Category Archives: Especially For Brandon

I grew up in Brandon, Vermont, going from starting second grade in 1956 to graduating from high school in 1966. I returned to take over the old family place from 1977-2001 and there began a family of my own. I will always feel linked with the place; these entries I thought might be of particular interest to people there.

Sidney Rosen’s death (1995 news report)

BRANDON _ No account of this town’s history in the last half of the 20th century will be complete without including Sidney Rosen, who died Tuesday at the age of 90.
Relatives and associates recalled him as a member of a immigrant family who worked hard to succeed, as someone who knew what it was like to be poor and never stopped helping others, as a strongly spiritual man who became a representative of the Jewish faith, as a storyteller with a great sense of humor and as a unique participant in community life. His role as a landlord sometimes became controversial, because of unruly tenants who took advantage of his generosity, but he was respected enough to be elected as a Selectman and Justice of the Peace, and was welcomed as a member of Rotary and the Masons.
The sketch of his life that follows draws on information from his daughter Lisa Rosen Ryan of Burlington, his nephew Michael Rosen of New York City and Bomoseen, and long time business associate Flossie McLaughlin of Brandon.
His parents Michael and Gussie Rosen, first cousins who later married, came as children to this country late in the 19th century, to escape anti-Jewish persecution in Lithuania. They settled in West Rutland, where other family members had come.
Michael became one of the door-to-door peddlers who roamed both sides of Lake Champlain in that era. Gussie, by all accounts a remarkable woman, knew seven languages and became a court interpreter in Rutland, in addition to being a homemaker and mother of six children and doing miscellaneous jobs to support the family.
Michael died in 1927, leaving Gussie to care for the children, including 13-year-old Sidney. When the Depression hit in 1929, “she really worked around 2,” (said Michael), “and the older children sent money from jobs they found out of state for lack of work in Vermont.
“They were poor, but they had fun,” McLaughlin said. In time, Sidney would send numerous letters to the Rutland Herald, and quite a few to Dear Abby, recounting incidents from West Rutland’s bygone days.
He enlisted in the Army during World War II, but a medical condition resulted in his being sent to do office work in Washington, D.C. This was not necessarily light duty, Ryan said: he was assigned to write letters to families of servicemen who had died.
He supplemented that work with a job as a theater usher, and it was there that he met Sylvia Silverberg. He married “Sibby,” as she became known in Brandon, in 1948–10 days before he bought from M. F. Fishman the Center Street store that became the Rosen National Five & Ten Cent Store.
McLaughlin, who worked at Rosen National then became Rosen’s bookkeeper after he sold the store in 1978 to Seth Clifford, recalled that he soon used the store as a basis for buying rental properties around town. Despina “Desi” Louras, who rented the space for her newsstand and convenience store from Rosen, recalled him as a good landlord who immediately dealt with any problems.
“I didn’t have to have a contract, either,” Louras said. “As long as I paid my rent every month, that’s all that was necessary.”
But some tenants didn’t pay, McLaughlin said. Worse, when repairs were needed, “he’d fix everything and the tenants would tear it apart by the second day.”
On at least two occasions, Rosen came to Select Board meetings and offered the town thousands of dollars in back rent, if they could collect it.
But he never stopped trying to help people in need, often forgiving rent debts or giving tenants things he’d stored for that purpose in a barn he owned, she said. “I think he helped a lot of people,” said Charles Jakiela, who came onto the Select Board just before Rosen left.
After selling the store, Rosen moved into a small office nearby–so small, McLaughlin said, that sometimes it seemed like you would have to crawl through everything to get in. The crowding came because Rosen kept the business name Rosen National, and used it to order all sorts of appliances and furnishings for people, and school districts, and town governments, at 10 percent above wholesale.
“There was a very important part of him that was interested in helping people,” Jakiela said, “not for what he could get out of it, but to help them.” His spiritual integrity may have been part of that, he said.
Clifford, who worked side by side with Rosen for a month after buying the store, said that every Friday night without fail he would go to the Rutland synagogue. At one point, he was president of the Rutland Jewish Center organization.
As a Justice of the Peace, Rosen had some unusual chances to act as a representative of his faith. Ryan said many couples came from the new age commune in Rochester, Jewish youths who decided–sometimes at the last minute–that they wanted a Jewish wedding.
Once, Ryan saw a wedding take place while the bride was in labor. “At nine years old, I couldn’t understand why she was moaning every few minutes,” she said.
Clifford recalled that at Rotary, Rosen would get called on to say the meal prayer–and would do it in Yiddish.
Later in life, Rosen became an example of the benefits of exercise. “He had a triple bypass. It scared him, and when they told him to walk, he believed them, ” McLaughlin said.
Ryan said that he was also a seven-year cancer survivor, though he was not able to shake off the effects of Alzheimer’s disease.
Without his active presence, his network of properties couldn’t be maintained. After his legal guardian Terry Kline sold them, the character of the town changed, most visibly because two of his downtown properties were removed to make way for the ongoing revitalization effort.
For better or worse, Brandon is no longer known as a refuge for those desperate to find a place to live with kids or pets or just not much money. And there are those among those he helped who have gone as far as to use the word “saint” for the man who kept them from homelessness.
The last word goes to Louras, who in her day became known as The Mayor of Brandon: “I couldn’t say anything bad about him.”

