Cats and Rats

The days are shorter, the air is cooler, and falling acorns are rattling through sturdy oak limbs as distant peaks display faint harbingers of a brilliant fall finale. Soon there’ll be frost on windshields, smoke exiting chimneys, and beagles baying through upland matshes. Yes, the best time of year is near, and here I sit, spinning my wheels in deep, slimy cougar dung. Just can’t seem to shake those big, mysterious cats. But why complain? The ride is wild and satisfying indeed, just how I like it.

Other than that, just a quick trip back to the Deerfield River, where a local critic stirred the sediment last week by criticizing recreational floaters and boaters he has serious issues with. But first the cougars, four-legged, of course.

How can it come as any surprise that three more readers chimed in since last week? Well, actually four if you count the pocket-sized daily planner with a cougar on the cover that was mailed to work by “a reader” who wanted to help me track sightings. As for the emails, well, the first one opined that the critters are here and never left, then revealed that he himself had seen one cross the road in front of him in Chester 15 years ago, and that many neighbors have since seen them and remained silent.

The second email was sent by an old Recorder colleague, he reporting a string of recent sightings in Barre, where the country store, gas station, tavern and downtown soda jerk facing that classic common must be abuzz with chatter. Then, lastly, an interesting tip from Swampfield about Monson rumors, supposedly including a game warden who saw a big cat with his own eyes but ain’t talkin’. No problem. It just so happens that I have, by marriage, eyes and ears in Monson — good ones, at that, deep-rooted with delicate tendrils to many inside channels. That said, I regret to admit that my probe bore no fruit, not so much as a blossom. So, as old “Antie” used to say, better to leave it be. Although I can’t say I called the police or town hall, not even a local gun shop to inquire whether a salesman had heard anything, it wasn’t necessary. Others dug for me, likely employing a folksy style that came up dry as attic dust. That’s good enough for me. Had rumor been rampant, it would have ricocheted right back at me like a bullet. Oh well. Gave it my best shot. Who knows? Maybe something will spring up yet. We’ll see.

But enough on cougars, onto Deerfield River feedback, more specifically, reaction to my lead item last week about an unnamed source’s description of disrespectful behavior by obnoxious, holiday-weekend, Deerfield River thrill-seekers leaving trash in their floating-and-boating wake. We’ll start with a complaint from a man whose name I recalled from last fall, at which time he reported what he viewed as illegal post-Irene flood reconstruction of the Chickley River along Route 8A in Hawley. I passed that tip along to the newsroom before leaving for vacation and, sure enough, the guy was right on target, as evidenced by the expensive penalties slapped recently on the town. Well, this time the fella from Shelburne Falls left a phone message venting his anger at me for labeling recreational Deerfield River users from Northampton and Easthampton as “outsiders.” That, he found ridiculous. I wanted to call him on the phone and explain but couldn’t find his number. What I wanted to say was that I don’t consider people from Hampshire and Hampden counties to be outsiders. My source did, and I attributed the comment. But in that harmless fella’s defense, some folks inhabit smaller worlds than others, limiting their tiny domains to a place where they were born and raised. In such townie logic, people who use the river are considered outsiders if they haven’t attended local schools, shot pool in downtown bars or often pass them in their daily travels. It’s pretty cut and dried, especially around sacred fishing holes like the one called “Johnson’s.” To be honest, I confess to at times being guilty of such provincialism myself; yes, more than capable of calling a new bird hunter from Chicopee or West Side an outsider for invading a favorite pheasant covert. Sorry, Man. I’m rooted.

Another comment concerning problems along our Deerfield River came by email and began by thanking me for “bringing to light a sad situation.” Then, off he went to unleash a no-holds-barred tirade from someone who works as a Deerfield fishing guide and serves as an officer for a respected conservation agency. He says he’s stopped booking weekend fishing gigs because of obnoxious weekend activity by yahoo flotillas. I’ve chosen not to give his name but, trust me, he’s credible. The critic spared no one, accusing commercial whitewater companies of “whoring out the river,” law-enforcement officials of ignoring the inaccessible stretch between Bardwells Ferry and Stillwater, tubers and drinkers of trashing habitat, and dam-controlled, extreme flow changes of “wreaking havoc on the ecosystem.”

The turbulent river flows he speaks of were mandated 20 years ago, following contentious debate between commercial whitewater enthusiasts and Trout Unlimited during the last Federal Energy Regulatory Commission dam re-licensing process. To quickly summarize the outcome of that hot debate, the whitewater people won, TU and the river lost, and the Chamber of Commerce celebrated in the end zone.

“There should never be more than a 500-cubic-feet-per-second differential between low and high water, and the paltry minimum flows have dramatically reduced biomass in the river,” complained the source, adding that, “The little trickle you see at low water (which is the way the river typically flows 21 hours a day) is bad for the total habitat and the majority of benthic macro invertebrates, which need constant water to survive. Hence the Deerfield is really like a small stream rather than a healthy river in terms of biomass. Is it any surprise that the river hatches are pathetic?”

A forester who participated in the dam-relicensing process happened to catch the comments and jumped right into the fray, writing: “The real issue here is that, although there may be a conflict between two recreational users of the Deerfield River, no human use should impair a reasonably functioning ecosystem.”

He went on to say he was surprised TU didn’t negotiate for more flows ideal for fishing, then diplomatically concluded by admitting, “There is, no doubt, still room for a great deal of improvement.”

To say fishermen agree would be a colossal understatement. Stay tuned. This flood seems to have stirred the darkest sediment from the river’s bed, liberating volatile issues into the mainstream for all to see. Obviously, some people with vested interests would prefer to leave the controversial topics buried three layers beneath the deepest pools, clinging like slime to the bedrock.

Too late now.

Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.
Post a comment or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

One Response to Cats and Rats

  1. Very good info. Lucky me I recently found your blog by accident (stumbleupon).

    I have book-marked it for later!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Mad Meg theme designed by BrokenCrust for WordPress © | Top