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by Fred Contrada
From the introduction: Back when I wrote a weekly column, people would surprise me by asking, “What’s it about?” I was dumbfounded. Some columnists write about people; some about their pets or parents; some about themselves. I had trouble answering the question because I wanted to write about whatever I wanted to write about. No neat labels or limits for me.
I saw the column as my ticket to freedom. Every week, I could express myself without having to stick to the facts of a news story. Although I wrote for a regional newspaper, I could write about past adventures, present-day challenges, and the transience of life. I didn’t need a news hook to Western Massachusetts. I could tell stories like I was sitting around a campfire. I wrote about the characters I encountered in my twenties as I hitchhiked across the country. I met Sikhs in the Pecos Wilderness, shooed mice out of my Volkswagen van, and stayed at a hobo camp in the Yukon. I had some close calls with mentally ill and dangerous characters, but I got out alive and learned a lot about human nature, especially the twisted kind.
“Fred’s quirky, beautifully written, sharply observed columns were one of the treasures of the valley. To have so many collected in one volume is yet another treasure for the valley.” — Stan Freeman, former reporter for the Daily Hampshire Gazette and The Springfield Republican, and author of The Natural History of Western Massachusetts