TRIBUTES TO ARDEN HAYDEN (2004)

BRANDON _ “Loving,” “selfless,” “amazing,” “saintly”–these are some of the words being used to describe the late Arden Hayden, who died at 59 on Nov. 13, 2004 from colon cancer.
It won’t be possible to hold his funeral in the small Salisbury Congregational Church where he and his family were members and strong supporters. It will take Middlebury’s Congregational Church, with its 400 seats, to hold the crowd that organizers anticipate for the service Saturday at 2 p.m.
Hayden’s death has cast a second November shadow over Brandon where he worked, Sudbury where he lived, and beyond. Hundreds if not thousands of people have some connection with him, as father to seven children, as an active part of his community, as a member of the Otter Valley Union High School Board for 25 years, or simply as a much-loved dentist.
Publicly, he will be remembered and celebrated in Brandon at a reception at the Brandon Inn on Saturday after the memorial service, and later by a work of art at the high school for which his family is seeking contributions. Privately, he will remain enshrined in people’s minds for all sorts of reasons, ranging from the way he enthusiastically made maple syrup on the family’s back road homestead to the calm way he chaired the OV School Board during times when tensions were boiling.
Earlier in life, the Maine native served his country as a soldier during the Vietnam War. It was an experience that traumatized some, but apparently transformed Hayden.
“I remember he preached once,” said fellow Salisbury Congregational Church member and Middlebury College art and architecture professor Glenn Andres. “He talked about his Vietnam experience, in the most heartfelt way.”
“He was so terribly concerned for the people there, and also for his companions in the service,” Andres said. “It was kind of a searing experience, but he was not the kind of person who looked at it in a negative way. It was one of those experiences that just opened his eyes to the needs of the community.”
As part of the church, Hayden acted sometimes as deacon, worked with his wife Susan to organize fund-raisers, and played an important role in the youth group, which sometimes met at the couple’s rural home, Andres said. But it was his personality that made the biggest difference.
“He was an optimistic person, and he was a loving person,” Andres said. “He was always there, concerned about something.”
“He was a saintly person,” Andres said. “He was one of the loveliest people I ever knew.”
Hayden’s children–five born to them, two adopted _ were assets to Sudbury’s Country School, as were their parents, recalled teacher and former principal Mark Pelletier. That continued at the high school level.
“All of them were a great bunch of kids,” said associate principal Nancy Robinson. “(Kids like them) were why we keep coming to school every day.”
Arden personally “has always been a very active supporter of the school and the various programs and functions that we have, from the start” in 1980, Pelletier said. “He’s an amazing man. He’ll be missed at the school–already is.”
William Mathis, for 22 years superintendent of the Rutland Northeast Supervisory Union, said the first board meeting he attended was one of Otter Valley’s. Seated between Hayden and Robert Wood, he quickly found that it was a board seriously concerned about education, not egos.
But when the recession of the early 1990’s came, that board goal had to be compromised by serious budget cuts, Mathis recalled. Nor were labor relations good at the time.
Hayden had been elected board vice-chairman from 1986-89, and from 1990-98 was chairman, Mathis said. “He finally gave up of his own choosing.”
“He was elected and re-elected because he commanded the trust of everybody,” Mathis said. And not just the board: “The teachers knew him as a friend.”
Amidst the turbulence of those times, “he was everybody’s best broker,” Mathis said. “He would NOT play political games. He was respected by all the School Board members of all persuasions.”
Not only that, “he was incredibly funny,” in a way that didn’t poke fun at others but instead saw the humor in what he himself was doing. “That helped keep things in proper perspective.”
Robinson said, “It’s such a sad thing. He was a gentle-man in every sense of the word. It’s a big loss for us.”
Even in the day-to-day work of dentistry, Hayden earned a reputation for both kindness and effectiveness. He began his local practice as the dentist at the Brandon Training School, working there from 1977 until the state facility closed in 1993.
“Arden certainly had a talent for working with the handicapped, and really just enjoyed that aspect of it,” said Benjamin Lawton, a fellow dentist who was Hayden’s business partner in buying the former Ayrshire Breeders Association building in Brandon’s downtown for their two practices in 1983.
“He had a very special talent with the special needs,” agreed Sally Cook, Hayden’s office assistant for 20 years.
That part of his practice continued after the Training School closed. “We had patients that traveled from all over the state to see him that were handicapped,” Lawton said. “That’s going to be a hard void to fill.”
The same knack for remembering something about each handicapped patient and putting them at ease extended to the area’s children. “You could hear the laughter emanating from the other side of the building,” Lawton said.
“My kids have never minded going to the dentist,” said Brandon resident Laura Peterson. “They felt comfortable with him immediately. He would sort of tuck them under his wing like something between a big bear and a mother hen.”
“Even if you weren’t being worked on by him, you knew he was there,” Peterson said. “His spirit and laughter filled the office.”
Lawton said, “Though he was failing, he worked up until about four weeks ago.” Even two weeks ago, he came in to help with some patients’ emergencies, he said.
Andres said that during his last days, Hayden was visited in the hospital by a woman whose child happened to be sick. “What did Arden do? He asked her how her kid was doing.”
“It was just his incredibly selfless was of being a human being,” Andres said. “He was a really good man.”
”Brandon is greatly diminished,” said resident Bette Moffett. “What a human being!”
_ 30 _

2003–END OF AN ERA: SHAPIRO’S TO CLOSE

END OF AN ERA: SHAPIRO’S TO CLOSE
AFTER 86 YRS IN DOWNTOWN BRANDON
(2003)

