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Edie at home in her kitchen.

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The View from Mary's Farm

The View from Mary's Farm for May

May 10, 2012

Loving Harriet

My three-year-old border terrier, Harriet, has been a big discipline problem since day one. Black with a white star on her chest and brindle legs and face, she is curious, rugged, and wicked cute. Good thing. She once chewed and pulled on the emergency brake handle in my car so vigorously that the town fire chief had to come to my rescue to disengage the brake. It has never worked since, just an example of the many naughty things she has done. Perhaps worst, she has an affection for Diet Coke cans, which she consumes, completely, except for the pull tab the proverbial oink. She survives it all, with aplomb.

Over the summer, she was sprayed directly in the face by a skunk. When I went out to rescue her, I found her in the road, grinding her face into the pavement. I could hear the pebbles scrunching under her agonized face. I tied her to the run. As soon as the day began, I took her down to the groomer (windows rolled all the way down on a cold morning) to have her shampooed and shaved. Nothing else would do. When I brought her home, she looked pitifully naked and still smelled but at least being near her no longer made my eyes water.

A few weeks later, I was awakened in the middle of the night by a strange sound, like a shrill bird or an animal in distress. At first light, I heard the cry again and went to the window: through the dusky light, I could see a very large porcupine walking down the side of my big apple tree. She was making that very sound. I was immediately gripped by panic. A faceful of skunk juice is one thing but what would happen if Harriet got into a big old porcupine? Those quills can go into their mouths and down their throats and the ingenious fish-hook barbs at the end of the quills make it very hard to remove them. As soon as it was a decent hour, I called Brian, who often comes to my rescue. I was hoping he would come and whisk the porky away. But he was very busy. Instead, he offered to loan me his Hav-a-hart trap. Better than nothing. The trap is designed to catch the animal in the cage so that it can be harmlessly transported somewhere else. They come in all sizes. Sometime later, I found on my porch a huge Hav-a-hart, surely big enough to house a child. I had asked Brian on the phone what kind of bait I should use. He suggested a carrot. So I peeled a lovely fresh carrot to bring the sweet scent out. I took the trap down and set it under the apple tree. With some effort, I set the trap. I stepped back. It seemed poised for success, with its open trap door and the bright orange carrot sitting temptingly on the plate that would trip the door closed as soon as the victim stepped inside.

Harriet had been nosing around the garden while I was performing this unwelcome task. "This is all because of you!" I said to her as she poked around in the weeds.

As I walked away, toward the barn I heard the trap clatter shut. I turned and saw in the trap not the porcupine but Harriet! She looked out at me pleadingly from behind the bars. I rushed to vindicate her. So far as I know, the porcupine continues to range free and the skunk has taken up residence in the barn.

Selected Works

Articles
In 1992, the Bishop of Worcester condemned St. Joseph's Catholic Church and ordered it closed. The parishioners refused to leave, sleeping on cots and on the hard pews. For thirteen months this was their life. In July of 1993, they were removed by the police. In many ways this was the blossoming of their faith. Originally published in Yankee Magazine in November 1993.
Growing up, nothing I could do seemed to please my mother and nothing she said made sense to me. But when my mother, on the threshold of death, came to live with me, I found what seemed to have been lost forever. Originally published in Yankee Magazine, May 1995
(The follow-up article to Miracle at St. Joseph's.) The Bishop turned to them and said, "Your prayers have been answered, the hard hearts have softened." Originally published in Yankee Magazine, December 1996
A reflection on the power of cooking and friendship and the concept of family. Originally published in Yankee Magazine, November/December 2007
Memorial Day, Harrisville, New Hampshire 1995. Originally published in Yankee Magazine, May 1996
My Articles
Libraries occupy a special place in the heart of a town. Evening events at the library give a strong sense of community and make it seem like a great place to live. And in the wake of the online revolution small town libraries have found a way to not only survive but to be indispensable.
In December 2008 an epic ice storm left virtually the entire state of New Hampshire without power. The residual effects of that storm paralyzed the Monadnock Region almost through Christmas. A first person account.
In 1994, sixteen-year-old Billy Best was diagnosed with Hodgkin's Disease. After several treatments, he ran away to avoid chemotherapy. What happened after that may have been a miracle.
Roxanne Quimby once lived primitively in the Maine woods. Today she owns 90,000 acres of those woods, and her goal is to create a national park to preserve the landscape forever. So why do so many people wish she'd just go away?
Multi-million dollar border stations are rising along our line between US and Canada. What was once the "friendliest border" has become deadly serious.
Renowned short story writer, Andre Dubus, reflects on the accident that cost him his legs.
A trip to Poland discovers a beloved family friend
An elegy for the master of the short story.
Fall comes to The County
Thousands seek healing from this innocent, comatose child.
A complete listing of articles published since 1978
Fiction
An encounter with a sick fox brings a young woman to the heart of her grief