My Hometown

I’m from a small town in Upstate New York that was recently featured in this article on the Huffington Post. Any time I see my hometown on anything (that isn’t a breaking news story on CNN), I get pretty excited about it. It’s a big deal.

My hometown, Pine Plains, NY, is a town that as of the last Census, had less than 2,500 people in it. I have friends that graduated from high schools with more students than that. It prides itself in its farm culture and on its beautiful nature. We’re very proud of Stissing Mountain–so much so that our high school is named after it.

Our town has grown in the last decade or so to include what many call “Weekenders.” There are other names that I have heard to describe the newcomers, but for purposes of clarity, I will use “Weekenders.” The population of town comprised of these “Weekenders” has been growing at a relatively high rate. There are some residents who appreciate the influx of new faces, new money, but others have not taken kindly to the new additions.

In a conversation I had earlier today, it was brought to my attention that some of the “Weekenders” wonder why we don’t accept them into our midst. There is a clear divide between the two and as I have made the transition into a more temporary resident status, I can see it even more clearly.

The article features the following quotation:

“In Pine Plains there is a line. On one side, the owners of Fortune 500 companies keep their ponies. On the other side, locals earn their livings slaughtering cows.”

From what I have gathered from the connotation of this article, the locals are not seen by some “Weekenders” as more than farmers. Some believe we’re “rednecks” or “hicks.”

There are farms, there is the slaughterhouse which provides the local restaurants with much of its beef–which our town takes great pride in. (If you ever come here, make sure you try some of the Meiller sausage, I swear–it is some of the best you will ever eat.)

There are teachers, there are carpenters, there are police officers, state troopers, chefs, among other occupations residing in this little town. There may not be much in terms of industry. There is only one stoplight and one main county highway that runs through the center of town. If there is one thing we have, it would be pride.

I had the pleasure of returning home for Memorial Day. We host our annual parade that goes from the fire house, to the clock tower in the center of town, to the cemetery to honor the deceased, and back to the American Legion hall.

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(Photo from twitter.com/jstapfinator)

I took this picture during the ceremony at the clock tower. This is where our keynote speaker–usually a veteran–gives his/her speech and there are flowers placed upon the memorial that my own uncle made. This year’s keynote speaker was Dr. Martin Handler, current Superintendent of Schools, and former language instructor during the War in Vietnam. This town comes together at events like this.

There are the “Weekenders” with their “ponies” that play polo down on the fields of Mashomack, and then there are the locals with their boats on the lakes–Twin Island (affectionately known as Mud Pond), Stissing and Thompson Pond .


(Left: Twin Island; Middle: Stissing Lake; Right: Thompson Pond–Photo from http://stissingfiretower.org/id1.html)

This town may not seem like much to outsiders, but to those of us who have had the pleasure to grow up and live here, it’s a pretty great place to be. I absolutely agree with the Huffington Post in its statement that Pine Plains is one of the most “underrated places in the United States.”

As John Mellencamp put it, “I was born in a small town and I can breathe in a small town. Gonna die in this small town and that’s probably where they’ll bury me.”

15 thoughts on “My Hometown

  1. Grant’s reducing the populace of Pine Plains to either Fortune 500 or slaughterers may have been his condescending NY laconic sense of humor kicking in. He used two extremes to make a point. When the weekenders started moving up in droves, they destroyed the closed economic system we enjoyed ’round these parts.; Labor was cheap, Food was cheap, Housing was cheap, Land was cheap. The land speculators were the first to grab huge parcels which were later divided. Around this time Mashomic arrived where the men hunted and the woman used real estate to take them around to look for property paid for by windfall profits either gained by selling junk bonds or from related services like law. These people USED and still USE the locals to do their bidding. Unless these local lackeys are in the arts you would never see any of them choosing to break bread with these people. At Pecks Market, this is VERY apparent. They talk among themselves. So sad as there is an openness and honesty about locals that is as rich and precious as the fields, streams, mountain and lakes surrounding all of us. On several occasions, I have been called upon by a few weekenders to serve as their ‘shit kicker’ guide , directing them to various goods and services they needed. Every newcomer needs one of these guides. I was once a newcomer to Pine Plains, myself and was born where Grant lives part time in Brooklyn. I came from the ‘old’ Brooklyn of beautiful neighborhoods existing over 70 years ago. I spoke to a lifelong resident of Pine Plains who is about my age , concerning Grant’s article which I found very disturbing. This person laughingly stated , ‘ Have him come and meet all of us at noon under the traffic light so we can set him straight ‘ Jessica I hope your article , no doubt intended as a rebuttal , reaches this man as you are VERY articulate , skilled at graphics and photography. As a homegrown product of Pine Plains and some of the teachers, you do us proud!

  2. Very we’ll written, young lass, and a much more balanced and nuanced view than the H-Post piece. Thank you for representing the town so well. Betsy Biernat

  3. Enjoyed your article. Although I’m from your neighboring town of Stanfordville, I can fully relate to your reaction to the Huffington Post article. I, too, am an import from New York but now, after 40 years in Dutchess County I take pride in being considered “almost” a local!

  4. I have lived here all my life and could never imagine my self any where else . I have raised 6 children here and my grandchildren will be raised here to, to the huffington post you have highly insulted me but you probably dont care . Jessica great article be proud of your self

  5. Pine Plains is a wonderful Town to live in, I have moved out of town a few times but find myself always come back.I love this Town ,and Hopefully I will grow old here.People truly care in the Town of Pine Plains.

  6. Well Said Jess! You should have written the Huffington post piece, his was dribble. Your neighbor from Elizaville Here..

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