By Ed Barna
Like Fishman’s in Vergennes, and Lazarus and Abrams in Middlebury, Shapiro’s department store in Brandon has become a casualty of changing times.
In the past two weeks, their final clearance sale has been thronged. Longtime shoppers, afraid they would not be able to find the same sturdy clothing at the same affordable prices, have been walking away with literal armloads of favorite items.
According to David Howells and Cynthia McTaggart, business and life partners for the past 12 years, customers have come from all around Vermont, and expressions of regret have arrived from many locations out of state.
For instance, McTaggart said, there is a 96-year-old man from the Glens Falls, New York area who had been coming every year to buy a new set of clothes. “We literally dressed him,” she said.
Now, she said, “he’s been very dispirited.” Many customers have had tears in their eyes as they made their final purchases, she said.
One area minister saw their ad for the clearance sale while he was working on his Sunday sermon–and was so upset he couldn’t finish it, McTaggart said. “He had to come down to the store to see it. He was actually in here again today.”
Sylvia Willard, who owned and ran the store with her late husband Howard Willard for the 35 years before Howells took over in 1982, said it had been a regional draw back then as well. They had bought the store from the mother of its 1917 founder, David Shapiro, she said (the legal name had continued as the David Shapiro Department Store).
Howie had run a music store in Rutland, she said, and did not have any experience in the dry good business before coming to Brandon. But he learned the ropes from the previous owners, and established a tradition–continued by Howells and McTaggart–of buying what people needed and effectively marketing the store.
But in recent years, it had become a struggle, Howells admitted–and not just because of long hours six days a week and problems finding good help. The combined pressures of mail order catalogs, Internet buying, and big box discounters had taken their toll, he said, especially as the latter came to Rutland.
People work away from Brandon, or are drawn to a particular Rutland store, and end up doing much of their other shopping there as well, Howells said. “That’s why so many communities have no real commercial activity in their downtowns,” he said.
It’s possible that Shapiro’s might re-open on a smaller scale if a suitable location becomes available, Howells said. But otherwise, he’ll retire.
Meanwhile, 16 Park Street’s two floors and basement won’t become a “hole” in Brandon’s downtown business district. The immediate reason for the clearance sale was the sale of the building itself, to Briggs Carriage Bookstore owners Matthew Gibbs and Barbara Ebling.
Howells said the doors will close when the inventory is gone. But in any case, he said, “we’ll be out by May 31.”
Gibbs, who had to quit his post as the chairman of the recently formed Brandon Community Development Corporation to deal with moving 60,000 books, said the roughly 4,000 square feet of retail space in the new location will help their thriving business. Also, they will be closer to the main line of downtown stores, in a place where it is easier to park than in the dip where the old carriage-making company had its wood-framed headquarters.
They will keep the name “Briggs Carriage” because so many people know it from buying books and music, bringing their children, and attending special events. There is a sizable contingent of Brandonites who look up books on Internet sites, decide what they want, then go to the local store (as some in Addison County do with the Middlebury Book Shop as well), knowing an independent bookstore can order almost anything not on the shelves.
But still, there is a sense of loss, of an era coming to an end. As McTaggart put it, “How many stores do you go into that people call you by your first name? How many stores can you just let your children run free?”
And how many stores have an employee who has been with them for…McTaggart couldn’t remember. Over the crowd noise, she called out the question to Myra Lemnah. The answer came back: “34 years.”
Through those years, one of the perennial Brandon debates has been whether to call the store “Shuh-PEER-ose” or “SHAP-uh-rows.” People used both names, McTaggart said.
On this, the two sides would probably agree: it was a sad way to have the debate end.
_ 30 _

2003–Brandon’s Pig Parade & Auction

Never mind running with the bulls in Pamplona. Running with the pigs in Brandon on Saturday at 1 p.m. will be much more fun, not to mention safer.
That’s the time for the Pig Parade, the great unpenning of 40 life-size fiberglass pigs and three wee ones, decorated and adorned by local, statewide, and classroom artisans and artisans. The colorful procession down Park Street, through the business district to the Town Hall, then back behind the Brandon Inn for a free ice cream social is being billed truthfully as “The Really, Really Pig Show.”
Coming on Open Studio Weekend, this will be a chance for studio-trekkers to let the artists do the traveling and to see a wide diversity _ perhaps weird diversity would be a better term _ of approaches and styles. The ice cream social (entertainment by the Otter Valley Jazz Band) will give everyone a chance to view the herd close-up and to ask the creators to explain what they were thinking about at the time.
Those with city connections may recognize this as a clone of the CowParade events that started in Switzerland in 1998, quickly became popular in this country, and have gone on to feature several other animals.
Noted folk artist Warren Kimble, whose downtown Brandon studio has been a focal point for getting the Pig Parade going, said he got the idea from seeing how successful such events were in New York City.
But no community as small as Brandon has ever undertaken such a project, Kimble said. Attempting the feat has gained regional publicity for Brandon, through a show on Boston’s WCVP-TV, he said.
The Cow-Parade-type events all serves as charitable fund-raisers as well as entertaining the public, enhancing business districts and helping to build community spirit. As Kimble put it, energizing a town “takes people having fun to begin with.”
The Brandon pigs will spend the summer at stores and other sites related to their sponsors, then will be auctioned during fall foliage season, on Oct. 11. Kimble said one will try its luck on E-bay’s charitable auction Web site.
The proceeds from the auction, from sales of a $10 book with color pictures of the pigs, and from fund-raisers this summer will go to “the Brandon Artists’ Guild, local schools for art projects, and other worthy, visual-arts-related community efforts,” according to the Brandon Chamber of Commerce Web site www.brandon.org.
Kimble said the plans include funding an Otter Valley scholarship for a graduate seeking a career in the arts.
Pigs were chosen rather than cows because they immediately get people into the spirit of having a good time, Kimble said. Also, life-size four-foot hollow fiberglass pigs were easier to afford, ship, and handle, he observed.
At first, Kimble and his fellow organizers in the Brandon Artists’ Guild wondered how long it would take to find sponsorships at $500 apiece. “In three weeks, we got sponsors for 40 pigs,” he said.
Actually, some gave more than $500, he said. That has allowed the Otter Valley Union High School and Middle School, and the Rutland Northeast Supervisory Union elementary schools in Brandon, Chittenden, Leicester, Pittsford, Sudbury and Whiting to have pigs for art projects, he said.
Since the blank white pigs arrived from their Chicago manufacturer in December, community involvement has been steadily growing, Kimble said. Notably, the McKernon Group construction company has built sturdy bases with rollers that will make the parade possible, and James Zutell of Sudbury has glazed the pigs with protective coating so the parade can take place rain or shine.
A look at some of the porkworks suggested that few people will be able to resist the chance to see them close-up in the Brandon Inn courtyard.
CyBOARg, by David Martin of Brandon, bristles with electromechanical pieces and devices, including a working clock. An upside-down funnel on its forehead serves as a horn _ and pulling a lever in the back blows a real horn.
Porcus Latinium (“Pig Latin”), by local bookstore owner Matthew Gibbs, features quotations by Cicero and other classic writers, plus citations from Shakespeare’s “Hamlet” and Francis Bacon. The pig of the letter, so to speak.
Underhill artisan Jill Listzwan, an Otter Valley graduate, said Pork Jester spoke to her (in artistic terms) asking to have such summery accoutrements as leaping fish pantaloons, dragonfly suspenders, and a gourd hat. Local artist Jackee Foley used the sides of “Brandon” for scenes of downtown Brandon framed in October leaves.
Rutland’s Peter Huntoon will bring “Pork Chopin,” which includes pig musicians concertizing around a Swineway piano. Middlebury cow artist Woody Jackson has done “Pigmoolian (with apologies to George Bernard Shaw),” whose play “Pygmalion” was the basis for “My Fair Lady.”
Pigs may not fly, but pig puns will. Among the parade trotters will be Kimble’s Pig T. Barnham, Rodney Batschelet’s “Swine Family Robinson (Lost in Vermont),” Mike Schick’s “Pig a la Matisse” (Paris’s artsy Pigalle district?), “Pigture Perfect” from Otter Valley, “Country Ham” from Sudbury’s Country School, “Pig in a Blanket (We’ve Got You Covered)” from Whiting Elementary School, “Pigtograph” from Leicester Central, and “Pigcasso” from Barstow Memorial in Chittenden.
Listzwan said that after the parade she will be among the 15 artists whose tented show in Central Park will be part of the event.
“I usually do Open Studio Weekend up here,” she said. “But when I found out about the pigs, it was too much fun to turn down.”
After growing up in Brandon, “I am amazed and delighted and excited at how much has changed and has grown,” Listzwan said. “I think the Artists’ Guild and Warren are doing a lot of work for Brandon.”
For more information, call the Brandon Artists’ Guild gallery in downtown Brandon, at 247-4956.

