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Life and death ... in a small town

Notes from the North Woods

Born in 1956, I remain the product of a lifetime spent primarily in small town America. One of my earliest memories is of watching a stampede of cows race by me, as they left the pasture to be fed. I recall greeting them with a polite “Hello Cow!” as they hurtled past the open gate. I also remember my mother’s frantic calls, as she ran up the hill to save me from the thundering herd. The memory comes from a time when we lived on Wheelbarrow Hill Road, near Great Barrington, Massachusetts, where my father worked as the principal at a local elementary school. During the summers, Dad also served as a riflery instructor at a local summer camp. My life was pretty much normal for a 1950-60’s era kid. It was a time when children were still kept relatively innocent to adult affairs. Telephone calls were dialed with just three numbers and television shows were mostly westerns. ‘Beatles’ were still just insects we collected to mount on pins in a little cardboard box.

I was just another innocent kid in an innocent age, until I started school. That is when I learned to fear the ‘Commies!’ I don’t really remember when I was first introduced to the concept of hating the Commies, but I do recall the first time I was instructed to hide under my desk at school for an air-raid drill. My initial fears were soon overcome, when I realized the horde of chewing gum stuck to the bottom of the classroom desks. In following years, I came to appreciate the threat of Commie attacks, especially after the air-raid drill sirens saved me from a particular test I had never bothered to prepare for. The best of all were the air raid drills that required students to huddle in the hallways. There were a lot of shenanigans going on when we were all crouched down and lined up, head to butt along the cinderblock walls. None of our teachers every bothered to explain how the old block walls would actually protect us from an atomic blast. However, as youngsters we dutifully followed instructions from our teachers, and cursed the Commies, even if we didn’t understand why. It certainly was a far different time.

Joe Hackett is a guide and sportsman residing in Ray Brook. Contact him at brookside18@adelphia.net.

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