Running Wild

The orchard grass is in places chest-high, with fragrant pink weigela bushes in bloom, turkey season winding down and shad running like gangbusters leading up to Memorial Day Weekend.

I just discovered that the annual Fort No. 4 reenactment in Charlestown, N.H., is next weekend. Can’t wait. I think I’ll take both grandsons this time. Young Arie, approaching 3, should be all eyes, viewing soldiers, suttlers and feather-adorned native tribesmen. But enough of that, onto this week’s task at hand, again a little of this, a little of that. Next thing you know, another column in the rearview. Then it’ll be off to yard-work, reading, writing or all of the above; life at the old tavern, no complaints.

First, a correction. The hydroseeding landscaper I mentioned last week was Steve Wiggan, not Higgins. I’m very sorry for the careless mistake.

Moving on, old pal Richie Kellogg — The Big R — called Wednesday morning from Wendell. The big man says he’s taken up reading, finds it enjoyable and thanked me for planting the seed. I warned him it could get contagious, jumping from one related topic to another. I just hope he doesn’t, along the way, bump into Capt. Martin Kellogg of old Deerfield fame. An interesting 17th and early 18th century frontiersman, Capt. Kellogg knew the northern New England woods and native inhabitants like no other. He’s fascinating, especially when his blood is traveling through your veins. Sorry, Big Guy, had to mention him, presumably a long-lost cousin at the very least, potentially a source of great personal pride.

Speaking of reading, just this past weekend, eating homemade spaghetti and meatballs by the window in our little kitchen alcove, grandson Jordi, 6, and I were talking about Indians, a subject that fascinates the boy. He was curious whether Indians were good or bad and I tried to help, telling him that reading and exploring would lead him to the answer. Had I believed all the mainstream stuff I saw about Indians as a kid, I’d believe they were bloodthirsty savages, white men good. But because I have read, I told him, I know that wasn’t the case. Often times, Indians were better human beings than the people slaughtering their women and children in nighttime raids. I then told him of the gold, silver and jewels discovered by Spaniards in the sophisticated 16th century Inca and Aztec cities, how those indigenous South and Central Americans were soon demonized and slaughtered for their riches. It’s all about greed, I told him, and things haven’t changed much in 500 years. Now it’s about oil and plutonium and uranium and other valuable natural resources, including gems and precious metals.

The fascination on that boy’s face during our brief discussion made every millisecond worthwhile. I later asked my wife if she had seen the look on his face, those pensive eyes, during our little heart-to-heart. She didn’t miss it, said you can’t overvalue such conversations with a young kid. Yeah, yeah, I know the red, white and blue sheeple waving their Memorial Day flags and Francis Parkman history books will beg to differ with my interpretation. So be it. Give me Francis Jennings or Howard Zinn any day. I believe their theses, not those of Parkman, the son of a Boston preacher man who wrote glorious, patriotic American history during the second half of the 19th century. But, anyway, back to fish and fauna. Why traipse into controversial subjects that might stir things up?

Don’t look now but the shad are running like they haven’t run in years. So get out those fishing rods, fellas, if you haven’t already done so. Now’s the time. On Tuesday, Darleen Cutting from the Connecticut River Coordinator’s office in Sunderland was gushing with enthusiasm about the shad run as the Connecticut River jumped over the 60-degree-Fahrenheit level.

“Holyoke was crazy busy (Monday),” she wrote in her daily report. “We need to lift 10,200 shad (Tuesday) to equal last year’s total.”

Well, guess what? Nearly 42,000 shad passed Holyoke Tuesday, bringing the total there to 275,000-plus. By now we’re likely way past our first run of 300,000 through that station in 10 years. The last time was in 2002, when the Barrett Fishlift handled 370,000. What gives? Well, nearly perfect river conditions, no flooding, and optimal late-season water temperatures of 61.7 Tuesday. It’ll be interesting to see what happens over the next couple of weeks. Hey, maybe we’ll even see a half-million, although I admit that’s probably wishful thinking.

Sadly, the favorable river conditions aren’t yet having similar positive effects on Atlantic-salmon migration. Through Tuesday, only 22 salmon had been counted in the river system, the lion’s share caught and captured at Holyoke (13). The rest have been captured at Connecticut’s Leesville (5) and Rainbow (3) dams. Another lonely, random salmon obviously turned up someplace else that isn’t identified. Thus far, three salmon have been released to spawn naturally in the river system above Holyoke. None have yet passed Turners Falls, where the shad traffic is, as usual, pathetic. The fish-passage issues here in our neighborhood could be addressed and soon corrected with the FERC relicensing process quickly approaching for upriver dams. But don’t hold your breath waiting for something significant to occur. It’s unlikely there will be a concerted effort aimed at forcing the power companies to improve their dams’ upper-Connecticut River fish-passage efficiency. Why, you ask? Well, for one reason, there will be no smooth “activists” who graduated from elite colleges applying constant, vociferous pressure to get what they want at public hearings. Fact is, there’s no whitewater potential on the Connecticut River, thus no economic pressure, just power companies crying poor-mouth. Oh well, what else is new? Is it a secret that money talks and ecological altruists sink to the bottom and suffocate in black, tritium-laced sediment? Not in my world.

As for the last week of trout stocking here in Franklin County, well, there’s primarily a lake-and-pond emphasis, with stocking crews ticketed for North Pond in Florida, Cranberry Pond in Sunderland, Laurel Lake in Erving, and Lake Wyola in Shutesbury. Other than that, it’s one last run to the upper Deerfield River and maybe a lesser surplus stocking here and there next week.

That’s all I’ve got this week. Off I go

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