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There comes a time in every pig’s life when the truck backs up to the gate and it’s time to take the big ride. Even for plastic pigs.
On Friday and Sunday, Brandon will give the last 14 stars of its summer-long “Really, Really Pig Show” a rousing sendoff. The life-size, hollow models, all decorated and adorned in different creative ways by area artists, will be auctioned off Saturday evening in a giant tent behind the Brandon Inn, a show to be preceded at 7 p.m. Friday by a screening of the movie “Babe” and other events in the same tent.
The Brandon Area Chamber of Commerce is adding to the excitement by having business district members keep their stores open until 8 p.m. on Friday.
Neshobe Community Center, Inc., a non-profit group trying to create a pool and community center, is behind Friday’s movie. Howard Giles, their coordinator, said admission is by donation, so anyone can come, and they wanted a pig movie that had a G rating so all family members could enjoy it.
Speaking of which: parents are strongly advised against having their children look up “Babe” on the Internet. Pigs aplenty they will find, but not always the right kind.
Here’s what you’ll need to know about this comic heartwarmer, if you missed it the first time around:
Farmer Hoggett wins a baby pig in a raffle, and when it arrive at his well-populated barnyard, it is taken over by Fly, the matriarchal sheepdog. Babe decides he’s a dog, too, and starts to learn herding, something the other animals go along with.
Hoggett, too, decides to have Babe join his siblings in mastering the necessary skills, just in case something happens. Something does, and it’s Babe who ends up in the world sheepdog contest.
“A comic fable about not fitting in and the lengths to which an ordinary pig will go to find acceptance,” went one summary. Another was, “A humorous look at the limitations and lunacy of a preordained society.”
Plan to stick around afterward, because that’s when the winner of the Kiss-the-Pig Contest will be come forward to meet the pork’s chops, so to speak.
Around town, various shop counters have made room for five containers with the names of the five well-known local residents, several active in the Chamber of Commerce: Bernard Carr, florist; Charles Foster, chiropractor; Warren Kimble, artist and downtown gallery owner; Dennis Marden, local elementary school art teacher and theatrical leader; and Jessica Putnam, owner of a hair salon. The one who with the most donated money will “win” the chance to kiss a pig provided by the Harvest Program, a farm-based program for at-risk middle school kids in Leicester.
“They were thinking of having a full-size pig,” said Anne Young, director of the Harvest Program. “I discouraged this.”
Mama Pig weighs somewhere between 350 and 400 pounds, looks like it would take the Los Angeles Rams to tackle her, and has sharp, strong teeth. But luckily, she just had another litter, and Young said they’ll get a cute little thing about three weeks old. In a word, Babe.
Saturday starts with the Brandon Farmers Market Harvest Craft Fair, from 10 a.m.-4 p.m., in the park across from the Brandon Inn.
Pigs will be visible behind the Inn during the day, but the real preview inspection takes place from 4-6 p.m. There will be food, a cash bar, and live musical entertainment by the Otter Valley Union High School Jazz Band during those two hours.
Lagasse’s Restaurant will provide the food. Scott Lagasse said pulled barbecued pork, steamed Essem hot dogs, homemade brownies, hot cider and soft drinks are on the menu.
Lagasse predicted a big crowd Saturday because it’s Middlebury College Parents’ Weekend. His 20 guest cottages are full, and “if I’d had a hundred cottages, I could have filled them 10 times.”
The auction itself could be quite a show, even for non-bidders. Word is that several collectors of local folk artist Warren Kimble’s work (he’s sold over 2 million prints worldwide) will be on hand, because the lineup includes his Pig T. Barnham, colorfully done with designs reminiscent of the great circus showman P. T. Barnham’s era.
Kimble said that to keep it a local event, he and the other Brandon Artist Guild members agreed not to allow any remote bidding. People have to be there.
Originally, there were 40 life-size pigs (and three little ones), sponsored for $500 apiece, sent to participating artists, protectively coated (Auto Paint Plus in Middlebury sells the coating), and taken to the sponsoring businesses, schools and organizations for the summer. Then 30 of them went up for bids via the online auction site Ebay, according to local artist and pig event coordinator Edward Loedding.
Five didn’t get their “reserve price,” a minimum bid, and came back to join nine others in the real life auction. Of the ones that sold, only two went for less than $1,000.
Kimble’s “Country Pig” topped the list at $15,000; Loedding’s “Petunia Pig” was in second place with $9,100; and local artist Jackee Foley, who has made a specialty of wildlife art, brought in $7,900 for “Pigmalion.”
All told, Loedding said, the Ebay venture grossed about $70,000. Expenses have yet to be subtracted, but he said the final sum should be a big boost to the Guild and to the educational programs they support.
For those who might be speculating about it, Loedding said most successful bidders were not affluent out-of-staters. Of the 25 pigs, 20 will stay in Vermont.
One was purchased and donated back to the Otter Valley students (who had appliqued it with local history graphics), the gift coming from an anonymous 1972 graduate now living in Arizona, Loedding said.
To get a seat in the 300-capacity tent, people will have to pay $10 for an artist-print-decorated auction paddle (you raise it to bid; easier to see than a hand). Loedding said local Celebrity Rentals let them use the chairs for free, but it’s a big tent, and its rental has to be paid.
People who want to stand are welcome, and can bid as well.
There will be a raffle for a small piglet painted by Warren Kimble, along with prizes donated by area merchants. Raffle tickets will only be sold at the event, and winners must be present.
When the auction begins at 6 p.m., pigs will be carried one by one up the aisle and placed on a turntable so everyone can see all sides. Then Jim Dickerson of Charlotte will start the bidding.
Kimble said Dickerson is the old-time fast-patter type auctioneer, but “we’re trying to slow him down.”
So who’s left, among the colorful herd that rooted around Brandon’s streets this summer? (Actually, the local merchants were doing the rooting, because by all reports the pigs brought a lot of tourist attention.)
Loedding said the bidders can look forward to:
_ Pig T. Barnham, Warren Kimble’s folkloric tribute to the great circus era.
_ Cyboarg, David Martin’s technopig, with a built-in clock and a horn that blows.
_ Circe, Linda Hickox’s reference to the sorceress who charmed the Greek Odysseus’s men by turning them into swine, a tribute to her 26 years on the Greek island of Paros.
_ Ol’ivia Money Bags, Chris Naylor, covered with green money, which lived at the bank. Check to see if First Brandon president Scott Cooper is bidding, because his face is on one of the bills instead of a national President’s.
_ Hamhocks & Hollyhocks, Edna Jones, one of the more decorative offerings.
_ Pork Jester, by former Brandon resident and Guild member Jill Listzwan, a more comical treatment.
_ Crazy for You, Cindy Thomas, which may appeal to quilt collectors with is crazy quilt theme.
_ The Wings of Pigs, Jim Haley, one of the season’s many references to the idea of pigs flying.
_ The Piggyback Ride, Robin Rodda Kent and Jim Barner, who added a rider, seen all summer along Park Street.
_ Country Ham (Sudbury’s Country School), Pig in a Blanket (Whiting Elementary School), and Piggsford (Lothrop Elementary School in you guessed it).
For Brandonites, Saturday will be a kind of community celebration, not just a pig sale. By general agreement, the combination of the pig event and several downtown renovation and construction projects has given the town a new sense of pride and optimism.
“Downtown in general is on the way up,” said Lagasse, whose own establishment, half a mile out of town, is getting about 70 percent of its clientele from the Rutland area.
Loedding said that on Saturday, everyone will hear the Artists Guild choice for next summer’s project: birdhouses. Any size, any shape, up to the maker’s imagination.
They felt that too many cities and towns are now doing similar projects with plastic cows, bears, frogs, and so on and so on, Loedding said. Also, “we had a lot of people who said they were intimidated by the process of painting a pig.”
The birdhouses will stress local participation, and feature handmade projects that are more symbolic of Vermont ingenuity in general, Loedding said. “We’re going to have it wide open,” he said.
The overall title will be, “Brandon is For the Birds.” Loedding said that the town now feels confident enough about itself that it won’t hurt to have a slogan that some might turn to satirical purposes.
Humorous, maybe. You bird it here first.

