Following Atticus: Forty-Eight High Peaks, One Little Dog, and an Extraordinary Friendship by Tom Ryan is published by William Morrow. It tells the story of my adventures with Atticus M. Finch, a little dog of some distinction. You can also find our column in the NorthCountry News.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Dog Held Hostage

In case you couldn't tell by the lack of posts on here lately, the picture of Atticus above should let you know I'm still writing "Following Atticus". The deadline to turn my manuscript over to the publisher is June 1st. I'll be nipping and tucking right up until that point.

I didn't expect it to take this long, but some horrible unforeseen circumstances exploded this past winter and things came to a grinding halt. I lost my writing voice and stumbled around in the dark trying to find it for quite a while. Eventually I started writing again, but the words came from my head and not my heart. That never works for me. They have to come out of my heart, and then be edited by the head.

Not to fear, though. Slowly but surely I found what I was looking for and it feels wonderful to be tapping away on the keys again. When it feels right, like it does now, it almost feels like I'm composing music. I get into it. I'll be writing and I'll laugh out loud at something I've written or feel tears running down my cheeks if it's a sad piece.

I've already promised Atticus he won't be held hostage starting this Tuesday, once our story is turned over to Cassie Jones at William Morrow. While she goes through it with a fine-tooth comb, we'll have three weeks or so where we won't be doing anything but walking, reading and sleeping. It's going to be great to get out on the trails again.

I expect June to be the most active month we've had in quite some time. That's good news for you if you come to our blog looking for photos because there will be plenty of them.

For now, allow me
to direct you to a superb column by David Shribman concerning the Mount Clay debate. In case you don't know about it, there's been an ill-advised movement afoot to change the name of Mount Clay in the Presidential Range to Mount Reagan. Shribman, a Pulitizer Prize-winning journalist, is the editor of the Pittsburgh Post Gazette and he summers up here in Kearsage. (*Note that we could have linked to many different papers, but we chose our friend Dave Olson's, aka. The Fat Man of the Mountains.)

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Who Knew Writing Was A Spectator Sport?

As I sit here writing I'm thinking about charging admission. What's with these guys? The first one has been sitting just two feet away from me watching me through the window for the last two minutes as my fingers fly over the keys. And Atticus is sitting about three feet to the left of me. By their rapt attention you'd think I was the most exciting guy in the world, and not one of the most boring.

Last Night's Impromptu Adventure

It’s Wednesday night and the rain has stopped. The clouds have parted, but enough are left behind to be lit up by the waxing crescent moon. Where they end and the night sky begins, stars glisten. It’s a night made for magic, or maybe of magic. There’s something special in the air. I half expect to see a witch sweeping across the sky on her broomstick; or hear Pan playing his flute in the bushes beyond the lawn in our backyard.

Atticus has brought me outside and he doesn’t want to go back in. It’s crisp, cool and oh-so-clean out; but there’s also a hint of the coming warmth in the air, too. Atti is feeling mischievous and wants to play. He definitely doesn’t want to go back inside.
“We’ve been inside for days,” his look says. And he’s right, we have been. The manuscript for “Following Atticus” is due at the publishers on June 1st and there’s still much to do. He’s been patient day after day as he sits on the overstuffed pillow next to my laptop on the table I have set up in the kitchen looking out of the window. I write and he watches the birds and chipmunks come and go. Or else he sleeps.

I’m a sucker when it comes to making him happy. And why not? Whenever I do that I end up happier myself. So the next thing I know we’re in the car speeding up through Crawford Notch. Atticus is not alone in his desire; we both want to be out on such a night. It doesn’t matter that it’s past 10:00. I’ve been writing chapter after chapter about our hiking adventures and now, like Atticus, I want to live one!

We pass through the notch and the entire time he’s sitting at attention, knowing we are going someplace good. But it won’t be too good because we haven’t been hiking enough as of late for a long hike. Too many hours sitting at the desk; too many carbohydrates.

We take a left onto Zealand Road and drive a little ways up and I pull over. Peepers are out in full; it’s a symphony! I could just stand there and admire their song and that would be pretty special. But Atticus pulls me away from the car and into the woods, and the night is even more magical than it was in our backyard in Jackson.

