No kidding: Mosquitoes have to go

The town of Great Barrington and every town in Berkshire County should spray for mosquitoes. It is nothing short of a matter of life or death. Don’t say I didn’t warn you — I did and that’s that. Final notice.

Yes, I realize that some of you may think that the stuff they use to spray may be hazardous to our health. Nevertheless, we live in tough times and we know that diseases like encephalitis and West Nile Virus, among others, are spread by mosquitoes.

You can be a phoo-phoo and not want to spray for some undocumented reason or you can watch a loved one die from West Nile Virus. I am told by authoritative sources that there are dead crows around the region. Them’s the choices.

We went to a wonderful wedding of our friends Gianluca and Emily in Sheffield the other night and noticed the absence of the killer bugs. When we asked, we were told that the town sprays.

I wondered whether every town sprayed or not. I called Sheffield and a very cooperative voice told me that Sheffield had opted in to the Berkshire County mosquito control program, which is actually run by the state. It turns out that Great Barrington’s voters, in order to save money, voted several years ago not to spray.

Okay, here comes the sarcasm in case you are a literalist. One can only admire and respect Great Barrington for its frugal ways. The town is always looking for ways to save money.

Let’s see — there was the library renovation, the beautiful new schools, the huge brand-spanking-new fire house, and the new police station. Certainly those were all cost saving measures. But the cost of averting imminent danger to you and your family is too high? What is wrong with this picture?

Let’s say the price tag might be $50,000. Would saving one life that might otherwise have been lost to the bite of a disease-bearing mosquito be worth the expenditure of $50,000? You know it would.

I met Great Barrington Select Board Chairman Walter “Buddy” Atwood III on the street right after the board voted, quite sensibly, to award Jane Iredale’s group the right to develop the Searles complex. I’m a big Buddy Atwood fan. He’s no-nonsense and he knows just about everyone there is to know. He is straight talking and fun and he is related, one way or another, to almost everyone.

He told me that very few towns were in the county were paying to spray. He also said that Sheffield voted for it ” because someone had died of yellow fever, years back.” I still have no idea whether he was pulling my leg but I told him I was going to quote him on the matter and so I have.

On another matter, the always perceptive and brilliant, yet still sensitive, Nancy Fitzpatrick invited a few people to one of the most undiscovered of all the beautiful places in the Berkshires, Chesterwood, the summer home and studio of Daniel Chester French.

French is best known for his sculpture of a seated Abraham Lincoln for the Lincoln Memorial in Washington. You can get to Chesterwood by looking for the sign coming north or south on Route 183. It’s right near the Rockwell Museum and is one gorgeous place with some incredible scenery and some of the best displays of French’s work to be found.

French did the original model for the Lincoln Memorial right there in his studio and that model is now being displayed at the National Gallery of Art in Washington where hundreds of thousands of people can see it. This is just one of those gems of the Berkshires that more people should see.

So the next time that Aunt Tessie is visiting, take her to French’s house and studio and knock her socks off. I suspect that she might even put you in the will.

Originally Published in the Berkshire Eagle, 9/5/09

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