Indian warrior delayed Route 128 project — by a few hours, at least

By Carl Johnson, BHS class of ’54. He grew up on Derryfield Ave., atop Winnmere hill.

Native American boyIn my youth growing up in the pine woods, without any neighbors or kids nearby, I would amuse myself by hiking and exploring the woods and streams around me. I developed a great interest in the history and background of the Indian tribes of the area, even finding arrowheads by the shores of Littles Brook.

History says they were called the Nipmuck by the colonists. I studied their customs, religion, and dress, and decided to reestablish a Nipmuck tribe in our neck of the woods. I made my own crude bow and arrows (reeds from the pond) and practiced on my poor dog, Skipper, who learned to hide under the house when he saw me put on my loincloth and headband, even though I don’t think I ever hit him with a single “arrow.” I made my own moccasins of deer hide, borrowed from a hunting neighbor.

My mother soon pointed out that the loincloth might constitute indecent exposure and would encourage ticks and mosquitoes. So Yellow Wolf, as I named myself, would enter the woods wearing dungarees. I found the natural ingredients for war paint impossible to find, but my little sister’s poster paints made an impressive substitute. I would build campfires in the fall and winter, and would sit around them cross-legged, imagining myself leading a fierce tribe of warriors, watching for the encroachment of the white men.

One day I launched an “attack” on a cedar wood cutting crew. It wasn’t a physical attack, since they all seemed to be mature men of quite muscular build. I hid in the limbs of a tall white pine and let out a series of loud screeches, which my research told me would resemble a mountain lion’s call. I thought it was most impressive, sounding like a young boy screeching in pain as he was tortured over a hot fire.

This did make them pause, but they continued to cut wood, much to my dismay. I read in the paper that a grand invasion of the pines was taking place: the building of a highway very close to our little house in the piney woods. Each week, I heard the ominous sounds of the power saws and cat tree pullers miles away as they approached.

I found a large area punctured with impressive stakes. They had various surveying numbers on them, probably for an interchange of some sort. The next weekend when the workers were gone, I went to the area and pulled up all the stakes, piling them in the center of the clearing, where they burned magnificently, leaving a large pile of ash. On top of the pile I left a large hawk feather, assuming that this would be an obvious sign that the highway crews were dealing with a mean bunch of Nipmuck Indians.

Activity seemed to slow for a week or so, but when I revisited the site several weeks later, I found all of the stakes replaced with new ones, and fresh surveying numerals on them. Once again I pulled them up and made another impressive bonfire, leaving a buzzard feather. This would show the true wrath of the wily Nipmuck .

Walking on the road to meet the school bus later that month I saw several state police cars pulled up, and several dogs that seemed to be k-9 search dogs milling about. I realized at this point that it might be wise to terminate the Nipmuck rebellion. The next day I buried all my Indian regalia in a sand pit nearby and watched the highway progress. Yellow Wolf, fierce warrior of the Nipmuck, had met his match.