PETERSHAM - The chirping birds and croaking frogs are a long way from federal court in Boston, where mobster Frank Salemme is on trial for a murder that happened in 1993, and where David Boeri would have had a front-row seat had he not retired this month from his career as an award-winning radio journalist.
Four days in, he's comfortable with the decision that most of his bosses and co-workers tried to talk him out of. Not champing at the bit to be at the trial or make the long commute to Boston, he said, is proof that he made the right choice.
"The fact that I’m not there, though, tells you something, which is: I was ready. I was ready to go out into my big backyard," he said from a comfortable sofa, with the family dog, Duke, at his feet.
Years of reporting from behind the camera at Channel 2 and WCVB, and later behind the microphone at WBUR, have left him with a boatload of memories that produce many emotions.
He's also stacked up awards - the National Edward R. Murrow award for investigative journalism, the New England Edward R. Murrow award for investigative journalism, the New England Associated Press award for hard news reporting, and the ACLU Defender of Freedom award.
He spent so many hours covering mobster James "Whitey" Bulger that he took to carrying a "Bulger kit" in case the elusive felon was found. Inside the kit were mug shots and tapes and everything he'd need to break the story. In a small room in his attic, plastic totes packed with files are labeled "Early Bulger" and "FBI Culpability."
Sometimes, his closeness to the story left him uneasy. He'd put pebbles on the hood of his car and check them to be sure no one had opened it to booby trap the vehicle. Mobsters didn't like him and the FBI hated him, he said.
There were so many false starts with phony sightings in the case of Mr. Bulger that the night his boss called to say Mr. Bulger was in custody in California, he practically argued with her until she told him The Associated Press was reporting it.
The day that followed was a "four-ring circus," Mr. Boeri recalled, the precise environment in which a reporter like him thrives. He has a wealth of knowledge about the Boston mob scene, and news outlets near and far were calling for his comments. He was trying to provide his own coverage, too. It was a great day, he said.
But for Mr. Boeri, the most important stories he's told have been of underdogs, of people who were wronged and who, he hopes, were helped by his work.
The one who comes to his mind when he's asked is Nga Truong, a 16-year-old from Worcester accused of killing her infant son. Mr. Boeri fought in Worcester Superior Court for release of a tape of Worcester police interrogating the teen, swearing at her and promising help for her siblings if she confessed to killing the child. In it, police lied about having medical evidence that the 13-month-old was killed. They made offers in exchange for her confession and after more than two hours they got it.
"She was a 16-year-old child," he said. "They promised her help, a better living situation for her and her brothers, and the first thing she asked after she said she killed Khyle was whether they could go to foster homes."
That confession was thrown out and the case dismissed, but not before the teen spent close to three years behind bars. She sued the city, winning a settlement of more than $2 million.
Mr. Boeri credits her lawyer, Ed Ryan, with working doggedly on the case when he could have simply accepted a plea and moved on. He said he believes Ms. Truong because there were signs her baby was ill. Hours after the child's death his body temperature was still higher than normal, he said.
"They didn't have any medical evidence," he said.
Ms. Truong keeps in touch with Mr. Boeri. She's in college and doing well, he said. He called her a fighter and said she maintained her dignity throughout the ordeal.
In another courtroom, years later, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was on trial for the Boston Marathon bombings.
Mr. Boeri said he sat at the end of a bench in the courtroom, faced front and knew when the next witness was a survivor of the attack by the "click, step, click, step" sound of a person walking with a prosthetic leg. He knew whose leg was amputated above the knee by the sway in their walk and who had lost their leg below the knee because their gait was more typical.
He is emotional talking about the things he heard in that room: 8-year-old Martin Richard's family recounting his death; a mother who wanted nothing more than to understand every aspect of why Mr. Tsarnaev did what he did and caused her two sons to each lose a leg. She wanted to talk directly to Mr. Tsarnaev, and Mr. Boeri connected her with his lawyers, though the visit hasn't happened.
With so many stories behind him, Mr. Boeri said, he will probably come full circle and get back to writing. He holds a master's degree in botany and he's already ramped up the time he's spending in the garden behind his home. One of his daughters plans to hold her wedding in the garden in July.
And there are grandchildren from another daughter: Isla, who is 3, and Ezra, who is 3 months.
Their arrival forced Mr. Boeri to think about his career as a grandfather and what he wanted to be called.
"Grandpa and all those things sounded too old," he said. "I decided I wanted to be called Chief. So Isla calls me Chief and I call her Princess."
His wife, Islay Boeri, is enjoying having him at home. She's pressing him to get things in order in the yard but is also encouraging him to enjoy his new freedom.
"The phone was always ringing," she said. "Sure, we would take a vacation, but even then the phone was always ringing."
It will still ring, she knows, but now he doesn't have to answer.
And she reminds him that these days, he can put things off until tomorrow - now and then.