AMANDA BERRY AND CHILDREN’S EDUCATION

Until she attended a National Association of the Educators of Young Children conference five years ago, Amanda Berry thought she understood young children fairly well.
In addition to being the mother of three children, she had assisted with the Live and Learn Nursery School in Pittsford three years, then when its founder retired she had run her own Live and Learn Preschool at her home in Brandon.
At the conference, a posted notice said that a group from The Body Studio in Reggio Emilia, Italy was giving a workshop. She knew about their high reputation from the NAEYC professional magazine Young Children, and took the workshop. “I wanted to go to the top,” she recalled. At the workshop, there was a chance to sign a sheet that might lead to taking courses in their approach, including a stay in Italy. Berry already had 16 children to work with back in Brandon, but she was impressed enough to put in her name.
She didn’t really expect anything to come of it. But that momentary decision was to transform her life–and, she hopes, change the lives of many, many children for the better.
“The following weekend, I got hit by a car, running in Brandon,” Berry said. She spent three months in the hospital, had to close the preschool, and didn’t expect to open it again.
Then came a letter: she would be able to attend psychomotricity training (actually “psichomotricita” in Italian, the word she often still uses for it), first in Newport, Rhode Island, and afterward in Italy under the guidance of renowned educator Gianfranco Alberini.
She went, she studied, she was certified as a psychomotricity educator, and a second career in early childhood education began.
In the past year another fortunate event occurred, when James and Nancy Leary renovated a historic downtown Brandon building. Its second floor had a space ideal for setting up the carefully structured furnishings of a psychomotricity space for free play, storytelling, and artistic activities.
“Smart Moves,” she named the facility, then later remembered this was also the title of the book “Smart Moves: Why Learning Is Not All In Your Head.” The point of the psychomotricity approach was that unless children have a full experience of all the early stages necessary for physical-mental development, there will not be a strong enough foundation for later learning and especially for later creativity.
Or as C. Hannaford, the author of the above book, put it: “Movement activates the neural wiring throughout the body, making the whole body the instrument of learning.”

