Sunday Gratitude: Old Guard

Gateways Barn

Tomorrow people, where is your past?
Tomorrow people, how long will you last?

Today you say you deyah
Tomorrow you say you’re gone
But you’re gone so long
If there is no love in your heart, so sorry
Then there is no hope for you, true, true

Don’t know your past, you don’t know your future

–Ziggy Marley “Tomorrow People“, 1988

On Friday afternoon, in the waning hours of Earth Day, I joined some of Weston’s old guard to work on the annual trash clean-up. We met at Julie and Pete Hyde’s wonderful Gateways Farm, where the afternoon glory was full on the gorgeous red barn as we set out with our yellow bags. Along the way of picking up nips and car parts and cigarette butts from the Mass Pike and Wellesley Street and wondering how all these middle schoolers were drinking so many plastic water bottles, we chatted about the beautiful Nonesuch Brook, now at risk from the building of the Whopper, about Wellington Farm, palominos and the good old days of the farm, where once a dozen or more horses frolicked–now down to three–Goldy, Chip and Ollie. The first two are retired, living out their golden years sticking their heads into trees to avoid bugs (the fluffy and diminutive Chip) or racing each other to hay dinner (Goldy and Ollie).

If you haven’t been invited by Julie to visit Gateways, I suggest finding a way to invite yourself. The barn is filled with history and cobwebs, and happy ghosts of days past. I am still scheming to move the world headquarters for the Owl there but have yet to figure out my financial offer to the Hydes. Across the street, the glorious old house at Wellington Farm, home to Julie’s brother Nick, has fields and farm now protected by conservation restriction and farmed by Land’s Sake. A brief conversation with Nick at the end yielded local histories of murder, mayhem, alligators in Nonesuch Brook– which made me want to spend an entire day just listening to how it was growing up in old Weston. As I have mentioned before in my gratitude to Paul Penfield, who passed away last year at age 88, there is an amazing number of involved, active and fascinating “old guard” in Weston.

Town Clean-Up: Ruth, Laura, Owl, Julie, Nick (photographer was Tom) and we are missing 4 others who were camera shy.

Earlier last week, I took a walk around the historic Orchard Avenue area with Nancy Biddle Bates, herself in her late 80s, who could smoke me going up and down the Intervale private road connection. She still believes that the hill on Orchard Avenue (now owned by WFTA) remains the best sledding in Weston (alas, no place to park) and I suspect she woud accept a challenge to a sled race at age 87. Nancy told a hilarious (okay and somewhat concerning) childhood story of she and her brother building ice dams on Intervale Road during an ice storm, and getting chased by a Weston cop who made them come back and break up every ice dam under threat of being shot. Ah, the good old days.

As is inevitable, the talk with Nancy and Julie turned to how Weston has changed. Imagine how it has changed — and not– in their 70-80 years. The Mass Pike splitting Wellington in two in the 1950s and 60s, the mass slaughter of trees for Norumbega Reservoir, the estate era of the early 1900s giving way to the dismantling of the huge estates in the 1950s only to see new huge houses spring up all around the south side in the 2020s. Don’t know your past, don’t know your future: makes me think of a Ziggy Marley song.

What hasn’t changed, Weston, is the love of the old guard for our old town and the meaning of community. Walking Orchard Avenue talking about new possibiities for conservation. Walking and cleaning up Wellesley Street, split now by the Mass Pike, but as loved by the Danforths as it ever was. I am so very grateful to spend time with these folks, to learn from them, and to laugh with them. Also, palominos. I am very grateful for palominos.

Quiet retirement? I think not. Old guard.


  • Lovely piece—and great work. But, hey: Single use plastic water bottles on Earth Day? Really?

  • Great job. That big covered water tank that was once the Hyde’s property in my opinion should also become not only the largest covered water storage in the country but one of the largest solar fields too if they would build it. I think if the roof can support the solar panels the state should build it

  • Thanks to all who left us a legacy of open space, networked by many miles of trails.

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