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The Village Troubadour-Lyrics From a Small New England Town

A Few Miles Over, But 200 Years In The Past

The Village Troubadour-Lyrics From a Small New England TownThere comes a time when you just need to get away for a while from the everyday challenges of work and living. So Rose and I occasionally tumble into the Kia and motor off to someplace different. A place that, after you leave, you feel you have experienced something beyond the ordinary.

This weekend was one of those times when, on a hazy Sunday afternoon, we followed the gabby GPS directions and found ourselves in Milton, New Hampshire, about an hour and fifteen minutes from our front yard and about 200 years ago as the old crow flies.

Porch On The Farm House 

The New Hampshire Farm Museum is an educational organization dedicated to preserving, promoting and carrying forward New Hampshire's rural and agricultural heritage. It's also a working farm with some animals and a garden that yields, when tended properly, several acres of hay and an abundant harvest, in season, of squash, peas, beans, tomatoes and such.

In talking with Director Kathleen Shea, I learned that the Museum consists of two adjoining farmsteads situated on 50 acres located on Plummer's Ridge in Milton. The historic Jones Farm and the Plummer Homestead date to the late 18th century and are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The farms were passed down in the same families for generations. And so were the tools used to provide the produce and tend to the everyday living back then. 

We were greeted by a friendly young woman at the ticket desk/gift shop and after a nominal fee ($7 for those over 17, $4 for children and $6 for senior citizens – hooray!), we began our tour.

Our first stop was a mini documentary shown every 15 minutes or so in an adjoining wood shed, and which describes the life on a farm years ago. It was well done and aside from a little audio difficulty, it was a perfect introduction to what lay in store.

Next, the chickens in the yard. The “girls” (and one colorful, happy rooster) are all clean, happy, well-fed and kept. “Free range” is the expression and didn't some of the kids who came to visit have fun with those cluckers.

Incidentally, bring a camera. Photo-taking moments appear in droves.

Our young tour guide, Andrew Towne, began the tour in the “Big Barn,” which was stuffed full of rigs of every shape, size and configuration; farm implements and agricultural aids hung from all the walls and stalls formerly occupied with animals of the bovine nature now filled to overflowing with carpenters tools.


You were on your own back then and you couldn't toddle down your local Lowe's or Home Depot to secure what was needed. You made it. From eating implements (cow's horns) to drinking mugs (oak or maple “fired” limbs cut the right size) to items used to repair wagons, fences and buildings to maintaining the fuel to heat the living quarters in the form of several dozen cords of firewood seasoned, cut, split and stacked.

The barn is several stories high and contains more tools, dairy machines, objects of cheese making and the largest display of different milk bottles I have ever seen.

Every square inch of this extremely large structure is filled to overflowing with wagons, hayracks, hay rakes, sledges, hammers, saws of every conceivable ilk and sleighs and sleds (including one billed as the longest sled in the world that runs the complete 100 feet or so of the inside of the barn – believe me it would make one heck of a belly whopper!).


The barn does not have a fancy interior and at times was a little dusty, but if you don't mind stepping over a few things or climbing a stair or two, I guarantee you will find more fascinating objects preserved in its original venue then some of the more “swell-ified” museums offer.

Andrew did not follow us on our exploration but let us wander as we wished, and he answered questions we had with a skillful blend of stories and remarkable information.

The “Big Barn” can gobble up a lot of time, and we hadn't even seen the inside of the house or tavern/inn/stagecoach stop yet.

Andrew took us inside the original farmhouse, stopping in each room we wandered into and explaining many of the items we found. He was more then just a guide as he actually made some of the items he discussed, including the “fired” mugs, so called when hot coals from a fire were lain atop a thick branch of a tree cut to mug size and allowed to smolder down and hollow out the drinking utensil.

As a certain pointy eared Vulcan would say, ”Fascinating.”

The farmstead consists of one of the largest “continuous architecture” structures I have ever seen. It's 275 feet in length and ranges in date from the 1770s to the early 1900s. Continuous (so called) because every structure is linked together in one line to allow easy access to the building in the harsh winter and mud seasons here in New England and was known colloquially as “big house – little house – back house and barn.”

200 Year Old NH Farm Museum 

Insurance companies frown on that design nowadays and you will not find many outside of southern New Hampshire, Vermont and northern parts of Massachusetts.

In the last 200 years, the NHFM has changed ownership a few times.

