BY TRAIN THROUGH THE VALLEY — PHOTOS BY OWEN KRAUS

Once upon a time, trains were the way to go. Last week, my son — a longtime railroad enthusiast — was offered a rare opportunity, to travel through the Blackstone Valley by train. There are no longer any passenger trains here and even the freight trains come through perhaps once a week.

You can hear the long whistle as they approach the town. The train station is no longer a stop of the rail line. It has been saved from destruction, originally turned into a bank and now a real estate office and it is beautiful, but the train doesn’t stop there or anywhere in this part of the Valley.


Read the rest of the story: By Train Through the Valley… Photos by Owen Kraus

SUNSET TIMES TWO

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We don’t usually see sunsets in the summer here. The trees typically hide the sky. But this year, having had our oak trees thoroughly defoliated by the gypsy moth caterpillars, we have an almost wintry view of the western horizon.

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I looked out the window and I said “Oh, look … what a pretty sky!” So I grabbed my Olympus and ran out front, ignoring the dive bombing moths. Then, I went back inside, popped the chip into the computer and started to process. Ten minutes later, I looked up and said, “Oh, MY!”

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Garry looked over and said, “You’d better move!” and luckily, I had the Panasonic loaded for bear and I hot-footed it to the front for the second act of the show.

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You can sort of see that there are the beginning of new leaves on the oak trees. Some of the maples still have leaves … others don’t. I’m not sure why they ate one tree and not another. That’s probably too existential a question to ask when dealing with caterpillars.

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NO COMING BACK

“What do you mean, you’re fracking here! In the valley? Why?” I asked.

I was horrified. Ever since “fracking” became the latest, greatest trend in assaulting the earth, I have been sure it was going to do serious harm. How can anyone believe drilling through earth’s bedrock is okay? Could be safe or sane?

What about hidden, previously dormant fault lines? Or not so dormant fault lines. The aquifer and who knows what else? And about those nukes?

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The utility companies are telling the government they can’t supply enough power if they aren’t allowed to drill and drill deep into the earth. Drill down to and through the supporting stone, the spine of the planet. And … oh, by the way, they also said: “We’ll pass the costs on to consumers.”

Naturally. You are going to destroy my world and make me pay for it.

The valley already has the highest number per capita of nuclear generating plants of any region in the country. You don’t see the nukes because they hide behind trees and fences. Big fences with barbed wire on top. Not the kind of fencing you expect to see in a park. So when you do see it, you know. There’s a nuke back there. One of many. When the mills moved south, the nukes moved in. Can’t leave that river idle, can you?

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Now, they’re going to do a little “harmless fracking.” Right next door to all those nuclear plants. What could possibly go wrong?

This would be the first time, but it wouldn’t be the last. Well, on second thought, maybe it will be the last. Some mistakes are final. Irrevocable.

From some disasters, there’s no coming back. 

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GREEN LEAVES BY THE POND

While here, at home, the trees are bare, a couple of miles away the world is normal. It’s odd the way the gypsy moth invasion has affected the area.

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We are the worst hit. South Uxbridge, Douglas, North Smithfield — we all have bare oaks and maples. The gardens look ragged and nothing is blooming. Not a day lily to be seen, nor a rose on any bush.

In trying to find a positive side to this experience, the best anyone has come up with was my son who pointed out we won’t have a lot of leaves to rake up this fall.

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Definitely will be an easy cleanup of autumn leaves but it isn’t likely to be an epic autumn, either. At least not at home. But down the road a couple of miles …

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The trees are full and green around the pond. The swans are nesting peacefully.

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It was good to find the world had not ended everywhere … just at our house!

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Some of the pictures are Garry’s, the others are mine. Both of us wished we had brought either another camera or a long lens. The swans were there, but too far off to capture with the equipment we’d brought. Still, for all that, it was good to see green and growing trees.

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Tiny buds are appearing on our trees. If the caterpillars don’t get them, we’ll have leaves again. I hope.

A BEAUTIFUL TOWN

 

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This is a small town with a long history, for an American town. First settled in 1662, incorporated in 1727, we are the middle of the Blackstone Valley. Birthplace of the American Industrial Revolution. We led the nation with some of the first mills and factories.

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Ours was a bustling town, industrious and forward-thinking. We had some of the finest schools, research facilities, and  hospitals. Our library was among the first free libraries in the nation. We were leaders. We had the first hospital for the mentally ill where they were cared for — as opposed to locking them in cages.

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In the early 1900s, the mills and factories moved south, following the cotton. When they moved away, they left crumbling buildings, a polluted river and a persistent unemployment problem. But it wasn’t all bad.

Crown and Eagle mill

It gave the valley’s natural beauty a chance to recover. By 1973, the Blackstone River was one of the most polluted rivers in the U.S. Today, it’s close to clean. Not completely, but substantially. There’s work still to be done, but it has come a long way. If you give nature a chance, she will come back. Sometimes, she needs a helping hand.