There was a time when we wouldn’t hike at night; I was too frightened. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not afraid of the dark; don’t sleep with a nightlight on; but there’s a difference between walking down a red-bricked sidewalk in Newburyport at night and walking through the woods where there are no street lights nor the soft glow coming from people’s homes.

Standing in a little clearing the night is laughing with delight. It’s coaxed me out. “To hell with your responsibilities,” it says. Atticus is dancing around me. It’s a conspiracy, I think. But I don’t mind. It’s like being tricked into attending your own surprise party. I find myself stepping with the same lightness of foot Atti is, moving quickly through the woods with my headlamp on. I’m filled with a childlike enthusiasm. The trail is wet; the brush on either side slaps wetness onto my shins.

Maureen Carroll, Atti’s vet at Angell Animal Medical Center, once said, “He speaks English with his actions.” Tonight he’s laughing. Laughing along with the night, a giggly little wood sprite dancing down the trail. He echoes the sentiments of the night and stars and moon. Together they quote with rehearsed sincerity something the novelist Tom Robbins wrote: “Humanity has advanced, when it has advanced, not because it has been sober, responsible, and cautious, but because it has been playful, rebellious, and immature.” In other words, come out and play! Then the giggling commences again. It’s not that I can hear Atti giggling, but I can see it in the way he’s happily prancing and looking back at me from time to time.

When we get to the fork in the path it’s the first time he shows any seriousness whatsoever. He looks at me and his eyes say, “Which way?”

“You choose,” I tell him.

He looks at me again.

“Go ahead,” I say. He looks at me then with a jump he kicks off to the left. North Sugarloaf it is!

I follow; my headlamp brings the greenery to life. It springs out of the darkness, casting shadows here and there. I may be brave enough to hike at night but I’m not so brave that I don’t have two back up headlamps in my backpack…just in case. And the little boy in me still peers out of the corners of my eyes as we walk through the woods half expecting…who knows what. But that’s half the fun of a night hike, challenging an old fear.

There is only thing wrong with the night. I reek of bug spray. It’s the worst part of spring, and yet I can’t help myself. None of us can. After a long, dark winter we want to be out. Black flies and mosquitoes be damned. So I can tolerate the fact that for the next couple of months my cologne is Eau de Deet and Eau de Skintastic. The first for my body, the second for my face. It definitely stands out in comparison to the clean night. No wonder bugs aren’t coming near me;
the way I smell I don’t want to come near me!

But the stink of the two sprays is definitely worth the price of admission as we clamber upwards and eventually come out of the trees on top of the wide expanse of rock. The view is absolutely glorious! It’s all moon and stars and night and ethereal clouds and this curious little dog I go through life with. I sit on a rock and sip some water and catch my breath. Atticus comes over for a treat and pushes his nose against my bare leg. I pick him up and he sits in on my lap. We settle in together and get ready to take in the show. The night takes center stage and we watch it all. I turn on my iPod and listen to Claude Debussy’s “Clair de Lune”. Translation: moonlight. Such perfect choreography!

I play it again and again and again and Atticus and I take in the magic of the night. Oh, what a little moonlight will do!

Life is grand when you play.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Slide Show: A Simple Walk

We are blessed. Blessed to live in Jackson. Even on an insanely busy writing day such as this one all we have to do is get out of bed, step outside the door, and take our usual morning stroll. It's a simple walk, but one where the simple pleasures of life come alive. You're welcome to come along with us before I have to get back to writing. Deadline for my manuscript is now only two weeks away!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Hot Lunch on Black Cap

Do you remember that term from your school days or am I giving away my age? Because there were nine children in my family we never paid for the hot lunch at school. We brought a bagged lunch. Today, Atticus and I took a hot lunch (break).

Atticus decided I'd been sitting at the computer far too long lately so he sat just two feet away and stared at me. You try writing that way! Okay, so I get the message, Little Bug.

Neither one of us like the noon hour. I prefer the early and late shadows of the day and the softer light. With the sun directly above it's feels obtrusive and it blanches the color out of life. I'm a mere beginning photographer but even I know it's not great for photos. Atticus doesn't like the noon hour because it is too bright. S ince his cataract surgery his eyes are more sensitive and he surreptitiously seeks the shade, even if it's just a bit of shade that covers only his eyes and nothing else. Sometimes I'll stop on the sidewalk here in Jackson to converse with someone and I'll notice that Atti sits with his eyes in either person's shadow. On hikes he seeks out rest points under trees taking on the look of a little Cleopatra-like Diva who wants to be shaded.

