A continuing tale of life in the boonies
A glimpse into the future
By 2016 AD, Farmington had entered its 12th year of the Great Civil War, a long and grinding conflict that was still proving a boon for newspaper sales. Folks throughout the Seacoast had shown undimmed interest in the unbroken stream of local governmental resignations, character assassinations, firings, intrigues, outrages, and lawsuits coming out of Puddledock.
In fact, the Nielsen Ratings, a while back, had detected that in southeastern New Hampshire, viewing numbers of regular TV soap opera favorites had been slumping badly as folks switched their attentions to the real-life Byzantine plots swirling around Farmington’s municipal building. There were now strong rumors that at least two major networks were developing series based on the town’s political upheavals, in a frantic bid to win back audiences from Fox. This latter company had just purchased the rights to beam Metrocast’s Channel 26, the Farmington local government outlet, around the nation.
Both the officials currently entrusted by Farmington voters to conduct the affairs of the town, and the so-called government-in-exile, were too preoccupied with their agendas to deal with the herd of TV trucks and satellite dishes now camped on Main Street, beaming scandal and gossip to an American audience with a seemingly unlimited appetite for the grotesque.
On Nov. 15, 2016, to dodge the glare of publicity, the three-person Board of Selectmen astutely booked the basement room of a hotel in a neighboring community in order to discuss how to handle a long-running crisis which had its roots in a decision made back in 2006. That year, a set of fees had been introduced for disposal of items in the town dump, ranging from $3 or $4 for a car tire and $5 for a fragment of carpet to $15 for an air conditioner and $25 for a TV set that was 25" or larger.
This punitive legislation had triggered two responses – a minor boost to the retail sales of 24½" TVs and the wholesale dumping of tires, carpets, air conditioners, televisions and a staggering range of other junk along the sides of Farmington’s rural roads. For the first few years after the dumping fees were imposed, the situation had been controlled by giving students a day out of school each semester on which to gather the roadside trash into piles and load them onto town trucks.
Then, in 2011, came the first fee price hike, followed in 2015, once the riots had subsided, by a second. Nowadays, it cost $45 to legally dispose of a computer monitor, for example, with the upshot being that in recent months, a majority of townspeople had taken to throwing their trash into ditches, and even onto the roadways, under cover of darkness. With increasing frequency, of a morning, the town crew had had to run the plow up River Road to clear a path for vehicles, and on a couple of occasions, small charges of dynamite were needed to dislodge stubborn blockages involving defunct refrigeration units and clapped-out dehumidifiers.
Thus, the mood of selectmen in the hotel basement on Nov. 15, 2016 was one of grim determination at this challenge to law and order. Looked at positively, it was even a chance to dust off that 2006 Emergency Management plan. Although more residents than not had now resorted to illegal dumping it was not a political factor to be considered, because more residents than not shunned the voting process. The only people likely to rail against the fee policy were that irritating government-in-exile bunch, but they had other stuff to occupy their minds.
So ran the thinking of the three selectmen as they ate the Spam and Cheddar cheese sandwiches they had packed with them, washed down with Diet Pepsi kindly provided by the hotel. Firm resolve was needed to get folks back in line. The public had to understand the costs of Freon removal, and extracting all those heavy metal bits out of computers. So it now cost $12 to ditch a 4’x6’ carpet? But all those toxic dyes!
Luckily, with an accord just reached with major retailers, selectmen now had access to electronic records detailing new appliance sales, thus allowing accurate predictions of which household would dump their old what. And if they didn’t dump it in the town dump, maybe lawsuits should follow. All this the legislators mulled, as they nibbled their humble fare.
By an astonishing coincidence, on that very day, Nov. 15, 2016, Farmington’s government-in-exile had gathered upstairs in the Rochester hotel’s illustrious banquet suite, to explore, over hors d’ouevres, wine and a sumptuous three-course meal, their most pressing issue.
Oddly, this item was not connected to the choking of Farmington’s roads with debris, nor even the decade-long insistence by the crank Ramgunshoch, that one of their members, who had a Christmas tree operation, change the name of a nation-offending Scotch Pine to Scots Pine. No, over enticing plates of pâté de foie gras, French truffles and Black Sea caviar, and between elegant sips of de Vogue Chambolle Musigny 1er Cru 2001, this crowd, studded with one-time selectmen and former town officials, was laying yet another set of fresh plans to get a sprinkler system installed in Farmington Town Hall that, with funds donated by the Thayer family, had been lovingly restored back in 2006.
Over the years, numerous schemes to install the fire prevention piping and sprinkler heads, and consequently open up the balcony area for plays and concerts, had been nixed by selectmen through one political maneuver or another. The voting public, although they had approved funding for the project at past town meetings, had also sent upsettingly mixed messages by dumping 25" TV sets and old carpets on the unused upstairs seating.
The fine diners, now in great fettle, expressed confidence that one day their sprinkler system objective would be achieved. The main thing was to avoid any publicity, because these days, with national viewer figures at stake, major TV networks were just begging for long-running feuds in Farmington. It was also vital, therefore, that if any members of the group were elected selectmen, they should not resign any more frequently than twice a year.
Their banquet over, the government-in-exile spilled out into the hotel’s parking lot and it was indeed unlucky that they ran slap bang into the Board of Selectmen emerging from the basement. And it was doubly unfortunate, just as hair-raising invective and terrible insults were being exchanged, that roaring in off Wakefield Street came a fleet of TV broadcasting trucks. But the year was 2016. TV producers, just like the federal government, knew what everybody was up to.
* * * * *
Farmington Corner would like to send much-belated congratulations to Lucille and Roger Nutter, who, way, way, back in 2006, celebrated their 70th wedding anniversary. As my failing memory recalls, they first met in grade 3 in Farmington, and were married in Nute’s Chapel in 1936.
They were both very active in Farmington Historical Society, a group that, in this day and age, organizes regular field trips to River Road to scour the debris fields for artifacts.
Roger Nutter is best remembered for his efforts to restore to prominence the name of Farmington’s most famous son, U.S. Vice President Henry Wilson. Through Roger’s persistent lobbying of the state Department of Transportation, Route 11 briefly reverted to its official name of Henry Wilson Highway, but after a few years the signs disappeared at the Rochester end - revenge, one feels, for Farmington gaining its independence from its bigger neighbor on Dec. 1, 1798.
Right about now, though, you can bet Rochester is giving a very big sigh of relief that Farmington did go its own lively way – or 6,000 more people would have been dumping TVs and sofas and headboards and carpets in Turnkey Landfill for free, and city councilors may have been suing the city.
Nov. 19, 2006
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