Category Archives: Vermont

“Tell Her You Live in the House Above Dickie’s Old Place”

April 25, 2010:

On our way to dinner tonight we passed by a cute little beagle running down the road.  We didn't think anything of it, since we regularly see dogs from the neighborhood running free (the culture of freedom in Vermont extends to dogs apparently).  When we returned from dinner, we found him sitting on our porch steps.  Meghan saw him first, and I hadn't even seen him yet, so I just heard her say "hey little, guy, what you doing here?" and I thought she was talking about our cat.  I quickly realized she wasn't when the dog started barking and growling. 

I figured I would start by calling our landlord, John, to see if he knew whose dog it was.  It seemed like a good bet since he knows everyone in the neighborhood, all 10 houses on the 2 mile road.  I gave him a description and he thought it belonged to his other tenant.  He came up to check it out and found that it wasn't his dog. 

John came into the house to discuss the situation and asked if we had a local phone book to look up the number for animal control.  Here's where it gets very "Vermonty." 

My wife and I looked at each other and said "phone book?" then remembered that we did indeed receive a few copies of the slim tome a few months ago.  Since it was so thin, it was useless as a door stop – the only use for it we ever had back in Massachusetts – so we threw them out.  I quickly looked up the town's web site (yep, Moretown has a web site, found right here) and found the number for animal control.

I was impressed that there was a web presence at all, but it is also kept pretty much up to date.  Apparently the guy who used to be the animal control officer is now the town constable, so John's connections went out the window.  He mumbled something about someone else he knew that he would have called but "they moved off to Rivers Four Corners" or somewhere else folksy-sounding like that. 

On the Moretown web site there were two people listed under animal control. TWO.   That means that a full 0.12% of the Moretown population is involved with animal control.  That may not sound like much, but way of comparison, there would have to be nearly 10,000 people involved with animal control in NYC to have the save ratio.  I'm guessing it is because of the potential for massive cow rampages.  

Anyway, John knew one of them, and said to "call Paula and tell her that you live in the house above Dickie's old place, and she'll know where you're talking about."  He basically decided that his involvement with the situation was done and excused himself.  Vermonters are a no-nonsense type of people.

After multiple phone calls to both of the animal control people (come to think of it, one of them never called me back), since one went right to voice mail and the other was busy, I finally got a call back and I relayed the information about where we lived.  It worked.

I swear, I can not make this shit up.  I don't think I even gave a house number – just "we're in the log cabin up above Dickie's old place" and she said "OK, I'll be right there after I borrow a dog carrier from the neighbor."   I'm thinking that the town couldn't afford their own carrier since they spent all that money on the web site.

Paula did arrive a short while later and we were able to get the dog to come to us with the benefit of some dog treats and saw that the dog had a tussle with a local porcupine.  The poor thing had quills in its snout and in its paws.  I actually don't know what happened to the dog, but at least the shelter has a "no-kill" policy for stray animals, so it couldn't have ended too gruesomely.

SIX Seasons?

The first thing you learn when you move to Vermont – and I do mean the first thing; they may as well hand out pamphlets at the state line to anyone with a U-Haul in tow – is that there are six seasons in Vermont, not four.

Before jumping into them, let me clarify something: weather is both the biggest obsession and least concerning things of all Vermonters at the same time.  There is always discussion and debate about the weather, but the local television stations spend no extra time on it and don't even attempt to explain it, mainly because it is impossible.  I've sat in my house, watching them predict "no more than ten inches of snow in the highest elevations" while I look outside at our thousand-foot-elevation yard to see about eighteen inches of the white stuff. 

Snow is the weather event most easily identified with Vermont, but you can't forget about rain, fog, freezing fog, freezing rain, and something called rime which is just horrible sounding.   Oh, and my favorite: clouds.  Clouds stop being something that you look up at when you live in Vermont.  They are something that you look sideways at, drive through, and on a surprisingly large number of occasions, actually look DOWN at. 

So yes, winter is THE season of choice in Vermont.  Skiing is popular because of snow, but also because the people of Vermont are a little crazy, and it seems like a really good idea to go outside when the weather is really shitty and cold out.  More on skiing later.

