Sunday, December 11, 2016

Maine or Bust! Or Maine AND Bust as the case may be.

We woke up to cloudless skies and sunshine and after a quick breakfast we hit the road. Making our way to Highway 15 we passed through rolling green hills dotted with small farms and as we rounded a corner we came upon a beautifully restored round barn with a collection of vintage Volkswagen Bugs on display. 
Continuing on we passed through a couple of small villages that seemed lost in time; their white- washed Italianate Victorian houses and high steeple churches unchanged since the 1880's, like a fly caught in amber.
Following the Lamoille River on highway 15 we stopped for a break just outside Wolcott, Vermont at the Fairmount Cemetery. This is a very old cemetery built on a steep slope and is the resting place for a number of Civil War veterans who fought for the North from the state of Vermont.

We fitted Erley into his walking jacket (The sign said "No Dogs" and nothing about No Cats) and let Max stretch his legs on the other side of the road away from the cemetery before putting him back into the Pleasure Way to have a look around.
While David strolled between the weathered marble headstones, I was, as usual, saddled with keeping tabs on Erley, a task usually about as stimulating as watching paint dry. He wandered along the edge of the cemetery looking up at this hedge of brush. All of sudden he crouched down and settled in facing into the brush about 1 foot away from it. I backed off about 10 feet and left the leash loose so he didn't have any tension on it and leaned against a headstone. I was wondering why I allowed the cat to control my leisure time and wouldn't it be fine to just pull him along so I could go and see the old gravestones too. But he seemed so contented, comfortable and focused in what he was doing that I just couldn't bring myself to disturb him. Then in a flash he leaped about 3 feet sideways into the edge of the brush and caught a shrew! A poor shrew lived there and usually rummaged about all he wanted and then all of a sudden he was in the claws of a leopard. I'm sure he was thinking "where in the world on this lonely cemetery in the middle of nowhere did the leopard come from?" Poor thing. I called David over and we alternated between being excited that Erley had actually caught something while on his lead to being sad and concerned for the safety of the little shrew. We distracted Erley a couple times so the shrew could escape but the shrew kept choosing to run underneath the cat to hide! Gawd. Finally I picked Erley up so the shrew could escape. Bet he had quite the story to tell when he got home. He will probably have to move now. PTSD and all. I wonder how many cats have hunted and been successful on a leash? Erley might have set a record there.
After we returned Erley (feeling pretty darn sassy and high on himself) to the RV we took a little more time looking around the old cemetery. There were numerous grave sites that belonged to soldiers who died during the civil war. The thought of a farmer from this small community in north central Vermont dying on a far off battlefield in Louisiana or North Carolina in 1862 was sobering. Just the logistics of getting from Wolcott, Vermont to a field outside of Baton Rouge, some 1600 miles to the south was mind boggling. What an out of mind experience it must have been for the young men on both sides of this conflict to find themselves so far from home in a hostile and foreign part of the country. Couple that with having to actually fight for ones life and you start to understand just some of the hardships faced by these soldiers during this terrible war.
About a half an hour after leaving Wolcott we pulled off Highway 15 at a small wayside park on the banks of Joes Pond in West Danville, Vermont to have an early lunch. The weather was outstanding, with just the hint of the approaching Autumn in the air. We found ourselves a nice picnic table with a lovely view of the pond and shared our lunch of the remaining summer sausage, some delicious Cabot cheese and crackers with our two traveling companions.
After lunch we left Highway 15 where it intersected with Highway 2 and made our way through some very nice scenery on our way to the town of St. Johnsbury, which turned out to filled with some of the most amazing and fantastical architecture we had come upon during our journey thus far. St. Johnsbury was "Best Small Town" in National Geographic Adventure's "Where to live and play" in 2006 and obviously by the looks of it seems to have been well thought of since it was established back in 1760.

Doing a little research I discovered that St. Johnsbury's chief manufactured goods were maple sugar candy, bowling candle-pins and platform scales, an odd combination if you ask me, but obviously a combo that worked well for this town. At one point St. Johnsbury was the largest manufacturer of theses three items in the world, who knew? I guess this was the place to go if you felt like sucking on a piece of tasty Maple sugar candy while waiting for your load of bowling pins to get weighed up on a huge platform scale!

Looking at the beautiful material, time and skill put into the construction of the many fine churches and building still standing today it's obvious that this was a very prosperous wealthy community. I can say with complete confidence that we didn't pass through another city or town of this size with as many truly magnificent buildings as St. Johnsbury. Bravo, well done indeed!
We wandered about the downtown corridor starring up at buildings that would be just as at home in Brugge, Belgium or York, England and it made us wonder why we can't seem to build anything half as nice these days. Obviously the costs would be enormous and the construction daunting, but even so, it just seems like we no longer give a damn if a building is special. Just build a great big rectangle and poke some holes in it for windows and you're done. The "screw you" style of architecture. It's a little sad when you see what we could accomplish over a hundred years ago and can't come close to today.

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