Fall, so far.

Fall is most definitely here.

I could tell even a few weeks ago when the sunlight was a little different, never mind that we still had a day or two in the high 80s. The ferns and tall grasses have turned burgundy and gold. Nights are chillier, too. The flannel sheets went on the bed today in preparation for what’s to come. They say it’s going to be a brutal winter, whoever they are.

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So here I am thinking back on the last three months of our lives in New Hampshire. These were good months if you prefer summer over winter. For some, summer was just as brutal as the winter we’re getting ready to supposedly endure. More than a handful of days in the mid- to high-90s were absolutely miserable. Remember, most of us up here don’t have air conditioning. This includes schools, libraries, state government buildings, etc. It was a rough summer. Even I, who used to brag about my Florida blood and superhuman abilities to withstand 100+ degree heat and humidity, broke down a couple of times.

That heat, though, and the unusually heavy downpours we had throughout the summer gave to me some of the best vegetables I’ve grown in years. In two years, to be exact. My backyard in Northeast Ohio was too damp and too shady to even grow more than a handful of cherry tomatoes (Did I even manage that? I can’t remember!). The sun beats down on my front porch garden in New Hampshire which, in turn, provided us with delicious Early Girl and Indigo Rose tomatoes. The zucchini was overtaken by bores (I was glad to hear others suffered the same fate and that it wasn’t just me), my pole runner beans are still going strong, and my snack pepper plant yielded only four. But that’s four more than I grew in two seasons in Ohio. And…and!…I planted some of this stuff as seed in mid-July!

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Being the flatlander that I am at heart, I still find myself closed off a bit from the outside world (or maybe that has something to do with the fact that I live 25 minutes from the nearest decent-sized town). The lakes that dot the region are a nice break from all the trees and steep hills that crowd in close to the road. I’ve pulled over a few times on my way to and from work to take in the view at Rollins Pond and Alton Bay on the south end of Lake Winnipesaukee, near where I live. I’ve also had some time to just enjoy the scenery around here. It is exactly as beautiful as you’ve been told.

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A few weeks ago, my brother convinced me to join him on a short hike. His goal that day was to get to the top of Mount Major, an easy day hike for most people. But I haven’t been hiking in years. I walk easily through parks and trails, but the last mountain I walked up was at least 10 years ago, and even that was on a paved trail. These mountain trails in New Hampshire involve climbing over rocks, dodging timber rattlesnakes and tree roots, and wearing out my lungs for no reason that they deserve. So I made a deal with my brother: Every month, he and I will pick a trail and hike it. These hikes will increase in difficulty and we cannot stop hiking even in the winter months. This deal is so serious that I made him – my younger brother who just turned 34 – pinky swear. But who are we kidding? We all know it’s me who’s going to need to be convinced to hike a mountain in the winter.

Our first hike was more of a walk. Actually, it was totally a walk. I asked him to take it easy on me on our inaugural hike, and then I chose a trail that was so ridiculously easy that even I felt like I had cheated. Unknowingly, of course. I offered up a second walk through a state forest preserve near the top of the mountain on which I live. There was a steep incline towards the end, giving me a fair idea of what I was getting myself into. We completed both of our walks in the woods within a matter of two hours or so. Then my brother grabbed some snacks and headed out to hike Mount Major. Last weekend he hiked up two mountains in a single day! I’ll get there. One day. Until then, we’re taking it one month, one hike, at a time. Next month we’re driving out to York, Maine to hike up Mount Agamenticus. That I can spell and pronounce the name of that mountain is probably more impressive than the moment I reach the top of it. I scheduled this hike for my birthday weekend. On purpose. Accountability. ‘Cause I need to be motivated to go outside, to be outside, even when it’s not summer.

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Here’s a shot from our walk through the woods on a nearby trail, just as the wild goldenrod was at its most golden.

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History and Pop Culture: Billy Joel

For someone who was so willing to plunk down thousands of dollars (and what felt like an equal amount of hours) into researching and writing a master’s thesis, I have done absolutely nothing since I got my degree. I attributed it to burn-out and to starting a full-time job. Then winter in Ohio came and I endured my usual seasonal depression. Then we moved to New England. It’s been eight months since I submitted that sucker, and I can finally admit that I simply believed the same enthusiasm I had for historical disease research would carry over into my non-academic life. It didn’t. Perhaps I was naive. Perhaps I had shelved my self-discipline. Perhaps I was just tired. I believe, in a way, it was all three. No accountability. The work was done. Now what?