The original Revolutionary era cape farmhouse was owned by Joseph Plumer; in the farmhouse you will find a vast collection of artifacts used in domestic production of textiles and preservation of food, furnishings and myriad household articles highlighting "Yankee ingenuity."

From there we flowed into Levi Jones' early 19th-century inn and tavern where, if you close your eyes, you can almost hear travelers and farmers laughing and talking about the news of the day. If you let your imagination continue for a moment or two, above the hustle perhaps will rise the klink of post- and pre-Revolutionary War coins dropping into hostler Jones' waiting hands to be joined with the thump of foaming tankards of fresh brewed ale on age scarred oak tables.

It is here that history comes alive.

Free Range and Happy Chickens 

From the tavern we move into a Victorian parlor and dining room (be sure to pause and look at the wonderfully preserved musical instruments, the entertainment was live in those days) and a fantastic dollhouse that I could not tear my eyes away from.

Beautiful Doll House

What skill. You almost feel like Lemuel Gulliver as you gaze at perfectly miniaturized furniture tucked into jewel-like rooms, and finally we wander into an early 20th-century farm kitchen.

While many farms in New Hampshire have come and gone, leaving empty cellar holes, or collapsed building with untended graveyards and mossy covered stone walls to wander aimlessly through new forest growth, the Farm Museum remains a remarkable reminder of what it was like in “the old days.”

The Museum also has two other recently added buildings holding dozens of tractors and buggies and a working octagonal cider house containing tubs, barrels, presses and other items used to produce grampa's “whistle wetter.”

It is well worth a visit.

The Museum is open to the public five days per week mid-June through mid October and offers special events and programs on weekends throughout the year. They offer guided tours of the farm and the historic Jones farmhouse and exhibits and display on rural life and agriculture in New Hampshire. Special events and programs, work shops, school group visits and day camps are offered throughout the year. They have have a working farm growing heirloom varieties of vegetables for our Community Supported Agriculture Program and for sale in our Country store. They also keep a small selection of heritage breed farm animals to support our educational programs.

Farming and the Local Market

GeorgeLocke-HeadshotOn a beautiful spring morning the signs were hung, the booths were full, and bushels of plants and baked goods were ready for business. All that was needed was the people.

And they came, lots of them. "By 1 in the afternoon I had stopped counting," says Harold Lamos, local farmer and entrepreneur. And then he smiled. "I guess this land is good for a lot of things besides just farming,"

Harold had purchase seven acres of land in the heart of the Lakes Region of New Hampshire and saw a potential to help friends and neighbors and at the same time expose more people to the beauty of nature and the charm and variety of local artisans.

The Signs of a Farmers Market 

The 39-year-old farmer cleared the area and opened it to businesses and crafters within a 20-mile area of Ashland, New Hampshire, with the hope of attracting at least 10 or so to fill the benches he made from rescued timber cleared from a recently demolished barn. He also constructed a stage where local musicians are encouraged to perform while folks stroll about at the leisure.

As of this blog entry, he has filled all the benches and is hard pressed to keep up with those who want to be part of this "Open Air Market."

Sunflowers at the Open Air Market 

A beautiful spring-fed pond ringed with emerald trees and flowers will soon be stocked with fish courtesy of Kiwanis International, and a local landscaping company ("Simple by Choice") had donated material for a "hands on" garden offering kinds a chance to plant, tend and harvest vegetable crops.

And artistic creations? There was a man selling beautiful hand-crafted wooden puzzles, games, and Christmas decorations. Right next door was a colorful display of reworked and decorated furniture. There were many booths featuring jewelry of all types and one where a gentleman used antique tractor seats in his cocktail table and chair designs.

Decorated Chair and Flowers For Sale 

In the middle was a licensed masseuse offering soothing massages.

On the hand-built and tarp-covered stage (which was wired for sound), a string band called "Just Because" was producing pretty songs and lively bluegrass as well as other standards. People were smiling and clapping in time. The joint was jumping. 

Area service clubs are encouraged to use the space to promote their organizations. A local fire department youth explorers group was selling hot coffee and the 4-H was represented by several young ladies selling homemade cookies, bread, cupcakes and goodies.

The market is an on-going project that Harold says will grow by the end of the summer with more vendors, more of nature's bounty, and more musicians. It will be open from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. the first Saturday of the month through October.

