Yankee Musings | Raucous Caucus | Tom Cushing | DanvilleSanRamon.com |

Local Blogs

Raucous Caucus

By Tom Cushing

E-mail Tom Cushing

About this blog: The Raucous Caucus shares the southpaw perspectives of this Boomer on the state of the nation, the world, and, sometimes, other stuff. I enjoy crafting it to keep current, and occasionally to rant on some issue I care about deeply...  (More)

View all posts from Tom Cushing

Yankee Musings

Uploaded: Oct 12, 2015

No, not the New York Yankees, albeit long winters of their discontent are always to be celebrated – THIS blog reflects variously on our recent trip to New England because: #leaves. It was an unusual getaway for Sue and me – sans dogs. Not sure who missed who more, but there was a pretty joyful weekend homecoming.

We disembarked at Logan and headed for the town of Hingham, just south of Boston. Sue's research had revealed that we share ancestors acquainted from the mid-1600s. It seems that Messrs. Hobart and Cushing were both thrown out of Hingham, England for "ecclesiastical troubles," to wit: they broke into the church and lowered the pulpit from an exalted, elevated perch to the level of the congregants. Sue's Hobart became the pastor and Cushing a deacon of Old Ship Church – it's currently a UU place of worship. And, another Hobart descendant is its current minister. AND, our Airbnb hostess is a member of that church. The adjacent graveyard was lousy with both families – is the world Really this small?

Most of the Boston population inhabits its roadways, starting at about 2 PM, and extending almost to Vermont.

We stayed with my daughter's upcoming in-laws for a few days in Charlotte (shar-LOTT), VT, just south of Bernie-town, err, Burlington. Vermonters appear to live in a distinct seasonal rhythm, closer to the land and to each other, as real community members. They share. One guy has a tractor, another has a chain saw, and someone else a splitter. In California, we have rent-a-centers; I prefer their approach. Honey had just been extracted from the hive, and canning from the garden's continuing bounty had begun.

On a glorious, crisp fall day, we labored for hours in winter prep – cutting wood. Very little needed to be said, as team-working seemed to come naturally to our little trio of a crew. I may no longer be the guy who gets to run the saw, but I could keep him busy. Had I been at home, it might have been work. This just felt good – all the better for knowing that some of those cut BTUs would warm my kid.

For the record, the leaf maps predicted we'd be there at the height of the season, but a warm September delayed the color at lower elevations. So, was that a random calendar variation, or an Act of God, or do I credit the Koch brothers? Well, I'm no scientist … nor do I need to be – thanks a bunch, fellas.

There was a blinking radio tower behind the property – that always puts me in a mind of the following gorgeous passage written from another part of the country: weblink. " … (on the radio) She would speak to the drunk and sober, the godly and the godless, all the while high above where she sat, the station's red beacon would pulse like a heart, as if giving bearings to all those in the dark, adrift and alone." The tower really did help us find their house.

You may argue for lobster, or flavorful ice cream from contented cows, but having eaten our way through New England by car, I believe the regional dish is: pizza. It's everywhere (delicious, too).

There is a 'look' to the people we encountered casually in our travel, very different from around here. They tended to be about forty pounds bulkier, and an alarming percentage seemed to have trouble getting around – too much regional cuisine? They also appeared raw and weathered, perhaps by too many rough winters -- or too many Sam Adams'. For many New Englanders, 60 is the old 60.

That said, they were uniformly approachable and helpful -- less pre-occupied and insulated from other people; we take that as more evidence of a deeper sense of community than we get to enjoy here.

The traditional architecture was beautifully utilitarian. There were few flourishes or turrets, and no ego thresholds. These were salt boxes and Cape Cods – simple in design, with form following function. They would be interspersed occasionally with a '50s rancher or a '60s split level – somehow those late editions showed their age much worse than structures 200 years their senior. These homes were not only built to a purpose – they were also built to last. And they were surrounded by large areas of actual green grass.

In our experience, the majority of Maine exists in liquid form.

Having traversed dozens of small towns, two further impressions endure: graveyards and churches were everywhere. Places of worship were prominent and well-maintained, with soaring steeples. They must have been, and may still be, the centers of both piety and community.

The graveyards were numerous, and also artful and well-kept. They often appeared to be family plots, which seemed to date back to the inception and suggest a kind of continuity and permanence-of-place that is rare in these, our own, transitory parts. My Maine-based cousin tells me that you take the plot with the land when you buy it, and new owners are forbidden to plow it under (although they needn't maintain it, most seem to do so).

Finally, we visited Salem and stunningly beautiful Marblehead, where Sue has a friend from the other end of the country and of our lives. It may surprise no one that I also claim Margaret Scott, one of the twenty slain Salem witches, as my distant kin. What a sobering reminder of our enduring capacity to persecute people who are different, or a nuisance (as the widow Margaret was), or who happened to own some prime, forfeitable real estate.

We paid ancestral respects, but I was particularly struck by the story of Giles Corey, an octogenarian and one of several men included in the witch hunt. When he became aware of the plots ag'in him, he conveyed his (prime) lands to his sons, and then stood mute in court, when asked how he pled. The trial could not proceed without a plea, so they took him to a field and tried to 'press' it out of him. For two-and-a-half days they piled-on ever heavier rocks as torture, hoping to extract a response.

