A continuing tale of life in the boonies
In praise of older women (and men)
FARMINGTON Ė Perhaps inspired by Wyatt Earp in Tombstone or Eliot Ness in Chicago, Roger Belanger has carved out a mean reputation in Farmington for keeping the streets free of garbage. Not mean, of course, in the sense of humble or penurious, but the mean that signifies excellent and effective.
Every evening, for the last several decades Ė and I am sure I have mentioned this before - Roger sets off on his jihad against the candy wrappers and crumpled cigarette packs that plague the townís sidewalks just as cussedly as did any Arizonan gunslinger or Windy City hoodlum.
And folks sure appreciates his dedication, for unlike Tombstone, where the biggest draw is now the Boot Hill Gift Shop, or Chicago, given over to business seminars and upscale conferences, Farmington has not gone all commercial, touristy or soft. The threat level for the War on Trash is constantly at orange or red. Thus, to be led by a general of Rogerís dogged mindset is good fortune indeed.
However, we are gathered here today to praise Roger, not for those fabled garbology skills but for another fruit of his determined personality.
Mr. Belanger, poring over tiny newsprint for several hours, every single night for two years has compiled a list of the recipients of Farmingtonís Boston Post Cane, from Rufus Amazeen in 1909 right up to the current holder, Sylvia Hobby, in 2004. He did it by combing every obituary over the relevant 95 years, in his complete collection of the Farmington News, the same newspaper that has provided him with the names of all Farmington war veterans, and every student to graduate from Farmington High School.
It may be worth noting, at this juncture, that the Farmington News was founded in 1880, while the gunfight at OK Corral, involving Wyatt Earp and his brothers, did not occur until 1881. Therefore it is safe to assume that Farmington garbage, in the form of swirling, old newspapers, predates Tombstone gunplay by some12 months or so Ö but I digress.
Roger delivered his fully researched and absolutely riveting treatise, punctuated with self-deprecating chuckles, recently, to members of the Farmington Historical Society. He included a short biography, gleaned from notices in the newspaper, of each of the Boston Post Cane recipients, excepting Sylvia, naturally, who is doing quite well, thank you, out on Meaderboro Road.
I met a fellow history buff in the Post Office the very day following Rogerís program, and burbled about how enjoyable it was.
"It went on too long, and some of the people werenít important," came the unexpected response from my acquaintance, and I realized that "exhaustive" research could be a double-edged sword.
The history buffs are a tough audience. Future program presenters would do well to remember that a small but significant number of members show up chiefly for the post-lecture cookies and punch, and are only prepared to suffer whatever bunk is on the monthly program for about 40 minutes, and after that, get increasingly edgy. Iím surprised they donít actually dribble.
Nonetheless, my fellow memberís remarks did contain a kernel of wisdom. The bit about importance, I reflected, was true. While it is appealing to honor the oldest citizen of the day, and to maintain a roll of recipients - what of the Farmingtonians who didnít hang on quite long enough? They may indeed have been important or even very important. Better still, they could have been rascals of great fascination who have slipped down the memory hole, while longevity alone has been sufficient to rocket one or two Boston Post Cane nonentities into the perpetual orbit of fame. Ah, weel!
If Roger, himself, doesnít hold out for another 30 years or so, heíll have to be content with an accolade in Farmington Corner.
And for the record, with biographical notes omitted in deference to the short attention span fraternity, here is the Farmington Boston Post Cane list of honorees, with their ages at the date of bestowal, in parentheses:
1909, Rufus Amazeen (95)
1914, Samuel Meserve (92)
1918, Joseph Libby (90)
1922, Asa Hall (92)
1925, John Tuttle (91)
1928, Joseph Johnson (94)
1931, Samuel Gilman (96)
1933, Steven Leighton (93)
1934, George Card (92)
1938, George Jones (93)
1939, Charles Plummer (92)
1941, Nancy Leighton (91) - first woman
1944, Helen Fielder (91)
1945, George Smith (92)
1948, Jennie Nutter (93)
1949, Isaac "Ike" Canney (93)
1951, Leander French (95)
1952, Charles Gilman (96)
1954, Ada Blaisdell (93)
1959, Will Peavey (93)
1961, Charlotte R. Drawbridge (94)
1963, Walter Pulsifer (95)
1966, Lucia Gordon (95)
1968, John Jones (92)
1970, Maude Clark (94)
1973, Samuel Arnold (92)
1980, Violet Jones (93)
1996, Alice Davis (100)
2004, Sylvia Hobby (98)
Notes: Women were not recognized as members of the human race, for Boston Post Cane purposes, until 1941. There were breaks of a few years between the last several recipients.
Dec. 18, 2005
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