As we mentioned before, Ray J. Harding, prior to his retirement service with the US National Park Service, and adjunct teaching at Lowell U, had taught high school english in several locations in north-east MA, the last high school was in the Nashoba Valley area. He lived many years in Westford before finally moving to Pepperell, not far from Townsend, MA. He wrote several articles for a local paper and often called attention to the always present idiosyncracies of small town New England governance.
In this story, he is referring to a recent article apparently found in the Lowell Sun, having to do with school budgets and ways to acquire additional classroom space with limited funds. This editor is not sure if any persons refered to in the text were real or fictitious. At this point in time, easily 20+ years later, I’m sure they would accept the original in the spirit of good fun in which it was offered. Enjoy.
Creative Financial Planning for Pepperell
Raymond J. Harding
Have to read the competition every now and then. It’s like English Lit assignments back in high school: dull, boring, but required reading, even if no one can explain why. I did run across one point of interest in Joe Sullivan’s column, though. At the end of one of his articles, Joe asks for suggestions for school space. A very good question.
Before I get into that, I’ve got two points of friendly advice for Joe. First, don’t put an important question at the end of your article. Nobody – unless he or she is getting paid for it – is going to read that far. Second, don’t go bad mouthing the Yuppies and the DINKS. Remember, they make up about two thirds of your readers!
I sat in on a selectmen’s meeting one Monday evening and listened as Ron Harper justified a new computer for his work as Town Engineer. After the meeting, Ron told me that Pepperell is alive with beavers. We’ve got more beavers than horses. I figure that with his new computer, Ron can plot the location of every beaver within twenty miles of the town hall in any direction. Once that is done, the next step is easy.
I put in a call to another Pepperell luminary, R.C. Collingswood, know-it-all and expert on little known animal life. R.C. was the founder and curator of Cochise Zoo in Broken Arrow, Idaho, before retiring and returning to Pepperell where he is now researching a definitive work on hoop snakes.
Collingswood told me that the next step in ridding the town of beavers would be to herd them up into new Hampshire, where the laws on trapping are a little less restrictive.
“Can we really do that?” I asked.
“Of course, “ he replied scornfully. “Back in Idaho we often had beaver drives. Drove them up into Canada mostly. Once they get tired of eating trees, they start in on telephone poles. Make great dams, but it plays havoc with the lines. Of course, you have to have a pack of Australian beaver hounds.”
“What’s a beaver hound?” I asked.
“Cross between a dachshund and an otter. Only known breed with webbed feet. Great swimmers.”
“So, once we get our Australian beaver hounds, we’re all set?”
Again, I could detect a hint of disdain in Collingswood’s voice. The man was obviously annoyed at my stupidity.
“No, there’s much more to it than just that. We have to organize the townspeople: school children, boy scouts, police, firefighters, librarians, everybody. We start in south Pepperell and work our way north, armed with pots and pans, noisemakers, beating the bushes, following the baying of the beaver hounds all the way to where the Nissitissit crosses the state line. There we herd them into a large corral, skin them, and sell their pelts.”
“Skin them?” I said, shocked at the man’s inhumanity.
“Of course. That’s the point of the whole thing. you have any idea what a beaver pelt is bringing on the market now?”
“None at all,” I said.
“With the money you’ll get from the sale of those beaver pelts, you could finance half your school budget for next year.”
“Sure,” I said, “But have you read that article in Reader’s Digest about the beaver pond? Everybody’s in love with them. Beavers are cute, Collingswood. Stubborn, but cute. The townspeople aren’t going to put up with something as heartless as that!”
“It beats a Proposition 2 ½ override, doesn’t it?” was his final comment as he hung up rather abruptly.
OK Joe, so there you have it. With the money we could make from a beaver drive we could hire a big circus tent, rent space at Nashoba Tech (whose numbers are down next year), rent the old bottling plant in Chelmsford center, and bus the kids over there…
One of Joe’s suggestion just won’t make though: use the old police station. I can just see the headlines in the Lowell Sun now: Pepperell Police Move Into Old School – School Moves Into Old Police Station.