and a hive for the honey bee Ö

Listen To This: Perhaps you think writing this column is a piece of cake. Let me inform you that it is weekly hell. For example, on the sixth day of writing my telephone answering machine gave to me:

Six fired up readers,

Five fiddlehead locations,

Four singing skunk odes,

Three hatwatch hotlines,

Two Bronx cheers,

And a sighting of a red kite in a tree.

Competition: A positive deluge of poetry has resulted from last week's request for a verse that commenced: I'd rather hit a pothole than a skunk. As entries are still coming in, it is only fair to delay the judging for a few days. Meanwhile, here are a couple of examples of the high standard of doggerel - the first from someone identified only as the "Milton Ringer." Bells or horseshoes, sir?

"Oh I'd rather hit a pot hole than a skunk

That would rebound off my fender with a thunk

Though the sound be satisfactory

The assault on my olfactory

Would leave me a debilitated spunk."

And from old Ramgunshoch:

Oh I'd rather hit a pot hole than a skunk

(Oh I'd rather be in Glasgow getting drunk)

Oh I'd rather hit a pothole

It'll only bust my axle

It won't screw up my car from hood to trunk

Congratulations to Heidi Colwell for the most fervently sung entry and to Kathy Condon for converting the subject into a romantic novel. More entries (and the announced winner) next week.

Family Day: On Saturday, June 28, from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m., in Fernald Park, various town groups will be competing for the Horseshoe Trophy at present held by St. Peter's Church, through the grace and skill of the LaPierre brothers. This year fierce competition will come from the Booster Club and the Baptist Church, not to mention Wild Bill Vachon (now recovered from his snowshoe defeat by one E. Nute) playing for the Community Center. There will also be a lively contest for the Volleyball Plaque, with strong teams being entered by the P.T.A., Meaderboro Church and the high school, to name only a few. Alongside this there will be pony rides for the kids (fingers crossed on this one), story-telling for young children by Ruth Gagnon dressed as a story book character, soccer games and a cook-out. Big question of the moment is - will Farmington Women's Club enter a Horseshoe team? Turn up on Saturday to find out.

June 24, 1986

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