Windham Life and Times – August 6, 2021

Barefoot & Free: Shoeless Summers and Healthy Grounding

Teddy Dooley with mom and brother at my grandfather’s tents. My barefooted Dad and me.

So I was talking over the weekend with Teddy Dooley, somebody who has enjoyed summers on Cobbett’s Pond longer than I have. Out of the blue, the remembrance of the summer sojourn of bare footedness, of our childhood was discussed. He mentioned there was always a bet among his friends about who would be forced to return to shoe footedness first.  You see, for us, the end of school meant the end of shoes! What state of being could be more glorious than having your feet freed from their leather or canvass prisons. Whenever, I am home in the summer, even now, my first act is to ditch the shoes. So as the end of August approaches…the dreaded foot manacles are waiting to return to the well shod feet of both children and adults. Maybe we should reconsider the intuitive sense of children, to live our lives free and for a few moments barefooted.

    Well, it seems that there is more to the story, and that bare footedness, may actually be a very healthy state in which to live. For all of you who are rolling your eyes, none other than the liberal bastion as the Washington Posts supports this very idea in an article published in 2018. Its called “grounding,” and apparently it has positive effects on heath and wellness.

     “I was intrigued when a colleague recently recommended a mutual patient — seeing her for stress management and me for nutritional advice — experiment with walking barefoot in the grass for a short time each day. A few weeks later, I stumbled across an article that gave a name to that practice — grounding. The idea behind grounding, also called earthing, is humans evolved in direct contact with the Earth’s subtle electric charge, but have lost that sustained connection thanks to inventions such as buildings, furniture and shoes with insulated synthetic soles.”

     “Advocates of grounding say this disconnect might be contributing to the chronic diseases that are particularly prevalent in industrialized societies. There is actually some science behind this. Research has shown barefoot contact with the earth can produce nearly instant changes in a variety of physiological measures, helping improve sleep, reduce pain, decrease muscle tension and lower stress.”

    “There are many reasons connecting with nature is good for mind and body, but electricity probably is not one you have considered. If you think back to the last time you took a science class, you may remember that everything, including humans, is made up of atoms. These microscopic particles contain equal numbers of negatively charged electrons, which come in pairs, and positively charged protons, so an atom is neutral — unless it loses an electron. When an atom has an unpaired electron, it becomes a “free radical” with a positive charge, capable of damaging our cells and contributing to chronic inflammation, cancer and other diseases. In this case, ‘positive’ is not a good thing. One reason direct physical contact with the ground might have beneficial physiological effects is the earth’s surface has a negative charge and is constantly generating electrons that could neutralize free radicals, acting as antioxidants. You may think of antioxidants as coming from food, and indeed a diet rich in fruits, vegetables and other foods that provide beta-carotene, selenium, lutein, lycopene and vitamins A, C and E helps prevent cellular damage from free radicals. Still, it is interesting that we may be able to get them directly from the earth, too. Research also suggests physical contact with the Earth’s surface can help regulate our autonomic nervous system and keep our circadian rhythms — which regulate body temperature, hormone secretion, digestion and blood pressure, among other things — synchronized with the day/night cycle. Desynchronization of our internal clocks has been linked to a number of health problems, as evidenced by research on shift workers. The key may be the impact on the vagus nerve. This is the largest nerve of the autonomic nervous system — extending from the brain to the colon — and plays a key role in heart, lung and digestive function. Strong vagal tone helps you relax faster after experiencing stress, while weak vagal tone is associated with chronic inflammation. Inflammation, in turn, is associated with a number of chronic diseases — including cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and some forms of cancer. Vagal tone is often assessed by measuring the variation in your heart rate when you breathe in and out, and in one study, grounding was shown to improve heart rate variability and thus vagal tone in preterm infants. In another small study of adults, one two-hour session of grounding reduced inflammation and improved blood flow.”

     According to the blog, “The body is composed primarily of water and minerals, making it a great conductor of electricity. When we come into direct contact with the earth—our soles pressed into the soil, bodies pressed against the grass, fingers weaving through particles of sand—the free electrons on the earth’s surface are absorbed into the body. This energy travels through your energy field and chakras, balancing the body. The bottoms of the feet have long been considered maps of the rest of the body, so by grounding through the feet, we are simultaneously allowing currents of rejuvenating charges to power our vital organs and synchronize the systems of the body. Electrons are also likened to antioxidants in their ability to reduce inflammation and stimulate red blood cell circulation. Your body produces and uses electrical energy all the time, but when it receives extra electrons from an outside source (like the earth!), it is able to cleanse, repair, and return to its optimal state more efficiently.”

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Windham Life and Times – July 29, 2021

Scenes from My Garden

So no history secrets…I ran out of time for the week. Instead, here is an interlude, in my favorite place on earth: My Garden! The Stewartia tree bosomed for over 4 weeks straight…non-stop.  I had given her a long,  loving talk this spring about how I longed for her to make a show of herself. Last year there was hardly a blossom; this year their was lush abundance of her beautiful white flowers, which dropped and floated across the water, like lotus blossoms in an Asian landscape. You do all know plants are sentient beings, right?  I saw recently that Lake Street Garden had two of these beautiful trees for sale. You won’t be disappointed. 