A Game of Stones: Keeping Your Balance in a Topsy Turvy World

Perhaps you have never noticed them. I didn’t for a long time, until last fall as we were traveling somewhere, my wife pointed them out. Of course, she was in the passenger seat and I was keeping my eyes focused on the highway, most of the time.

Another rock pile on NH Rt 104What we saw very few miles or so down NH Rte 104 several odd, neatly arranged piles of rock. Stones atop one another, some precariously balanced and in random order. Occasionally there were big ones placed on small or ones teeny ones atop monster rocks followed with an impossible large chunk, turned on edge and standing unsupported.

These stacks of stones you occasionally see alongside the road are not a haphazard act of nature. They were placed there for a reason.

 I wanted to get to the bottom of this pile, so to speak, and I started as many of us do by checking the internet.

According to Wikipedia……”Rock balancing is an art, discipline, or hobby (depending upon the intent of the practitioner) in which rocks are balanced on top of one another in various positions. There are no tricks involved to aid in the balancing, such as adhesives, wires, supports, or rings.”

 Well, that pretty much covers the definition of said ersatz cairns. But the question of “why” nagged me.

 History is full of examples of stacked rocks. Stonehenge on a plain in Wiltshire UK is an example of carefully stacked rocks heaved into place about five thousand years ago by humans and, according to some estimates, took some thirty million hours of labor.

 The reason for their construction is a bit murky. We think it was a spiritual aid perhaps to a Druidic cult for either human sacrifice, or astronomy. Or both.

Adam Ruobo with his rock stack and dog Simba In Adam Roubo’s case building free standing rock piles had nothing to do with mummies, Druids, Mayan kings or astronomy. He builds them, in his words, “Just for fun and because they’re a challenge.”

 He has an engaging smile and boundless energy and has constructed several free stone structures around his families’ home in Meredith. And he has not finished. “I’m probably going to build some more.” he said with a mischievous grin. I paid him and his mom Lynn a visit recently at his home and we were joined by the family dog Simba to look over Adams stone piles.

 Adam is a normal ten year old who was first drawn to artful rock piling last year the same way I was. He saw a series of them alongside NH Route 104 while heading to New Hampton. “I thought they looked cool and so I tried to make one.” He smiled and said “They didn’t fall over right away, and I was hooked.”

 The fourth grader at Interlakes Elementary school likes the outdoors and so he decided to combine his love for nature with a hobby that is much like a large, heavy version of the popular stacking game Jenga. However, in Jenga, the purpose of the game is to remove as many of the wooden blocks as you can before it topples over.

Stonehenge, by the way, is only one of many places in the UK where massive stone stacks abide. Avebury, about 25 miles north of Stonehenge also boasts some magnificent cairns. The types of mineral used in building these structures are Welsh sandstone and bluestone.

 The Great Pyramids of Giza built by the Egyptians to house the body of a pharaoh were built around the same time as Giza, but are not technically free- stacked stones because some mortar was used in securing an estimated 3.1 million limestone blocks into place. But Mayan temples were free stacked using only a little loose gravel to hold everything in place.

 Adams material was NH granite, sandstone and any type of rock he saw laying around that might fit his vision of what he was trying to make.

Rock stacking is many things to many people. It can be a challenging game, as in Adams case. Or it can take a metaphysical left turn and be a tool for meditation as in Zen or an art expression. Some rocks have been stacked on or actually in rivers or brooks; producing a perfect melding of mans vision enhancing nature’s image.

There are several sites on line which display, at times, this seemingly impossible art form. There are even professional rock stackers who haul rocks from place to place and involve the audience in this rock solid game of stones.

A New Roof and a New Life - The Bright Future for an Old Building

On a recent visit to the corner store for a cup of coffee and a Boston Globe, I was brought face to face with a small army of roofers and carpenters scampering about on a small building next door.  Many had volunteered their time and skill that day to fix the roof of a small, wooden building in need of repair. It was a community coming together to renovate a local icon.Reroofing and old building on a recent weekend  

You’ve probably passed this type of building dozens of times in a town or on a rural road near you and never given it a second thought. Generally it’s a small, restrained and un-ostentatious structure; and the fact that it hosts meetings for those involved in farming and helps to promote American values and honored traditions perhaps never crossed your mind.  

On the other had maybe you’re a member or know someone who has joined the Grange.  

That’s right. The Grange. Short for “The Order of Patrons of Husbandry” (Husbandry being a quaint term for “farming” and it also means “thrift” a word with which many of us are familiar.)

