Tom-Foolery

Weren’t he funny…

Dear Rosa,

Being a staunch, pragmatic Vermonter, I can only imagine how hard you had to work, the daily chores you had to tend to, the garden that needed to thrive for survival come winter. With all these stresses and cares, I hope you had a chance to find joy. Good jokes, silly stories, you know, the kind of stuff that brings a smile. I was gonna say “laugh” but I know better. Even as a kid, I never heard Gram so much as snicker. It’s like the punchline to Mark Twain’s story…

…about how he was performing on stage in a New England theater and no one would laugh at his witty jokes. Afterword, he snuck outside and listened to the people as they left the theater.

“Weren’t he funny,” said one old lady. “Weren’t he funny. It was all I could do to keep from laughing.”

There’s pain in the Northeast right now and suffering. Too many have lost hope along with their power. Far too many lost their lives to this storm. Please let me indulge for a moment. Yesterday I grieved and prayed with you. Today, I’d like to smile.

So, here they are… some of my favorite Vermonterisms taken from one of my favorite books “The Vermont Owner’s Manual” by Frank Bryan and Bill Mares. This is truly a delightful book.

Here are some snippets from Chapter 4 (Ground Hog Day and other important dates on your Vermont calendar)

LABOR DAY

“Work like hell. Winter’s coming.”

THANKSGIVING

“Remember this: Even Dunkin’ Donuts is closed! Here is a generic Vermont turkey blessing in case you need one:

Bless this turkey, oh Lord, and all the other turkeys in the state – many of whom are relatives. Bless the game warden for being on the other side of town when I shot this baby out of season. We call your attention to Uncle Charlie and ask you to help him find his way out of Victory Bog where he went hunting last Tuesday…. Finally, as we partake of the bounty this great state has delivered, keep us from chomping down on any of the No. 2 shot with which I blew this magnificent bird off the top of Wayne Wheeler’s manure pile.”

JANUARY 4

“This is the worst day of the year in Vermont and therefore the best. Is is often 20 below and cold white covers every horizon. But Vermonters know something very important. It is a teensy bit lighter at 4:00 p.m. than it was on January 3rd.”

GROUND HOG DAY

“Vermonters, especially, welcome the appearance of the first “woodchuck.” The best thing about Ground Hog Day is that it’s only a month from Town Meeting Day, which is only a month from trout season. Vermont is one-third nostalgia and two-thirds hope.”

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This is one of my favorite Vermont jokes. Yes, my children are groaning right now…

An old-timer pulled up to a gas station to fuel up his moped when along came a flatlander driving a fancy red automobile. The two eyed each other with wariness, finished their tasks and went on their way.

A light step on the gas pedal and the flatlander quickly passed the old man. He watched with great satisfaction as the moped disappeared in his rear view mirror.

A few seconds later, though, he noticed the tiny dot growing larger and larger until the old man whizzed on by him.

Indignant, the flatlander stepped a bit harder on the aforementioned pedal and passed the old man with ease. The evil grin disappeared when the moped, a tiny dot in his rear view mirror didn’t stay tiny for very long.

Before the flatlander could yell “Where’s the local McDonald’s!” the old man flew by once again.

Not to be outdone by an old geezer, he downshifted, passed the man and left him chewing on dust.

Indignation turned to astonishment when the tiny dot in his rear view mirror once again grew larger and larger until…

Well, you get the picture.

The flatlander could take no more. He slowed his car, eased it to the side of the road and climbed out to confront the now-panting old man on the moped.

“What is that you’re driving?” he demanded.  “How did you do that?”

The old man, his white hair in disarray and scarlet cheeks fought to catch his breath.

“Well?” He demanded again. “Tell me how fast you were going?”

“Don’t know,” the old man finally answered. “Got my suspendah caught on your door.”

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To complete this post, I’d like to leave a toast for you. It was printed in a little booklet called “The Story of Old Vermont in Pictures.” Though Captain William Watson was speaking to the English in the Revolutionary War, I’ll modify this and name the enemy. If superstorm “Sandy” was a human, I would kick her ass…

“To Sandy, the Enemy of our Country! May she have cobweb breeches, a porcupine saddle, a hard-trotting horse and an eternal journey.”

I hope your day has at least one moment of joy, one instance of hope and peace. You are all in my heart.

Sue

Tom-Foolery

Tommy and Shotgun…

Were we ever that young? That’s Tom, little blonde to the left of Dan, the one with the glasses and doesn’t he look happy?

Dear Rosa,

The crows were loud this morning. Seems it’s the only sound this time of year. Most Vermonters have a hate/hate affair with this pesky, coal-black bird. Ask anyone and they’ll describe them as loud, grating, garbage-spreading nuisances. But my brother, Tommy, he would’ve described them a bit differently.

Seems he had one once as a pet.

So, Tom, I asked recently, tell me about Shotgun.

Got your pen ready, Tudes? Here we go…

It was nigh on 35 years ago, I was driving with Dad up Dole Hill. We were gonna do some partridge hunting. (I’ll edit this next part for those of you who do not condone hunting…) In the hubbub, a crow was caught by some buckshot…

Can I keep him? Poor bird had a broken wing and was flopping all over the place.

Sure, Dad said.

And why is it my father let him keep this dang creature? All I wanted was a pony for crying out loud! But I digress. Where was I? Oh yes, back to the story about ANOTHER brother who got to take one home…

Why would you shoot at a crow? I had to ask.

Tom chuckled and said in that direct, forceful way of his. I was fifteen! Do you know how many red squirrels I took out? I was the Terror of the Pines…

I laughed then, but not for all those sad little squirrels, but for the imagery Tom was painting… of him, the mighty hunter, one eye cocked and listening for the savage squirrel to attack.

Named him Shotgun, he continued, because, well he was shot. By a shotgun.

Another example of how terribly uninspired my family was when it came to naming. Want more examples? More proof? Go to my post called “Quaker-Duck.” Just the name says it all…

Kept him in the basement, fed him canned corn and fresh worms I bought from the local store.

He was beautiful, I added and smart. I remember how he’d tilt his head when you talked to him, like he was trying to understand.

Yup, yup, Tom agreed, smacking his lips. He was all that.

So, what happened to him? I prompted. I remember it was cold – didn’t you take him outside or something?

Lost him to a snowball fight.

Come again?

It was winter. I had him out back in my snow fort. He was my sidekick.

Your sidekick.

Sure, sure. Steve was hunkered down behind his snow fort and I decided to rush him. I yelled to Shotgun “hold the fort” and leapt out. When I came back, he was gone.

He has a way with words, my brother, doesn’t he? I have to thank him for being brave, for admitting all the gory details of how Shotgun came to be. I have to give him props for confessing, unlike another brother of mine. One who once brought home a baby duck…