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The Pike Log: Random Entries About Making His Story Mine

The Unbuilding of Upper Waterford

Harley Pike's 1930 sugaring off party: maple syrup, hard-boiled eggs, pickles, and lots of friends, plus one last remaining brother, Nathan. Today his sugar shack is gone, but the gathering place remains as a picnic area with vistas of the Connecticut River and New Hampshire's White Mountains.
It’s early March and the water level is low behind Samuel C. Moore Dam, the 178-foot-high earthen barrier in the Northeast Kingdom that holds back the Connecticut River. So low, in fact, that hikers walking across the muddy shoreline are puzzled by stone fences and smooth tree stumps  Read More 
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A Posthumous Profile

Harley Ellsworth Pike, circa 1920: logger, farmer, fireman, teamster and surrogate father.
By Robert E. Pike
Vermont's Northland Journal
July 2013

It was bittersweet to find this unpublished profile of my great uncle, the man Dad generously credited with stepping in to raise him when Dad's own father, and Uncle Harl's widowed brother, left his three children to be raised by the family on the old Pike homestead in Upper Waterford.

I had only known my great uncle as an ancient man with legs bowed at the knees from arthritis, from the epitaph Dad had carved into his tombstone in Glenwood Cemetery in Littleton, NH, from the stories of the Herbert kids who had the advantage of an extra grandpa as their next-door-neighbor, and as the man to whom Spiked Boots: Sketches of the North Country is dedicated.

When Vermont's Northland Journal put out a call for farm stories, I took Dad's 7,000 words and pared them down:

Just as the Boston & Maine Railroad was about to promote Harley Pike to engineer and give him his own engine (the dream of every fireman), he was called back home to the family farm in Waterford. His old parents told their only unmarried son that if  Read More 
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I am Thoreau (and so can you!)

Trading Places: tall trees for concrete canyons
Two years. Two months. Two days.

I might not make.

That’s the record Thoreau set with his little experiment of living by himself in a cabin by the pond outside of Concord, Massachusetts. A little more than 780 days. Me, I’m 420 days living in rural America, and I’m not sure I’m  Read More 
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Can Fleece Make You Go Rogue?

Wrapped and warm.
The Scandinavian survival guide laughed when he saw me decked out in clothing mail-ordered from a so-called Arctic outfitter. Then he led me to a corner of the rustic lodge and rolled back a barn door.  Read More 
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Expats Unite!

My longest-running friend from high school and fellow Vermonter: Lindsay Cobb.
Like a first high school crush, some of us never get over the stories of Ernest Hemingway and his Parisian-based copains. While neither Vermont nor New Hampshire have cosmopolitan cities to rival Paris, they do have expatriates, none more obvious to me than the one-time New Jersey residents who voluntarily left home for the romance of  Read More 
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I've Been Poached, and I Like It!

It’s been a long time since I’ve been wooed.

Though, to be honest, the ever-present beckoning of chocolate anything can make my glands go Pavlov in a nanosecond. On a magazine assignment Saturday I drove north more than 60 miles in lightly falling snow. The itinerary’s bonus was the  Read More 
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Just Ask Shorty

Old Cuss and Lil Cuss circa 1959.
It was late August by the time my Vermont plates arrived, three months after I moved across the river and only eight months since I came here from the Jersey Shore. My aging SUV was undergoing its final inspection. Looking her over was mechanic Frank Bullock, a man who has lived in Waterford his  Read More 
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How to Survive Spider Poop, and Other North Woods Tips

Tall dog or bear cub: What do you think?
If you, like me, never heard of fly tape, don't feel bad. Means you live in a well-sealed suburban-looking home with a concrete cellar floor, factory-direct vinyl windows with fitted screens, and floors at 90 degrees to their walls.

Good for you!

When I moved from the Jersey Shore suburbs to 50 miles south of the Canadian  Read More 
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Aren't We All Unfinished?

We compartmentalize our lives to organize the chaos: Is that good? How you apply the pronoun is a step to figuring out your own M.O. Interested in the discoveries captured in this photo? Follow the Pike Log to the end for the extended caption. Thanks!
You’ve probably read at least one story about somebody who turned 50 and decided to change her or his life’s trajectory: lose weight, get a divorce (or married), change jobs (or where you live), take up sky-diving (or sing in a rock-and-roll band). For me it stacked up like this: one third of  Read More 
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I See the (New) Starting Line

From a squiggly black line on an 1875 map to the real deal: Instead of prettily meandering through a colonial village on its way to 15 Mile Falls, Trout Brook now empties into the river much higher up the hill thanks to the dam built in 1954. Behind me New Hampshire's Presidential Range defines the skyline.
It was so early that March morning fog sat on Moore Lake like a giant cotton puff, hiding not only the snow-capped Presidentials but also the ice blue of the dammed up Connecticut. Unlike the '90s when it took equipment to break into Asbury Park's Casino Arena and Palace Amusements to find forgotten stories, here all I had to do was waited patiently. This ritual, my life-long ritual,  Read More 
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