John Harrigan: Snowstorms, a fisher cat attack and gun control

JOHN HARRIGAN February 09. 2013 11:34PM

As this was being written, the first big snowstorm of the winter was bearing down on New England, with the heaviest snowfalls predicted for Hartford, New York and Boston. Northern New England was predicted to get a paltry 10 inches, or so.

This was too bad, because denizens of the North Country have been practically performing snow-dances in the streets. The snowmobile trails were mostly open, but the rain a couple of weeks ago turned the snowpack into cement, resulting in hard riding. Only in the far northern towns of Pittsburg and Errol, snowmobilers say, has the riding truly been what it should be. Ergo, not to be looking a gift horse in the mouth, we'll take whatever more snow we can get.

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At a lunch-stop in Rangeley, Maine, the other day, I asked the proprietor how his winter was going, adding that I was from Colebrook. He said, "Pretty well," and indeed the place was crowded with snowmobilers. He noted that plenty of snowmobilers staying in the Colebrook-Pittsburg region would routinely ride over to Rangeley for lunch and head back, a long ride through truly rugged but beautiful country - and riders staying in the Rangeley region would do the same thing in reverse.

Note the word "would," meaning "used to." Maine and New Hampshire used to have reciprocity on snowmobile registrations, meaning that registration in one was good in the other, a great boon for interstate travel (i.e. interstate commerce). To me, it's sheer madness that this common sense practice fell victim to bureaucratic nonsense. Now, except for certain holidays and special days, riders who live or visit along the border must register in both states. In sum, just plain stupid.

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In his regular "Forest Journal" column in the New Hampshire Sunday News, Jack Savage, whose day job is as editor of the Forest Society's periodical "Forest Notes," observes that there's plenty of room for all users on the state's 7,000 miles of groomed snowmobile trails, and that snowmobilers tend to become supporters of land conservation initiatives.

Jack was also lauding the annual Easter Seal Ride-In based at the Town and Country in Gorham, and noted that aside from charitable fund-raising, snowmobiling in this state is a billion dollar industry.

Jack observed that there are occasional conflicts between snowmobilers, cross-country skiers, snowshoers and other trail-users. As the owner of land that is crossed by a snowmobile trail, he says, "Potential conflicts can be minimized, allowing each recreational user to enjoy the experience they seek when everyone acts respectfully and responsibly."

To that I'd add that when snowmobilers encounter snowshowers and cross-country skiers, they might want to consider the possibility that those fellow trail-users might well be paying members of the local snowmobile club. I'm a member of two snowmobile clubs and sometimes three, and I'm just as likely to be out there on snowshoes or skis as on my antique Ski-Daddler machine.

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Here's one for the books:

A small item in Jan. 27 Sunday News about a fisher cat attack on a dog caught my eye. The dog's owner, it said, had saved the dog's life by prying the fisher's jaws open. I just had to call up James Maranto, 57, of East Hampstead (a town southeast of Manchester) for more on this bizarre incident.

Jim's 10-month-old cockapoo, Bentley, is in the habit of going over to play with a neighbor's dog for a few moments while being let out before bedtime. On the night of Jan. 22, Jim heard piercing screams, punctuated by his dog's muffled bark, then more screams, and rushed to the site to find his dog on its back, his throat in the jaws of a sleek black animal with a round head. Jim grabbed the animal by the head with one hand and reached around into its jaws with the other. The animal immediately let go. At this point, Jim's neighbor ran up, and the animal took off for the woods.

"I'd never heard screams like that, but I've seen a fisher cat before and that has to be what it was. Besides, I went on YouTube and those were exactly the screams I heard."

It all had a happy ending, with but a small wound on Bentley's nose and a few puncture marks on Jim's fingers - but both man and dog are undergoing rabies shots, just in case.

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Finally, several readers have asked me why I've been saying nothing about the gun violence issue.

Well, for one thing, seemingly everyone else is writing about the gun issue (again), and I don't like being in a crowd.

For another thing, I've written about guns and gun control and gun-owners' rights myriad times over the 39-year lifespan of this column. It gets old, but crops up again every time some lunatic commits mass murder.

And for a final thing, nobody in the more-gun-control crowd, ever has proposed what to do about the 200 million handguns estimated to be out there in circulation, easily available to anyone bent on crime and mayhem. In the face of just that one unanswered question, law-abiding citizens are supposed to give up their guns or find it next to impossible to acquire them?

Get real.

John Harrigan's column appears weekly in the New Hampshire Sunday News. His address is Box 39, Colebrook 03576. Email him at

John Harrigan

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