I hoped, however, that being literally surrounded by early American history (even the trees in New England have historical significance) would jump-start my interest once again and send me head first into a topic which, considering my location, would have ample sources to investigate. And that happened, temporarily. First, I came across a local controversy involving a Civil War hero and his horse in a nearby cemetery. Then I discovered Nathaniel Hawthorne’s involvement in creating New Hampshire’s tourism industry and the actual field of trauma tourism. Then…nothing. The spark of light that held my attention petered out just as uneventfully as it appeared – that is to say I hadn’t expected it to come or go, but I’m happy it kept me from being too overwhelmed with responsibilities during my first weeks here in New Hampshire.

Recently I started reading Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea by Barbara Demick. When I think of North Korea, I often think of Billy Joel’s song “We Didn’t Start the Fire.” As a kid, I absolutely adored Billy Joel’s music. I still do. I’m pretty sure my parents had a few of his albums, so his musical presence was nothing new whether it was from inside my house, or coming from my parents’ car stereo. I grew up in the 80s, but more importantly I lived on a military base in Northern Italy during the first half of the decade. I was always keenly aware of the Soviet nuclear threat and the fact that international flights were frequent terrorist targets. By the time the video for “We Didn’t Start the Fire” was released, I had memorized all the words and became ridiculously interested in all of Joel’s historical references. What is a Communist Bloc? Why are children on thalidomide? What IS thalidomide? Where is the Congo? And why are the Belgians there? It would be fair to say that Billy Joel deserves just as much credit as my visit to the Peshtigo Fire Museum and my high school history teacher, Mr. O’Malley, for enrooting in me the near-obsessive compulsion to discovering the who, what, where, when, and, most compellingly, the why in anyone’s story.

Sometimes I have to go back to the beginning to remind myself why I love history so much. It’s not that I forget, necessarily. It’s just that I find myself uninspired sometimes by the negativity of this world, weighed down by the heaviness of our current political climate. Earlier this year I deleted all of my news apps and, coincidentally, Facebook friends (and some family members) who feed the monster that is, in my opinion, besmirching the ideals that a good percentage of Americans from every background had finally started to come around to. Some of you might argue that my past research on biological genocide against native North American tribes or racial and economic disparities regarding Yellow Fever outbreaks is just as negative. I wouldn’t say you’re entirely wrong. But I think the country’s current epidemic of the Orange Fever is dangerous in its own way. Why? Because it’s happening now. Will Trump and anecdotes about his presidency ever make it into a song that also includes the lyrics “Black Lives Matter,” a reference to Childish Gambino’s “This is America,” and the inevitable end of the world? Maybe. And I’d probably love the hell out of it.

For me, there is no reason to study history if I can’t find some way to connect events, from yesterday or past centuries, to the reasons something exists, or doesn’t exist, today. Again, Billy Joel’s song encourages me to do that. He sang about the Ayatollah in Iran and Bernie Goetz, remember? Because of that Ayatollah in Iran, I know what an air raid siren sounds like because I had to respond to them when I was five years old. And because of Bernie Goetz, gun rights enthusiasts and activists can still make a good point in being legally self-armed, decades after Goetz made his.

About that fire, though: Billy Joel wants to know When we are gone, will it still burn on? Probably. Like he said, It was always burning since the world’s been turning. And with that, my fascination with historical trauma events and their affects on the modern world will never be without material. Admittedly, I am a little sad that I haven’t been terribly motivated by anything or anyone in history, as of yet, to start plugging away on the research and the writing. Perhaps I am naive. Perhaps I have shelved my self-discipline. Perhaps I am just tired.

Perhaps I should just write a history book that tackles every single one’s of Joel’s references in the order in which he sings…

Nathaniel Hawthorne, Plymouth’s Most Famous Guest

There is a ridiculous amount of well-marked history in this region of the country. In fact, I’m almost certain that any patch of grass or pavement on which I stand has played a crucial role in something: An historic railroad junction; the deathplace of a notable townsman; a natural disaster with a terrible story that remains only in the buried memories of a bunch of dead people. This place is teeming with it all. Teeming, I tell you!

