22 Tales of Life in Western MA


According to Kara Kitchen of Plainfield, the only good thing about having to commute out of the Hilltowns to shop for anything more than milk, butter & eggs, is that you get to come home to the Hilltowns! The Williamsburg Market (pictured here during the holidays) is a fine place to find eggs, butter & milk! As are the Old Creamery in Cummington, Elmer's in Ashfield and McCusker's in Shelburne Falls. (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

Garrison Keillor, the legendary author, storyteller, humorist, and creator of the weekly radio show A Prairie Home Companion, is making a stop in Northampton tonight.  Keillor said he plans to retire in “the spring of 2013,” in an interview with AARP, so this maybe his final visit to Western MA.  In light of his visit to the Happy Valley, we asked our readers to share a brief anecdote of family life in Western MA.   Here’s what they had to share:

Donna DuSell of Greenfield MA writes, “I was born in Greenfield and raised in Montague. My Dad worked for the state road crew. He would never pass up the opportunity to plow and make extra money. So while others prayed for snow on Christmas and New Year’s we prayed for clear weather. — Once when I was about five my Mom and sister were out somewhere when my Dad got the call to plow. He decided to take me with him rather than pass up the work. I sat between him and his partner as we plowed the roads in the dark, in this big truck I beleive they called the “Osh Kosh.” My feet did not reach the edge of the seat. — Probably couldn’t do that today. At least he wasn’t an air traffic controller, and at no time was I allowed to drive!”

Michelle Budig of Williamsburg, MA writes, “We moved to Williamsburg, MA from Philadelphia in 2001. We knew we were “home” after our dog escaped from our car while house hunting, was taken to the local vet by local Burgians, and the vet tracked us out-of-towners down at the Williamsburg Market where word had gotten out that the house hunters had lost their dog…. we were reunited with her only two hours after losing her.”

Helene Leue of Ashfield, MA writes, “Being asked if I lived at “Miss Freedman’s old place” and responding that yes we did, she was my husband’s godmother and having the person start telling us stories about Miss Freedman as a young woman in the early 1920s when the storyteller was a young girl. Realizing a nice sense of family history.”

Kathy Morrissette of Adams, MA writes, “In our town of Adams it doesn’t matter how old you are you are the little kid who played in someones yard or rode your bike too fast down the suicide hill. Now that I am in my late 50′s, I am comforted by the thought of a small town, familiar people, local merchants and teachers that had you in second grade.”

Kara Kitchen of Plainfield, MA writes, “The ONLY good thing about having to commute from the hilltowns is that you come home to the hilltowns! It takes 45 minutes in any direction to find a store with more than milk, butter+eggs, hardly ever have to pass another car (maybe a tractor or 2!), get to watch out for the deer, moose+bear, and the beautiful scenery changes everyday!”

Glenda Datsko of Millers Falls, MA writes, “Planting seasonal gardens, canning, caring for the neighbors chickens while they are away for the weekend and getting to keep the eggs….ahhh the good life. We planned on heading to NH for Thanksgiving and got a call the day before that a snow storm had gone through on Tuesday night and they were without power. I ran to Diemand farm and got the last turkey in the case to cook and bring with us.”

Julie Russell of Granby, MA writes, “Moved to Western MA two years ago from “a big city” and saying that it has taken some adjustment is an understatement. However, when a neighbor stops by and knocks on your door to tell you that you left your car light on in the driveway, so you don’t loose all of your battery — things have a way of looking up.”

Lisa Berry of Amherst, MA writes, “Western MA is great for families who like to get outside and into nature, so many opportunities so close by! Everyone is very stand-offish, a New England trait, so you don’t have to deal with people if you don’t want to. If you do want to deal with people, you can head to Yankee Candle at Christmastime! We love it!”

Libby Maxey of Conway, MA writes, “Western MA seems to me to be the land of dogs, and of friendly neighbors. (This west coast native has not seen much of the aloof New Englander in her six years here.) The couple down the street from us recently adopted two dogs, one of which shares a name with my 3-year-old. They made sure to bring him over for a visit so that each Henry could be properly introduced to the other!”

Jessica Larkin of Bernardston, MA writes, “It’s fun to live here, our lives revolve with the seasons. One of our favorite activities is finding butterfly eggs or caterpillars and assisting through their stages of life until the butterflies emerge. Such a wonderful way to learn about the circle of life!”

Susan Clark of Shelburne Falls, MA writes, “We live in Shelburne Falls and the seasons in Western Mass are so full and fun! In Spring we look forward to hiking the local parks and find pools full of tadpoles and salamander eggs!”

Tammy Ciak of Southwick, MA writes, ” Our family life involves coming home from work each day to our dog Bandit who is like our child. We have a pony, chickens & cats too. I am a law school educated girl with a farmer’s heart.”

