This past week marked a full 20 years for me in retirement. This was after 45 — maybe more (who can remember?) — years as a TV and radio news reporter. Thanks to some kind people, I’ve avoided becoming Mr. Norman Desmond. Many people, spanning generations, chat me up in public, sharing their memories of stories I covered over the years.

Barn, chicken runs, and the milk & eggs shed

Most folks recall the funny stuff. Garry, the guy standing in blizzards, floods and torrential rainstorms, talking non-stop as Mother Nature raged her anger about climate change that our political leaders deny or think will wait until they are ready to deal with it.

Overflow water on the Mumford Dam

Everyone has their favorite “Mr. Storm Guy Story.” Frequently, it’s the one about Garry walking nonchalantly into the Concord River during live coverage of flooding in the Merrimack Valley. It was an unintended, spur of the moment move by yours truly and ended up with one cold, wet reporter. Luckily a local viewer had spare dry clothing that fit me. Otherwise, it would have been a very long, sodden day.

These “meet and greets” with fans often include comments like “Didn’t you used to be somebody?” and “Don’t tell me your name. It’s on the tip of my tongue” or “Garry, you used to come to me in my bedroom. ” Then there are the 50 and 60 year folks saying “I grew up watching you on television”. It’s wonderful for my ego but I often wonder if they’ve mistaken me for someone else. So many say, “I saw you last night on TV. ”

Too much river

Since there is no one on the air in Massachusetts who resembles me, it’s not mistaken identification. They don’t seem to know I’ve been off the tube for two decades. The other day, I spent an inordinate amount of time trying to convince a couple in the grocery store that I was really retired. Not recently, either. Nonetheless, they were absolutely sure they’d seen me just the night before on Channel 7. Who am I to argue?

No such uncertainty when I hang out with my rural neighbors. Yesterday’s photo shoot in farm country (quite literally just around the corner from home) cemented my status with my most steadfast fans. I was focused on my new camera, courtesy of Marilyn, so I couldn’t completely engage with the locals. No worries! The chickens saw me coming and spread the word faster than you could say ‘Ma and Pa Kettle’.

Chicken runs and coops

The clucking echoed across the farm. I barely said “hey!” and they came running to share stories about farm life in this uncertain year. They pointed out one red-eyed fella freshly off a drinking binge to deal with his troubles.

I told the chickens, “Yes, I’ve gotten my COVID vaccinations including the booster”. They clucked happily and told me who had gotten their shots in the barnyard and who still resisted. Clearly, the chickens with anti-COVID vaccine biases were being shunned.

I offered my verbal support and told them to maintain their vigilance. They all clucked with approval. Nothing gets pass those chickens. They’ve watched me long enough to know what’s legit and what’s a limp omelet. If these folks had their way, I’d be calling shots from the White House. The Chicken’s President!

Up the road a piece, another old friend paused in his daily constitutional for some brief chit chat. We shared our dislike of the coming season which means the grassy fields will be covered with something very cold and uncomfortable. I told my friend I had not been in the saddle for a long time because of health, age, and other issues. He just snorted, suggesting nothing stopped him from staying in condition. He bragged about being faster than his last race at Suffolk Downs and gave me “the look” when I asked if he had any trouble with drug tests. All of his equine buddies, I learned, had received their COVID shots without any side effects.

Feed lot

I thought I detected a sly grin as he listened to my complaints. “You’ve got to man up, show some grit. Stop whining,” my equine friend told me showing a horsy grin with a shake of his mane. I just stared, trying to cope with this slight. I’ve learned you don’t win arguments with these folks. Just accept their insight and move on.

“Hey, there!” I turned quickly as I heard another greeting. Some of my bovine friends were munching on short grass when they beckoned me to come over for their latest gossip. They were concerned about COVID’s impact on the farmer who cared for their family. They were worried about the farm’s future and their future. Where would they go if the farmer was forced to sell because of mounting financial problems? I could see the concern in their eyes.

Life had been difficult in recent years but this disruption of the economy had them fearful. How could they protect their children with all of this uncertainty about the farmer’s future. “We are told not to worry”, they told me. I could see the worry deep in their eyes.

I didn’t know what to say to appease their anxiety. I tried a few “moos” to lighten the mooed, but no one was smiling. A few grunts and some feeble chuffs were all I could get. I felt a deep sense of sadness for my friends. Who, indeed, would care for them with their owner scrambling just to keep the farm and his own family out of poverty?