But we both needed to get out so we went out during out least favorite time of the day, drove to North Conway and walked up Black Cap. It's a 2.4 mile loop with incredible views. The elevation gain is mostly gentle, but not when you've been sitting and writing and eating too many carbs as of late. I felt it. But still, it was good to get out. In the future we'll head out to start or end the day, when it is cooler (notice Atti's panting tongue), the air quality is better (notice the smog in the shots of Washington), and there are less bugs. (They were biting like crazy on the summit.)

One of these days when we head to Black Cap I'll count how many 4,000-footers I can see from up there. I wouldn't be surprised if it's close to 20. That's a pretty impressive view for a little peak just a hop, skip and a panting jump from the strip in North Conway.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Our Backyard Is Alive

Poor Atticus.

He's being very patient as I write my days away. Deadline gets closer and there's much work to do. Hopefully his patience will be rewarded later today with a short hike up Black Cap or the Doubleheads. But that's only if I get my writing for the day done.

Lately our world has become our backyard. Not sure if you've read or watched the Spiderwick Chronicles, but that's what it's like around here as of late. Our backyard has come to life. Magical creatures come and go. (Well, they're magical to me, anyway.) Woodpeckers and chipmunks come into the house and visit. Blue Jays throw fraternity parties while they eat seeds. Squirrels sneak around like spies as they steal food from the birds. And yesterday, although I couldn't get a good shot of him (or her), a bear walked through the backyard. I looked up in mid sentence and saw him crossing just 20 feet away.

Occasionally the tree outside our backdoor is filled with all kinds of life. It's a community center alive with song, friendship (the two Mourning Doves), bickering, squawking and just plain hanging around. That's where the pictures above were taken. I didn't get a good photo of the bear but I did capture this woodpecker giving me the evil eye and then flapping his wings at me. (Perhaps Amelia has a jealous partner.)

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Still Life with Woodpecker*

It's a writing is every day between now and our June 1st deadline. But it's also a beautiful day. With spring greening up the backyard I've forsaken my writing room as of late and set up a small table by the window looking out into the backyard. Often Atticus sits on top of the table next to the computer and watches the birds come and go. Or on a pleasant day, like today, the door is left open so he can come and go as he pleases. Since I'm sitting right here he's never out of sight when he goes out.

The open door policy and my temporary writing desk is throwing off a few of the birds who aren't sure what to make of Atti and me being so close to their food. Even the bold woodpeckers are a bit leery about us. But not dear, sweet Amelia, who is used to being around us by now.

These are not the best photos but it gives you an idea of how comfortable she is around Atti and me. The door is open and Atticus is right there while Amelia is on the suet feed above him. She thinks little of coming and going and there are times she'll spend a couple of minutes at the suet feeder and not bother eating. Instead she just looks over at me just two feet away.

The other day I didn't have the suet feeder up yet - I take it down at night because of the bears - but the door was open and she landed on the sill of the window in the door and gave out a squawk. When I hung it up she was the first one in line.

Now many of you might think this is all kind of silly but my father would have loved it. For years his best company were the birds that came to the feeder outside his kitchen window. He'd sit at the kitchen table smoking his cigarettes, having a cup of tea, writing and listening to classical music on the radio. (Other than the cigarettes that's what I'm doing today.) Jack Ryan loved the little interaction he had with the birds and enjoyed when a few were bold enough to come close. He kept a small disposable camera near for such occasions. Boy would have have loved the digital cameras of today!

*A tribute to Tom Robbins.

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Atticus Feeling His Inner Bear

Ever since our recent bear encounters with, what we believe is the same fellow, Atticus has had a yearning to hang out with other bears. So, as you might imagine, when we passed these guys on the side of the road we just had to pull over and check them out. Since he's become 'Brother Bear' not sure if you can tell which one he is. He thinks he fits right in!

The fellow who carved these remarkable little bears is Alan Reynolds. In case you are interested his business is called Images In Wood Studio and he lives in Lancaster, New Hampshire. He parks each Saturday in the parking lot between the Irving Station and the Dairy Queen in Glen right down the road from us. If it rains on Saturday, as it did yesterday, he's there on Sundays.