So I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised at all when I happened upon a small town in the southern foothills of the White Mountains, stopped to have a small bowl of graham cracker ice cream (it exists, and it’s delicious), and unexpectedly discovered, in the tiny town commons, a memorial in honor of Nathaniel Hawthorne.

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I will admit I have never read a single novel by Hawthorne. The only thing I actually knew about him, up to that point, was that he wrote The Scarlet Letter (a novel my friend, Katy, absolutely loathes), and that he was so ashamed of his family’s connection to the Salem Witch Trials that he changed the spelling of his last name so he would likely never be associated with them.

But what’s his association with Plymouth, New Hampshire?

It turns out that Hawthorne and President Franklin Pierce, a native New Hampshirite, were BFFs. Like, for a really long time, going back to their college years. Pierce had invited Hawthorne to travel to Plymouth where they both hoped the crisp, mountain air would alleviate Hawthorne’s many ailments. It didn’t, and Hawthorne died in his sleep on May 19, 1864. Pierce discovered his body just hours later. And while this was likely a somewhat traumatizing moment for Pierce, who had endured great loss in his life, it may have been exactly how Hawthorne hoped to die. The New York Herald wrote, ““It is a singular and happy circumstance that friends who have lived so many years upon terms of unrestricted intimacy as Franklin Pierce and Nathaniel Hawthorne should in the final hours of one still be so near to the other as to enable the survivor to hear, as it were, the last whisper of his friend as he entered the portals of eternity.”

And so, the town of Plymouth perhaps endears itself to fans of literary tourism by memorializing Hawthorne’s unexpected passing in a hotel that used to exist just across the street from this park. And I have no problem with that. Hawthorne probably wouldn’t have a problem with it, either. It seems that he, too, was a fan of trauma tourism and, because of his work, he even introduced the concept to those who vacationed to New England in the 19th century.

In 1835, Hawthorne wrote and published a short story called “The Ambitious Guest.” It was based on the freak deaths of seven members of the Willey family and two others who died in an avalanche of rockfall the occurred on August 28, 1826. The area in which the disaster occurred experienced a boom in tourism shortly after the Willey family’s story got around. The Willey family had fled to what they believed was a safe house, which ended up being buried in the rockslide. The Willey house itself sustained no damage at all. Artists of all kinds flocked to Willey Mountain in the area of Crawford Notch. Painters Thomas Cole and John Frederick Kensett, along with Hawthorne, are often credited with either promoting the beauty and history of Willey Mountain, or just flat out exploiting the deaths of an entire family through their chosen art forms.

The title character in “The Ambitious Guest” has no name. He is simply a stranger whose arrival brings to the family a sense of excitement, a newfound desire to live a more meaningful life than the sleepy one they have chosen on the mountainside. They share with each other what they wish to have engraved on their tombstones, to tell others how they lived their lives. The children in the group joyfully announce all that they will accomplish before their deaths, now that they’ve been encouraged by this ambitious guest of theirs. The stranger, who refers to himself as “a nameless youth” declares, “But I cannot die till I have achieved my destiny. Then, let Death come! I shall have built my monument!”

Moments later, he ponders, “I wonder how mariners feel when the ship is sinking, and they, unknown and undistinguished, are to be buried together in the ocean–that wide and nameless sepulchre?” Suddenly, a rumbling from outside begins to sound and the family, with their guest, flees to their safe house. An avalanche of rockfall crushes them all. They are never found. They are buried together in the ocean of rock and debris–that wide and nameless sepulchre.

That kind of anonymity does not apply to Nathaniel Hawthorne obviously. He died in Plymouth, and by god, they’re going to announce it to everyone with this monument. There is a statue of him in Salem, Massachusetts, the place where was born but never felt like he belonged. And his grave site is located in Concord, Massachusetts, where he shares cemetery real estate with the likes of Ralph Waldo Emerson, Louisa May Alcott, and Henry David Thoreau. They were his equals. They were his friends. They were also his pallbearers. But Hawthorne, according to Emerson, suffered from his own loneliness. It is believed by some that his solitude and suffering are what ultimately killed him (it is now known that he died of stomach cancer). In death, Hawthorne is revered and celebrated. But in life, Hawthorne may have endured an existence aboard what his own creation, the nameless youth, called a sinking ship.

