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Lights out in Boscawen: Town Christmas tree robbed of lights

According to the Boscawen Fire Department, thieves stole the decorations to the tree they decorated in Boscawen at the intersection of Routes 3 and 4 on Monday night. The lights had been replaced on Wednesday, December 5, 2012. 

ALEXANDER COHN / Monitor staff

According to the Boscawen Fire Department, thieves stole the decorations to the tree they decorated in Boscawen at the intersection of Routes 3 and 4 on Monday night. The lights had been replaced on Wednesday, December 5, 2012. ALEXANDER COHN / Monitor staff Purchase photo reprints at PhotoExtra »

Fire Chief Ray Fisher has been eating smoke in Boscawen for 50 years.

The missing lights, though, the ones he strung on the town’s Christmas tree a few days ago, is something he just can’t swallow.

Instead, Fisher, a stoic New Englander with a vintage clam chowdah accent, shook his head and lamented at the station yesterday.

His voice echoed through the cavernous lunch area, with the shiny fire trucks and rescue vehicles close by, in the adjacent garage. He joined the all-volunteer department during the Kennedy Administration and says this is a first.

Why in the name of Rudolph would anyone lift the lights off a Christmas tree, right in the middle of town?

Who would tarnish this tradition, born before anyone had even heard of a Charlie Brown Christmas?

Anyone have an answer?

Fisher wants to know.

“It makes you sick that someone would do this,” said Fisher, 73. “I just don’t understand it. I just don’t.”

Fisher and four volunteers strung four 50-foot cords of multi-color lights around a freshly cut 16-foot tree last Monday. Always a town project, a backhoe and members of the local public works crew were needed to anchor the tree in a deep hole.

“A really pretty tree,” Fisher said.

A department meeting at the station broke up at 9:45 that night. The last firefighter out the door would say later that the tree looked fine at that time. The lights were on.

All of them.

By time Fisher’s son, Michael, Boscawen’s fire captain, saw the tree the next morning at 6:45 while driving to work, the bottom portion of lights had gone out.

Or so Michael thought, texting his dad the news. He had no idea the lights were actually gone.

And therein lies your nine-hour window, the time line for a crime committed quicker than a Dalmatian through the woods.

“I figured we had fuse problems,” Fisher said. “I went down and checked. I could not believe it.”

Fisher bought a new string and has since replaced the old one. But talk to him about the subject, even for a few moments, and his disgust is obvious.

Fisher, you see, grew up in the 1940s and ’50s, periods of time when, as Fisher sees it, honesty and volunteerism were not in demand. Not like they are today.

“I might have liked it more back then,” Fisher said. “The attitude overall was different, the responsibilities different. We all had work to do as young kids.”

Fisher had plenty of work to do. His family owned a dairy farm in Boscawen, meaning he got up each morning at 4:30 to milk cattle before school.

Dairy farms were everywhere around here, and so were young men and boys longing to volunteer for their local fire departments. Including Fisher, who chased trucks and watched the action, just to learn and be noticed.

He was hired as a volunteer in town 50 years ago this March, a role that has defined him in the area, far more than the machinist and welding jobs he had for decades to put food on the table for his wife and three sons.

Those three sons, by the way, have followed Dad’s path: Michael works for his father in their local department, Daniel is full time in Concord and Peter once volunteered for the Boscawen department before moving out of the area.

The work, of course, has been dangerous, the outcomes sometimes deadly. Fisher remembered the man who died on High Street and the kids who perished in the big colonial house, close to the Historical Society, and the fire near the local furniture store in Penacook that killed two others.

“You don’t forget about it,” Fisher said. “It’s always there.”

But there’s also the time Fisher and his crew – Capts. Mark Bailey and Peter Kenney, and firefighters Mike Fisher and John Ayers – chopped and hacked their way through a garage door, inoperable because the house fire had cut the power, to save the lives of two women.

A citation on the wall of the firehouse thanks those men, and Fisher was quick to say, “It’s not me as much as it is my guys.”

But it’s Fisher who annually cuts down the Christmas tree and hauls it on his trailer to the island that separates routes 3 and 4. There, the tree stands through the holiday season, decorated with lights by the man who’s lived in town all his life.

Fisher took over the tree job from a local snowmobile company about eight years ago. He says he doesn’t remember when the tradition began, meaning it’s been going on for a long time.

Last Monday’s heist forced Fisher to scramble. He went back to Lowe’s and bought more lights. The tree looks nice now, but. . . .

“It looks okay,” Fisher said. “But not as beautiful as it did to begin with.”

(Ray Duckler can be reached at 369-3304 or rduckler@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @rayduckler.)

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