Mother's Day...And It's Snowing

Happy Mother's Day to Sadie and Isabel, our mothers. Both are long gone. But oh, what fun they're having if they are looking down on Atticus and me right now. If it's true that parents want a better life for their children than they had, even if they didn't have a bad life, then they are happy in heaven these days.

It was in the 80s here the other day, but proving that this is indeed spring in the mountains of New England, it's actually snowing out. It's not a settling kind of snow; it's just spitting. Occasionally the pace picks up and it whips across our faces, but it's nothing to be concerned about. Because it is so chilly this morning we have a lot of visitors coming and going this morning. Amelia, already was on the suet feeder, then when Bernard, the male woodpecker, named for one of the characters in Tom Robbins' "Still Life with Woodpecker" showed up at the feeder she flew inside and sat on the window two feet above the love seat where Atticus and I are. Funny bird. And a funny dog. She looked down at us calmly. He looked up at her just as calmly. She comes in so often Atticus is used to her and she's obviously used to us.

I dropped some seeds for the Blue Jays on the stone patio but before they could get to it the She-Munk filled her cheeks. When I was taking her picture I looked up and saw a beautiful new visitor. As a birder I'm ignorant but my The Sibley Field Guide to Birds of Eastern North America tells me he's a Rose-breasted Grosbeak.

Friday, May 07, 2010

Greetings From Mount Stanton & Mount Pickering

Please don’t tell anyone, but Atticus and I climbed a 4,000-footer this week. As a matter of fact over the past few weeks we’ve climbed several 4,000-footers. We’re just trying to keep it quiet.

You see we have these friends who are obsessed with the mania of collecting 4,000-footers. Like most hikers they set out to climb each of the 48. Then like some of us they took it to the extreme and attempted to do them all in winter. Some of us have even attempted to do them all in one winter. But there are those who go even further. They are obsessed with climbing each of the 48 in all four seasons. Then if the bug really bites them they will try to do them all in each of the 12 months. In a recent column I reported that this is called doing “The Grid”. It used to be only a select group of long time hikers did “The Grid”, and it was mostly by circumstance. They hiked long enough and often enough that one day they looked up and realized they’d done them in each of the 12 months. People thought it was pretty cool when the first guy did it. They also thought it was cool when a handful of others did it, too. But lately, it seems like a lot of people are taking it to the extreme and it’s their goal to finish “The Grid”. A year or two ago I checked out a woman’s hiking blog and while she hadn’t even climbed half of the 48 one time through, she was keeping track of how she was doing on “The Grid”. That’s 576 peaks or 48 peaks 12 times each.

And she’s not the only one. There are many who are equally obsessed these days. It’s a strange phenomenon brought on by the Internet. ‘On-line’ everyone has a chance to be somebody, even if they really are nobody. All they have to do is post their accomplishments and suddenly they are somebody…I guess.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying those obsessed with peak-bagging are wasting their time. They have every right to do what they want to do in these mountains. I’m just saying I was wasting my time when I was doing it. I enjoyed doing the 48 with Atticus. And I enjoyed using the 48 in winter as a fundraising tool, but other than that it didn’t really mean anything to me. Just as getting a patch and a scroll from the Appalachian Mountain Club for hiking the 4000-footers didn’t mean anything – so we didn’t do it. I mean what is Atticus going to do with a patch and scroll? (He’d rather have a cookie.) Walt Whitman had it right when comparing animals to people, and peakbagging hadn’t even been invented yet:

“I think I could turn and live with animals, they're so placid and self contain'd,
I stand and look at them long and long.
They do not sweat and whine about their condition,
They do not lie awake in the dark and weep for their sins,
They do not make me sick discussing their duty to God,
Not one is dissatisfied, not one is demented with the mania of owning things,
Not one kneels to another, nor to his kind that lived thousands of years ago,
Not one is respectable or unhappy over the earth.”

If you ever have gone for a walk in the woods with a dog you know it’s a joyous, carefree dance with the earth. There are aromas, places to run and jump, things to look at and other creatures to see. And they look at things as if they’re seeing them for the very first time even if they’ve seen them time and time again.