“I shall have built my monument!” This is what the stranger wanted, yet, could this really be what Hawthorne wanted? I don’t believe Plymouth is exploiting Hawthorne’s death at all. The monument is merely a desire to be a part of the Hawthorne narrative. Plymouth inspired Hawthorne and welcomed him whenever he came through. The town was clearly one facet of his life that helped keep his ship from sinking even sooner.

Making the Transition

When I lived in Jacksonville, Florida, I teamed up with an organization called The Girls Gone Green to document my struggles and achievements in being newly vegetarian. I wrote a few blog posts for their website and quickly earned the support of other local vegetarians. And then I failed. I failed big. I might have lasted less than a week, but I think that was mostly because of my poor planning and, as I am wont to do, my eagerness to just dive right in. The last thing I wrote to The Girls Gone Green was an apology letter. Clearly, I just wasn’t ready to be a vegetarian. This was seven years ago.

In fact, I’m still not ready to be a vegetarian. And this is something I’ve been thinking about quite often in the last few months. Do I enjoy bacon? Of course. How about chicken? Sure! And my recent introduction to haddock and fried clams assures me even more that I’m not ready to make the transition to vegetarianism just yet.

However, I have found other ways to compensate for my inability to change my diet. (I say compensate because I do feel a little bit of guilt over my conscious decision not to make the change. I live with a sometimes debilitating health condition that causes me to avoid changing my diet too much. Also, laziness.) I actively seek out the kind of meats that are raised and cared for by local farmers. But I also seek out cruelty-free (CF) and vegan products that I use everyday.

I’m talking hand soap, makeup, hair care products, etc. At the start of the new year, I brought nearly all of my Bath and Body Works lotions and body sprays to my new job and gave them away. I quickly replaced them with CF and vegan products. Not one to wear a lot of makeup, I wasn’t terribly inconvenienced by the lack of options in most stores. And the sticker shock I was anticipating never even occurred. Sure, your Suave shampoo might only cost three bucks less than my fancy, vegan shampoo, but MY GAWWWD – have you ever felt hair that has been washed and conditioned with plant-based nutrients? That alone is worth the extra three bucks. BELIEVE ME.

A few friends have asked about the products I’ve switched over to, where to find them, and how well they actually work. Disclaimer: I am so spankin’ new at this, so don’t hold anything I say against me. I could be totally wrong about some things. For example, a lot of products will claim “this product was not tested on animals,” leading one to believe the item is cruelty-free. It’s not. It just means the final product wasn’t tested on animals; a whole ton of its ingredients were tested on animals. I am aware of this now, so I tend to do more research. Another claim to be wary of: when a company claims that its products are cruelty-free or vegan, that could just mean the brand or product line is CF or vegan. Yet you’ll notice it was distributed by Unilever or Proctor & Gamble, two larger companies that just took your money because they appealed to your ethical conscience. I’ve been suckered by this a few times myself.

So, here is a list of products I actively use after much research and a whole lot of asking questions:

Lotion – This was kind of the product that started it all. During my first spring in Cleveland, my daughter and I attended VegFest. It’s a huge expo that promotes vegetarian/vegan food systems, cruelty-free/vegan body products, animal welfare groups, and sustainable, ethically-made clothing, among so many other things. I happened upon a vendor booth for Perfectly Posh and ended up buying a body butter that smelled like sugared violets for $22. It took me days to come to terms with the fact that I’d just spent $22 on lotion that I could easily buy at CVS for $4. But could I really? No, I couldn’t. I loved how it made me feel on the inside (cheesy, I know), and I worked really hard not to waste it. It also made me start thinking about how easily I could move away from chemical-based, yet less inexpensive items and put my money into a company with products I could trust. Perfectly Posh provides CF and vegan products, like lotions, lip balms, body sprays and perfumes. Pacifica is another company that does the same.

Shampoo/Conditioner – I have used two different brands, Renpure and Love Beauty and Planet. Both leave my hair feeling really good and smelling even better. I do have to admit that I have a preference for Love Beauty and Planet, though. During the last few months we lived in Cleveland, my well water was consistently failing inspection so we removed the water softening agent. My hair still felt incredible. Renpure has a delicious scent, too, but if I had easy store access to Love Beauty and Planet products, I’d buy those first. Anyone reading this from Ohio? Giant Eagle grocery stores have a fairly good selection of LBC products.