The Grange Hall I saw being renovated has been here for over eighty years. Wicwas Grange #292 – Meredith Center, New Hampshire. In the organizational structure it is a Fourth Degree Subordinate, and the largest in the state.

The national Order was formed in Washington DC in 1867 to, in their words…”unite private citizens in improving the economic and social position of the nations farm population.”

It took off from there and in a fairly short amount of time; almost all the country saw the opening of local Grange Halls. Over the years these meeting places and their members began to grow and, in a short time they expanded to include non-farm families and rural communities.  The Grange was one of the first formal groups to admit women to membership on an equal basis with men.

But in the latter part of the last century, rural America fell upon hard times. The number of small family farms and farmers began to diminish, and this in turn affected many Grange Halls nation wide. The story was the same in many places. Non-use. Falling apart. Abandoned. However, here in central New Hampshire, community leaders and members had a vision of saving this building and turning it into a place for everyone to use and enjoy,  

Volunteers at work with the old horse troth in the foreground
I attended at least one wedding in the hall several years back, and I must admit when I looked around it was a rather dismal place for such a joyous occasion But since then, things have changed and there is new life in the building along with new paint job, a new roof and other renovations which have been planned.       

Barry Ladd, proprietor of the Meredith Center Store right next door to the Wicwas Grange Hall and current overseer has said it was almost torn down at one point. “We felt it would be shame if that happened and some of us got together to see what we could do to preserve this part of our communities’ heritage”.  

From this initial vision the idea took on a life of its own as many local groups and civic leaders joined to help put this years “old place” back on the right track again.

Folks in the Meredith Rotary, and the Greater Meredith Program provided money and labor along with the assistance of local builders such as Mike Pelzer of Interlakes Builders, Larry Trombetta and many others in the area.

Along with the Grange Hall, The Greater Meredith Program also undertook a two year project to expand and improve the ball park and playground right across the road from the Grange Hall.

Because of this local effort, not only was the building it self saved and renovations begun, but the Grange member ship increased from seven to almost one hundred in the last three years alone. Grange #292 is now the largest 4th Degree Subordinate Grange in the state and this fall the national Grange Convention will take place down the road a piece in Manchester NH.

Steve Durand who is the current Grand Master of the Grange could not be more pleased or proud of the Town of Meredith and the Meredith Center community. Taking a break on the front steps of the Grange Hall  

“They pulled together and have transformed this old building inside and out with a hundred and eighteen person capacity dining room capacity and kitchen as well as many needed outside and inside structural improvements.” he said. He added with a smile,"We're even going to refurbish the old horse troth and get that working again."

When the Grange was formed it included many mysterious terms and implements in its ceremony, some borrowed from “Free Masonry” or from the Bible and Greek and Roman mythology. And they originally met in secret.

Nowadays all meetings are open to the public, of course, but the Grange still acknowledges it’s rich history and tradition, along with some of its famous members, such as Harry Truman, FDR and Nirvana bassist, Krist Novoselic.

As of late, the Grange continues to support the causes of farmers, including issues of free trade and farm policy. In its 2006 Journal of Proceedings, the organization's report on its annual convention, the organization lays out its mission and how it works towards achieving it through fellowship, service, and legislation.

To quote from that journal, "The Grange provides opportunities for individuals and families to develop to their highest potential in order to build stronger communities and states, as well as a stronger nation.”    

The organization supports only policies, never political parties or candidates. Although the Grange was originally founded to serve the interests of farmers, because of the shrinking farm population the Grange has begun to broaden its range to include a wide variety of issues, and, of course, anyone is welcome to join the Grange.

A Week Past - A Time of Contemplation

O lay aside each earthly thing
And with thy heart as offering,
Come worship now the infant King.
'Tis love that's born tonight!

 From -"Some Children See Him" by Alfred Burt
I have turned off my Pandora and have spent the last severalminutes trying to clear my mind of all intrusions into my thoughts in order to write something meaningful about the recent tragedy in Connecticut.

I cannot say for sure if this blog will be published and if not – that’s ok. The last thing I want is to make waves.

Things have been bubbling in my mind like an overheated pot for a while and a few days ago they boiled over in what I can only explain as a foolish and angry rant by a silly old man.  It took place during a meeting of our couple’s prayer group that was hosted at our house on Tuesday night.

