Oh Sam Peabody

Mount Greylock

Massachusetts

May 2014

We think we are very close to the summit of Mount Greylock.  We think we are close because we’ve been climbing for half the day, but we don’t know how close because it’s so foggy that we can’t see a damned thing.  There is a big tower out there, they tell us, but it might just be a rumor.  Yet, we believe we’re in the near vicinity.  We can feel it, we think.

Walking a little more, we come to civilization, which is to say, there are things here that were built and put in place, including a paved area.  In this paved place near the summit, we see a caretaker wandering around, poking things, picking up the very few pieces of trash that are on the ground, looking around corners.  A dowdy woman approaches him.  “Keep an eye out for my son.  He’s hiking the Appalachian Trail.  Do you know him?  You remind me of him.  Are you a vegetarian?  He’s a vegetarian.”

“Yes, ma’am, I sure will watch for him.”

The first thing we notice about this caretaker is how polite he is with this mother.  His shirt is red flannel, his face is covered with a large beard in the style of ZZ Top or Charles Darwin (or Rasputin or Karl Marx) making him look about twice his age.  He is very friendly.  We tell him how much we appreciate what he and his buddies do for the trail, making life so much easier for us hikers.  These able caretakers maintain the trail corridor which means they make sure the footpath, as well as the surrounding area, is clean and protected.  They will often remove invasive species, provide support and leadership to others who cherish the trail and they will interface with concerned mothers whose vegetarian sons are on the A T.

“What a great job you have,” we say.

“Ah, that’s okay.  I just like what I do.  It’s kind of like a job but I don’t need the money.”  Reminds me of days past, my hippie days, beard and all, no awareness of a need for money.  Or health insurance.

ZZ points out a white throated sparrow among the constant birdsong.  Of the 183 bird varieties here at the summit of Greylock, the white offers the most often heard birdsong:  “Oh Sam Peabody, Peabody” or “Oh-sweet-Canada-Canada,” depending on your ancestry.  Hearing the bird and trying to hear the English transliteration reminds me that the people who came up with this translation are probably the same people who named the constellations.  Sometimes it’s just so darned hard to tell what those birds are saying in English.  Or in Canadian.

Hey, bird.  Keep watch over our vegetarian, Appalachian Trail hiker.

Hey, maybe his name is Sam Peabody…

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