The Stewartia Treee

So… I have this birdbath that I really love, the only problem being the cement is disintegrating. So I thought about deep sixing it, and then I had second thoughts. Instead, this ruin is now one of my favorite places in the garden. There is now a beautiful variety of mosses, and small flowering plants happily growing on the shores of the water. It looks a little bit like a grand old dowager, slowing crumbling, but holding onto to her fading glory with a little bit of flash and bling.

Many evenings the bald eagle flies down the center of the lake, majestic…and I wonder if he or she remembers the game we played with the frozen pickerel over my head last winter. We live in an incredibly beautiful place, if only we can escape the prison wall of screens, so that we can rediscover it again. Away from the hysteria and hype, meant to coral us for the slaughter…meant to make us do their bidding. The bees are everywhere…and the hummingbirds are drinking from the blossoms that have opened to provide their nectar and in the act of freely giving, being pollinated for next year in turn. Away from the screens, the world moves on, with or without our attention, gratitude and adoration. She is silently waiting as a gift unopened: for the screens to darken, for our eyes to see, and for all of us to awaken… so we can really understand her secrets and feel the love of that One which upholds it all.

Windham Life and Times – July 23, 2021

Wreck of the Lancaster 4-4-0 in Windham -2-

Worcester, Nashua & Rochester Line

After publishing the first photograph of this crash, Jon Carpenter and I were wondering how they got that locomotive back on the tracks. I keep looking for landmarks trying to determine where exactly the crash took place in Windham.  Interesting, how workers back in the day, wore a full suit of clothes while doing manual labor.

Windham Life and Times July 16, 2021

Margaret Smith Simpson’s grave next to her husband John Simpson, who were both Revolutionary War soldiers. The John Simpson cellar hole on Marblehead Road in Windham,

Windham’s Female Revolutionary War Solider

Margaret Smith Simpson

    I had previously written about Deborah Sampson, a woman who fought as a man in the Revolutionary War. It seemed she was a unique case, but apparently that is not so, as the story of Margaret Smith Simpson will illustrate. There are also stories of many other women who fought. In fact, once you dig deeply into who fought in the Revolutionary War, away from the conventional retelling, the omission of certain of the participants is just amazing. And this leads to the cancel culture of today, who see the War of Independence as only a white man’s enterprise; nothing could be further from the truth and this huge misunderstanding of history has been brought about by a lack of intellectual curiosity. The fact is, if you had been on the battlefields, and looked down the lines of soldiers fighting in the War of Independence, you would have seen the thousands of black faces of the brave African American men that served. Also, Native Americans, and even as we shall see the faces of patriot woman. The service of Margaret Smith Simpson, is a story that should be told to your daughters and the story of Black Revolutionary War soldiers should also be told. If you cancel this American history, you cancel their stories.

    At one time in Windham, there was a couple, living on what is now Marblehead Road, and both husband and wife were veterans soldiers of the Revolutionary War. Let that sink in a moment. They both had been continental soldiers.

     Margaret Smith was the daughter of Francis Smith, who settled “in that part of  Salem that was once Windham.” When the dispute arose of over the meeting-house many families with kith and kin in Windham were trapped in Salem. In fact, over the years, many of these families petitioned to be returned to Windham. The reason why this is important to our story is because of the petition of 1777, which was voted down by the residents of Salem. It says; “to see if the town of Salem…will allow certain men with their respective families to be annexed to the town of Windham…They had enlisted and fought with the regiment of continental troops from Windham, still they were taxed in Salem. They then drew up a petition to the State of New Hampshire which stated in part, “We have always associated with and been connected to them as brothers, but have never associated with the inhabitants of Salem…” I use these facts in order to rest my case; Margaret Smith Simpson should be considered Windham’s female Revolutionary War hero, not Salem’s. The border line between Salem and Windham was not finally settled until after the commission of 1807 which determined the line. Margaret Smith along with many other Scots-Irish family members were part of the expedition to Canada in 1775-6. Obviously the people she fought with her knew she was a woman, and she fought as a woman, not disguised as a man. This distinguishes her from other woman patriots.

     The invasion of Canada was a perilous affair. According to the Canadian Encyclopedia; “In September 1775 rebel General Richard Montgomery led American forces on the first major offensive of the war, seizing the forts at Ticonderoga and Crown Point in northern New York, and Fort Chambly in Québec. With 1,700 militia troops, Montgomery then captured Fort Saint-Jean outside Montréal in November – prompting Carleton to abandon Montréal and flee to Québec. The Americans occupied Montréal without a fight on 28 November.”     

    “Meanwhile, a second American invasion force led by General Benedict

Arnold managed, despite hardships, faulty maps, near starvation and desertions, to bring about 700 men through the Maine wilderness to the St. Lawrence River and to the fortress of Québec. Arnold waited outside Québec until December, when Montgomery joined him with 300 additional men”

     “During a snowstorm on 31 December, the Americans assaulted Québec, which was defended by a garrison of 1,800 British soldiers and militiamen under Carleton. The Americans attacked from two directions. Arnold and his men penetrated some distance into Lower Town, but Arnold himself was wounded in the ankle and carried away from the fighting. His forces later surrendered under counterattack.