During the conversation, something snapped and, though my wife tried to gently talk me down, I lost it.

I became something that I have always felt sorry for – a person who lets his emotions rule his sense of responsibility and fairness.

It was like a vocal letter to the editor with every other word capitalized. It was a rant demonizing something I knew only a little about and with not enough sense to put my brain in gear before engaging my mouth.

Dad with coffee cup

Anger and hostility should not define who we are, but I am afraid had you heard me, you would have thought less of me after my temper tantrum.

There is widening gulf in America between those who look for hope and change and those who would cling to decent moral values, a traditional society that rewards hard work and conservative thought. And what a shame; because these are things which should dwell comfortably side by side

I turned seventy a couple of weeks back and for as long as I can remember it has been my observation that we live in a world that only possesses a few absolute black and white answers to life’s questions. In fact I have always felt a certain admiration to those who see only few shades of gray.

Abortion – right to life – capital punishment – equal opportunity – fairness to all; these are subjects that, for the most part, we can all agree upon, but, when 20 children were killed last week along with their teachers – something changed in all of us.

My first knee-jerk reaction was to scream at our lack of gun laws and to blast what I perceived to be a dangerous lobby.

Whoa! What was I thinking?

I have confession to make. I own a gun. I keep it in my closet. Unloaded. It is a JC Higgins single shot 20ga shotgun owned by my uncle, himself an avid hunter and fisherman who knew the woods and fields of New Hampshire better then most people know the back of their hands.

I hunted partridge in Vermont and squirrels and partridge in New Hampshire when I was a boy many years ago.

I spent over three years in the Army, with two years in Korea up near the DMZ. I spent hours in train-fire and earned my “Marksman” and “Sharpshooter” badges with the M1 Garand and .30 carbine as my weapon of choice. I am familiar with guns.

My library contains dozens of books on military history, weapons, small arms, tanks, planes and all the paraphernalia of war, because I have always been fascinated with the things we as a human race use to exterminate one another.

That makes my rant somewhat hypocritical.

There are good, honest, morally straight people who own handguns and semi-automatic weapons and believe deeply, I feel, that a well trained and armed citizen is a good, responsible citizen and that any restrictions on guns is a slippery slope that will lead to the suppression of constitutional rights by our government.

There are some who print facts about countries around the world who have armed citizens and it’s correlation to crime. And some, I’m afraid,  who go further – blaming everything on politics. 

 I apologize to all I might have offended in my remarks on line and in person. These past few days have brought a change in my thinking about guns and gun owners. While I still wonder why they feel the necessity for multi-round clips and assault weapons (for other then collectors) – I do feel they have right to their opinions and there are things they promote that we, as members of society, should listen to.

My only suggestions, other then discussing multi-round clips and assault rifles, is to close the loopholes in selling guns at gun shows without a background check and to tighten back-ground checks in general.

As for what happened at Sandy Hook, here is where black and white answers must be laid aside. Our society, a society which supports violence through the promotion of video games, television shows, movies, and the media in general must take a long look at itself. And that includes me. How long have I turned my back on what I watch or what I play and how I spend my leisure time?

There is a need for us as a culture to find our moral compass in religion and spirituality.  We must go back to faith or find a new one. A people who pray together are a people who can overcome evil just by standing as one against it.

And we must stop demonizing our leaders. We vote. Some folks don’t get elected. Some folks do – often the ones we voted against. It is my belief that the majority of those in national, state and local governments are honest folks who want to serve the citizens of this country.

Anyway – if I can change, even a little bit about the darkness that gathered around us recently – other folks can at least light a small candle and take a small step forward.  We need each other.

Absent Without Leave

I had something clever and “oh so smarmy” to blog about, but there is nothing cute about having a stroke. And a week and a half ago, I had one.

It was a Thursday morning and I had just walked up a flight of stairs in the house when I noticed an odd sluggish feeling. Nothing I could put my finger on. Just a slowing of my actions and thoughts. And then later – the slurred speech, which my wife, the speech therapist caught when she returned from work.   

Like an idiot, and not wanting to push the panic button, I figured I would wait until the next day to see if things changed.

They didn’t and I found my blood pressure way above 200. My doctor said, in essence – “get to the emergency room dummy!” which I did at around eleven o’clock that morning.