SIMPLY GENIUS

Do an Internet search for the word “psychomotricity” and all sorts of references come up, but mostly in Europe, where numerous schools advertise it as a course of study. That is in large part because the key to the approach is the work of Switzerland’s Jean Piaget (pee’-ah-zhay’), considered just as important as Freud in some scientific circles.
A philosopher to begin with, he decided that one of the best ways to determine the nature of knowledge would be to study how young children constructed and evolved. Einstein would later remark that this method was “so simple that only a genius could have thought of it.”
It was common, before Piaget, to think of children as blank slates or empty vessels, who simply needed to be filled by grown-up teaching. Their childish thinking (big things float and small things sink, the wind is created by trees moving their arms, and such) was dismissed as mere erroneous foolishness, to be corrected by schooling, or in some cases, following Old Testament precepts, to be driven out by the proper application of a rod.
But Piaget found that these “errors” were typical for each age, that they were appropriate to the child’s reality, and that there was a steady progression of childhood thinking, building up to the arrival of true reasoning at about age 11. And it was by grappling with the circumstances of the physical world that children were prepared to move on to the later stages.
To take a very simply example, at first a baby may cry when a wanted object is moved behind someone’s back: what has disappeared no longer exists. After enough peekaboo and hide-and-seek, it builds up a mental picture (a “schema,” Piaget called it) that persists whether the object is visible or not.
Others built on Piaget’s work, notably a Russian language theorist named Lev Vygotsky and America’s Jerome Bruner. Language, communication, and interaction with others were also vital in developing the child’s world, they determined.
There are actually eight kinds of intelligence, insisted Howard Garner, who in recent years has profoundly influenced many teachers–and movement contributes to seven of them.
Neuropsychologists took up the theory, such as Vítor da Fonseca, though that rigorously scientific branch is beyond the scope of this article.
Then there were those who translated theory into practice, such as Bernard Aucouturier in France, who in turn inspired Berry’s teacher Alberini. Northern Europe has developed its own tradition.
Far from being just a branch of academic psychology, psychomotricity is also a “method of intervention focused in the body to work on mind,” as a rough translation of an Italian document put it.
There is general agreement that more learning takes place in the first seven years than in all the rest of a person’s life, for instance in acquiring by age three a better command of a native language than most foreign language graduate students. (This is an old observation: “Give us a child until he is seven and you can have him for the rest of his life,” went a saying of the Jesuits, the Catholic order most noted for work in education.)
For Berry, after learning so much about the first years, there appeared to be a serious gap in the American educational system, which focused on grades that might come too late to remedy initial deficiencies. Italy offered public children’s activities from a very early ago onward–and now, so would she.

WELCOME TO THE MAGIC SPACE

The group of three-year olds that comes to 39-B Center Street once a week for 10 weeks doesn’t think about sensory-motor relationships and body tonus. For them (and for Berry, too, actually) it’s a nifty place to have fun.
For the sake of the parents, who are asked to wait quietly behind a veil if they are to stay, she has the steps in a typical session posted on the wall. There’s no secret to psychomotricity, except perhaps a little magic.
The first step in a session is the ritual of entering The Magic Space. Each child has his or her own special word or gesture for passing through the elaborately curtained entranceway into a world they have found is safe and nurturing and fun and filled with exploratory adventures.
Then comes another ritual: gathering some of the brightly colored cushions in a circle for them to talk. Everyone introduces themselves, everyone gets reminded of the basic rules of getting along and fair play (sometimes these rules are “tossed” in imaginary fashion from one person to another, to open and “read”). There’s time to share things that happened in the past week.
Then it’s on to the indoor playground. There’s equipment for jumping, rolling, sliding, tumbling and more, and light foam-filled blocks that can be rearranged into all sorts of shapes, and a tunnel for crawling through, all supported by thick, cushioning floor mats.
There’s a lot of method in the merry madness that ensues. The players learn about various dimensions (balanced/unbalanced, soft/hard, etc.), develop their coordination, get to express themselves in an environment where there’s a better chance others will know what they are trying to say, and not least of all, let off a lot of tension.
The resulting relaxation and sense of fun prepare for the next stage, using the equipment to create imaginary settings and happenings. There’s more attention to using the cushions as building blocks for houses, cars, spaceships and so on, and out comes the collection of odd hats and unusual fabrics.
Berry remembers the days when kids used to play dress-up in the attic or stage little plays for the grownup. But not everyone has an attic, or as many siblings as in the past, or parents with enough free time.
It’s a natural transition from there to time for sitting down and using crayons or markers or pencils or blocks to create other representations. In the words of one Body Studio summary, the play space has an “area for emotional detachment and cognitive development,” as they express what happened during the previous activities.
There’s no concern about trying to make the artwork “look like something.” Rather, the educational goal is to have the children gain a better sense of their bodies, and of the self.
Building blocks can lay the foundations, almost literally, for later mathematical, geometric, and logical operations. This is not far from elementary school teachers using Cuisenaire rods rather than just having student memorize the time tables, or showing what prime numbers are by showing that such a number of objects won’t form a grid.
For children who have been through a 10-week program (it takes that long to know them, Berry says) there can be special projects, like setting up the play space so its possible to act out the high and lows, in fronts and in backs, the fasts and slows, etc. of a story while she reads it.
Though one of Berry’s tenets is that the adult leader ought to be having fun herself, there’s a lot of experienced professionalism behind the scenes. She sets up the props differently for each age group, each class in the sequence of 10, each group’s particular emotional needs. She is always watching posture and gesture and facial expressions, the better to step in when an adult touch is needed. Her choices of background music, often from the most celebrated classical music, can powerfully influence the mood.
A session closes with a conversation circle, where everyone can go back over what happened, then farewells. But the day’s events often linger, as part of the murals of children’s artwork that blanket the walls.

BEYOND SCHOOLING

Psychomotricity varies in its national flavors, but the Berry/Reggio Emilia style is not one of conducting a kind of stealth pre-pre-school with the goal of merely enhancing later “real” academic achievement. Indeed, one of Berry’s leaflets calls it “recess for the brain.”
Nor is it mainly therapy, though its principles can be used for that purpose. “I’m not a therapist,” Berry says, “but my teacher is.”
From self-awareness, empathy with others, relaxed pleasure, and expressiveness come creative skills. It will take many years before all the effects of time spent at Smart Moves become known, and they may never be completely traceable, but Berry is sure creativity of many sorts will be among them.
Nancy Leary isn’t just the landlord, she’s a client. All three of her children, now ages 10, 9, and 6, have spent time with Berry.
When asked how the three had been affected, Leary went and asked. From Sarah, 10, came “She gets to know her mind on paper.” In her exact words, “My mind gets to be myself.”
At 6, Conrad has learned to sit still and keep quiet in order to do the lessons that will lead to higher scores on mandated tests, Leary said. But it doesn’t come naturally. At Smart Moves, “he gets to be just a big and busy as he is.”
The participants can have a hard time putting into words what the Magic Space means to them, Leary observed. “It’s more of a spirit thing, a heart thing.”
She added, “It would be great for adults to go.”

