Vermont Creed II
Since my first Vermont Creed was published in 2009, I have received a drawerful of suggestions from friends and neighbors about missing tenets. Here is the rest of the list.
Silence Is Golden: Verbal proliferation will only lead to trouble, as any horse trader will tell you. Calvin Coolidge once told Governor Canning Cox of Massachusetts, who was complaining about having to speak with so many constituents, “Canning, the trouble is, you talk back.”
Walk, Don’t Run: I have never seen a Vermonter run after anything, including a spooked beefer or a good deal down at Walmart. If you take your time, you will find that the journey is almost always more interesting than the destination. As Vermonters are apt to say, “I wouldn’t run uphill after it.”
Never Judge a Vermonter by His Overalls: Don’t confuse appearances with intelligence. Some of the scruffiest, most unlikely characters I have ever met are a lot smarter than I am. They may be knee-deep in manure and drive a pickup so rusted that the cab and the bed travel in different directions, but the joke will be on you if you take them for granted.
Never Back Down: When Tom first came to Vermont, he was hunting on the property of John Kurasinksi, a neighbor who disliked trespassers. Tom was sitting under an oak during deer season, and John walked up and in a loud voice asked him what the heck he thought he was doing. Tom replied, “Well, I’m trying to shoot a deer, but it’s kind of tough with you making all of that noise!” John just broke out laughing and they became fast friends.
He’s His Own Toad!: One of my favorite Vermont stories involves two kids, a stick, and a toad. A city kid up for the summer was spied poking a large toad with a stick. A local boy told him to quit poking the toad. The city kid responded, “Well, it’s my toad, ain’t it?” The Vermonter stared him down and replied, “Well, in Vermont, he’s his own toad.” Yup.
Don’t Panic: Vermonters always remain calm, even in the worst circumstances. Silas came across a hat sitting in the middle of a muddy road. Using a hoe, he lifted up the hat and found his neighbor, Heber, up to his ears in mud. “Heber,” Silas observed, “you’re really in it.” “I’m OK,” Heber replied, “but the team’s in pretty deep.”
An Ounce of Prevention Pays Off: Split and stack your wood in August. Check your snow tires in September. Clean the treads on your excavator before winter so they don’t freeze. Clean your flues before the snow flies. Pump out your septic tank every two years. Sight in your rifle long before the season opens. Don’t get ready after you have to be ready.
A Penny Saved Is a Penny Earned: A disagreeable Vermont farmer was married to a woman of Scottish heritage, and after 20 years, he reluctantly took his wife on a vacation. They were staying at an inn, and on the second morning she awoke looking forward to her breakfast of a boiled egg and coffee. When she noticed that her husband had died during the night, she rushed downstairs to the kitchen and yelled, “Only boil one egg!” It’s easier to save money than it is to make it.
Don’t Shoot the Dog: This was a piece of advice given to me by Tom, president of the Old Rabbit Hunters Association. Put another way: It’s a good thing to keep your eye on the ball, but don’t forget the big picture. You could end up with a dead dog—or worse.
Old Is Better than New: A new truck or tractor is not something to be wished for. They cost money, they are unfamiliar, and it takes years to get to know the old equipment—just like an old friend. Vermonters don’t need new friends or new equipment: It takes too long to break them in.
Vermont Ain’t New Hampshire: It isn’t New York or Maine either. It’s not that those other states are so terrible; it’s just that they aren’t Vermont. If you don’t know where you are from, how do you know where you are going?
None of Your Business: Vermonters don’t mind a bit of gossip—there isn’t much else to do in winter—but on your land you are king. You can bury junk cars, keep your house covered in tar paper so your taxes stay low, and walk around naked from dawn to dusk and nobody is going to call you on it. Just remember that if you do something really stupid, that’s none of their business either; you’ll have to dig yourself out.
Park Your Truck Facing Home: When in the woods, always park your pickup facing the way you came. That way, if you are injured in a hunting or logging accident, you have a better chance of making it out alive. The worst-case scenario is bound to happen, and a bit of forethought will save your life.