When a dog is in the woods he is completely aware of the experience. And when he is done he doesn’t go running to write down what he’s just accomplished. They get something to eat and drink and then they lie down and take a nap. They are spent and content.

The best part about a hiking, if you are a dog, I think, is that they get to spend the day playing with us. Well, they are playing at least. To some human hikers the weekly jaunt in the woods has turned into a responsibility. They say, “I need Mount Hale this month.”

“I need”? What happened to fun? They “need” and when they are done they hurry back to their laptop and log on to a hiking site and let the hiking world know what they’ve accomplished. Don’t let anyone fool you. Peakbagging, more often than not, is a solipsistic exercise.

There are three hikers in the Whites I admire more than any of the others I’ve met. They are the antithesis of the ego-driven hiker. And it just so happens Atticus and I met them during our first summer up here and we continue to call them friends. The first is Steve Smith, the owner of the Mountain Wanderer Map & Book Store in Lincoln. Steve’s also an author of several books about the Whites, a columnist in the Mountain Ear, and a blogger. The other two are Ken and Ann Stampfer. Ken’s a photographer whose photos are used in Steve’s books and are sold at the store.
Between the three of them they have more than 50 years of hiking experience and yet each time they venture out into the woods they do so with a sense of wonder. They are the least list-motivated people I know.

Atticus and I have hiked with Ken and Ann several times. While we've never hiked with Steve we had the good fortune of running into him on the Tripyramids one winter day. None of them have been jaded by time. Each trip is still full a joy and a chance for them to renew themselves again and again. But I suspect what keeps them fresh and excited about these mountains is that their motivation comes from within. It's not an external, competitive thing. They've found their peace here and they've discovered how to hold onto it.

I learned a lot from the three of them that first summer and winter. They’d done all the 4,000-footers but they also understand the beauty and charm of places that aren’t quite that high. During the last few years they’ve pointed us in various directions and the results have been memorable.
It is because of the influence of Ann, Ken and Steve that when I was asked to submit an essay for a book about peak experiences in the Whites, I used a story about a journey up little Mount Pemigewasset. After all, it’s not about the size of the mountain that matters. It’s about the experience of getting to the peak.

I am more than happy to let you know that Atticus and I hiked Mount Stanton and Mount Pickering this morning. Neither peak tops out above 2,000 feet. As far as the 4,000-footers we’ve done recently, I’m not talking, although you might be able to get it out of Atticus if you offer him a treat. Then again, he could care less if you know which peaks we do. That’s the best part about him.
(For those of you who are list obsessed, just to drive you a little crazy, we stopped keeping track of the 4,000-footers we have climbed these past four years, but know it's well over 400.)

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Our Jackson Beavers

This evening, between writing and more writing, Atticus nudged me away from the desk and we headed over to the beaver pond to sit for a spell. Only one of the industrious fellows was out and about tonight but he gave us some great shots. They really are remarkable creatures and they're so used to us sitting there watching them they don't pay much attention to us.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010


Some of you wrote in about Amelia and the She-Munk. You saw the cute, little coquettish rodent yesterday, but you haven't seen Amelia, until now. In one photo she's at the suet feeder on the door. In the others she's taken her wrong turn and is sitting on the windowsill inside looking out, and looking more than a little flustered at getting lost again.

As you may recall, I named her after Amelia Earhart because of her beauty, her love of flight, but also because of her unfortunate tendency to get lost. A.E. only got lost once (that I know of), unlike my neighborly woodpecker who seems to get lost every third day or so, but it was a tragic 'once'. In honor of A.E., here's a song my dear friend Sarah turned me onto.

Monday, May 03, 2010

These Guys Crack Me Up

My father hated blue jays.

"They're pigs," he said. "They hog all the food and push the smaller birds out of the way."

I can't say as I hate them. I think they're beautiful. But I agree, they are pigs. They do hog all the food. And these guys crack me up the way they gather around together. So much for individuality. They walk alike, squawk alike, they even dress alike. Kind of reminds me of how bikers clump together during Bike Week. (Think if I had a Harley [with a side car for Atticus, of course] I'd be seeking out places where other bikers didn't go. It's the whole freedom thing. And yes, it's kind of like hiking: a few people do the Grid and others blindly much for hiking your own hike. Okay, that's enough editorializing for tonight.)

