Those Places Thursday: Beaver Brook Falls, Colebrook, NH

Postcard published by The Hugh C. Leighton Co, Manufacturer, Portland, Maine between 1904-1909*

A couple of weeks ago, I dragged my husband into an antique shop to see if I could find any antique or vintage postcards of places in New England associated with our families. I was looking in particular for the hand-tinted ones because the colors aren’t quite natural, which gives the scene a proper feeling of otherworldliness.

The otherworldly scene I found was Beaver Brook Falls, which, for my brother George and me in the mid-1960s, was the real world of pounding water, slippery rock, and the smell of pine so intense we could reach out and grab it. As far as George and I were concerned, Beaver Brook Falls was one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World.

Then one day we spied a couple of men standing in the water at the top of the falls. We were transfixed. How had they gotten there? Had they entered the waterfall and and climbed up some natural stairway under the rushing water? No, our parents explained, there must be a path alongside the falls, and the men had climbed up that way. From that day forward, every time our parents took us for a picnic at Beaver Brook Falls, George and I begged to be allowed to climb to the top of the falls. Our begging was to no avail. Such an undertaking would be foolhardy for the children and irresponsible for the parents.

George and I grew up. Career and family took us out of New England. By the time I returned to New Hampshire after living many years in the South, over thirty years had gone by. Nothing would do but I must return to Beaver Brook Falls and climb to the top. My husband didn’t think it was a particularly good idea, and it became less of a good idea when he saw how eroded the path was, but he went along. I later wrote the following poem about the experience (in a poetry slam workshop, of all places):

Fifteen more years went by, and I found the postcard of Beaver Brook Falls in the little antique shop in Concord. Back I went to the North Country to climb to the top of Beaver Brook Falls once again, this time with the admonitions of my husband dogging my footsteps and ringing in my ears, which I absolutely refused to heed.

Beaver Brook Falls, Colebrook, NH, 7-31-18

Beaver Brook Falls from a Distance

Top of the Falls!

*Dumbarton Oaks, Trustees for Harvard University, “The Hugh C. Leighton Co., Manufacturers,” Dumbarton Oaks Research Research Library and Collection, accessed August 12, 2018,

Mrs. Wheeler’s 6th Grade Class: 1967-68

1967-68 was not a good year to be in the sixth grade at Enosburg Falls Elementary School. It was Mrs. Wheeler’s first assignment as a brand-new teacher, and right from the start, the boys in the class took it into their heads that it would be a grand adventure to make her days in the classroom as miserable as possible by being as rude, disrespectful, and disruptive as possible in as many different ways as possible, to include stuffing worms in the pencil sharpener.

The only way Mrs. Wheeler could keep any kind of order in the class was by reading Cheaper by the Dozen aloud to us. I liked being read to, but I couldn’t understand how or why the world order of the classroom could be turned completely on its head, and the grown-up was powerless to stop it.

At the end of the school year, in June of 1968, presidential candidate Robert Kennedy was shot.  I clearly remember Mrs. Wheeler bringing the school television into the room the next day so that we could follow the news reports of his condition. As various neurologists explained the nature of his injuries, Mrs. Wheeler expressed hope that he would live, but even as a sixth-grader, I knew there was no surviving that kind of damage to one’s brain.

Mrs. Wheeler did not return to Enosburg Falls Elementary the following school year. Time went by, and her class grew up. Then Columbine happened, utterly inconceivable to children whose idea of disrupting the world order was stuffing worms in the pencil sharpener.

Note: Since I tried to get cute in an early post by heading a damaged photo of my great-grandmother “Evidence of a Serial Killer?” I should explain that I Xed out two of my  classmates’ faces to indicate that they had moved away and were no longer in my class. No animosity intended.