Lester Champion was the one who told me about Mary Kartashevich and her pet porcupine. Call her, he told me over the phone. You’ll get a good story.
I was a reporter then covering three small towns and more. I had a biweekly column in which I wrote about people and things unique to the hill towns of western Massachusetts. Mary’s porcupine sounded like a good fit.
I drove to the outer fringes of Worthington where Mary lived alone in a farmhouse built when the center of this town was much farther west.
Mary was friendly and happy to see me. And, there was the small porcupine hanging out with some of her cats. Before I got close, it waddled off to hide between some rusted farm equipment and boards near a shed.
Mary begged the animal to stay, but gave up. “He senses there is someone strange,” she says.
She told me it showed up mid-winter, an orphan she believed of the porcupines that took over a nearby orchard.
Mary cut up apples to feed the baby, and eventually it would take a piece from her hand. When spring came, the porcupine turned to grass shoots and buds on maple trees.
The animal stuck around and even napped in the sun with her black and white cats. Skunk cats, she told me they’re called. She had a dozen.
Mary said the porcupine followed her around the yard and would go inside her house if she let it. She said it came when she called, “where’s my little baby porcy?”
But like so many stories, you go to the scene expecting one and come back with more.
We walked around the farm, and I marveled when Mary, who was 71, leaped over a stone wall like a young girl.
She told me she moved here from Connecticut nearly five decades ago with her father and two brothers. They bought the farm for $4,400.
Her father always wanted a farm but he wasn’t successful with it, He tried cows for milk and then chickens for meat and eggs, but neither panned out. So the family found work off the farm.
She said after they got through another winter, the family would vow to sell the farm, but then summer came and they forgot about it.
She and her brothers never married. She was the last one left in her family.
I saw Mary a couple of weeks later in the general store. She was pleased I said hello. Many people don’t, she told me.
And, she said, one day the porcupine went away and didn’t come back.
Last I heard Mary sold the house and acreage to a neighbor. I hope she got a good price and went some place where life was a little easier.