Update: Smart Moves was a casualty off the Great Recession of 2008. Berry said in 2013, “I run into clients whose children I had, time and time again, who tell me how their children still talk about it…I would be doing it if I could—and who know?”

THE SISTER WE NEVER THOUGHT WE HAD–GAY WEDDING IN 2003

Brandon, Vermont in 2003

“It was wonderful,” said one of the Brandon Inn employees, who had witnessed many weddings there. “It brought tears to my eyes.”
Louis Pattis, co-owner and co-manager and chef there, said it was “a good, good happening,” and not just because it brought about 150 people to town. “They had a great program.”
Also, he said, it was a family whose members had been coming to the inn for years, one of whom had been in the relationship for 15 years already. “It was just a matter of legalizing their status,” he said, of the 217-year-old establishment’s first civil union.
“It was great,” said the mother of one of the two participants, Mary Cadwell of Pittsford.
It had not always been so easy, recalled Steve Cadwell, originally from Pittsford, and a graduate of Otter Valley Union High School in 1968. Their first ceremony of commitment for him and Joe Levine had been a small affair in the home they were setting up Dorchester, Massachusetts, a Boston suburb just becoming one of the area’s gay enclaves.
The family, members of whom watched with smiles on Oct. 4, went through some tough times emotionally, Steve said. Many families did, that being a time when, just as closets were being opened, the AIDS was in danger of becoming epidemic and gays were being blamed for its spread.
Everyone learned, but he himself may have gone through the greatest transformation. Following a physical altercation with one of his brothers, he spent time in the state mental hospital in Waterbury.
Cadwell not only pulled out of his own turmoils and depressions, he went on to become a licensed psychologist–Dr. Cadwell, officially. He maintains a private practice in Boston helping mainly the gay population, and serves as adjunct faculty at the Smith College of Social Work.
Partly for that reason, his union was more than a personal matter. For both partners, it was an explicit political statement about the value of social recognition and acceptance of homosexual relationships.

DOCTOR’S PRESCRIPTION

In the early 1990’s, the American Psychiatric Press tapped Cadwell to co-edit a book about therapy and the HIV/AIDS crisis. It was published in 1994 as Therapists on the Front Line.
By then, Cadwell’s credentials for the task were well-established. The book’s introduction states that he had researched “burnout, empathy and countertransference in clinical work with gay men with AIDS,” had consulted for agencies and clinics and hospital staff, and had led support groups both for individuals and for professionals affected by AIDS.
One of his hard-won conclusions was that the combination of being labeled as deviant, stigmatization, isolation, and shame–greatly worsened by the isolations coming with an HIV diagnosis–was promoting rather than helping risky behavior. In the absence of social supports, promiscuous sex was a way of ending at least some of the isolations.
“We have found the enemy, and again it is us,” Cadwell’s leading essay in the book concluded. “If there is an opportunity for good in the war against AIDS, it is that we can develop healthy relationships that are more humane and more capable of embracing differences.”
“We may then truly heal ourselves and our social disease.”