Lip Balm – I will admit, I am kind of in love with Bath and Body Works lip glosses. They’re long-lasting, taste great, and aren’t terribly sticky. But they do test their ingredients on animals. So I had to chuck those, which hurt. I mean, when you find something you love, it’s hard to let go. Except I did find some great replacements. In fact, one of them was discovered today! As I mentioned earlier, Perfectly Posh has a great lineup of lip care items. However, this afternoon I was at a local arts and crafts festival and came upon a small home-based company called Vermont Simple Beauty. Their product label only says “This product not tested on animals,” but I don’t know what the regulations are for small companies and cruelty-free labeling. So I asked. Being able to talk face-to-face with the makers of these products helped so much, since they were open to sharing with me the ethical sourcing of all their ingredients. This doesn’t have a mention on their website, unfortunately. Which, I guess, means when in doubt, ask! And because I did, I came home with an 8-oz container of grapefruit-and-lily-scented face moisturizer (called Ambrosia on their website) and a maple-flavored lip balm. Only in New England would I ever find maple-flavored lip balm.

Deodorant/Anti-Perspirant – This is a tough one. I have tried SO MANY BRANDS, it’s ridiculous. Tom’s of Maine is the most accessible in a grocery store, but it doesn’t work on me. That doesn’t mean it won’t work for someone else, so play with it. See if you like it. If you don’t, however, there’s always Crystal. It is a deodorant, not an anti-perspirant. I still feel a little…uh, sticky (?), but I don’t stink. And that’s a win!

Sunscreen – Only recently did I realize this would come up. I use sunscreen a lot these days because my new house has a pool. Also, New Hampshire is indescribably beautiful and it makes me want to be outside ALL THE TIME. About 20 years ago, I started taking a birth control pill that affected my skin in the weirdest way. I wore baseball caps in the ocean and slathered on 80 SPF to curb the raccoon mask that developed on my face every damn year. Even when wearing sunscreen, my face would become so discolored from sun exposure that I eventually stopped going to the beach. Then I switched pills. It may have been the prescription that did it to me, but every hormone pill can lead to that facial discoloration, also known as Pregnancy Mask. Yet how many people think about CF or vegan sunscreen? Or even know where to find it? Thankfully, I did! Sun Bum sunscreen has a line of face lotions, body lotions, and lip care all with SPF. I found a 50 SPF sunscreen created for my face and a face stick in 30 SPF. I still use Banana Boat sunscreen spray for the rest of me (see, it’s a process), but I’m still coming to terms with paying $16 for a 6 oz spray can. Gimme another year or so.

Makeup – The only makeup I really wear is lip balm (see above) and face powder. I currently use Cover Girl loose powder, but that’s because I’m too lazy to shop for actual makeup. When I do make that transition, though, I will more than likely head to Beauty Without Cruelty. While I’m not big on face makeup, I do have a lot of nail polish. That is a bigger purge session than I want to even think about right now. But again, in time…

There are a few other things that I’m still in the process of discovering and learning about, like shaving cream and toothpaste. I am a dental freak of nature. Any changes in my toothbrushing regimen might just make the stability of my entire mouth collapse into a yearlong pain-fest. So that is one product I refuse to budge on. Shaving cream, though, could be substituted with my hair conditioner – something I’m not too classy to admit I’m willing to do.

By the end of the year, I will begin working on planning fewer meat-filled meals and, well, planning meals in general. My lack of a plan was what led to my emotional breakdown the first time I tried to go vegetarian. I know better now.

So, help me out, readers. (All four of you. Ha!) Any suggestions? Any bits of information I’ve gotten wrong? I’m eager to learn about vegetarianism, CF and vegan products, anything!

Major Savage & Old Tom, Part Two

(Part One can be found here)

George Savage and his trusty horse, Old Tom, returned to Alton, New Hampshire, shortly after they were both wounded in the Battle of Chancellorsville. Old Tom had become a part of George’s family and, in turn, became a part of Alton’s small-town character. Both were Civil War heroes. In fact, George credited Old Tom with saving his life in battle.

So it was with this loyalty to Old Tom that George asked the citizens of Alton to allow his horse to be buried in the town cemetery. The unusual request got a few folks riled up. Residents of Alton were split. On the one hand, Old Tom had performed admirably in battle. On the other hand, however, Old Tom was, to some, just a horse. If this was allowed, who’s to say more people wouldn’t request to save a plot next to theirs for their most beloved pets, no matter the size? The cemetery trustees mulled it over and Alton’s citizens became embroiled in a short-lived controversy. In the end, the trustees just wouldn’t allow it.