Finally, he caught the eye of a magistrate, who leaned-in to hear his whisper. He rasped, "More weight," and passed beyond the jurisdiction soon thereafter. Now, THAT man was a bad-ass who defiantly beat the colonial inquisition at its own game, and good for him. I hope Sue can find a way to link his blood to ours.
What is it worth to you?


Posted by San Ramon Observer, a resident of San Ramon,
on Oct 12, 2015 at 2:51 pm

San Ramon Observer is a registered user.

You got the jump on me on the Maine trip blog. I will be visiting there again next year. I may put a deposit on an apartment in Piper Shores or I may find a place near here.

I like to say Maine has four seasons -- Snow and Ice, Rain and Slush, Heat and Humidity, and Fall. That is the nicest season to visit New England.


Posted by Cholo, a resident of Livermore,
on Oct 12, 2015 at 3:02 pm



Are there any witches in Plutonia? How does one spot a witch? Are they mostly women? The Spanish Inquisition was all about burning Basque witches. Not much changes.

I think that the latest fuss from a witch in Plutonia is coming from a parent who wants everybody on planet earth to speak English. now that's a witch

Posted by Molo molo oendi, a resident of Livermore,
on Oct 12, 2015 at 3:18 pm

State Bird of Maine:

Web Link

I thought it was Bernie Sanders!

Posted by Bill, a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows,
on Oct 13, 2015 at 1:24 pm

No better activity for a restless teenager than chopping and splitting wood. A chopped cord of wood will guarantee a good nights sleep. Just read a fascinating article about the lumberjacks who plied the Sierras before industrial revolution took hold. It was figured that a man would burn 6,000 to 9,000 calories a day swinging axes and man-handling the huge saws that were used to fell giant sequoias and ponderosa pines. No fat people around those lumber camps.

Posted by Tom Cushing, a resident of another community,
on Oct 13, 2015 at 1:57 pm

Thanks Bill -- there's a satisfaction to it. Plus, I may need to go back to get the full effect. ..

Posted by Cholo, a resident of Livermore,
on Oct 13, 2015 at 3:39 pm

Depends on what you mean by fat? The body enjoys a certain amount of fat! Also, there are people that look fat to others who are in actually in good health. Genetics impacts how we appear.

I'm not "fat" and I'm also relatively healthy. Daily walking, swimming, fishing, hiking with friends...keeps me alive! What I find most stressful is the smell of car exhaust and air pollution generally...and, perfume/scents.

I don't perceive Tom as obese. We're all have something here 'n there that we don't always appreciate. I find it a good practice to never tease or talk in a negative manner about people who have on extra pounds. BAD KARMA!

Children pick up the attitudes of family/friends about their bodies. It can lead to some children learning to hate themselves.

If anybody DESERVES a fair shake, it children/teens, etc.

Posted by Cholo, a resident of Livermore,
on Oct 13, 2015 at 3:48 pm

Be Careful Kids: Web Link

Hopefully, sombbody learned a lesson!

Posted by Bill, a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows,
on Oct 14, 2015 at 9:07 am

Cholo - didn't mean anything from my comments other than our forefathers worked their butts off to tame this country. Another job related to the manual jobs that the lumberjacks did, was gandy dancing, or building railroads by hand. The calories consumed in doing these types of jobs was on the order of what an Olympic swimmer needs in hard training. It was my job as a teenager to chop and split wood for the winter. This is damn hard work. I cannot even imagine what it took to fell huge trees day after day. People were built different back then.

Posted by Rhel, a resident of Pleasanton Meadows,
on Oct 14, 2015 at 1:46 pm

Rhel is a registered user.

For those wondering, a cord of wood is 4' x 4' x 8'. It's said that woodstoves/fireplaces can keep you warm three times: stacking wood, splitting wood, and burning wood.

I always found splitting wood was a good way to work off aggressions and frustrations. When I was living in urban areas �" Peabody, Danvers, etc. �" I would occasionally drive to a friend's house in southern New Hampshire just to split some wood for three or four hours. I'd split enough to last them close to a week.

The next time that you might be traversing the Salem, MA area, therre is a play put on downtown, concerning the Witch Trials. I forget the name of it, but it concerns the first Trial. It's taken from the actual court records and transcripts, and has eight or nine students from a local college acting the parts of 15-20 people. It's very well done.

I'll leave now, with the piece of trivia that the Salem Witch Trials actually took place in what is now called Danvers. Salem Village didn't want to be associated with the Trials, and changed their name in 1757.

Posted by Cholo, a resident of Livermore,
on Oct 19, 2015 at 9:00 am

Hi Yankee....The history re: Basque witch trials may be of interest:

Web Link

Posted by Tracie, a resident of Bordeaux Estates,
on Nov 10, 2015 at 1:15 pm

This site looks pretty amazing and posts are great. I would like to read all of them. But it's not possible lol. If you have some free time, you should read this post: Web Link

Follow this blogger.
Sign up to be notified of new posts by this blogger.



Post a comment

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

Stay informed.

Get the day's top headlines from DanvilleSanRamon.com sent to your inbox in the Express newsletter.

Common Ground
By Sherry Listgarten | 3 comments | 2,138 views

Tri-Valley Nonprofit Alliance grew from chance meeting
By Tim Hunt | 1 comment | 397 views