John Harrigan: Winter storms, mammoth's tooth and a wild saga

JOHN HARRIGAN February 23. 2013 7:59PM

As I wrote this, another snowstorm was headed for northern New England. Dire "winter storm watch" warnings filled the air like so many snowflakes.

What has happened to our northern New England stoicism, the ho-hum attitude about another typical storm that is, after all, a way of life? And after all these alarming reports over all these years, who, by now, excepting someone living under a rock, doesn't know about rushing to the stores for bottled water, candles and batteries?

As my Dad would say, "Oh, for Pete's sake." And I liked New Hampshire Public Radio host Rick Ganley's Friday morning summation: "I think we can handle it."

Rick has a great radio voice and presentation, with perfect pitch and nuance. I do a good deal of radio, and I can only wish for a voice like that.

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In Raymond, a family's black Lab had to be put down after it was found nearly dead with multiple pellet-gun wounds. Often, this kind of thing turns out to involve a kid, or kids, just running around aimlessly, with or without the parents' knowledge, with what is, after all, a weapon. It somehow reminds me of kids disrespecting neighborhood landowners' property after being given snowmobiles, trail bikes or ATVs as babysitting tools.

The New Hampshire Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals has posted a reward for information on this despicable deed. The Raymond Police Department is the place to call (895-4747).

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Ever since I was a kid, I've been fascinated by thoughts of the animals and people who lived here 12,000 or so years ago on the southern edge of the glaciers, as they advanced and then slowly melted in retreat. Students get little or nothing on this in school, or at least didn't when I was in classrooms in the '50s, but the glaciers shaped our culture and the very landscape we see today, with a story to be told by every kettle-hole pond and esker.

Thus, it was really neat to see Gretyl Macalaster's photo in the New Hampshire Union Leader of Rye commercial fisherman Mike Anderson displaying a woolly mammoth tooth he dredged up along with shellfish in his net off the Isles of Shoals. It was the second time this is known to have happened, the other being a similar tooth hauled up 15 years ago by Harbormaster Mike Pike.

Anderson was fishing in 120 feet of water, garnering another strong piece of evidence that the area far out from New Hampshire's 17-mile coastline was once dry land. Another piece of evidence I've seen is the petrified stumps and tree-trunks revealed during an unusually strong low tide.

It boggles the mind to picture a vastly receded ocean and especially, for me, the creatures that lived and hunted along the advancing and retreating ice. Certainly musk ox, caribou and wolves were part of the scene, and probably wolverines, which the French explorers called "glutton" and the native people called "carcajou."

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Those who serve in the state's 400-member House of Representatives certainly don't do it for the pay, which is a princely $100 per year. Sure, they get mileage - a big whoop considering that many members travel long distances and are on their own for lodging and meals.

One of the few perks they've had was free skiing on the state-owned Cannon Mountain slopes. The Ethics Police recommended rescinding this (again) on the basis of perceived conflict of interest - and the House voted to do so.

What's next for these public-spirited reps? Taking away their special license plates?

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A friend and I embarked on a snowmobile and snowshoe mission last weekend to haul a newer stove into our remote log cabin, far from everywhere. We got the 200-pound stove in, but the rest of the trip was a fiasco.

We were well-prepared for the snowshoeing, but were woefully unprepared and ill-equipped for the snowmobile part, especially when we encountered downed trees blocking the trail. We'd failed to remember chain saw and gas. This resulted in a trek across the pond to fetch saw and gas from camp.

My machine, an antique Ski-Daddler, failed, for still unexplained reasons, smack in the middle of the trip. Camp mate Kevin had a much more modern machine, with reverse even, and he was well-prepared for repair, with a complete tool kit. But his machine, too, failed as we were all loaded up, breaking camp Sunday and heading for home.

We were in a fix, facing an 8-mile trip out on snowshoes, leaving our loaded freight sled under a tarp.

But just as we were ready to strap on the snowshoes, along came two headlights in the middle of the pond, headed our way. In they came, along our track, just to see what was up.

It was Charlie and his son Charlie from Salisbury. I won't say much more than that, except that the elder Charlie works for a sprinkler company in Bow. These two guys exemplified Good Samaritanism at its very best. They worked to find the source of the trouble, gloveless in the below-zero cold, as bare hands were needed for close work with plugs and wires.

Eventually, the elder Charlie spotted a wire astray and shorted-out deep in the bowels of the engine compartment, and we were off, Kevin towing the freight sled back to our trucks at Murphy Dam and Charles Senior dragging my defunct machine while I rode with son Charlie.

The saga ended with us saying to the two Charlies, "Some day down the road, we'll be tickled to help you, too," and the two Charlies saying, more or less, "Glad we could help." And as we were loading up trucks and trailers for the trip home and the two Good Samaritans headed back up the lake, I was thinking, "Boy, was that ever the New Hampshire way."

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

John Harrigan

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