Why Did They Go Away?


In surmounting the difficulties of a static population and depleted natural resources, the Vermonters at home surely displayed great courage. They could, as the saying is, take it. When I was there late in 1938 to write about the hurricane which had hit New England in September, I went with an old friend to see what had happened to his sugar place. It was a shambles of some 1,800 fine old maples. There in a pile of jackstraws lay his chief income. It was something like a funeral. I wanted to commiserate the bereaved. The proper words would not form. The best I could offer was an inane observation that it must have been one hell of a wind. The farmer gazed a long moment at the desolation, took the pipe from his mouth, and spoke. “Well,” he said, “she wasn’t no zephyr.”

I asked about salvage. A government feller had been there, he related, and told him he could sell the wrecked trees to an outfit that made cellophane. The farmer knew about cellophane. It was that stud “they clutter up everything with these days.” No, he didn’t think he’d let them have his trees; he thought too much of good rock maple to see it wasted that way. “But,” he added, “I’m sure going to have stove wood to last me until my Jerseys turn Holstein and start giving Democrat milk.”


His remarks did not happen to fit into my story, but they made me know again that the character of at least one inhabitant of Vermont was equal in strength to the austerity of his beliefs. The spirit of Ethan Allen was not wholly dissipated by time. The gods of the valleys still did not count for much in the hills of Vermont. I don’t think they do today.