John Harrigan -- A stolen safe, a science balloon: In the woods, you never know
Andy Polak, the longtime chief of the Hudson Police Department and a friend during my formative years at the Nashua Telegraph, liked to say that hunting season was a great time for solving mysteries. It's like having several hundred deputies in your neck of the woods - hunters fanning out across the countryside, making discoveries that nobody could ever afford paying deputies to make.
Hunters, by and large, are law-abiding and honest, and if they stumble onto something fishy or out of place or downright gruesome, they'll report it. Many missing people who simply wandered away, particularly the elderly, are found this way. However sad, at least it brings some semblance of closure for loved ones.
Sometimes discoveries take on a comic note. When Mike Sielicki was the chief in Colebrook, a hunter found a safe (uncracked) in the middle of nowhere. Those who had purloined it were, of course, long gone, having tried their might in the middle of nowhere to get at its contents, and vamoosed.
Sielicki had to contend with mountains of paper work and gumshoes from all over, and I've always thought that he wished the safe had been found elsewhere - say, just over the town line.
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A letter in last week's Sunday News sought help in locating a Plattsburgh, N.Y., school science experiment. This was a weather balloon launched Oct. 6, which ascended to 90,000 feet and promptly blew off to parts unknown - Maine, maybe, or the Isles of Shoals, or England.
But the students tracked it to Stoddard (in southwestern New Hampshire) just east of the northern tip of Robb Reservoir, and they really, really want it back, to the tune of a $100 reward. The solid foam container is attached to a bright red parachute, and the number to call is 310-795-0813, and I want my half of the $100.
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I could scarcely believe my ears when, driving along I-91, I heard Vermont Public Radio shilling for an upcoming program on the Green Mountain state's "gun culture," and specifically hunting tradition, and whether it was all relevant any more. "Good grief," I said, or something like that, and made sure to be in a position to listen.
It was predictable stuff - people from away or from Asphalt America being unprepared for rifles and shotguns on pickup truck racks, or gunfire echoing in the hills. Even so, the report was well-balanced, stressing that this was tradition and an intrinsic part of Vermont's makeup.
But I particularly relished the part where the host and guests got into gun "regulations" and, even more fun, "permits." Suffice to say, much eyelid fluttering and hand-wringing here.
New Hampshire has few regulations concerning firearms, and contrary to media mangling does not require a "permit" to own a gun, whether a long gun or a handgun.
And in New Hampshire, you can have an unloaded handgun concealed, or you can carry a loaded gun in plain sight, but you need a so-called permit to carry a loaded, concealed gun. This means that I can walk across Main Street with, say, my old Helice side-by-side 20-gauge shotgun to Ducret's Store to get some work done on it, and nobody's going to call in the SWAT team.
But guess which state stands out for having the least number of gun laws and regulations in the entire union, meaning "none"? Yup, Vermont. Which, coincidentally, has one of the lowest gun-violence rates in the country - right down there with New Hampshire.
And oh, by the way, in Vermont you can shoot fish, in season, of course, and this in the bucolic land of Ben and Jerry's, Saabs, rimless glasses, Birkenstocks and yurts.
John Harrigan's address: Box 39, Colebrook, NH 03576 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org