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Keeping Score

Keeping Score: Waterfront property

Good morning!

Jogging is usually a solitary and uneventful pastime, and I expected nothing more while plodding along the Ashuelot Rail Trail near the Keene State College athletic fields. Oft-traveled trails become monotonous, and I diverted onto a path that spurred left under the power lines.

Recent torrential rains had flooded the streams that emptied into the Ashuelot River, and its churlish waters greeted me up over a bluff where a tent that was large enough for several people was nearly submerged under water.

Who to call, the police or fire department? I chose the former and in fifteen minutes a police officer with the first name of Fenton arrived in a marked car, a well worn Ford Taurus. After leaning over and tightening his boot strings we began walking down the trail alongside the flooded river. “Looks like Bayou country,” he said, “everything but the snakes.”

We got over the bluff and I pointed at the tent. “Anybody in there?” he yelled.

Why hadn’t I thought to do that?

A few moments later a voice behind us answered, “There’s nobody in there.”

A thin, unshaven man in his early 40s was standing astride his bike, alternately looking at the tent and at the two of us. “Nothing in there but clothes. I stayed with a friend last night.”

The safety check completed, Fenton returned to his cruiser and said goodbye. End of story I thought, until on Wednesday when I was saw the same man quietly talking with a woman (his wife, it turned out) in the Keene Public Library.

I grabbed a legal pad and pencil and followed him outside. “Remember me?” I asked. “I was with the cop at your tent last week.”

Yes, he did remember me, and said his name was Bob Piper and that the Coleman tent was loaned to him by the local homeless shelter. “I’m pulling it out today. I lost a red cooler with about $50 of food on ice, and I lost another cooler with pots and pans some friends had given me.”

Piper said he was born and raised in Keene. “What Keene needs is a safe place outdoors for homeless people. There’s good and there’s bad homeless people. I just wanted to go someplace and not be bothered.”

He told me he enjoyed his quiet monthlong solitude on the river. “I dug a hole and built a fire pit with rocks around it, and got food at Market Basket.”

He’d toss bread to the fish and feed ducks that wandered up on the bank and at night he’d stand outside and gaze at fireflies. “It was nice, I liked it. I survived. I just parked a little too close to the river.”

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Recorder circulation director Kevin LaMagdelaine didn’t shave for four days. “Good enough apparently,” referring to Wednesday’s Red Sox promotion that let bearded fans into the game for a dollar.

He and his brother Eric arrived early, got their tickets at Gate E and went to dinner around the corner at Game On. By the time they returned he said the line had grown to about 2,000 shaggy fans. The bearded ladies wore fakes, and somebody was handing out a black magic marker.

The Red Sox weren’t strict about it, and virtually everyone got into Fenway Park and sat in the fight field box seats where they saw the Red Sox lose in 12 innings.

“It was a great crowd, wizards, and Vikings and Father Time,” the freshly shaved LaMagdelaine said on Thursday morning. “It was like Halloween.”

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Two weeks ago the Pioneer Panthers were leading Palmer 24-0 late in the first half when Pioneer coach Glen Wilson asked line judge Mike Lichwan how many timeouts he had left. Lichwan checked his card and said, “You have two full and one thirty. Way too many.”

Twenty stoppages in play to discuss strategy is indeed excessive, yet coaches use them like about-to-expire gift certificates, no matter if the game’s a blowout or a lost cause.

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Color analyst Mike Mayock had high praise for former UMass lineman Vladimir Ducasse during Jets-Pats on the NFL Network.

“The light finally came on this training camp,” Mayock said of the Jets’ second round pick four years ago. “He’s figured it out. He’s a big-time upgrade and he’s holding his own tonight against Big Vince (Wilfork.)”

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The Tampa Bay Rays’ farm team in Durham (N.C.) beat Pawtucket to advance to the Triple A championship at Coca Cola Stadium in Allentown on Tuesday, losing to the Omaha Storm Chasers, 2-1.

Twenty-five-year-old Chris Dwyer was perfect through 6 2-3 innings. A southpaw, Dwyer was 24-1 for St. Mary’s High School in Lynn. He pitched one season at Clemson and was taken by Kansas City in the fourth round of the 2009 draft.

His two sisters, Lindsay and Alexandra, played varsity soccer at Williams and Trinity colleges, respectively. Dwyer’s seven inning, one-hit performance on Tuesday earned him a call-up to the big leagues.

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Golfers can support their local sheriff by teeing off in the Cops & Nozzles Four-Person Scramble at the Southampton Country Club on Friday, or help support the Northfield Kiwanis by sponsoring tees and greens for its annual fundraiser at the Northfield Golf Course next Saturday. For info on either, call Ray Zukowski at 522-5781.

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Squibbers: Red Sox season ticket holders have the dubious luxury of first refusal on playoff tickets. Two upper box seats for 11 possible games cost $5,225. ... The first order of business for 30-point underdog UMass this afternoon will be shutting down Vanderbilt wide receiver Jordan Matthews. ESPN projects the 6-foot-3, 205-pound senior as a late first- or early second-round pick. ... If proximity breeds contempt then the Reds and Pirates will barely be able to look at each other. They play six of their last nine games against each other and will likely meet again in the NL Wild Card game. ... Two weeks into the season and it already feels like Denver versus Seattle at the Meadowlands on Feb. 2 is a fait accompli. ... There were a combined 24,442 empty seats at Yankee Stadium during their four-game series against the Red Sox, many down in the blues. Plenty of those same seats are available today for $821, unless you’d rather spend the money on something else. ... Atheists and agnostics are stirring up more controversy about prayer in the classroom. “An atheist,” said President Dwight Eisenhower, “is a guy who watches a Notre Dame-Southern Methodist football game and doesn’t care who wins.”

Chip Ainsworth is an award-winning columnist who has penned his observations about sports for four decades in the Pioneer Valley.

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