This Sunday Karen and I return to my hometown in Beacon, N.Y. for the wedding of Anna Ruhe-daughter of old friends Chris and Janet. The town has been going through a gentrification since 9/11 when New York City lost some of its allure. I have not wanted to see the side-by-side houses that I grew up in with my brother, mother and grandmother but this time I am a little curious-enough anyway to drive by and shout "Run, get out of this town before your brain rots!" if I see couple of boys playing in the backyard. I don't think that is breaking any laws.
Beacon has a mythical past based on some facts, but even the facts are of the kind that cause a minute of reflection and then "Na, I don't think so." The town exists on a narrow strip of land between the towering Mt. Beacon and the Hudson River. The story is that during the revolutionary war the good guys were concerned that the British would send their ships up river from New York City and reek havoc on upstate New York cities. The plan was to have some soldiers stationed on the top of Mt. Beacon and if those nasty British were tried to send their ships to attack upriver a bon fire or beacon (get it) would warn other soldiers stationed on either side of the river ten miles south of Beacon to pull a massive submerged chain tight so that it was resting on top of the river thus preventing ships from passing. At this point you, the reader, is expected to reflect one minute and then say "Na, I don't think so.", but this is really a true story. There is an historical marker testifying to this bit of history. Anyway, the point is that who knows what else is on top of Mt. Beacon? All kinds of dangerous foolishness could be going on and the good citizens living down below would be oblivious which leads to this story about the Melzingah Buffalo Preserve. One bored day in the life of a bored teenager with a tenuous hold on reality reads the local paper and sees a picture of a couple of dozen buffalo grazing at the base of a mountain. I imagined a Buffalo preserve on top of Mt. Beacon. The name would be the Melzingah Buffalo Preserve-logical and believable in that there was already a Melzingah Reservoir named after a local tribe of Native Americans. Well, Ron what are the buffalo doing down at the bottom of the mountain? Simple-better grass, more tender-not covered in Bald Eagle crap like the grass on the top of the Mountain. How did they get down this very steep Mountain?-That's a tough one. How about the kindly caretaker of the Preserve, Mr. Greely, brought them down one by one in the morning in his wheelbarrow and then brought them back up at the end of the day? So why a newspaper story? Has to make sense-not too far out. The wheel on his wheel barrow was broken and he had developed a large hernia and the penurious hard hearted town leaders would not buy him a new wheel. They would only give him three bucks for a role of duct tape to repair the wheel and his hernia. How is such a wrong righted?-A petition! I carefully wrote out a petition urging the civic rulers to spring for a new wheel and an operation for Mr. Greely and I placed it above the cut out of the grazing buffalo. Then I taped it to Dr, Mary's waiting room wall. Each day after school I would go back and notice with amazement the growing list of signers-some even added a few choice epithets for our skinflint mayor.
So one of the things I want to do when I go back to Beacon forty-five years later is to check my mother's waiting room wall to see how the cause is progressing. I can see myself knocking on my old front door and a young boy answers. He says "Are you here to sign the petition?" and I would say "Why, yes I am" . There would be reams of petition paper piled in a box. The family would ignore me in favor of the local news on tv. They are all eating Swanson's fried chicken dinners. I sign and say goodnight. In the car as it pulls away I add " And a goodnight to you Mom, Richie and Grandma.