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Farmland become forests. Parks were created and historical sites preserved. In 1986, the valley was designated as The John H. Chafee Blackstone River Valley National Heritage Corridor (a National Heritage Corridor — the newest U.S. National Park). It’s dedicated to the history of the early American Industrial Revolution. The corridor stretches across 400,000 acres and includes 24 cities and towns. It follows the course of the river through Worcester County, Massachusetts down to its end in Providence County, Rhode Island. Uxbridge is the middle.

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As a 21st century town, we don’t have a lot going for us. Little in the way of industry or business. No shopping centers. No night life or entertainment — not even a movie theater or coffee-house (but there are golf courses). No public transportation. Decent schools, but nothing exceptional. Not much in the way of services and if you live where we do, almost none.

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We’re too far from Boston to be a true commuter town and too built up for a resort, though we were, once. I remember driving up here from New York when I was a young woman because the leaves are especially beautiful in the autumn and you could buy a phenomenal pumpkin.

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UU Church 47

What we have is some history, a bit of classic architecture, and nature. Glorious, rich, and bountiful nature. The area teems with life from turtles and trout, to beaver and deer. You are always near a river in Uxbridge, even if you can’t see it. It meanders through the valley, streams through parks, and under old stone bridges.

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The river widens into ponds where herons, swans, geese, and ducks build nests. The trout are back. We even have a couple of designated swimming places and they are never crowded. October in the valley, in Uxbridge, can break your heart with its beauty.

West Dam

So why don’t we protect it? Why do we act like it has no value? Why does the town act as if nature is the least valuable of our assets, useful for exploitation and always ready to sell it for industrial use?

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It is our only asset. If we don’t protect it, this will be an ugly little town in the middle of nowhere. There will be no reason for anyone to want to be here.

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It does not have to be that way. There’s an attitude of  “oh well, it’s just trees.” This Gypsy Moth infestation has been devastating in this south part of the town. Other parts seem barely affected, but it’s patchy. When you drive up and down Route 122, you will go through sections of trees still in full leaf, then acres of bare oaks.

They can — and do — come back for another year of mass tree defoliation. Given the danger, taking measures to protect from a second year of infestation is cheap compared to the cost of losing the only thing we have going for us.

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Trees recover from defoliation once.

Twice in a row? You lose a lot of trees.

Thrice? You will have forests full of dead trees.

How many years would it take to recover from that? Would we recover?

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It’s time to treasure the beauty of this town and protect it. The “it’s no big deal” attitude is, not to put too fine a point on it, wrong. Short-sighted in the extreme. It is a very big deal. Our only big deal.

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NEWS FLASH! GREAT SPRAY IN THE MORNING!

He came. He sprayed. And now … we wait for millions of invading aliens to die.

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The guy from Turf Technologies says that we get the prize for the worst infestation of property he has ever seen. Anywhere. Is this an honor? Do we get a statuette?

Remember space invaders anyone? The aliens just kept coming. You kept shooting, but there were always more, and more, and more. It’s like that.

He sprayed everything — the shed, the house, the deck, the cars, the foundation. It should take an hour or so for them to start dying by the millions and then, I need my son — who is big and strong enough to manage the leaf blower — to clear the rubble away. After work.

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This isn’t going to end the siege — though every little bit helps — because they are in the trees, the shrubs, cars, deck, railings, and ground. I hope this will enable us to come and go without being covered with them. Even that little would help.

During my 5 minute conversation with Chris — me in the front door and he by his truck halfway up the driveway — I had to keep a broom in my hand as the army of the hairy and hungry tried to invade the house, falling on me, and into the doorway. It’s mind-boggling.

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I took some pictures through the screen door on the porch. Even with the reduced sharpness caused by the screen, if you look, you can see them on the branches and beams.

I get the feeling that Mother Nature is pissed off. I can understand it … but why us? We’ve been good.

Cross your fingers! Lets hope this works! ‘Cause if it doesn’t, I don’t know what more we can do.

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DAM NUMBER 190 ON THE MUMFORD RIVER

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Every dam in the Blackstone Valley, whether on the Blackstone River or one of its tributaries (in this case, the Mumford River) has a number. It’s etched in stone somewhere in the stones. You need a long lens to find them and sometimes, they have become obscured by plants or flowing water.

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The numbers are mapped designations which water regulators use to control water flow during drought and flood. The mechanical infrastructure for the many dams was built mostly during the late eighteen hundreds.

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It consists of levers and gears which open and close spillways, allowing engineers to control the water based on rainfall, current water levels, and predicted weather (and river) conditions.

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This is Dam 190, in downtown Uxbridge on the Mumford River.

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I participate in WordPress' Weekly Photo Challenge 2016

I participate in WordPress’ Weekly Photo Challenge 2016