The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, August 25, 2006


As summer ends, thoughts turn back to Carlisle

There is still time for a trip to Crane's Beach for one last swim in the ocean, or maybe a weekend outing to the Berkshires for a Boston Symphony Orchestra concert at Tanglewood. I could suggest other activities for these last two weeks of summer, but instead I'd rather focus on some of the concerns facing the Town in the weeks ahead.

There is a new Benfield Land task force, appointed by the Board of Selectmen in July, whose job will be to decide on a new location for affordable housing and a ball field on the 20-acre housing/recreation parcel on South Street. They must now take into consideration blue-spotted salamanders, one of which was sighted (sited?) on the property last fall. Finding a building site on the parcel, as far as possible from salamander habitat and abutters' lot lines, is a formidable challenge, but Carlisle must get on with the building of affordable housing or the Town will have no effective control over 40B developments.

An example of what residents are facing is the proposed 41-unit 40B development on Concord Street, Coventry Woods. Abutters' concerns about their well water quantity and quality may slow the project, even modify it, but until the Town proceeds with its affordable housing plan, permits for such developments cannot be denied.

With the resignation of an unusually large number of administrators and teachers from the Carlisle Public School during the past year, one wonders what the new school year will bring. Parents of school-age children certainly have a right to be concerned. One parent, who has written a letter to the editor in this week's Mosquito, urges those interested in the school to attend the School Committee Meeting, on Wednesday, September 6, at 7 p.m.

A Special Town Meeting has been scheduled for October 30 to reconsider the construction of ballfields on the Banta-Davis Land. A plan for the ball fields passed at the Town Meeting in May, but was defeated by 11 votes at the Town Election. The Recreation Commission has a new proposal for the land that, in addition to the ballfield construction, would include a pavilion, walking trails and, at a later date, a recreation center. A public hearing is needed to explain these plans as well as the proposed artificial turf on one of the fields. If the Town Meeting voters pass this new proposal it would then go on to a separate ballot to be included in the November 7 national and state elections.

Speaking of elections, the Massachusetts Primary Election will be held on Tuesday, September 19, with the Democratic governor's race being the most hotly contested. The last day to register to vote is Wednesday, August 30, at the Town Hall. If there are any questions about upcoming elections, people may call the Town Clerk.

There are other issues facing our community in the days ahead, but for the moment, these seem to be the most important.

Colorful characters

Goodness knows there are a great many things wrong with the world these days, and among them is the disappearance of town characters. A while ago I wrote about the Carlisle Cats Club, which James Taylor, who once lived in my house, maintained for the health and happiness of stray cats in town, about 40 of them. Nowadays I suppose he would be cited for creating a health hazard.

On a recent visit to Burlington, Maine, a rural town some 30 miles north of Bangor, not far from the Penobscot River, I heard about Mr. Sibley, now dead, who was a fanatic about timely oil changes for his car. It was his practice, no matter where he was — on the highway, in the middle of road, or driving through town — to stop his car when the odometer hit a multiple of 3000 and drain the oil on the ground, refilling the engine with fresh oil that he always kept in the trunk. Nowadays he would surely be cited and cursed for such behavior.

Another character I will never forget is my uncle Pep, who passed away not long ago in South America, which had been his home ever since he was discharged from the Navy in 1945. He went there as an employee of the U. S. State Department to promote good relations with America, but he eventually left government service and pursued other ventures, winding up eventually in Peru, where he raised his family. He was especially fond of the native Peruvians, descendants of the Incas who once had ruled the west coast of South America from Colombia to Chile.

It was quite an unusual household. Having discovered that guinea pigs were a staple in the Peruvian diet, he became quite fond of them for meat. The Peruvians call them quees because, when alarmed, they emit a series of squeals, "Quee, quee, quee." Anyway, Pep set about creating a super-quee through selective breeding conducted on the flat roof of his house. His goal was to raise quees bigger than rabbits so that a whole family could be fed with one quee. The project alarmed his wife, who felt that the roof might collapse, but she never actually visited the roof and so was content with Pep's assurance that there were only a dozen or so quees up there. In fact, there were about 200, and most of them had names, bestowed by their sons to honor various classmates at school. Thus, it became necessary in conversation always to distinguish whether one was speaking of Rodney the boy or Rodney the quee. As a result, even simple conversations required careful attention to avoid misunderstandings.

He also raised hairless dogs, which have leathery skins reminiscent of an elephant's but no hair except for a few sparse ones on the tops of their heads. Although they looked strange and were rather unpleasant to touch, they had all the endearing characteristics of dogs, wagging their tails, chasing balls and enjoying pats. He entered them in dog shows, where they usually won best of breed, owing to the fact that no other hairless dogs were entered. Now that he is gone, I don't suppose anybody does such things today.

There may be equally colorful people in town, but I don't know any of them. I wish I did.


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2006 The Carlisle Mosquito