Oh Those Vermonters! A Photojournal

This is num­ber 37 in THE REVELATOR’s inter­mit­tent trav­el­ogues of locales we believe our read­ers may choose to vaca­tion, relo­cate, or day­dream upon. Long-time read­ers may remem­ber such pre­vi­ous entries as “Oh Those Romans!” in which our for­mer edi­tor Alice X invited read­ers to her home on the Amalfi coast, and “Oh Those Red Legs!” which described the bewitch­ing post-Civil War scenery along the Kansas-Missouri bor­der. The fol­low­ing let­ter with its accom­pa­ny­ing pho­tos was writ­ten by Mary Fran­cis Cogswell, for­merly of Boston, Mass. and mailed to her niece Emily Duchamp of New­bury­port, Mass on Sept. 25, 2011. It is Ms. Duchamp, a Loyal Reader, who for­warded the mis­sive to us.

The Brat­tle­boro train sta­tion: The Amtrak from Boston was half an hour late, but I had an hour con­nec­tion in Spring­field and so did not miss The Ver­mon­ter. I arrived in Brat­tle­boro a lit­tle after 5 PM and imme­di­ately felt my spir­its lift. I could tell I was enter­ing a more hos­pitable region not yet infested with bill­boards, hip-hop, and ille­gal aliens, all the hor­rors that the unen­light­ened call progress. Two help­ful lads offered me a lift to my hotel if I would pur­chase them beer and I hap­pily com­plied, even pass­ing out doggy bis­cuits to their dear lit­tle puppy, Zoth.


Brat­tle­boro: The town is quaint is all the best and worst senses of the word. The best: I feel absolutely safe, even though I do not see a sin­gle police­man, per­haps because I do not see a sin­gle police­man. The worst: Even though there are more book­shops here than drug­stores, the for­mer are musty, thereby requir­ing me to find the later so as to alle­vi­ate my allergy symptoms.


Brat­tle­boro graf­fiti: I find the graf­fiti in Brat­tle­boro most enter­tain­ing. These are not the sim­ple dec­la­ra­tions of my youth, where some­one like my dear departed Harry would write his protes­ta­tion of love on an over­pass. They are truly works of art. I can’t help think that, as with all art, a hid­den mes­sage is con­tained therein but I am just too much a fuddy-duddy to understand.


North­ward bound. After a good night’s sleep, I picked up my rental car. The young man behind the counter sported a small black mus­tache and affected an urbane con­de­scen­sion, almost a mock­ery of the Boston­ian accent, but these could not hide the marks of the inbreed­ing so com­mon in iso­lated com­mu­ni­ties. When I asked him for direc­tions, he replied, “Why don’t you Google it?” How­ever, on stat­ing my des­ti­na­tion, he became con­cil­ia­tory, even draw­ing me a help­ful map. His grand­fa­ther, he said, had lived in that vicin­ity before being taken by the wan­der­lust. That is just how he phrased it—The Wan­der­lust—as if it were a ship you hopped aboard for con­veyance to a dis­tant port.


The West River. It is not even a month since Hur­ri­cane Irene and its mark lies heavy on the land and, most par­tic­u­larly, on its water­ways. I ate my lun­cheon sand­wich on the banks of the West River, where I saw much that had been deposited by the surg­ing waters. I could not explain all that I saw but I am sure that what seems strange to me is com­mon­place to the locals.


West River Bridge. I saw a man dig­ging a trench in the shal­low waters by an archaic cov­ered bridge. This enter­prise, bizarre in its futil­ity, piqued my cat-like inter­est and I inquired as to the task that he engaged. “Ask me no ques­tions and I’ll tell you no lies,” was his delight­ful response. Oh, those Vermonters!


Bald Moun­tain. How like the locals to call a place Bald Moun­tain when it bears a full head of hair! But seri­ously, the young man at the car rental counter, a Mr. Noyes if I remem­ber cor­rectly, told me that it had acquired the name when its top burned clear in a for­est fire many decades ago. He hinted that the fire had been inten­tion­ally set but for ‘obvi­ous rea­sons’ no one had been arrested. The peak had been known by the name of Dark Moun­tain before the fire. Once I am set­tled here, I shall send a let­ter to the local paper rec­om­mend­ing a return to the his­tor­i­cally accu­rate name.


Round Hill Ceme­tery. I knew from the address that the house was on Round Hill Road, but I had not known that top­ping Round Hill itself was a ceme­tery. Why it’s almost on my new doorstep! The stones are recent and ancient, of mar­ble, slate, and decay­ing lime­stone, the let­ter­ing on some clear, on oth­ers so eroded it might as well be hiero­glyph­ics. It is quiet here and peace­ful. My dear Harry used to say, “Ceme­ter­ies make good neigh­bors,” and now I know what he meant.


The house! “A white, two-and-a-half story house, of unusual ele­gance for this region.” That’s how my friend described the place to me in his let­ters. Accu­rate but, I’m afraid, col­ored by nos­tal­gia. The house could cer­tainly use a woman’s touch! My friend was not here to greet me, being engaged in busi­ness else­where — he too likes to jour­ney aboard The Wan­der­lust! — but I took him up on his offer to make myself com­fort­able. He is truly an old-fashioned gen­tle­man for he has a ham radio in his library; men will have their toys. In that same library he also has a shelf packed with var­i­ous pre­serves, each can­is­ter labeled with the name of the good neigh­bor from whom he received the gift. I sup­pose it makes his heart leap to see how well he is loved. I hope the neigh­bors take as good a care of me as they do of him.


The post office. Here’s where I will mail your let­ter, my sweet Emily! A small post office in a small town, but this is now my small post office in my small town. The post office is set right up against the woods and in the woods there is the buzzing of cicadas. Or does the buzzing come from within the post office itself? Its walls throb to my touch. Per­haps they have pur­chased a new-fangled machine to expe­dite deliv­er­ies. I will try not to laugh, because what is new to them is likely to seem hope­lessly bar­baric to me.