A continuing tale of life in the boonies

No. 135

See you later, perambulator

Septennial perambulation is a mandated obligation of locally elected representatives, and neglect of this duty may result in their impeachment.

In plain language, selectmen have got to walk their own town lines every seven years, and concur with neighboring communities over the exact positions of common boundary markers...or they are up the local government creek.

And verily, it came to pass on Saturday, Oct. 15, at 8:30 a.m., that the selectmen from Alton, New Durham, Barnstead, Strafford and Farmington, forgathered beneath the Barnstead War Memorial. The daunting obligation ahead of them was to hack through impenetrable forest and locate an ancient stone boundary marker where all five towns converge.

Due to the historic importance of this occasion, it is appropriate to pause and record the names of those present: New Durham - Carlton Woods; Alton - Russell Jones; Barnstead - Paul Golden, Leonard Tasker, and Eleanor Smith; Strafford - JoAnn Brown and Lester Huckins; Farmington - Willis Berry. Media assigned to the august event consisted solely of this hack, as a reporter belonging to a rival organization experienced mechanical trouble with an alarm clock. When only one journalist is present to carry back great tidings to the readership, this is called a scoop. A scoop is a Good Thing. (Please remember this! - Ed.)

Exactly on time, an entourage of trucks and cars headed from the center of Barnstead on the six-mile journey out to dirt-topped Cooke Road. This sylvan byway, on its way to New Durham, passes within a third of a mile of the point where all five towns meet - the only such exalted spot in the state of New Hampshire, according to learned people. A perambulator's Shangri-la.

The forest track, leading from Cooke Road to the mystical stone, curved eastwards and northwards over private land posted with "No Trespassing" signs. The landowner had expressed something less than enthusiasm when Barnstead town officials informed him that a perambulation would necessitate crossing his property.

"The man can rant and rave all he wants, but the state says we have to do this every seven years. How else are we gonna get there?" asked Selectman Tasker, as we plodded through the woods.

Some distance down the forbidden path, one possible reason for the landowner's reticence came to light when Selectman Smith spotted a large barn and several smaller sheds that apparently had escaped taxation. These buildings were filed away, mentally.

After a mile or more, the path petered out at a lichen-covered rock wall that delineated the boundary between Farmington and Strafford. The party of selectmen now turned back westwards, following the wall through thicket, briar, undergrowth and closely spaced trees, until they reached the edge of a marshy pond, where lay the roughly five-sided boulder.

It would have been hard to argue that the marker was in the wrong position, as it radiated the impression of having been there, unmoved, for centuries. The rock had a dignity and importance quite unusual in such inanimate objects, and no one would have been too surprising to find Excaliber sheathed in it. On each of the stone's faces was chiseled the initial letter of the town that radiated out in that direction.

The selectmen took turns with a wire brush to scrub the moss from their respective town's letters. A couple of them, with chisel and hatchet, then chipped the number 88 into the rock, as proof of their visit. The media person recorded this rare moment on film, but sadly, he experienced mechanical trouble with his camera and produced no actual visual evidence. (Not much of a scoop then is it? - Ed.)

Next, Selectman Golden took a can or orange paint, gave his letter B a short burst to make it stand out the more, and then passed around the aeresol spray. Someone gave their letter an unduly long squirt.

"It would be cheaper to brush some more," reproved Golden, touching a common chord of parsimony in the breasts of all.

"Spoken like a true selectman," said Willis Berry with a grin.

There was a tinge of regret that no one had thought to bring along hard cider to toast the completion of this quaint duty, deep in the boondocks. After all, it is unlikely ever to be the same again. By the next perambulation, in 1995, the probability is that the forest will be gone, and the area will be smothered with condominiums and parking lots. The stone, itself, may well have a protective circle of garden gnomes, plastic birds and whirligigs. But what would the selectmen of yesteryear make of that - those guys that had to fight Indians to get there? Hmm.

A weighty exhibition

Yessiree, Bob! The Goodwin Library has done it again. The folks who brought you Bernie Nason's baseball cards, Lorraine Meyer's Arabic jewelry and Roger Belanger's political buttons, have achieved another scoop, in the shape of 14 glass paperweights from the Thayer Collection. And so I have no hesitation in pleading with you couch potatoes to toddle down to Main Street and give your eyes a visual feast.

As you gaze upon these paperweights, questions will flood your mind. Is this the entire collection? Judging by the use of the word "from," probably not. Then if not, are all the important periods in the history of paperweights truly represented? Which is the Byzantine paperweight? Has the Ming period made great contributions? Is that really Rick Thayer as a baby, trapped at the bottom of that glass dome? These, and all your other paperweight enquiries, will be deftly handled by Dorinda. Gerbil answers, also, a speciality.

Person of the Year

Farmington citizens have finally recognized Betty Mros (not that she has been wearing a false beard) by making her Citizen of the Year for 1988. Betty has played a leading role in many town activities such as the Nute Ridge Half Marathon, the Henry Wilson Winter Carnival, and Hay Day. She is also responsible, in no small way, for the renaissance of the Farmington Business Association over the last four years, and will be allotted her own chapter in a rumored forthcoming novel by Brad Bowden.

As a token of appreciation and respect, members of Farmington Country Club are asked to refrain from slugging golf balls into Betty’s garden for a period of 12 months.

Mystery and Intrigue II

Farmington Woman's Club has finally unmasked the identities of its 12 newest disciples at a ceremony called the First Tea (rather than the Last Supper.) The Oct. 21 occasion was attended by State Federation President Mrs. Rugg of Greenland, who doubled as the guest speaker. The new members of Farmington Woman's Club are, from Alton: Ada Downing, Rosa Sullivan, Ida Whipple, Eleanor Hayes, Catherine Cardinal, Anna Hasse; from New London: Linnea Sanders; from Barnstead: Mildred Billings; from New Durham: Ruth Conway and Nancy Lessard; from Farmington: Hazel Mabey and Norma Park.

October 24, 1988

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