My long suffering wife drove me to Lakes Region General Hospital in Laconia where a CAT scan revealed a hemorrhage in the right basil ganglia. Blood on the brain. A stroke.George Locke 

We waited until eight that night for a bed to be open at one of the finest hospitals in the state – Dartmouth-Hitchcock Memorial Hospital in Hanover NH.

I rode in the back of an ambulance with the siren going, which I had always wished I could do. No. Not a good wish. Not a good thing. What was I thinking?

The culprit? High blood pressure, selfishness and a feeling of invincibility - a lethal combination for a person my age. I will turn seventy next month.

I spent a long two and a half days away from my home and loved ones and the shame of it is that it could have been avoided.  Salt, sugar and a reckless regard for my own health was the culprit and I will never look at food the same way twice.

The blood pressure finally came down after some fancy medication foot work and the astute diagnosis of a very good medical team. And, oh yes, prayer. Lots of it – some from folks I had not seen in a long while.

Sometimes you have a “on the road to Damascus” experience, in which you are blinded and flung from a horse with the words of God ringing in your ears, like the Apostle Paul. But this was one time it didn’t, because the truth became a slow thing that slithered along my neuro pathways, revealing in stages which should have been obvious from the start.  You are not in this alone. You are loved by many people.

Hospital bedI have reached the age where metaphors tap me on the shoulder frequently and in this case with urgency. Especially those who love you, and they are the ones most affected by your inability to develop healthy habits.  It is when I saw the grief I had caused others that it began to dawn on me I need to make some life changes.

We are pebbles, flung daily into the pond of life. And the ripples flow out to touch so many others. Our actions or lack thereof become the matrix in which we live or die and dying is not an option when you have a wife,  a sister and brother, nine children, five grandchildren and many friends who love you.

I could lay out dozens of statistics about strokes, like; it’s the third leading killer in people over the age of fifty-five and all that stuff.  But statistics are sterile and impersonal.

Lying on a hospital bed in a neurological ward for a few days is a small price to pay for the revelation of our mortality, and I am sure there are many out there who have had this same experience – probably a lot worse then mine, which is considered a minor stroke. But, there are no minor strokes. Who am I kidding? A stroke is a stroke and someone who has suffered one will likely be in line to have another before the “shuffling off this mortal coil” thing occurs.

So, although this blog is short, I hope it catches a few eyes. Do yourself a favor. Check what you are eating. Look at the daily percentage of salt, sugar, fat and calories you are consuming. Try doing that for just one day and then think about moving some of your priorities around. And, for Heavens sake, don’t dismiss the power of prayer.Chapel Window at Dartmouth Hitchcock 

I would never presume to compare myself with NFL Head Coach Chuck Pagano, who is suffering from leukemia. He has a long road ahead and it will be filled with pain, sickness and an awfulness we could never imagine, unless we have lived through the nightmare of cancer. But, in a well documented and moving speech he gave to his team after a win recently, he said he would “waltz at his two daughters weddings”, and hoist the Lombardi Trophy with his team several times.

I will never hoist any trophy, but I have three beautiful daughters – and I plan to dance at every one of their weddings.

The Town Pound: A Halloween Tale of Colonial Militia and Stray Lambs

The Town Pound: A Halloween Tale of Colonial Militia and Stray Animal

"He’s Shaun the Sheep. He’s Shaun the Sheep. 

He even mucks about with those that cannot sleep.  

Maybe someday – you’ll find a way to 

Come and bleat with Shaun the Sheep.” 

Mark AllanTheme from Nick Parks’  clay-mation TV series. “Shaun the Sheep” 

I want to tell you a true story, but first – we need some clarification.

A town pound is not the nick-name given to a village bully, as in –

Question: “Wow! Where’d you get that black eye?” Answer: “From the town pound! 

Entrance to the Meredith Town PoundTo get to the bare-knuckled origins of town pounds we have to go back several hundred years and a few thousand miles across the Atlantic to England and Europe where central town areas built to corral lost or stray animals first appeared.

In the New World, these simple stone and wood structures began to sprout up in the early 1600’s in New England. 

Domesticated animals have a way of wandering off and these enclosures ensured a safe haven for “Bossy”, “Babe” the pig, “Buck” the ram or the aforementioned “Shaun the Sheep”.     New Hampshire alone accounts for 259 town pounds still in existence, although rarely, if ever used.  But there was another reason; a reason that could possibly secure a town’s financial well being. 

