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Editorial

  • Real Vermonters Don't Wear Sunglasses

    Real Vermonters don't wear sunglasses, because sunglasses are as frivolous as answering machines, front doors that lock, and radar detectors. Real Vermonters don't walk in the woods without a gun, they don't own pets they can't eat (except for hunting dogs and cows), and they never buy a new hat-- they get them for free at Agway, Grimm, or the local mill. They never use fireplaces (lose too much heat), cell phones, or Kleenex, and I've never seen a real Vermonter pass a car, chew gum, or wear a ski parka. Old-time Vermonters wear pants of only one color (green) and think that watching sap boil is pretty good entertainment (sugaring is on a par with NASCAR). If you ask a Vermonter to tell you a story, he won't say a word, but if you tell him one of your own, you'll be in for an earful. The last president real Vermonters think was worth a damn was native son Calvin Coolidge, and they tell plenty of stories about old Cal.

    Real Vermonters chew Skoal and eat Slim Jims, luncheon meats, and potatoes any way you can cook them. They are perfectly happy with any sort of meat on the dinner plate, including squirrel, rabbit, woodchuck, moose, venison, even bear. (A dinner plate without meat is like a shotgun without shells.) The only kind of pasta salad they've eaten is macaroni. Dinner is served at noon; supper is what you eat after work.

    Real Vermonters just show up when you need help, like when your pickup is axle-deep in March mud or when the beefer gets loose and heads down the valley. They'll pull out your truck, find your cattle, fix your evaporator, restart your furnace, plow your snow, or chainsaw your dead tree for free. If you offer to pay them, they won't speak to you for a month. If you build a new house and hire help from the next town, they won't speak to you for a year.

    Vermonters complain about taxes, weather, hunting, sap, local politics, taxes, neighbors, and taxes. Not too long ago, the state had more deer, better snow cover, fewer real estate agents, and lower taxes. Real Vermonters know that the world is getting smaller because there are more No Hunting signs. One leaves town only to check out a horse, attend a farm auction, or get a tractor fixed. Someone who moves to the next town might as well have left for Afghanistan. They are spoken of in the past tense.

    For entertainment, real Vermonters go visiting. They'll drop in and watch you eat your supper (they eat early), muck your barn, or clean your gun. Although real Vermonters drink only Nestea and Country Time Lemonade, most younger Vermonters will, if offered, take a beer or two. The brands of choice are Genny (Gennessee) and Pabst, and, in hard times, their purchases are made one can at a time. Foster's "Oil Cans" (the 24 1/2-ounce variety) are reserved for special occasions such as weddings, sugaring season, or the day your son gets his first deer.

    Some Vermonters still go to church, but they don't sing much; they don't like standing out from the crowd. The collection plate is viewed with as much enthusiasm as a federal tax, yet when any members of the congregation need help, Vermonters will cook for them, drive them to the clinic, feed their chickens, and help with the haying. Vermonters were born to volunteer as long as it's their idea. Trying to organize a bunch of Vermonters is like trying to herd pigs.

    Vermonters shop at Price Chopper, NAPA Auto Parts, and the state liquor store. They prefer to barter rather than pay cash, but they prefer cash to credit cards. They don't drink coffee with funny flavors like hazelnut, and they'd rather be found standing stark naked on Main Street than caught sipping a cappuccino. Any Vermont man would give one arm and his best rabbit dog to spend an evening with Reba McEntire. Real Vermonters fish with worms, not flies, and they don't understand the point of "catch and release." They fish for meat.

    Real Vermonters don't read newspapers, unless you count the Vermont News Guide and the Auto Hunter. Vermonters don't talk about national politics or sex, the first being irrelevant and the latter infrequent. Ask a Vermonter about a "race" and he thinks you are talking about four wheels and an internal combustion engine. Vermonters don't take vacations, because they don't wear bathing suits, travel in groups, or go anyplace where they can't be useful.

    Most of all, Vermonters still remember how this country got built in the first place. They can disk-harrow a field, change a clutch, pour a foundation, use a crockpot, drive a backhoe, patch a spare, mend a fence, and dress out a six-pointer. When the rest of us have used up our last shreds of dignity and common sense, I know of a small state that will still have a generous supply of both. You can see it every time you look into the eyes of a Vermonter. After all, real Vermonters don't wear sunglasses.

    (My apologies to Calvin Coolidge for paraphrasing his speech "Vermont Is a State I Love.")

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