Oh, nostalgia, that sentimental longing for things past, whether it be moments, people or places. Like many of you marching into the golden years, your arthritic affiant occasionally finds himself knee-deep in this spongy, emotional swampland. For me, experiences gained as a humble public servant steering a bulky Ford police cruiser along the streets of the old town come to life now and then when I pass a locale of special interest.
As an example, the For Sale signs at the former Kozeneski Farm on Linebrook Road have created a cascade of pleasant memories from years past. Once upon a time, Kozeneski’s was one of a number of working farms occupying the land between Linebrook Road and High Street. Fertile and irrigated by both Dow and Bull Brooks, this land has been tended by generations of Marini, Galicki, Kozeneski, Wegzyn and Barowy families, busily producing meat, poultry and produce to this day.
Mr. Edward Kozeneski was the last in his family to steward his acres. Spanning Linebrook Road from the south side of the street, then driving deep into the wetlands along Mile Lane, the farm had been in the family for many years. A bachelor when I knew him, he occupied the farmhouse with his sister. Together, they tended the cows, slopped the hogs, fed the chickens and kept up the place up as best they could. A crazy little dog, or series of them, kept watch over the property from beneath a crab apple tree positioned dangerously close to the road.
The dog, a small black and white mutt, did what dogs were allowed to do in simpler times. It chased cars that would pass along on Linebrook Road. But this dog had a unique style of pursuit. As a car approached, rather than follow it along the road, it would simply run full speed in a tight little circle beneath the crab apple tree. Thus, the dog earned the name “The Spinner.” When stimulated by a passing vehicle, the dog circled the tree with such velocity its rear end would sometimes pass its front end, causing The Spinner to latch onto its tail to decelerate and correct course. Unfortunately, The Spinner spun out of control once too often, underscoring why we needed leash laws then.
Ed Kozeneski was no country bumpkin. I believe that he was college educated. I know that he was a Selectman in the 1970’s, making up one-third of the famous troika with Jack Pickard and Joe Navarro. These gentlemen knew how to get things done for the public good without creating undue fanfare. In those primitive days prior to community access television, rather than posture for the viewing audience while struggling to remain awake, these old school pols kept their meetings brief, their deliberations concise and their decisions relatively clear. Afterwards, it was off to The Landing, that subterranean watering hole adjacent to The Hart House, where the meeting after the meeting was called to order and the people’s business more fully vetted and prescribed.
I got to know Ed Kozeneski through many responses to his farm for reports of stray or missing cows, wandering pigs and damage done by car wrecks to his rickety fence along the road. The damaged fence would invariably lead to a wild stampede of whatever critters populated the front barnyard that particular day. Ed instructed me in the fine art of cow wrangling, as it was the duty of the I.P.D. to assist with the round-up to assure the road was clear of fierce creatures and safe for travel. As years passed, these responses increased in direct relation to the decline in the property and aging of its caretakers, compelling one witty Ipswich Firefighter to christen the place The Lazy-K Ranch.
I never minded a round-up call. It got me out of the car and into the fresh air, exploring on foot areas of town I had never seen before. Most of the calls were in the nighttime hours, as motorists steaming home would report near-collisions or glancing blows from a monstrous pig, wandering cow or ravaging coyote. This was in the time before cell phones of course, so the shocked motorist would need to get home to make a report. The desk officer would then call Ed and dispatch the area car to investigate and assist. By the time we got there, the critter had usually wandered away from the road (if it was still able to) and the search would be on.
At 2:30 am one very crisp October morning, I was riding with former I.P.D. officer now esteemed member of the Massachusetts Bar and celebrated Captain of the Peabody Police, Dennis Bonaiuto. We were given a round-up call to the Lazy-K following a report that a sounder of swine were seen sauntering along the roadway. We arrived straight away, yet observed neither drift, herd nor drove in the immediate area. Ed met us and after checking the sty, confirmed the absence of its usual inhabitants.