Diane Kanzler of Greenfield, MA writes, “My best childhood memories are from when we lived on my grandpa’s farm in the Berkshires. On hot summer days after the chores were done, he’d scoop up us kids with the bucket loader of his tractor and dump us in the pond. About as good as it gets!”

Mariana Luz of Shelburne Falls, MA writes, “I love living in Western Mass; came here for school 25 years ago and never left. I raised my kids in Amherst, great town to raise children! Now I live in Shelburne Falls, which is the best place to live in the valley. People and very friendly, I love the small town, all the artists and I can walk to The Bridge of Flowers!”

Lorena Loubsky of Colrain, MA writes, “Well, when I was fifteen, I left the city and headed west… I knew eventually the hilltowns call would claim me and it did. It has always felt like home and it feels like just a hop, skip and jump to Lake Wobegon from here. One of our favorite things to do is sit by the radio for Garrison on Saturday evenings and I once wrote a poem, a bunch of them, really, for my college applications. One of them was about Prairie Home Companion…and a singles ad which would include the stipulation that the “Companion” would be a fan of PHC…where the women are strong, the men are good lookin’ and the children above average!”

Leslie Kearsley of Shelburne Falls writes, “So, I’m really a Hudson River Vally Girl. Grew up for a short time in Peekskill, NY along the Hudson River. Then moved to a town called Garrison. Hello Dolly was filmed there and it’s pretty tranquil. Our view from the landing is of West Point Military Academy. And it’s in the famous ‘Preppy Handbook”. —  I did ‘some time’ as I call it, in northern New Jersey during high school. I lived with my dad, he hed moved there after my folks had divorced so he could be closer to work. There I suffered ‘Culture shock 80s style’. Anyhow, after graduation I decided to take a year off. — My mom was attending Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts, getting her English degree as an Ada Comstock Scholar. On that first Columbus Day weekend that I would have been a freshman in college, I came home pretty late and lit. My mom was there staying at my dad’s place as a ‘lay over’ from her journey, from Washington DC where she kept her main digs away from school. She asked me that even though it was short notice, would I desire to travel with her to the “Happy Valley”, where there were lots of young people and many colleges to choose from. I thought about it for about ten minutes, and made the decision to venture there to see if it was better than northern New Jersey. — Twenty-five years later, I am still here. I live in Shelburne Falls. I have raised my son, Jasper here who is now seventeen years old. I learned how to eat well, how to meditate, split wood, how to be an artist, learned how to be tolerant of other lifestyles, and my mom is still here too. It’s not my hometown, but it’s a progressive runner-up! And, even though I don’t have that much ‘blood family’ here, I am surrounded by a community that has enveloped me. Of all ages, and walks of life. I know folks all over this valley. — Back roads my forte that the tourist assumes I don’t know. In fact I have some folks that think I went to the high school here! I guess maybe some people don’t pay as much attention. You see, I am a black woman, and there aren’t many of us up in these parts along the Mohawk Trail beside the historic Deerfield River. In fact I kind of feel like a trail blazer. Like Sojourner Truth. (Sort of). — I grew up in my adult life listening to Garrison Keillor and have always been stricken with the parallel of my life as a child, in this wonderful utopic world where everything is beautiful and above average. — I still Facebook with my friends from NJ though. “

Judy Hall of Wendell, MA writes, “Wendell — where the women are strong AND good looking!”

Diane Zamer of Florence, MA writes, “We find most of our weekend events on Hilltown Families. The fairs and festivals during the summer months are our favorites – one of the many reminders of why we moved our family here 6 years ago.”

Alisa Blanchard of Pittsfield, MA writes, “We love being able to build a snow person in October and wear sandals in November.”

Sharon Castelli of Northampton, MA writes, “We moved from NJ to The Valley for the mix of nature, culture, local organic food, like minded people… the perfect mix of city and country- not far from Boston and NY… we love hiking and going downtown in Northampton.”

Wendy LaPointe of Gill, MA writes, “We love the holiday season in Western MA: watching the tree lighting at Yankee Candle, visiting Santa at Look Park and seeing all the decorations as we drive through the towns.”

Crista Yagjian of Guilford, VT writes, “Does southern, VT count too? We love living in such a beautiful area. When my husband and I were looking to move north we literally drove through Guilford, got lost, and got directions from the 2 nicest people ever- di decided to move here! This area is a place where my son can visit the cows everyday, explore beautiful fields, and hear great music most any weekend! Family life in this area is pretty awesome.”

One Comment on “22 Tales of Life in Western MA

  1. Don’t forget Avery’s Store in Charlemont when referring to a little gem hidden in Western Massachusetts (see photo caption). I cannot tell you how many times we have bought some of the darndest things in there: from really great deli salad, to plumbers perforated hanger iron, to the most luxurious and warm wool mittens for the kids, each time walking up the steps expecting to be sent to a box box store…

    From neighbors all kind of knowing each others goings-on, and looking out for one another to the open space and potential for some real periods of quiet (apart from my own kids and farm animal sounds) the local scene is right for us!

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