Major George Savage died in 1883, but not before a compromise had been reached with town officials: Old Tom could not be buried on the grounds in the cemetery, but the trustees would allow for Old Tom to be buried just outside the cemetery walls. George, according to record, believed this to be a reasonable arrangement.

 

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George Savage’s burial marker

 

When Old Tom died in 1885, town officials honored their agreement with George. Old Tom was buried outside the cemetery, but as near to George as the boundary walls would allow.

 

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Old Tom’s headstone

 

Except, over time, a certain kind of irony has directed the course of Old Tom’s popularity and the endearing story of George Savage’s love for his horse. Alton is a small town, but thousands of people have continued to live here and die here over the 133 years since the death of Old Tom. The town cemetery eventually expanded in ways it probably never planned for back in the 19th century. In fact, driving around the town of Alton, I found two separate entrances into the cemetery, each from a major corridor leading commuters in and out of the region.

The walls have most definitely been moved. Which means Old Tom is now within the walls of the cemetery. But not only is Old Tom inside the cemetery, he is directly in the center. ON A SMALL HILL, no less.

And doesn’t that just make you feel good?

Major George Savage would, undoubtedly, be quite pleased. Although his initial wishes were quashed by local officials and neighbors who felt completely uncomfortable with the idea of sharing burial grounds with a horse, it all worked out over time. George’s family plot and Old Tom’s burial site are both flanked by small, white picket fences. And they are facing each other, open to pedestrian visitors who can easily walk from one site to the other.

Did someone design it that way? I don’t know. And that’s not the only question I find myself without an answer to. I’m also curious to know who stepped up to care for Old Tom when George died. Because that person, whoever it was, probably deserves a little credit. Don’t you imagine he or she saw to it that the agreement between George and the trustees regarding Old Tom was honored? That Old Tom received the burial he was promised?

From George to Old Tom, from the trustees to the mystery caretakers, and, nowadays, from the cemetery groundskeepers to the history-seeking public, there is a whole lot of loyalty to be discovered in this story. One can only wish to have this kind of dedication bestowed upon them upon their death. Yet this here’s a tale about a man and his horse…

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Major Savage & Old Tom, Part One

Recently, while perusing through some books on the region’s history, I came across a brief story about a Civil War officer and his horse. The officer was Major George Savage. His horse was Old Tom. Theirs was a relationship based on loyalty and respect that lasted decades after the war had ended. Both had suffered greatly during battle and returned home to Alton, New Hampshire (my new hometown) to live out the rest of their lives. It was their deaths, however, that caused a local controversy that seemed to be resolved only by more and more deaths.

I must first explain my difficulty in finding much about the region’s local history. Most accounts – whether through books, magazine articles, or newspaper clippings – tend to focus mostly on the southern part of the state. Exeter, near Portsmouth, calls itself New Hampshire’s Revolutionary War capital (something I hope to learn more about this weekend), while Concord’s history goes back to the chartering of the Massachusetts Bay Colony in the 17th century. Here, north of the coast, there is only a general showcasing of historical events. Most of it is based on archaeological finds or the natural history of the White Mountains and Lake Winnipesaukee. What I’m missing are the personal stories, historical accounts, and the visual markers, here in the Lakes Region, that would normally lead me to seek out the past, right here and right now. Except the only thing I’ve come across so far is a horse whose death nearly divided an entire town.

George Savage (who was actually a Lieutenant Colonel during the war, but everyone called him Major) enlisted in the 12th New Hampshire Infantry Regiment on August 13, 1862. His brother, Moses, followed suit the very next day. The brothers were part of a volunteer regiment that began taking enlistees on August 12th and accepted soldiers’ final papers on the 16th. A formation that took all of four days, and it has been suggested that this formation period was a Union army record. George and Old Tom were part of Company F and Moses was part of Company A, each of whom, along with all of the New Hampshire regiments, saw battle in Fredericksburg. Few men were lost to battle, but Company F was lost completely. As in left behind. Nobody passed on the orders to retreat, so they held their positions.

This seems to be a theme with these three – George, Moses, and Tom. This being left behind business. But there is a happy ending. I promise.

