Courage to say no; pluck of a partridge

August 23. 2014 11:51PM

I'm pretty sick and tired of the whole Northern Pass controversy. I just wish that the for-greed, not-for-need scheme's side-show barkers would fold up their tents and go home, because

(a) a growing number of New Hampshire citizens know a flim-flam when they see it,

(b) two of the state's southernmost chambers of commerce made drastically ill-advised choices when they came out in favor, and

(c) Northern Pass cannot build on its proposed route because . well, it doesn't own the dirt. In three critical places, the Forest Society or private property owners with conservation easements own the dirt.

On Friday afternoon, approximately 75 people who've been in the fight against this insult to the North Country's landscape got together, just as an excuse to get together, at the Thompson lodge in Stewartstown where Chet Noyes Road intersects Bear Rock Road.

The lodge overlooks the Bear Rock valley, through which Northern Pass proposes to come with its huge towers and huge swaths of cleared land, and smack across other equally knock-your-eyeballs-out scenery. It's worth noting here that in the North Country, scenery and tourism are about all we have left.

This is strictly a get-rich-and-New-Hampshire-be-damned scheme. New Hampshire exports almost as much power as it uses. The power would not go to us anyway. It would go to the lucrative Hartford-New York City markets. Hydro Quebec, after decades of despoiling the Far North, is now desperate to sell its power.

Bob Baker, a lawyer who has a home on Meridan Hill in North Stratford and has done much legal work pro bono (i.e., free) for those opposing Northern Pass, stated flatly that the Nashua Chamber of Commerce has misrepresented (polite term) the findings of a UNH poll by stating that support for Northern Pass is growing. Not true, he said, adding that the UNH pollsters have written the Nashua Chamber to demand that it stop skewing their findings.

The Manchester Chamber of Commerce chose a similar ill-advised path and endorsed Northern Pass on scant or distorted information.

I was chagrined that my alma mater (i.e., the Nashua Telegraph, where I started newspapering, straight out of a lumber yard in 1968) fell for this tripe.

Jane Difley, the Forest Society's head honcho (honcha?), said the Society is fully aware that Northern Pass, which has spent upwards of $40 million on land so far, has "a barn-full of lawyers" ready to go, but so does the Forest Society, which she said would pursue things to the bitter end should NP try to breach conservation easements.

I've written about the road by my front lawn being used as part of the town road links that help make the Ride the Wild's huge circular multi-town ATV route possible. Every now and then I get the querulous question, "My, but don't you get sick of all that ATV traffic going by your house?"

In a word, no. The vast majority of ATVs are not ultra-loud, raw-power machines driven wildly by teens and twentysomethings. They are relatively quiet and involve respectful and law-abiding riders who, fully packed for a multi-day trip, wave and often stop by the roadside to visit. These are the people who are making the cash registers ring.

A week ago, I spoke at New Hampton's Old Home Day, a real treat (hint: I love to speak, especially if it involves good food and music). Because I'm temporarily crippled up and should not drive due to mind-altering drugs, they even sent a car and driver to fetch me and bring me back home afterward.

In my talks (not speeches, ever) I cover a lot of ground, from settlement times to Indian trails to cougars and wolves, but I was mildly kerflummoxed by the almost non-reaction I got when I mentioned the bravery of a drumming partridge.

A hand shot up. "Do you mean ruffed grouse?" Yes. "What's drumming?" It's when a male partridge picks just the right spot to beat its wings very fast to create a drumming sound that carries hither and yon, conveying the message "Hey, cutie, how about a date?"

(Hint: If you've ever been in the woods and heard a sound like someone trying to start up an outboard motor or a lawnmower or chainsaw, that's likely to be a drumming partridge.)

Imagine the courage this takes. This bird, selfless and self-sacrificing, sends the message to prospective mates to perpetuate the species, but in doing so alerts every coyote, fox and fisher cat as to exactly where it is, waiting there like a snack on a toothpick.

Ye gods (guys, thump your chests here), what a Brave Heart performance by this wonderful pedal-to-the-metal, Warp Factor Five bird.

Write to John Harrigan at or Box 39, Colebrook, NH 03576)

ColumnOutdoorsJohn HarriganNew Hampshire

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