WELCOME TO WHAT HAS TO be the most splendid time of the year, heavy traffic notwithstanding.
It always reminds me of a great line I heard outside my third-floor college dorm window at UNH many moons ago when a painting crew was hard at work outside on the scaffolding.
“Go ahead, kid. C’mon up and bring me that tool while you’re at it: Don’t be afraid of the heights: Columbus took a chance, and so will you!”
After I stopped laughing, I jotted it down and used it for my college writing assignment which was that we were supposed to go to a public place and write down just how people talked (versus how writers think people talk).
A doozie — then, and now.
SO LIKE COLUMBUS, we will all, once again, take a chance this Columbus Day Weekend, as the roadways are jammed with leaf peeper traffic — even though as we report in today’s cover story the foliage here in the valley is slightly lagging behind the full splendor in the Great North Woods, and it is mid-stage in the notches.
All it took for this nature-loving writer to get into the fall mood was to travel to the Fryeburg Fair for opening day Sunday, and then to do some foliage research by bopping in the car for a quick but enjoyable drive to Crawford Notch on Wednesday to see for myself just how this year’s delayed but daily burgeoning foliage was shaping up.
As the cover story in today’s edition tells you, it’s a bit late and spotty this fall so far, “quilty as charged, like a patchwork quilt,” as my friend, Jack Burnett of The Farmer’s Almanac calls it.
It was great to see the crowd at the state’s Willey House Historical site in Crawford Notch State Park, where the tragic slide of August 28, 1826, took the lives of nine people, including seven members of the Willey family who — as history has well documented — had run outside along with two hired men in the midst of a raging storm after they heard the thunderous roar of the slide coming down on them.
All were killed by the slide, which veered around the house, leaving it standing untscathed.
You can go online to bartletthistory.net/willey-slide or mtearchronicles.com for all the details about this haunting tragedy or you can go to the Jackson Historical Society and Museum in the old Jackson town hall to see local esteemed artist Eric Koeppel’s commissioned painting of the slide.
The members of the Willey family are buried in the small cemetery out behind Moat Mountain Smokehouse in North Conway — so you can stop there for a pint or two and also check out the fated family’s final resting spot.
It’s one of the most fabled tales of White Mountain history, and it sparked the first wave of tourism in the region, as anyone who came to North Conway during the 19th century just had to go and visit the site of the destruction.
Now, as evidenced by what I saw this past busy Wednesday on my drive up the notch, people come for the scenery — and the foliage, with a little history adding to the allure.
STEVE FORBERT CONCERT: On Sunday, I was one of 60 people who enjoyed the intimate, up-close-and-personal concert by folksmith singer-songwriter Steve Forbert at the “Feel the Barn” concert series at the Farmstand in Chocorua.
Steve who? You know, the guy with that unmistakable foggy voice with the ear for a good melody? A great blues acoustic guitarist to boot, he played some of his better-known songs, such as “So Good to Feel Good Again,” which the audience joining him on singing the chorus (“So good to feel good again (home on the highway), round the bend good again (back on the track),” or his breakthrough 1979 hit, “Romeo’s Tune” (“Meet me in the middle of the day, let me hear you say everything’s OK, bring me southern kisses from your room … let me smell the moon in your perfume.”)
Having grown up in Meridian, Miss., Forbert paid tribute to blues great Jimmie Rodgers with two tunes, which showed his mastery of the guitar, and then got the audience to sing background chorus (“Ba da ba da ba da ba da ba da ba da”) to a beautiful and timely tune, “Autumn This Year:”
“Autumn this year is gonna break my heart
Leaves start fallin’ and the feelin’ starts
Days turn shorter and the nights turn cool
And children walk home from school
And children walk home from school.
Blue skies clearer when that old mill stream
Flows cold water down a clean pipe dream
Airs like apples in the mild day sun
When summertimes race has run
When summertimes race has run.”
It was yet another excellent night here in the valley, getting to hear nationally renowned players, whether at the Farmstand or at the Wildcat Tavern Garden Stage or Stone Mountain Arts Center.
And we’re lucky enough to live here and to get to hear all of it.
Next up is the final show in this year’s Feel the Barn summer and fall series, when Academy Award-winning screenplay writer and storyteller Ernest Thompson of “On Golden Pond” fame appears with local bassist Al Hospers on Sunday, Oct. 10. Doors open at 4 p.m. with the show starting at 5 p.m. Go to the farmstand.net for the scoop.
BLUES FANS will not want to miss Diane Blue and the Boston Soul-Blues All Stars at Tuckerman Brewing Co. off Hobbs Street in Conway Sunday beginning at 3 p.m.
In other music news, check out Settlers Green’s fifth annual Busker Festival Saturday and Sunday, 11 a.m.-3 p.m., culminating Sunday with a show by Shark Martin. Go to settlers.green.com for the full schedule.
Also offering outdoor music tonight is Ledge Brewing in Intervale with the Stacking Stones Band today from 6-9 p.m.
IN HAPPY BIRTHDAYS, we salute one and all, including John Lennon and Brad Gaudreault (today); Cranmore ski history enthusiast Mike Rogers, Dr. Angus Badger, British funnyman Jimmy Keys of Florida and Tamworth storyteller Andy Davis (10-10); Paris DiBrandi, Tess Mulkern, Joanne Sutton and Nanci “Crashe” Mahoney (10-11); Toby Savage and Christopher Columbus (10-12); Cindy Russell, Ed Stevens and Scott Santos (10-13); musician Dan Parkhurst, Mary Broomhall, community volunteer Dick Brunelle, White Mountain Treasure Emily Smith-Mossman, past MWV Chamber director Mike Hickey and Cheryl Furtado (all 19-14); and the Mud Crocs’ Jason Veno, Alan Tate, young Joe Downs, Rob Greenwood and Cranmore’s Norm Gray (all 1015) and all others.
HAVE A GREAT HOLIDAY WEEKEND — and enjoy the Fryeburg and Sandwich Fairs and the late but sure-to-come foliage. And, Go, Red Sox!