As mentioned earlier, most folks think the pounds were for holding lost or strayed cattle, as indeed they may have on occasion. However, most of the pounds were built before 1800, and they were for impounding livestock taken by the town in lieu of property taxes.

Until 1686, the laws of the Royal Province of New Hampshire authorized the town constable to imprison a person who could not pay his taxes. In 1868, the law was amended to allow seizure of property or land.

In 1791, the new state of New Hampshire allowed the tax collector "upon neglect or refusal to pay taxes, and after a notice of 14 days, to distrain the goods, or chattels" of the person so neglecting his duties. Goods were kept four days, during which time the owner could redeem them. After that, the goods were sold at auction. In many cases, the most valuable property a person owned was his livestock, and the town needed a place to hold it.

Birds Eye View of Meredith NH c1800Originally town pounds were constructed within the village limits proper and built of wood. However, as animals would get out of hand occasionally (I myself would not mess with an ox which weighs more then two tons) stones became the building materials of choice and used to erect the local Meredith town pound in 1789.

The green and granite detritus left by scores of retreating glaciers during the last ice age now form barriers around heaps of dry leaves this time of year and serve as a perfect back-drop for my story.

The Meredith town pound was once part of a sprawling township called “Meredith Bridge” which broke away from Meredith (established 1768) in 1855 to become the even larger village of Laconia, a mill town which has developed into a wonderful tourist destination.  Later it would become a place where motorcyclist would come to enjoy the scenery and local motorcycle races in nearby Loudon; and others, it appears, whose sole purpose is to beat each other senseless with broken beer bottles and chains and garner pierced body items and tattoos.

So, in 1968, with the Meredith Bi-Centennial arriving on the scene, and just around this time of year, a group of local bravos decided to wrest this once proud pound from the maws of the Laconia city council and claim it back for our little town on the bay.

At that time, I was a young, newly married disc jockey at a local radio station. The studios and offices of WLNH (1350 AM and 98.3 on your FM dial) occupied a building that was once a local church parsonage. 250 Year Old Farm House and Former Radio Station WLNH

New England has millions of “once were” buildings. You can’t walk ten feet in this part of the North East without stumbling across the remains of at least one architectural remnant which over the years has been the meeting/dwelling place of many different folks from many different eras in our history.

In fact, come the witching-hour of Halloween, I’m sure the ghosts of rouge kneed flappers mix with the long since decayed up-turned noses of Presbyterian ministers and the ragged returning hero’s of our Civil War.

It was the day before the aforementioned holiday in which we let loose our giggling and jiggling children upon the helpless town folks to ring doorbells and squeal with delight the ancient cry – “Trick or treat!”    I had just finished the eight to nine morning drive time hour and had switched to CBS in New York for the national news when I heard some commotion out side the booth and in the station lobby. I had just slipped off my headphones and stood up to stretch when the studio door banged open and in stepped several strapping lads dressed with tri-corner hats, leather breeches, cotton smocks and vests and carrying what looked to be very usable “Brown Bess” flint-lock rifles.

The Meredith Militia had decided to re-take,” by force if necessary” according to a local wag and ersatz colonel, one Wendell (last name withheld) - who has long since retired and lives quietly in the winter-time in far off Miami Beach Florida – the Meredith Town pound back to Meredith where it rightly belongs.  He, along with several other local Meredith men, including Pete Currier (who will talk for hours with only occasional pauses to open a beer can), and Jack (last name withheld), fortified with patriotic zeal and some fine local hard cider, made a camp outside the station that night, arresting several passerby’s and raising a general ruckus.

Of course it was all in good fun and the “bail money” they raised from capturing local, well known citizenry was contributed to the local chapter of the Red Cross. And it made a wonderful story in the town papers.Revolutionary War Colonial Militia 

Meredith Town Pound From the Inside Looking Out And the pound? Well it never actually fell back into the hands of the Meredith town council and the ragged little band marched back into town the next day, with the help of a few dented pick-up trucks.

But for a few moments, I thought Halloween had slipped into a quantum autumn and the enemy was at the gates.

Now the granite square sits, stone lintels open to the sound of  nearby traffic; empty of livestock and a towns financial reward: forlorn and alone across a busy highway from a 200 year old cemetery and a colonial style farm-house with an FM radio tower and transmitter. The wind left over from Sandy hums through the guy wires and if you listen very closely you will hear ghostly barking, bleating, lowing and grunts from the spirits of farm animals past.