Back to the six seasons thing: as I mentioned, one of the first things you learn when you move to Vermont is that there are six seasons, not four.  Yes, there are the traditional Spring, Summer, Fall and Winter, but in Vermont, there are two additional seasons: Twig and Mud. 

Twig season isn't universally recognized by all Vermonters, though I've found most of them do.   The concept is simple: it is the season between fall and winter. 

Fall in Vermont is beautiful, as the mountains explode with the beautiful colors of autumn.  Lush carpets of orange, amber, brown, red and yellow cover hills and valleys and attract vast amounts of tourists who spend amazing amounts of money to watch leaves die. 

Winter, of course, is characterized by snow and other forms of frozen precipitation and attracts winter sports enthusiasts as the insane asylums decide to let them get out and stretch their legs for a few months.  The snow can be beautiful as it coats the mountains in powder sugar-like patterns. 

In between those two beautiful seasons is a gap.  A gap filled by… twig season.  The leaves have fallen, but there's no snow hanging around except maybe in the mountains.  Thus, you have twig season, and it is pretty much as ugly as you're thinking it is.

The other season unique to Vermont (and probably any other state that has rural areas which receive a lot of snow) is MUD SEASON.  The caps are intentional, since the second thing you learn upon moving to Vermont is this: if you think the winter is bad, wait 'till mud season.  In fact, I can pretty much guarantee that you will hear that line, verbatim, at least five times within your first two weeks of living in Vermont, and that is a conservative measure.  They may actually teach it in schools up here.  I'm anticipating that if our children go to school in Vermont, sometime in late October or early November of their first year they will come home with some sort of copied worksheet or coloring page that explains about mud season, along with a box full of brown crayons. 

Our first mud season was a mild one: only about five or six inches of thick, soul-sucking mud on our dirt road which resulted in only about a half inch of dried mud building up on the lower half of my car.  By the second week of March, my car looked like it had been extracted from the Le Brea tar pits. 

However, I think that mud season is still mis-named, since it isn't the mud that is the problem when it comes to driving.  I mean, it is mud.  Yes, it can result in large, car-swallowing chasms in the roads (I'm sure there is a road somewhere in Vermont with a '76 pinto buried under it, complete with a man struggling to get the attention of other drivers), but it is the ruts that cause the most issues.  It shouldn't be called "mud season" it should be called "rut season." 

If you have ever been on "Mr. Toad's Wild Ride" at Disneyworld, then you know what mud/rut season is like: you think you're going to be going in one direction, but then the car takes on a life of its own and goes in whatever direction the ruts takes it in.  The best you can do is just maintain some semblance of control that at least makes you feel better and hopefully prevents your spouse from screaming "WE'RE GONNA DIE!"  Add in the prospect of going tumbling off a side of a mountain of getting stuck on a road with no cell phone service, and mud season really is the most interesting of all the seasons in Vermont.  You haven't lived in Vermont until you've lived through your first mud season.

New Beginnings – Starting to Look Back

On August 30th, 2009, I found myself driving north on Route
91 from Connecticut, heading towards Vermont.  I was about to start a new job the next day and all I had was a car full of clothes and a few basic things to get me trough
the week until I headed back home to Massachusetts to be with my wife for the


I had left her wife behind in Connecticut after attending an
event and we parted ways in New Haven after saying good bye to her sister who
attends University of New Haven.  She’ll
be glad that she gets a mention this early in this narrative.  She’s like that.  And if you know her, you’ll get exactly what
I mean.

Now, seven months later, my better half and I have been enjoying trying to figure out the only state that may be even quirkier than my home state of Rhode Island.  We've experienced quite a bit; just the weather could take up an entire book; snow on October 13th and April 10th and 80 degree weather in late March.  A snow storm in February that dropped about three feet of snow in our yard and resulted in lost power, which resulted in us eating cold pizza and waking up to a 50 degree house.  

Add to that wild turkeys, friendly people, curmudgeonly neighbors, and a game of beer pong in the snow outside on New Year's eve, you have the making of our first year – all six seasons (more on that later) – in Vermont.  There have been so many funny stories and interesting interactions with people and nature here in Vermont that I feel the need to capture it all.  While my motives are selfish, I hope to entertain some people while doing it