WellesleyWeston Magazine


Launched in 2005, WellesleyWeston Magazine is a quarterly publication tailored to Wellesley and Weston residents and edited to enrich the experience of living in two of Massachusetts' most desirable communities.

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Page 209 of 211

of the guy who sticks that stamp on the gas pump certifying that a gallon is a gallon. Back in colonial days, every municipality was required to have measurers of lumber. As they've streamlined government, some more radical towns —Wellesley, for example — have abolished the position. Weston, too, has eliminated a number of vestigial posts, including field driver (held by Jerry Remy in 1985) and fence viewer (John Havlicek, 1989-2006). In the 1700s, towns typically had 30 or more officers who enforced sturdy fences, orderly livestock, and honest lumber. These positions also served as a proving ground for future leaders, according to Emerson W. Baker, a professor of history at Salem State. "It was almost like a pecking order," Baker said. "Your hog reeve is your 20- something guy newly married. It's his first step in responsibility in the community." The hog reeve, for example, was responsible for policing wayward swine. The word "sheriff," Baker notes, is a contraction of shire (county) and reeve. Robin Peakes Coutts has served as measurer of lumber in Weston since 2012. The senior member of the trio, Coutts was a natural for the position — the maternal half of her family tree has been in the lumber business in Maine since the 1800s. "I have strong roots," she said. She has strong roots in Weston, too. Some old-timers may recall her grandfather Peakes, who would regularly walk to Silver Hill Station with his pet pig. So far as we know he was not a hog reeve. As measurer of lumber, Coutts has spoken out at town caucus in favor of buying local wood, from dealers such as Land's Sake Farm. She warns of the danger of inadvertently importing non-native insects that might hitch a ride with out-of-state wood. Another of Coutts's causes: that the lumber measurers wear lum- berjack shirts when appearing in their official capacity. This is not a job for those who prefer French cuffs. The other measurers — Cameron Peters and Jim Barry— say Coutts encouraged them to come aboard. At a fateful caucus three years ago, they nominated one another to the post. "I don't remember the exact order," Peters said, who jokingly acknowledged that "clearly a lot of collusion and deceit was going on." Asked what he has achieved in the post, Peters paused at length and then said, "That's a very hard one because I can't point to a single accomplishment, let alone a major accomplishment." He added, "If you look at the job description, our hands are tied. We are only responsible for lumber that is imported into the town of Weston by water." Barry, too, says he comes up a bit short in the achievement depart- ment. However, he vows that he stands at the ready: "When called, I shall serve." Before you contact The Boston Globe Spotlight team, I should point out that measurer of lumber is an unpaid position. Candidates, how- ever, must file campaign finance reports, which the incumbents assured me they have faithfully done. They said they had neither raised nor spent any money, though Peters did talk about posting campaign signs ("Don't knock wood" was among the slogans he considered). The measurers, however, are a bit cagey about whether they have complied with the open meeting law. Coutts spoke vaguely of the three having wine together, but denied that their judgment may have been impaired as a result. She could not produce the required minutes. As to potential issues that may arise in the course of carrying out their duties, the measurers — all of whom own fireplaces — would like to see the town ban artificial fire logs. Peters refused to be pinned down regarding veneer. "That's a philo- sophical question," he said. And none of the three appeared anxious to investigate the ubiquitous two-by-four, which in fact does not measure two inches by four inches. "There you go," as Professor Baker said, "true politicians." last but not least "I have strong roots" 208 W e l l e s l e y W e s t o n M a g a z i n e | s u m m e r 2 0 1 6 Be Creative This page is designed to give our readers the opportunity to express themselves creatively. If you have a short piece of fiction or nonfiction (300-500 words), a poem, illustration, or photograph depicting life in Wellesley and Weston, we would love to hear from you. Please email your submissions to jill@wellesleywestonmagazine.com.

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