A continuing tale of life in the boonies

No. 049

To be, or not to be?

Tilcon-Maine, Inc. of Route 11, Farmington, has plans to operate a gravel pit south of Paulson Road near Route 11, and is at present going through the process of obtaining site approval. If and when this comes through, the company will then appear once more before the town Planning Board to convince that body their mining operation will conform to all state gravel pit regulations and safeguards.

Diane Gagne of South Main Street is opposed to the company's plans and has gone to some lengths to bring her objections to public attention. She is circulating a petition, has written to local newspapers, walked around with a placard and, last Tuesday, appeared before the previously mentioned board to make known her case. (She had been unable to attend the scheduled public hearing.)

Both her letter and her live presentation (which, incidentally, was as free of rancor as it was full of persistence), referred to "the ecosystem, the balance of nature which provides a natural habitat for animals great and small" and drew comparisons to the "devastating effects that coal-strip mining has had on the people of Appalachia." She also made points concerning possible detrimental effects to her health, happiness and property value.

The Planning Board, under the chairmanship of Emmanuel Krasner, listened with courtesy and attention, and suggested that she remakes this pitch when Tilcon officials return before the board at a future date.

I love to watch the American democratic process in operation. In this country the ordinary citizen is certainly allowed his/her say, which is more than can be said, as a rule, for the British democratic process, as I know to my cost from a stacked Labour Party administration in Glasgow. (But that's another story.)

Anyway, being absolutely impartial, I would like to assist both sides, though I should declare an implacable hatred of those ubiquitous tall vegetables - trees! Far too many of 'em!

First, Mrs. Gagne. At your next Planning Board appearance I suggest that you sing, preferably with guitar accompaniment the John Prine song that contains the following words:

The coal company came with the world's biggest shovel,

They tortured the timber and they raped all the land,

They dug for their coal 'til the land was forsaken

And they wrote it all down as the progress of man.

Daddy, won't you take me down to Muelenburg County

Down by the Green River where Paradise lay,

I'm sorry my son, but you're too late in asking

Mr. Peabody's coal train has hauled it away.

(Remember to substitute gravel for coal)

Also, with regard to your campaign for making the public aware, may I quote from the Khandogya-Upanishad, VII Prapathka, 7th Khanda which deals with understanding:

"Through understanding we understand (Very deep - Ed.) the Bhuta-vidya, the Kshatra-vidya, the Devagana-vidya (Watch it buddy - Typesetters) cattle, birds, herbs, trees, all beasts down to worms midges and ants. Meditate on understanding." Yup! Could be the first recorded reference to an ecosystem.

Now for the bad news - the 8th Khanda.

"Power is better than understanding. One powerful man shakes a hundred men of understanding...meditate on power." Hmm! Maybe I should have cast yarrow stalks instead for a cheerier outlook.

My advice to Tilcon-Maine, Inc. is really more of a suggestion-cum-plea. This gravel company, which is a local subsidiary of an international giant, owns land off Route 11 that borders both sides of the Cocheco River, between Farmington and Rochester, land purchased from the Vickers Gravel Co. The V.G.C., in order to cross from one bank of the Cocheco to the other, caused the river to disappear into two small culverts, and in so doing, won themselves an entry in the Appalachian Mountain Club's river guide for New Hampshire.

The A.M.C., describing this river section as "ideal for the beginning whitewater canoeists," issues a strong caution regarding this interference with the waterway: "If the river is high, these culverts may be entirely underwater and hazardous because they create a strong suction. Take out with care and portage." With considerable difficulty, let me add. Furthermore, according to Bill Cooper, a back-up of floodwater at these culverts often causes flooding to Farmington Country Club's low-lying fairways. It is fair to say that Tilcon inherited this problem, rather than created it, but it is also in their power to remedy the situation by removing these twin irritations and replacing them with one large culvert that would accommodate a greater flow of water and allow safe passage for recreational canoeists, fishermen and duck-hunters. This would go far to show the population that the company is seriously concerned with environmental impact.

Poetry Contest: First let me square something away with my dear friends, the typesetters. When I typed skunk, they set shunk. When I typed shunk, they set skunk. No big deal. Now for the Milton Ringer - I deciphered the message wrongly, and for posterity his last line should have read "And leave me in a most malodorous funk." Much better, Ringer, you're up among the money now.

Another telephone tape entry came from someone sounding like B.O. Jerrel of Milton and approximated to:

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

Even tho' I've got a gas mask in my trunk

For I know that not too late-o

Into juice of ripe tomato

My car and I, I'd surely have to dunk.

Cathy Condon submitted a further two poems that were even more appalling than last week. A small polite girl, whose name may have been Julie, whispered an entry that was lost in the ether. Angie St. Onge hit a skunk that was squatting in a pothole.

Betty Webster of the Henry Wilson Grange, ever mindful of the ecosystem wrote:

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

Into potholes around town I've often sunk

But to hit a sachet kitty

For weeks I'm filled with pity

Oh I'd rather hit a pothole than a skunk

Oh a skunk is really pretty black and white

You can see them on the roads most any night

It's their perfume I object to

When my car and they connect - phew!

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

Betty takes the opportunity to say that June 25 was Past Masters night with a special program put on by the members. Grand picnic will be on July 20 at her cottage on Loon Pond, Acton, Maine. Family and friends invited. Bring hotdogs or hamburger to grill.

Meanwhile, back at the poetry contest, I declare a dead-heat between the Milton Ringer, B.O. Jerrel, Mr. Ramgunshoch, Betty Webster and Cathy Condon (for sheer output). Ladies and gentlemen, you have each won 60 cents, which may be picked up at the Community Center. Heartiest congratulations!

Outdoor Club: Shortage of space sadly prevents me from detailing the eventful climbing of Tripyramid by a small but dedicated party two weeks ago. Fierce arguments along the trail included, but were not confined to, acid rain as a form of tree control; the virtue/curse of white sugar, and why macrobiotics should be horse-whipped. Debaters included Mr. Button of the Police Department, Mr. Jolles of the Planning Board, Mr. Nolan of Parks and Recreation and Jeannie Blinkinsop of Assorted Minor Causes (A.M.C.).

The next outing, to which the non-aligned public and Trappist monks are especially invited, is slated for Sunday, July 6, leaving the Community Center at 7 a.m. or thereabouts. It is intended to climb Mt. Washington from Pinkham Notch by either Huntington or Tuckerman Ravine trails. Call 755-2405 for details.

July 1, 1986

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