In spite of color-coded terror warnings, budget cuts, and gloomy news on TV, Vermont and its inhabitants are in good shape, with the exception of a certain beetle. By way of illustration, I here present a series of recent small events that I observed while going about my daily routines in my muddy Honda along our enchanted dirt roads.
One day, I went to the post office to buy the latest thing in postage-stamp artwork. After viewing the exhibit and discussing the matter with the postmistress, I selected the one with the cat and the floppy-eared dog.
When I finished and turned away, I saw a man who'd been waiting behind me. He was husky, over six feet tall with thick, curly auburn hair and a short, bushy round beard. In his powerful arms he held something close, the way a woman might hold a baby, but it was smaller than a baby and wrapped in a soft white cloth. A piglet, just a day old. He let me pat it. Pale pink, sound asleep, pink nose, velvet ears.
I drive by a big dairy farm almost daily. Next to the road is a small enclosure where a few members of the large herd of Holsteins are kept. Within the enclosure is a high pile of dirt and rocks. One bright blue fall day, I noticed that the pile was covered by at least five huge cows, animals not known for mountain climbing. Their heads held high, they looked around, enjoying the sweet air and golden maples, Vermont at its best.
One day, on my way home from my small church, I was almost there when I saw a flock of young turkeys coming out of the forest. I stopped the car and watched them as they marched single file across the road at their usual dignified pace, climb up the bank on the far side of the road, and vanish into the underbrush. I had just about started up again when one more turkey rushed out of the forest. I could almost hear it cry out loud, "Wait for me!" It dashed across the road and scrambled up the bank.
The next morning, at the same time at the same place, the flock of turkeys emerged from the forest, marched across the road, climbed up the bank, and vanished; and that same little guy, late again, came rushing out of the forest.
When I go food shopping, I take a winding, narrow dirt road to town. On the way, I pass an abandoned slate quarry, an ugly scene: small, dark mountains of slag; a rusty, yellow monster bulldozer; old cars and sheds. Among all this lives a family in a pieced-together mobile home. Two dogs, a handsome beige turkey, and a small herd of goats roam outside.
One day, I saw something there that brought me to a stop: a red pickup truck piled high with bales of straw on which eight or nine goats were feasting. The bales, like miniature cliffs, gave the agile critters footing, so as they stretched their necks to reach the straw, they stood one on top of the other while circling the heap. Goat Mountain!
I keep a sketch pad in my car, but the scene was a bit beyond my ability. A pretty girl with brown hair, resident there, came to my car, worried that I might steal a goat (as has happened, she told me). A gentle girl. We talked about the goats, how smart they are. She brought me her favorite one, a baby, handsome, black and brown, and held it so I could draw. Soon her grandfather came over and I gave him the sketch.
On a forested section of the same road, I saw a scene repeated all over Vermont. A man of middle age, in simple practical clothes, had just picked up his mail at the roadside. His black mongrel, alert and happy, stood close to him. The man turned as he tucked his newspaper under his arm and the two of them started down a long driveway with no house in sight at the end.
Now about that beetle:
While standing on my shaggy lawn, I noticed a blue beetle. Its blueness was unique, a shade that a couturier might select for an expensive gown. I reached down to pick it up. Like all wild critters, it quickly slipped out of my fingers before I could get a good look. It landed down by my shoe. I laughed and laughed because it thought it had escaped; but no. Its whole body was still in plain sight. But like the frightened ostrich of myth, only its head was tucked into the grass.