Features

The old barn in Boxford

... another of Don's drawings

from Don Norris



Computers are confusing. And the older I get, the harder it is to remember
those vital commands.

I have an idea I have submitted this drawing before, for publication, but
what-the-heck, here it is again.

The original is a pencil drawing, done in the field -- in Boxford --
in an 11- by-14 sketch book. It was done maybe 15 years ago, the scene was
discovered when I was out riding one of my motorcycles.

Since that time, the owner -- a retired man who raises horses as a, ah,
hobby -- made himself available for an interview, although I don't think
he realized I was a for-real news man.. Anyway, the old barn, then well
over a hundred years old, was on its last legs, so the owner decided to
rebuild a piece at a time -- a matter of tax considerations.

Today, the exact replica sits on the same site, next to the  old 1800's
farm house. The owner is retired now, but still has his horses. As for me,
I still have my 'escape route', which, on my Japanese bike, takes me north
with the least amount of traffic.

As a one-time newsman, I always carry a camera, notebook, and inquisitive
mind with me, whenever I go out of the house on Spear Street. I still
gather stories where I see them, but in my super-senior years, I enjoy
shooting a camera more than gathering news for a story. My dirtbike is a
street-registered Japanese motorcycle with a smallish -- but powerful --
engine. The bike is rigged for the trails, for the woods, and now for the
powerline service roads -- since population growth has made woods-riding
almost impossible.

Last year I rode the bike up to our daughter's house in New Hampshire, all
on backroads and a few dirt trails. The trip took over six hours --
whereas, by car on Route I-93, we could do itin 90 minutes -- in a car,
going up I-93. Admittedly, I spent lots of time investigating old trails
that no longer exist -- obliterated by growth of population. I went
through-and-around fences, drove straight through swamps, saw lots of
beautiful little back roads and a lot of lovely places.

Oddly. I can count only three dirt roads on my 125-mile trip north to
daughter Joey's. Everything else is paved, save those few country roads,
still unpaved, in the midsection of New Hampshire. Dirt bike riding has
suffered a great loss in the past 20 or 30 years. Most everything is paved
now.

About halfway along, I stopped at a favorite diner for a beer and a
hamburger. Using topographic maps, I had to seek out what once-were dirt
roads. There was one that lead to a Boy Scout camp, where the old way was
blocked with a metal fence. I simply rode around that fence, only to find
myself brush-busting through the woods. Up and down a small mountain,
through a couple of stream crossings, and I finally burst out at a remote
farm -- and pavement again.

I admit, I am not happy about progress, but we are getting so heavily
populated that there's not much wilderness left -- maybe in the far north
of Maine or New Hampshire. But that's too far to drive, to get to. And it
is too dangerous, for if one crashes in the northern woods, there ain't
many people come along to help you up.

Today, at 85, I still have two dirtbikes, one is registered, the other
sitting on the patio covered with an aging tarp. I don't motor out much
anymore, for there is just too much traffic, to many people going a break-
neck speeds. Most of the old dirtbike clubs are gone now -- like our New
England Trail Rider Association.

January 6, 2017


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