A hard column to write - my final for this paper.
"Woods, Water and Wildlife" began on June 9, 1974. It has been one of the longest running statewide columns on the continent. It has been a privilege.
From the start, I decided not to make it another "bait and bullet" column - how to catch that big fish or shoot that big buck. That writing is available in many other publications.
Instead, I've had a ball wandering around other topics - anything to do with the great outdoors. Going to camp, and the entire camp culture, a separate world. Studying snow spiders (yes, snow spiders). Writing about cougars and wolves.
And so the toboggan was launched, and I was lucky to be at the right time and place to jump on.
Lifelong friend and Publisher Joe McQuaid needs to steer the toboggan in a different direction, and I no longer choose to be aboard. Time to make room for somebody else. And frankly, I'm tired of deadlines.
I'm in my 46th year of newspapering, for Heaven's sake. I left the Lorden Lumber Company in Milford in 1968 for my first newspapering job at the Nashua Telegraph - first-year college dropout, no newspaper experience whatsoever, couldn't even type. What a ride it's been.
During the 40 years of writing this column I've moved up from the relative obscurity of the middle of the Sports section to the front of the New Hampshire section to, finally, Page Two of the front. There was no way I could go further - say, to frothing at the mouth Page One editorials - without owning the paper.
So before saying that I'd write this swan song column, I offered to buy the paper. McQuaid didn't seem receptive.
I'll still write my other column, "North Country Notebook," for the dozen Salmon Press newspapers that cover the two-thirds of the state north of Concord. And I'll write the occasional op-ed piece (Joe says) for the New Hampshire Union Leader and Sunday News.
And here's a bit about readers. Recently, I've heard from many who've somehow heard that I'm hanging up this particular hat. This is a magical thing, this tom-tom in what is still a fairly small state. How did they know? God, I love New Hampshire.
Over the years I've pledged, and tried to adhere, to reply to all readers who dropped me a line. If they've cared enough to read, and then write, my policy has been to write back. I'll stick to that. And a major thank-you to readers who've stuck with me, for 40 years and counting. What a bunch.
Finally, I want to say a bit about predators, and our perceived need for "management." This is a major thing that has stuck with me for years. And I promised a dear friend to address this in my swan song. To me this subject is a big deal.
How can we even imagine renewing trapping of bobcats? These are such neat little animals, about the same size as a Maine coon cat, out there working all night while we sleep well-fed and warm.
And coyotes? How can we abide a coyote season, or sanctioned (in other states, and here unrestricted hunting) "coyote trophy hunts"? And we pretend to adore wolves while we treat coyotes like rats at the dump? We should be better than that. What is the matter with us?
Last, where are we coming from when we deign to "manage" any form of wildlife? To me it is the ultimate assumption, bordering on insult. The Bible says something on this, but there are times, respectful and aware as I am, when we should be better than the Bible, thought about and composed so long ago.
Write John Harrigan at email@example.com or at Box 39, Colebrook 03576.