Burnt Toast: Trouble in the Nation’s Breadbasket: Wagon Train Across NH 1976 By Paul Gunter

Burnt Toast: Trouble in the Nation’s Breadbasket

By Paul Gunter

 Ron Reick and I organized to take a horse drawn wagon across the state of New Hampshire from Hinsdale on the Connecticut River to Seabrook to raise the public awareness of the first Clamshell occupation of the nuke construction site scheduled for August 1, 1976. Steppingstone Farm over in Marlow generously loaned us “Dick,” a well muscled Percheron and the gentlest of their team of draft work horses.  Cornelia Iselin had found us a sturdy enough donated farm wagon which we fixed with bowed saplings covered over with an army tarp. Her son George volunteered to be our experienced teamster for the journey. About a dozen of us set out in mid-July 1976 on a ten-day easterly trek using the back of the wagon as our stage for an anti-nuclear puppet show to take the message of nuclear power literally “to the village square.” Our theme and touring performance “Burnt Toast: Trouble in the Nation’s Breadbasket” was composed and single-handedly performed by Eric Wolfe. Actually, he had to use both hands most of the time.

The very first morning that we set off on our journey, the nuclear power plant in Vernon, Vermont just across the river from Hinsdale accidently dumped 80,000 gallons of radioactive water contaminated with tritium into the Connecticut River. We were canvassing the neighborhood as the wagon passed through the town. I knocked on a door of one home to explain our mission across the state to oppose the construction of the New Hampshire nuke. When the door opened, a woman stood between all 6’ 7” of me ardently explaining the hazards of nuclear power and her television set blaring a live broadcast warning not to swim or fish in the river because of the radioactive spill. She looked at me and then her TV and slammed the door in my face. 

The advance group of our affinity group travelled by car to poster each town announcing the arrival and show time of a “Free Puppet Show on the Town Common, Bring the Children.”  We were getting a decent turn out of kids, parents and the curious on the town commons of Marlborough, Dublin, Peterborough, Wilton, and Milford.  We spent our nights at the hospitality of supportive churches and private homes which occasionally hosted evening public presentations where we often referred to the splitting of the atom to boil water for electricity as the wasteful equivalent of ringing a door bell with a cannon or cutting butter with a chainsaw. At an arranged rendezvous outside of Manchester we put Dick in a horse trailer and the wagon on flat bed truck and drove everybody down for an evening public presentation in Nashua hosted by Macy Morse.

In stints of 10 to 20 miles per day, we continued our march through the beautiful countryside of Hudson, Windham and Haynes Corner singing a variation of an old gospel we entitled “Swing Low, Sweet Paddy Wagon.”  Eventually, our “wagon train” arrived on Hampton Falls Common and a gathering of 400 or more activists and supporters for the Seacoast rally to stop the construction of Seabrook. Ron and I joined our affinity group of 18 New Hampshire residents and walked down the railroad tracks to the nuke construction site and our much anticipated police paddy wagon ride.

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