Lange: Indian Stream Republic

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(HOST) On a recent trip to New Hampshire’s Indian Stream Republic, commentator Willem Lange indulged in a little accidental swimming.

(LANGE) I find life gets more exciting as I get older.  I’m not doing more exciting stuff than I used to; it’s just the stuff I used to do has become more exciting.  A simple downhill curve on cross-country skis conjures images of the emergency room ­ again.  A hut-to-hut hike of the White Mountains has become strenuous.  So I cut the coat to fit the cloth, and still have good times.

I arrived at a rendezvous with friends in Pittsburg, New Hampshire, half an hour early, and ate lunch in my truck with a pair of newspapers.  I was going to take a nap, but got involved in a scientific experiment.  I know that black flies usually don’t enter houses, and if they happen to, don’t bite.  They don’t bite in tents, either.  But do they enter vehicles?  A few minutes’ watching confirmed they do.  Would they bite?  Just then my friends showed up and aborted the experiment.
Very few people who come to Pittsburg appreciate its history or its size.  At over 282 square miles, it’s the largest township in the United States.  It was also, along with Texas and Vermont, the home of one of three independent republics that existed in the United States.

After the Revolution settlers moved into the wilderness that’s now Pittsburg.  They battled both the United States and Canada over which country they were in.  The 1783 Treaty of Paris established the border as "the northwesternmost tributary of the Connecticut River," but no one knew what that was.  Tired of the confusion, they formed a republic, elected officers, and wrote a constitution.  They even fought a small war with a Canadian posse over a debt. No fatalities and it’s a great story.

We stopped at the quiet Indian Stream Cemetery, where, over by the fence nearest the stream, lies the grave of Minik, one of six Polar Inuit Robert Peary brought back from Greenland in 1897.  Minik had a strange, unhappy life, finally dying in a logging camp in the 1918 flu epidemic.

From the cemetery it was a hundred yards to a put-in spot on Indian Stream, a tributary to the rapids of the Upper Connecticut River.  I was paddling a canoe that was new to me, a whitewater boat that hates to go straight, but can turn on a dime.  After a few minutes on the gentle waters of Indian Stream, I ventured into the river.  I was recording the trip with a video camera taped to the canoe and a lapel microphone on my jacket.

The rapids grew steeper and faster, and the sun glinting on them obscured all but the most obvious rocks.  "Hmm," I murmured.  "This begins to look interesting."  A few seconds later I hollered, "Whoops!  There’s a sleeper.  Got it.  Uh oh, there’s another one!"

The tape survived; the camera, microphone, and transmitter did not.  I did, but it was touch-and-go there till I finally crawled ashore.  I recall thinking, "You ain’t the man you were fifty years ago.  But this would have been exciting even then."

This is Willem Lange in Pittsburg, New Hampshire, and I better get back to work.

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