Recovered shortly after the snafu in Fredericksburg, the 12th New Hampshire moved on to smaller battles. In May, they eventually found themselves involved in one of the Confederate Army’s greatest successes: the Battle of Chancellorsville. It was here where Lt. General Stonewall Jackson was injured (which, ultimately, led to his death about a week later) and where General Robert E. Lee claimed his biggest victory.

It was also here, in Chancellorsville, where George took a direct bullet shot to the face. There are reports that Old Tom sustained an injury, as well. Old Tom, it is said, saved George’s life. I can only assume it was during the fighting when the injured Old Tom rushed his injured friend George off the battlefield. Historical accounts say that the 12th New Hampshire was easily overtaken, and a third of the troops had been wounded or killed within the first half-hour of fighting. Sadly, Moses was one of those who had been killed.

Company F was left behind, yet again. The order to retreat had not been made clear, and for those in other companies who had heeded the order, there was little opportunity to find a way out. Lee had broken up his smaller, but better organized Confederate armies. Companies F and G were eventually rescued, but the order to retreat, had it been received, would have meant certain death. The 12th New Hampshire had likely been surrounded by Confederates the entire time.

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I have become quite fond of Major Savage and Old Tom in just a few days time. However, I have to end this here. Mostly because their story continues elsewhere, off the battlefield. Or, perhaps, it’s sufficient to say it continued on another battlefield. The battlefield of public opinion. The battlefield of local government bureaucracy. And I will write about that later…hopefully within a few days.

Throughout my studies of American history, I actively avoided war history. Only once did I take a course that focused on war tactics, political chess moves, battle strategies – that being the American Revolution – and only because I wanted a foundation from which I could study how women lived in those times. I am, and have always been, much more interested in the personal stories, never the strategies that launched an individual or a ideology into the realms of political success. Because somewhere, in all that personal greatness or personal awfulness (I’m looking at you, Andrew Jackson) is a human, that we, as people of the future, can only hope to understand. Whatever threads I can find to connect us to them is so vital. At least, I believe it is.

A man and his horse. We can all relate to this, right? Stay tuned…

Trucker Ted Rides Again

In August of 2016, we packed up all of our belongings and moved from Oklahoma City to the east suburbs of Cleveland, Ohio. Teddy, the only one of our four dogs who was truly enthusiastic about the whole endeavor, got to ride shotgun with Dad in the Penske. The other three – Chimay, Abbey, and Ari – were crammed into whatever space was left available in the Subaru Outback.  They were absolutely miserable. That’s probably why I have only this photograph of Teddy, smiling his big dopey grin while hanging out at a truck stop in Greenup, Illinois, marveling at what his life had become as Trucker Ted.

His new name is Trucker Ted. 🚛 🐶 #roadtrip #ohiobound #teddy #teddarcheese

A little over a week ago, we did it again. We packed up all of our belongings and moved from the east suburbs of Cleveland, Ohio to the Lakes Region of New Hampshire. Teddy, the only one of our now-three dogs who was truly enthusiastic about the whole endeavor, got to ride shotgun with Dad in the U-Haul. (We learned our lesson with Penske.) The other two – Abbey and Ari – were crammed into whatever space was left available in the Subaru Outback.  They weren’t as miserable this time around, but miserable enough. That’s probably why, again, I have only this photograph of Teddy, smiling his big dopey grin while hanging out in our Northeast Ohio driveway, waiting to hit the road to New England and relive his days as Trucker Ted.

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We have been in our new home for about eight days. The house sits on a mountain on the south end of Lake Winnipesaukee in Alton Bay. The bay at the end of our road serves as a public beach, a boat ramp, and a pick-up/drop-off site for visitors touring the lake on the Mount Washington. The nearest gas station and grocery store are in the next village over, which is not terribly far away at all. A few miles, maybe. But our small town has at least three ice cream shops, a seemingly unlimited supply of fried clams and haddock, a paddleboard and kayak store, and a ton of summer rentals.

Oh, and we also have this:

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At the risk of proclaiming this too prematurely, I must say we all seem to be quite happy here. We love our house. We love our property, on which we acquired a pool and an established perennial garden. We love our little town. We love that my brother lives an hour away. We love that the ocean is nearby, as well. We do not, however, love moving. Not anymore, anyway. And so, it seems, Trucker Ted’s days have come to an end and Teddy is plain ol’ Teddy once again.

(But how ’bout the coyote? Ooof.)