Saturday, September 5, 2009


Since we have recently engaged the topic of civility it seems appropriate that we ratchet that down to a more personal level. We really aren’t doing enough individually to create a better world, let alone better neighborhoods.

I remember the now legendary Cragged Mountain Farm (CMF) in Freedom, NH (photo above) where in the early 1950’s I spent several summers under the careful watch and tutelage of close Family Friend and camp owner/founder/operator/counselor/mentor Dr. Henry Utter, a renowned pediatrician from Providence, Rhode Island. Dr. Utter was the first practicing pediatrician in Rhode Island and founder of CMF in 1927. The Utter Family still operates CMF, eighty-two years later. Methinks they're doing something right.

Little brother David Seabury also attended along with another fellow camper (I’ll call him Carl) who had thick glasses and was sickly and geeky looking. Carl had leg braces and a faltering gait and suffered from an obvious infirmity that I can only guess was either polio, cerebral palsy or a combination of the two. Carl had a big heart, though, and was always in the thick of things and for his persistence and innocence was the brunt of some cruel jokes, pranks and inquisitive, insensitive stares from just a few folks that didn’t know him. He didn’t mind, rather persevered and endeared himself to all who cared enough to get to know him.

We need note that the staff and most of the campers at CMF were that sensitive, rarified breed that appreciated and embraced Carl. The idyllic communal camp environment provided a perfect example of how to live a fun, healthy and responsible life. As I have commented in previous posts it was those early years at Cragged Mountain Farm that set the stage for my adult life and my pursuit of the great outdoors.

Carl was part of that experience and perhaps one of the most unforgettable characters I’ve ever met. It’s safe to say that even after fifty plus years I will never forget Carl and the lessons I learned from him.

I certainly had issues growing up (lots), but was gifted athletically and capable of engaging all sorts of games and activities without encumbrance. Carl was forever relegated to the sidelines, a professional though frustrated spectator banished from the field of play. That surely didn’t mean that he didn’t want to be out there. His inner spirit was indomitable… He was always working that tetherball.

Mind you, we weren’t best Friends and that certainly is my loss. I do remember talking and communicating with Carl mostly showing him how to play ball and encouraging what was always his herculean effort to do so. He enjoyed his stay at Cragged Mountain Farm and I suspect that his spirit this day is not far from that mountain. I learned a real lesson by Carl’s innocent example that resounds with me even in my maturity. That lesson is always defend those less gifted, fortunate and/or unable to defend themselves. The least that I intend is to never forget him and up his memory whenever I can.

Though Carl has always been on my mind – when I saw the 1980 movie, My Bodyguard I was reminded again of Carl and the treatment he got from a few of his fellow campers. In My Bodyguard a school bully - Melvin Moody played by a young Matt Dillon - in one of his first film roles – heaps mental and physical abuse on the wealthy new kid on the block - Clifford Peache (Chris Makepeace) - who ultimately seeks protection from older student Ricky Linderman (Adam Baldwin), a burly loner who's rumored by his fellow high schoolers to have killed -- and possibly eaten -- his own brother (yikes!). Seems that he actually shot and killed his nine year old brother in a tragic shooting accident a year earlier. That was his demon…

Martin Mull, Ruth Gordon and Joan Cusack also starred in this wonderful coming-of-age story about an improbable friendship between two outcasts. All during the flick I just hoped that I could have just one minute alone with Melvin Moody. There wouldn’t have been anything left. Dillon did a brilliant job bringing the insane cruelty of his character to the big screen. Ultimately justice and decency triumphed and prevailed with his character and his adult muscle bound champion being put in their place. Who says that violence isn’t sometimes the answer?

That movie begged the question to what degree are we are our Brother’s keeper? My surmise is that if he/she is weaker and unable to fend for themselves like the Carls of this world, then we have the responsibility to step up and be their champions. The bullies of the world without compliant fodder would think twice about victimizing the weak. There too will then come that time like in My Bodyguard when the weak, emboldened and empowered, fight and win their own battles.

As one US President once stated, “The essence of (our modern) civilization is that the strong have a duty to protect the weak.” That certainly means changing attitudes and championing the cause of those less fortunate. We need to start being more aggressive by looking for opportunities to become part of the ultimate solution. If you want to be pragmatic; it’s really a pay me now or pay me later scenario. That includes getting involved in your community and volunteering to help with the American Red Cross, Habitat for Humanity, your local Food Bank, the Salvation Army or Goodwill Industries – just to name a few. Your church or temple probably offers lots of opportunities as well like the Food Bank at St. Matthews Cathedral in Dallas…

Then there’s Jerry’s Kids and the annual MDA Labor Day Telethon. We can all contribute to that very worthy cause.

Thanks Carl. Thanks Dr. Utter - non ministrari, sed ministrare.


Ned Buxton

No comments: