By Judy Reiss
Since I was a little girl and even a young woman, things have changed! And I try to imagine how the world has changed for every generation. Although I don’t really know what all those changes were, I am sure they influenced just about everybody at the various times. And although there are an amazing number of changes in our lifetimes, for me, the little ones are the most impressive! So, with that in mind, let’s talk about the Mad River.
Malcolm and I were married in November of 1965 and our first child was born in 1966. And from the first day, we tried and introduced him to all the wonders of the Valley, especially the Mad River. And as soon as he could walk we used to join other mothers and their children at a small beach that was carved out of the bank right at the end of the Couple’s Club recreation field. Tobi learned to swim there and so did each one of my children as soon as they were able to do so. We all had a great time there and any and all rules were put in place by those who were there at the time. As far as I can remember, the little kids and their mothers were right there and the “big” kids who were actually unchaperoned, went a short way around the corner. It was a safe and pleasant place to enjoy the warm summer months
Back in those “good old days” the river was fun for all. When Tobi got a little older, I used to take him down to the “pines” where he loved to fish. I know that he wasn’t a particularly skilled fisherman but he loved to go and most of the time he caught a few fish. But fish or no fish, he had a wonderful time.
Back then, I never really thought much about the river. It flowed all times of the year. In the spring when the snow melted, of course, the river became very fast and hard to maneuver. But in a short while, it went back to its normal flow. But the other thing that the river did was provide gravel for whoever needed it. I know that when we needed gravel for our driveway, all we had to do was call Freddie Viens and he would go down to the river and fill his dump truck and bring it up to us. It was very inexpensive and everyone involved was pleased with the result. The river continued to flow, the fish did whatever it is that fish do in a flowing river, and Freddie or whoever else worked to help their neighbors did so and made a few dollars, too!
Now, let’s skip ahead about 50 years. The river is still there but you would never think it was the same river it was years ago. Of course, a lot of the river’s problem is that last winter we had an amazing amount of snow. So instead of tons of snow melt last spring, we only had a little tiny bit. And obviously that made a big difference in the amount of water flow. However, as far as my eyes can see, what is the worst problem is that someone and I have no idea who, has decided that no longer are the towns able to take gravel from the river bed. Now instead of a fast moving or in times of drought a lesser amount of water flows through, we have almost just a dribble of water. In fact, I think if you would want to do so, you could probably walk from Warren through Moretown right down the middle of what used to be a wonderful river. I kid you not, this past summer because we came back from the Cape early, I saw people right in the middle of the Mad River on islands of gravel sitting under their umbrellas and lying on their beach towels. And worse, they weren’t swimming or even wading, because the gravel has not been taken out this year, it has turned the river into a places for sunbathing rather than swimming, kayaking, fishing, or boating!
Of course, I have an answer to some of the river problems. First and foremost, the control of the river should be given back to the towns where people who have lived in the town for longer than a month or two should be put in charge! I know that there are old timers who live near the river who would be more than willing to see that it is kept running throughout the year. And the fish? Well, now with the professional people who are in charge you can no longer catch anything. I have no idea where the fish have gone, but I do know that they are no longer in the Mad River. I know from past experience on Cape Cod that fish know how to care for themselves and will find new habitat if that is what they need. If the river can be encouraged to run again and the gravel removed from all the new and awful looking clumps of beaches, the fish will find their own homes without the help of some do-gooder from Connecticut or New Jersey.
What I don’t understand these days is who has made the decision that says the old-timers are just that, old and they don’t know anything that is pertinent in today’s world. Let me ask you a question, do you think that the world is doing so well that the decision about old people is working and working well? Do you believe in the idea that young people should enter the workforce by learning and then graduating through the business? Instead of what they do today which is allow them to either buy their way into the top job or because they have some degree that the guy or gal who has the job today doesn’t have, that they should be given the job and giving the oldster early retirement or just plain fired! Every time you drive past the Mad River and see those new sunbathing opportunities in the middle of the river, think about who might know what to do to bring the river back to its glory days. And worse, the rivers are just the tip of the iceberg! And by the time the youngsters learn that they need the advice and problem solving of the older generation, I’m afraid it is going to be too late. Oh well, you can always buy even stronger sun screen and get a new, comfy beach chair!