Recently someone actually called me a "bad person" because I continue to feed the birds now that the bears are out of hibernation. In the name of compromise I now take the feeders in after the birds are done eating each evening and put them back up in the morning. Besides, I don't see the Shannon Door Pub or the Thompson House Eatery or the JTown Deli closing down because the bears like their respective dumpsters.

But the blue jays have been a problem the last few days and they've been bullying the finches. Not a fair fight. So, once again, in the spirit of compromise, I put some sunflower seeds down for them away from the feeder and now they eat well, as do the finches. Detente.

Now all I to do is teach them a thing or two about individuality. You know, telling them they each need to fly their 'freak flag'. Anyone got an old copy of Richard Bach's Jonathon Livingston Seagull lying around?

The Local Flirt

This is our local flirt. I call her the She-Munk.

Look closely, you'll see her. I say ‘her’ but she may be a he; I'm just too polite to ask. When I go outside she thinks nothing of me and just hangs out. But once Atticus shows up she skitters away like a little school girl giggling out loud. I say 'giggling' because it's obviously a game to her. She's not really afraid of Atticus; I think she just likes to be chased. Once he turns his back on her she pops up again. He looks her way and she's gone again. A simple game of playing hard to get.

This afternoon there was a nice breeze so Atticus and I sat out back for a bit. He and the She-Munk played hide and seek - although Atti is always the one doing the seeking. (I'm going to have to talk to him about that.) It was so nice out I left the back door open when we came back in to my writing room and sat down at my desk. Atticus curled up on his blanket and it was only a minute or so before he fell asleep. A few minutes passed. Then, out of the corner of my eye, I see the She-Munk creeping across the kitchen floor. She gets to the writing room and peers around the corner.

She looks up at me as if to say, "Hey, how's it going?" Then she turns her gaze to Atticus. She's interested in him and wants to make sure he's really asleep. She watches him intently, but calmly for a good thirty seconds. Meanwhile I'm cussing because the camera is in the other room. Atticus lets out a slight snort in his sleep and she jumps up and runs back into the kitchen. A minute later, realizing she's not being chased, she comes back and sits in the doorway and cleans herself. She could care less about me; she's just wants to look presentable once Atti wakes up. (Ah, the story of my life...) She literally sits in the doorway for five minutes until Amelia shows up at the suet feeder hanging on the back door.

I know it's Amelia (and not another bird) because she's taken the wrong turn and is stuck in the house once again. I can't see her but I can hear her frustration. Amelia's beating wings are like an alarm and the little She-Munk skedaddles through the kitchen and into the backyard.

Meanwhile Atticus, now awake, comes with me while I rescue Amelia...once again. He sits in front of the day bed and watches as she flaps her wings in exasperation. I gently place a waste paper basket over her and push it flat against the window. I slide a piece of cardboard over it and carry Amelia outside. Atticus follows. When I slide the cardboard off the top of the waste paper basket she doesn't fly out in a hurry like she did the first couple of times. This, after all, has become old hat for both of us. I decide to sit down and let Atticus look in on Amelia. She looks up at him and both remain calm as their eyes meet. I suggest to Amelia that she may want to invest in a GPS. Looking at Atti she's thinking more of a seeing eye dog. Eventually she takes off and flies back to the dead tree she lives in.

Meanwhile the She-Munk has been watching from the grass. I'm thinking she's a little jealous of Amelia and Atticus and when he doesn't notice her after a while she stands up and says, "Woo Hoo! Big boy, come and get me!” (At least that's what I think she was saying.) Atti gives chase and she giggles all the way to the safety of the cracks in the rock wall. After a few minutes of looking for her and finding only the echo of her taunting giggles he gives up and comes and sits by me again. Then the She-Munk can't help herself so she climbs the tiniest tree right next to us and does a pole dance. I remind Atticus to be ‘gentle’ and he sits next to me watching her just two feet away.

Bored by not being chased she eventually climbs all the way up the little tree until it bends down like you see in cartoons and she lands softly on a rock and giggles before going home.

At her departure Atti looks at me as if to say, “Dames!” I simply shrug and say, “Yep, dames!”

And to think some people actually worry that I have a boring life now that I’m not watching Newburyport politics any longer.