“Sometimes they go across the road when they smell the apples out there,” he told us, pointing to woods on the opposite side of Linebrook.
“Not to worry, sir,” my partner assured. “We’re experts at locating missing pigs. We consider it a professional courtesy.” And with that, we broke standing department rules prohibiting travel off the macadam and drove along an old tote road deep into the dark, foreboding woods. Dennis informed me that he was a highly skilled hog caller, and promptly demonstrated his abilities over the cruiser P.A. system. Within minutes, we were surrounded by a dozen snorting, omnivorous sus. Dennis, an urbane sophisticate who had never once seen a pig during his entire young life in West Peabody, was clearly delighted. He continued to snort over the P.A. and the pigs responded in kind to their new found Svengali of Swine. Thinking the hour was late enough that Chief Brouillette would be deep asleep and not listening to his police scanner at home, Dennis thrilled at the idea of transmitting a pig chorus over the police radio. He worked the swine into high C and then broadcast the thundering herd over KCA-926 for a good ten seconds. Charlie Schwartz was working the desk that night and promptly retorted, “Station to car two, that’s the most intelligent statement you’ve made all night.”
Rounding up the Kozeneski cows was a different kettle of fish. Sometimes, they came along quietly, other times not. Ed kept twenty or so cattle on his sprawling property. Raised primarily for beef production, Ed’s cows tended to the lean side, probably due to all the running they did down Linebrook Road and beyond. When the cows made market weight and it was time to cull the herd, they were loaded onto a trailer and brought to Abe Cohen’s slaughterhouse on Pine Swamp Road. In today’s popular idiom of Farm to Table, Abe’s performed the role of go-between.
Occasionally one of Ed’s cows would suffer poor health, as cows sometimes do, and need to be put down. When circumstances allowed, Ed would give the hapless heifer a one way ride to Abe’s for entry into the canine food chain. If the poor cow was already knocking on heavens door, Ed would transport the deceased deep into the back fields for a proper burial.
Charlie Cooper and I were on patrol one evening when we answered a report of a sick-looking cow on Mile Lane. We eventually found poor Elmer, but he was no longer suffering. He was down for the count in the center of a swale directly across from the water pumping station. Ed was notified and met us on the road. “Can I get it tomorrow?” he asked. We told him that decorum demanded the removal of dead cows from atop public water fields sooner than later. He understood our reasoning and during the evening, Charlie observed poor Elmer hoofs up and in tow behind Ed’s tractor, headed to his final resting place in the back forty.
One of the last round-ups concerned a stubborn little heifer that knew no bounds. This guy was a feisty wanderlust, with a penchant for jumping Ed’s fences and bolting hell-bent for freedom. Ed disliked this cow very much, confiding to me that it was a troublemaker that caused the rest of his herd untold misery. Following one major break-out, where the incorrigible cow had taken some accomplices along for company, we managed to corral all but the ringleader. As the night wore on, we received a call from the Hamilton Police citing reports of a wandering cow off of Highland Avenue. We let Ed know, and he responded, but could not locate this fugitive critter. In the early morning hours of the next day, the Topsfield Police reported sightings in their community. Finally, after the cow was cornered near Saint John’s Prep School in Danvers two days later, Ed was able to lasso it and reluctantly rendite it back to Ipswich.
It was around this time that Ed told me he was battling cancer, and would be divesting all his livestock. It was a sad thing to hear, as I liked Ed very much and realized that not only was he suffering the loss of his health and livelihood, but that yet another era of small town life in Ipswich was slipping away. When Ed passed, family helped his sister and the farm was managed by Mr. Bill Walton, ironically another former Selectmen, who has now also passed. Marini Farms cultivated some of the fields, and continues to do so today. But its time as a working farm is all but over, with the entire 98.5 acres now up for sale. What becomes of the property is anyone’s guess, but I am glad I was around to know it when Ipswich was a different community, and can appreciate it and the times for what they were, cavorting cows and all.
– Gavin Keenan