The Old Man On The Mountain

A View From the Backwoods of NH

The North Country

Ever since I was a boy, experiencing my first time on Lake Winnipesaukee, I’ve been in love with New Hampshire. It was the early sixties, and New Hampshire was still “country” compared to the suburban environment I was accustomed to. The quiet peace of the early morning lake – it was like a scene right out of “On Golden Pond”.

Unfortunately, I never developed the skill set to gain a livable wage in mid-northern New Hampshire, so I was destined to remain in Massachusetts for most of my life, pining for that “country life” of less people, less stress and more nature. And, as time went on, I watched as my favorite lake became the centerpiece of all I detested – rich, obnoxious tourists. Like rock stars trashing a hotel room, these people come to New Hampshire’s finest and just ruin it for everyone. What was once pristine is now a crowded swamp of no manners.

And so, when I finally had the opportunity to escape the urban sprawl, I headed north. I’d always admired the White Mountains from the lake, though I’d never really been up this far. I don’t ski (broke my leg once trying) and I don’t hike (I want to, but the body won’t cooperate). But here’s the real beauty – since I’d never been here, I had an opportunity that most folks never get – to experience first hand the wonder that is New Hampshire’s North Country at an age that allows me to truly appreciate it.

Once you pass through the notches (Franconia or Crawford), life changes. For me, it was almost like going back to my childhood. A place where people are friendly and courteous. A place where your neighbors don’t live on top of you, but “a ways” from you. Where you can count on a turn signal to consistently mean a turn, hell, where turn signals are actually used. And a place where you don’t need to worry about burglars, because everyone can own a gun.

Yes, this is a place where you need to do some driving to get anywhere. Where the towns are nestled into the valleys and retail stores are mostly “Mom-and-Pop”. And the country – oh, what glorious views of mountains, rivers, and forest. This is the place where you can experience what it must have been like for the first settlers of the new world, and still be within reasonable driving distance of civilization.

The lumber mills are a thing of the past now – except for a few, most of it comes down from Canada now. Sadly, this change has caused a large portion of the workforce to seek alternative employment, while reducing the general income. It’s not easy to find work in the North Country, well, work that pays a reasonable living wage. Which makes it a poorer part of the state, and which also makes it a prime target for abuse.

The Northern Pass is a program that’s trying to make it’s way through here. Hydro-Quebec, in partnership with Eversource (they that bought PSNH), want to cut a swath through the White Mountains so that they can erect huge towers to carry electricity down to Massachusetts. While feigning general concern for residents feelings, in actuality they don’t give a damn about anything but profit. They’re buying land and people (the people are easy, as I said, wages don’t keep up with the cost of living up here). If I were a betting man, I’d wager that the State will capitulate and allow them to desecrate the beauty that is my home, much like the Keystone Pipeline wanted to desecrate the heartland of America.

Unfortunately, that’s not the only thing. For those of you that are unaware, instead of building military bases anymore, our government now uses state militias – the National Guard – as their source of training and manpower. For me, that’s the Vermont Air National Guard and the NH Guard. And, can you guess where they thought would be the perfect place to “play war”? That’s right, the White Mountains.

And while the NH Guard and their Black Hawk Helicopters only come by on occasion, the rumble from Vermont’s F15’s is a far more frequent sound. Be it at 6:30 in the morning, or 10:15 at night (or any time in between). For a while, they’d get low enough to make my windows rattle. I can’t wait to see what the F35’s will be like. Over the past few years I’ve gone from peace and tranquility to a new vacation theme – “The Afghanistan Experience”. Someone once told me “Think of it as the sound of Freedom”. But I know what freedom sounds like – I had it once. Now what I get is the sound of war.

I often ask myself how our state government could allow this to happen. But I think, once again, it’s an obvious answer. It’s easy to abuse the places where you don’t live – like the rich, obnoxious tourists that invaded my favorite lake. I should have known it would only be a matter of time until someone “bought the rights” to desecrate the beauty that is my home. But to me, “Live Free or Die” is more than just a cool motto – it’s a way of life. And I won’t be free until these (or any other) domestic enemies have been vanquished.