Montgomery’s force was repulsed after the general and his leading officers were killed by rifle fire in their initial assault on the other side of Lower Town. In total, 60 Americans were killed and 426 wounded at Québec. On the British side six were killed and 19 wounded.”

     “Under Arnold’s command, the remaining uncaptured Americans tried to maintain a siege of the town through the winter, but it was ineffective. The group was easily routed when the spring thaw brought 4,000 British troop reinforcements led by British General John Burgoyne. The Americans abandoned Montréal on 9 May, 1776 and the remains of the force was defeated at Trois Rivieres in June. The survivors then retreated to New York, ending their invasion.”

     Margaret Smith was the daughter of Francis Smith who purchased his farm in Windham in 1755. He married Margaret Smiley of Windham. John Simpson, was a Revolutionary War solider who had two fingers shot away by cannonball at the Battle of Bunker Hill. Morrison says, he was a well to do farmer and one of the wealthiest men in the southerly part of town.” Margaret Smith was Simpson’s second wife who died on October 22, 1809 at 49 years of age. This would have made her about 17 years old at the time she joined the army to fight in the American Revolution. She was in the same company as her brother Solomon. The Simpson cellar hole on Marblehead Road is marked. I think we need a new American flag to mark her grave in the Cemetery on the Hill, where she is buried next to he husband

Windham Life and Times – July 9, 2021

“Point of Rocks” Circa 1900

Point of Rocks or Horne Point

This photograph of “Point of Rocks” on Cobbett’s Pond was taken by William Austin Brooks about 1900.  One of the Brooks children is sitting on the point. The farms on the Range can be seen on the hillside in the background. The rock ledges actually extend out into the cove, and this was a favorite place for anchoring the boat and swimming, when my kids were young. Notice how low the water level of the like is at a time when the mills on Golden Brook were drawing water.

Windham Life and Times – June 18, 2021

Windham Train Wreck- 4-4-0 241 Lancaster in wreck east of station, Windham NH,

There were several wrecks in Windham on the Worcester, Nashua and Rochester line which met the B&M line at Windham “Junction.” One problem for engineers was a confusion between West Windham Station and Windham Junction. That is why “West Windham” was renamed the “Anderson Station.” Brings back memories of that Grateful Dead song, “Casey Jones,” Driving that train, High on Cocaine, Casey Jones you better, Watch your speed…” OK enough!

According to Wikipedia, John Luther “Casey” Jones (March 14, 1863 – April 30, 1900) was an American railroader who was killed when his passenger train collided with a stalled freight train at Vaughan, Mississippi.

Jones was a locomotive engineer for the Illinois Central Railroad, based in Memphis, Tennessee, and Jackson, Mississippi. He was noted for his exceptionally punctual schedules, which sometimes required a degree of risk, though this was not a factor on his fatal last journey. However, there is some disagreement about the sequence of events on that night, 29–30 April 1900.

He was due to run the southbound passenger service from Memphis to Canton, Mississippi, departing 11.35pm. Owing to engineer absence, he had to take over another service through the day, which may have deprived him of sleep. He eventually departed 75 minutes late, but was confident of making up the time, with the powerful ten-wheeler Engine No. 382, known as “Cannonball”.

Approaching Vaughan at high speed, he was unaware that three trains were occupying the station, one of them broken down and directly on his line. Some claim that he ignored a flagman signaling to him, though this person may have been out of sight on a tight bend, or obscured by fog. All are agreed, however, that Jones managed to avert a potentially disastrous crash through his exceptional skill at slowing the engine and saving the lives of the passengers at the cost of his own. For this, he was immortalized in a traditional song, “The Ballad of Casey Jones”.

Case Jones

“Jones may have been going too fast that fateful night near Vaughan, Mississippi, but there’s no evidence that he was high on cocaine or any other illicit substance.”

I would like to have seen how they put this behemoth in Windham back on the tracks. I am speculating that this wreck occurred east of the West Windham station. The WN&R used to be the tracks used for the “Bar Harbor Express, which brought wealthy Americans to Bar Harbor for their summer sojourn. People used to wait by the tracks to see the “rich people” go by during the lazy days of summer.

Windham Life and Times – June 11, 2021

Scenes from Boat Parades past

My thanks to Kenny Greenwood for the wonderful photographs taken from his dock so long ago. By the way, if you haven’t tried the pub pies from Thwaites (Real English) Market in Methuen, you don’t know what you’re missing!  You can find them on their food truck at various times at Griffin Park. (In store try Tomato Sausage & Polony.) 

Windham Life & Times- June 4, 2021

Bella Vista Dance Hall – Cobbett’s Pond

The Dance Hall at Bella Vista Beach was built by John Evans in 1925. It was unique in that it was built right over the water. Many famous orchestras of the day came to play here and the hall held between 400 and 500 people. The strains of live jazz could be heard all over the lake. The hall was destroyed by a fire in 1931.