Baited by Barker — Again!


Readers may remember that two weeks ago, Feb. 23, Valley Voices recounted the history of building the bridge at Rumford Point, the John Martin Bridge. My source for the history was Stuart Martin’s book, New Pennacook Folks.

The bridge history seemed a timely topic as a public hearing on the options for a new bridge at the point was scheduled for Feb. 25.

The hearing was snowed out — what wasn’t?

Valley Voices for Feb. 23 wasn’t snowed out.

It ran a few days before the heavy snowstorms arrived. Not a bad column as they go, but one with a glaring error.

A Little learning is a dangerous thing … If you haven’t been baited by Ray Barker, you haven’t been baited at all. He’s really good at baiting, and I am one of his favorite fish. He catches me every time, then kindly lets me go again.

His last fishing trip went like this. One of those last snowy days, Ray, bearing our morning newspaper, appeared at our door. Thank you, Ray. Come in.

“Can’t stay,” he said, stomping snow off his boots. “Read your column this week.” Long pause, tiny smile. “ Who,” he asked, “was Ned Martin?”

Uh oh.

“Winnie and I were wondering because she rode on Ladd’s Jeep that first crossing and she doesn’t remember any Ned Martin,” he said.

That is, of course, because there was no Ned Martin.

Haste makes waste. I was running late composing Valley Voices. Dug into Stuart Martin’s book, but not deep enough. Shallow reading, you could call it.

Not only did I change Ned Stuart’s name to Martin, I failed to turn to page 100 and a section titled “The Sayin’s of Doc Stuart.” This was the real Ned, Ned Stuart.

In the summer of 1956, Doc “quarter-backed” that first bridge-crossing party, I learned. Winnie Barker told me “23 of us” rode on Chester Ladd’s Jeep. There were Hutchins and Thurstons, Besseys and Putnams, Martins (John) and Martins (Stuart), most all with children in tow.

Ned ‘Doc” Martin was 77 that summer and the first to cross the bridge. Winnie’s son, Ralph Thurston, was 2 years old and the last to cross the bridge. “You could never forget such a party,” Winnie said. “We were all in a celebration mood, so glad to have the bridge.”

A public hearing on Rumford Point bridge options has been rescheduled for Tuesday, March 16.

Linda Farr Macgregor is a freelance writer; contact her: [email protected]