A brighter mood was offered down another road with the cornfields that always suggest a bountiful harvest. I always leap into my Cary Grant/”North By Northwest” fantasy when I see the cornfields. The sun banked off the field, giving a golden aura to the moment. I was tempted to recreate that “North By Northwest” scene by skulking through the field to escape the thugs chasing Grant. My back and legs suggested otherwise. I just tried to capture the field and surrounding landscape which offered sufficient pastoral beauty without the faux movie menace.

Marilyn and I agreed we’d given ample attention to the rural beauty and it was time to move on with our day. The visit to our local heartland had brightened our spirits considerably. I hope the animals felt equally cheered. We sure did try!

Categories: #animals, #News, #Photography, Anecdote, Autumn, Blackstone Valley, farm, Garry Armstrong, Humor, Media

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20 replies

  1. Hey, Garry, I just saw you on television yesterday. No wait, it was on my computer screen. You look and sound great.

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    • That area is one horse breeding ranch after another. Mostly, they breed BIG horses — Percherons and Belgians. But some are saddle horse too as obviously this guy was. He was really beautiful, a very dark bay with a splash of white on his forehead. Friendly, too. Actually all the animals are friendly and if you talk to them, they come over hoping, I suspect, that you have an apple or a carrot tucked in your pocket.

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      • My equine pal claims his family worked in a lot of westerns. I think I saw one of his relatives while watching “Black Horse Canyon” with Joel McCrea last night. I guess I’m hanging with celebs again.


    • Patricia, thanks so much. What a boost in OUR spirits to spend some time with these folks. It gives perspective to our complaints about life.


  3. It has brightened up my spirits too. Lovely tour of your farms. I wonder what do chickens chat to Garry. Just kidding (: You have captured the fields so beautifully. Take care of your legs and back. Happy farm exploring !

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    • Animals — all kinds of animals — like him. And our dog thinks he is the sun and the mood and maybe a constellation, too.

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      • Marilyn, I have to riff a little Sally Fields when I hang with my animal pals. I’m tempted to gush, “You really like me!”. They make me feel good inside. No small feat. We must visit them again before that dreadful season arrives.

        As for our furry son, Duke. He brings out the best in a grumpy old man. Don’t tell him. He’s a grifter.


      • Looks like in the pics. Dogs loves only those with a pure ❤ actually they are angels.


    • Soul, it’s really wonderful to spend time with these folks. All they want is a little company. There’s no pretentious jabber with them. Most of them like having pics taken – no phony complaints like you hear from those social media celebs who live for publicity. It was such a wonderful lift for Marilyn and me.
      THANK YOU – my barnyard friends.

      Soul, my back and legs are actually energized by these visits.


  4. Garry–you are definitely ‘back in the saddle’ with this farm report. I love it! The ‘too much river’ photo is a beauty. The new camera seems to be working well. A reporter and a camera man–darn, you’re good!

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    • Lois, thank you so much. Once again, you’ve made my day with your glowing compliments. The camera – as you well know – does all the work. I just see the shots. I actually get excited when I see the shots.
      It must be the John Ford wannabe in me.
      I don’t recall if I mentioned this – our little trip (just around the corner from home and down the road a piece) was almost like time travel to a kinder, more gentle world.

      FYI: The “too much river” pic came from Marilyn, the photo artiste.

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  5. Lovely post, especially liked that bovine face through the fence…. am on a short hol in the Swiss mountains and the daily spectacle with the cows and their sad, bored faces, great horns and wonderfully decorated large bells only adds to the joy of ‘country life’. The spreading of slurry less so….

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    • We have really friendly farm animals around here. I’m sure it’s not true everywhere, but at least in this little piece of the valley, they act more like pets than “products.” You can pet the cows, too — assuming they are willing to get up from lying down in the pasture to walk over. They only do that is you call them and they think maybe there’s a treat for them. This farmer used to let the chickens roam, but we have foxes and coyotes now, so they have big runs high enough so nothing can jump over them.

      I do worry about them. The life of a fam creature is fragile and they can go from pets to dinner very quickly if times get hard. I hope our friends are able to stay alive despite the crazy economy.

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      • Marilyn, I echo your concern about our farm friends. We didn’t encounter any “attitude” from them – just friendship. So rare.


    • Kiki, you know exactly how we feel. I hope you are taking pics of YOUR holiday with “Those dear hearts and gentle people” who only want to share a little time with you. Enjoy your time with the real people.

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