Trashy side of town now wildlife habitat
I’m not aware the Berk shire Natural Resources Coun cil has given a name to its newest acquisition, 28 acres of Housatonic River flood plain a little north of WSBS radio, on the west side of Route 7. Many of us remember it as where a longtime trash hauler had a container storage area, septage drying field and Appaloosa horse pasture. So I’ll call it Leamon Roger Park, for now.
Funding for the $75,000 purchase came from the Hou satonic River’s Natural Re sources Damage Trustees, ac cord ing to Narain Schroeder, BNRC’s director of land conservation. Visit anytime. The entrance drive is across from Bridlewood.
When I mentioned this property to a former Great Barrington selectman, he laughed and imagined all that had been buried there over the years -- short of Jimmy Hoffa’s body. The place has already been cleaned up, Schroeder said, with contractor J.H. Maxymillian of Pittsfield removing some 29.13 tons of steel, 28.62 tons of solid waste, 88 cubic yards of concrete and 5.36 tons of old tires.
The place lowland has a small network of woods paths and roads to follow, none marked or maintained. Mostly deer and small animals use them. They don’t really go anywhere, hemmed by the river.
On a drizzly Sunday morning, I motored to the property, which has one of the largest parking lots of anything owned by BNRC. I followed a tractor road as far as an electric power line, then stepped over old wire fencing and down onto the terraced edge of the Housatonic River. A great blue heron lifted off, but I didn’t have time to get out my camera.
It was all grown over with weeds. Some of those weeds had pretty, blooming wildflowers and seed pods. No foundations to be discovered. This was always meadow or pasture, I expect, until Roger found a second use. It was originally part of Crissey Farm. The Crissey Farm barn complex is where Barrington Brewery is today.
The barn across the street from the entrance to this BNRC property was once the Pixley/Tracy barn, and stood near where Price Chopper is now. Leamon Roger in late fall 1964 moved the Tracy/Pixley barn across the fields north to its present location. Roger used the barn for his Roger Stock Farm. The barn had been sold to make way for a drive-in movie theater that never materialized. A shopping center came instead. The Pixley house was moved to South Egremont, to make way for McDonald’s.
In the olden days, the site of the Tracy/Pixley barn, now Bridlewood, was on the west, not east, side of Route 7. The commonwealth of Massachu setts re-engineered and moved Route 7 in 1953, in a construction project that straightened the highway de scending Mon u ment Moun tain from Stock bridge so it now went by Fountain Pond. A section of the old road is the visible berm to the rear of the barn.
Leamon Roger was ready when Great Barrington em braced recycling in 1989. He expected some of his customers would complain. But once the Selectmen settled on the rules, "I’ll have them painted on the sides of my trucks," he told me. I rode along with Roger one morning, to see the trashier side of Great Barrington.
Roger called Mondays "CB Day." That’s Cheap Bastard Day, when the homeowners and weekenders who wouldn’t pay for a landfill sticker or hire a commercial hauler instead snuck their rubbish into store and restaurant dumpster bins over the weekend.
Leamon’s wife, Sara K. Roger (1904-1992), during a phone conversation had said the older generation that en joyed a drink now and then wouldn’t like recycling. The bottle evidence would be on display curbside. "They hide their bottles in their garbage bags. They won’t separate them and put them in a box out on the street for pickup," she said.
"The truth of anything can be told in the back alleys," Leamon Roger said. He remembered talking with banker Pete Adams about someone who wanted a $2,000 loan. Roger said he reassured the banker the applicant was good for $3,000, judging by his trash.
Hailing from the Salisbury, Conn., area, Roger went to work for Kimball Motor Dispatch in Great Barrington in 1938. When he was overseas during World War II, Sara, who was the daughter of teamster Hugh Taggart, bought their first truck.
"She paid $1,645 for a ‘45 Ford," Roger said. "I told her it was too much." His last packer truck, in 1989, cost $60,000.
The first Roger vehicle had a flatbed body, and the trash had to be pushed and shoveled off into the dump. "We wore out one or two shovels a year," he said. He finally purchased a hydraulic system so the flatbed could be elevated. That precipitated a call from one of his men and a quick drive to the dump to see his truck reared back, the nose of the cab pointing skyward. The driver had elevated the flatbed, but the trash had refused to slide. So the truck had tipped.
"It was all bull work," he said of the cleanup.
Leamon worked six days a week, and never missed a day, from 1946 to 1989, when we spoke. He passed the business along to his grandsons in 1995.
Today, this portion of Rog er’s old business is wildlife habitat.
Bernard A. Drew is a regular Eagle contributor.