TO HEAL AND TO REJOICE

Nearly a decade after the book’s appearance, with AIDS at least held in check in this country, the tone of the civil union was far less intense than that of the book. In fact, from a distance, it could have been any wedding, with its stirring music, heartfelt poetry, expressions of mutual love, communal celebration, and good-natured joking at the dinner afterward.
But not all unions have the couple’s 11-year-old adopted Guatemalan son taking part in the ceremony. Not all take place under the umbrella, almost literally, of a ribbon creation masterminded by an internationally known performance artist (Pat Oleszko, NEA and Guggenheim grants, Bessie Award, Rome Prize; remembered for things like being forcibly arrested at the Vatican for personifying The Nincompope).
And very, very few have the final vows administered by one of the participants own brothers–in this case, Alden Cadwell, a Justice of the Peace in Waitsfield.
What is a civil union like?
Theirs was in the Brandon Inn’s ballroom, with its elegant antique furniture and wall-high, ornate mirrors redoubling the space, rather than in a church. But at one end, something somewhat like an altar had been set up–except that it bore a certain resemblance to an oversize tiki lamp.
This, it turned out, was not accidental. Steve and Joe had gone for their “honeymoon” 15 years ago to Bali, and references to that exotic and peaceable Indonesian island, including a gong ceremony, were a theme.
On one side was a sound system with a keyboard. The former held forth first, playing Vaughn Williams’ “Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis,” and Bizet’s “Au fond du temple saint” (the program supplied the subtext: “Two life-long friends are reunited after a feud; they reaffirm and vow to uphold their love for each other.”) After that, Steve took over the keyboard to play an original composition he had created for the occasions.
Then it was Joe’s turn (while son Isaac took over the keyboard location to get a good angle for his camera). Like Cadwell a published writer (he has turned to his marine biologist training to the production of textbooks), Levine quietly but powerfully spoke of how for them, the personal ceremony was also a political statement.
Marriage, he said, usually legalizes a relationship in the eyes of the state, or in the view of an organized religion sanctifies it. Fifteen years ago they could do neither–so why did they have that ceremony at all?
“We had wanted to announce publicly our love for each other,” he said, but also, “we were asking for your help, friends and family, to help us stay together through the rough times we knew were going to come.”
“These days,” he observed, “to have any kind of relationship of any sort that has lasted for any length of time is a miracle in itself. For a gay relationship to survive that long with all the antipathy outside, without the support of all the legal and social things that help keep marriages together, we think is a miracle of miracles, and we want to celebrate this–and celebrate your part in helping us to stay together.”
Times have changed, and they could have found a church willing to hold a ceremony, he said, but they couldn’t agree on which one–a comment that brought knowing laughter from friends. So it would be a civil ceremony, “and that’s the reason we’re all here in Vermont today.”
Levine paused in his oration for Cadwell to read one of his poems. He used flowers and their variety to symbolize the harmony of differences: “With all our light// we fill these rooms// with flowers and are stirred.// Let flow these many colored words!”
His Ogden Nash-like sense of humor couldn’t pass up the chance to slip in some gay humor: “The more variety! The more zest!// Fickle pleasures? YES! YES!// Polymorphous?// Jolly more f’r us!”
And he brought down the house by reading the final lines (“Our rainbowed, spectrum-ribboned bliss. // We hold each other in love’s de-light.// So lit go into our long “Good Night”.) then adding “And we plan to have a LONG, GOOD night.”
Levine brought things back from rainbow connections to political connections. The interpersonal celebrations were “not the only reason we asked you here,” he said.
Especially because of their son, “we have managed to land ourselves smack in the middle of a major struggle for civil rights,” he said. “People have used and abused religion to justify slavery, racism, anti-Semitism, and oppression of women. We’re the latest to be added to the list.”
Nationally, there is a major backlash, he said, in which “people are making a living trying to get other people to hate people like us. They call us evil. They call us things I won’t say with children present. They do it publicly, and they get applauded for it.”
“So that’s why we’re having a CIVIL union, to claim this part of our CIVIL rights,” Levine said.
“In many parts of the country I’ve traveled to lately, we would be putting ourselves, and you, in physical danger if we had this kind of event in this public a setting,” he said. In Vermont, “an extraordinary group of people have worked incredibly hard to create a safe place for people to create families with love, no matter how they they want to do so.”
He then asked everyone to imagine an even more wonderful place, “the kind of magical place that children are sometimes the only ones who believe can exist _ but adults are the only ones who can make it possible.”
Ol`eszko brought out long, wide ribbons that were attached to the central stand, then unrolled to reach all the edges of the gathering, to “enclose the room,” as Levine put it. The song that followed was “Over the Rainbow.”
The union of colors continued as a theme with Steve and Joe donning what they had chosen as their union suits. Steve’s verses put it this way: “Some in the State House dressed us down,// So off the tuxedo, off the gown.”
Instead, they brought out kimonos made from silk fabric they’d bought in Bali 15 years earlier. Steve: “As our family is of color–// American, Latino, Boston Jew–// Authentic Asian is what we agreed to.”
The Amherst College multi-racial women’s a cappella group gave much-praised renditions of “Harbor Me” and “On Children,” Knisely and Cicone contributed “Lucky Man,” and there was the (again Asian-flavored) gong-ringing ritual. Finally, it was time.
“I want to express how much I’ve admired the courage, tact, insight and dignity you’ve used over the years to raise my consciousness and understanding of what it means to be gay,” said Jared Cadwell, J. P. “We are enriched by your love today.”
The vows started out lighthearted: “I do, I do, I do.” “You do?” “I do, I do.” “You do?” “You do, I do, too.” “You do, I do, too.” “Oh, doodle-do.” “Oh, doodle-do.”
“In tight abs and softened girth// In sour mood and in mirth// Without and with child// In the ‘hood and in the wild…”
“In your Texas book campaign// In days when you felt too many clients’ pain…”
But at heart it was serious: “In plenty and in scant// In what we can and what we can’t// In summer garden and in snow// In the unknown and what we know…”
Together: “We join in civil union, in the pursuit of peace and love, growth and happiness.”
Then it was Jared’s turn: “Now by the powers vested in me by the State of Vermont, I pronounce you in civil union. Show some affection.”
That was the easy part. The crowd clapped and whistled and whooped and cheered for nearly a minute.
At the high-spirited celebratory dinner that followed, ending in pie “family style,” there were heartfelt statements and knowledgeable toasts (such as one of the five Cadwell brothers joking about “the sister we never THOUGHT we had”). The political situation had its moment, with one man saying his partner was from a foreign country, and if they could marry “it would solve a lot of our problems.”
“It was just so moving to be somewhere that it IS legal,” he said. “It was important to be here.”
A woman observed that it was no accident that the civil union law passed in Vermont. As early as the 1700’s, a Harvard man came north to Vermont, and eventually wrote a book titled “Tolerance Is Not Enough.”
To tolerate, she said, is to put up with something seen as inferior. True cultural diversity means equal respect for all, and “that’s where that law comes from.”
Mostly, the dinner wasn’t that solemn.
One man said, “This is the first wedding my children have been to,” to which their mother added “And they’re 12 and nine.” “If they see no other wedding, they couldn’t see one with more love and joie de vivre than this one,” he said.
“I have to say one more thing,” he said, but h-is mate completed the sentence: “We aren’t married.” The room erupted in laughter. A voice cut through the uproar: “You’re not married either?”
“You both have reminded us,” said one friend, “that love has no national boundaries, no gender, no religion _ no boundaries at all. Love just is.”

TWEETER FELION

(written in 2003)

The call came to the Brandon Area Rescue Squad, about 7 a.m.: a logger had been injured near Huff Pond in Sudbury. Could they meet him partway to where he had been working?
“I remember it very clearly,” said Charles Memoe, who was on duty that day 27 years ago. “You don’t see a lot of chainsaw accidents.”
It was Lawrence “Tweeter” Felion, Jr. of Leicester. A tree he was cutting fell in such a way that one of its roots out of the ground, and one came up between his legs and whacked him so hard he went flying through the air.
He tried to throw his chainsaw away. But “when you’re up in the air with a saw in your hand, you’ve got no power,” Felion recalled.
When he came down, it was on a Homelite 550 chainsaw, with a five cubic inch engine (homeowner types go about two cubic inches). Powerful? “I’d rather meet a bear,” he said.
When he landed, it was going “full bore,” with a broken trigger. “It was wide open.”
In less time than it takes to tell it, so was Felion. “He was cut very, very badly,” Memoe recalled.
Felion said another inch in the either direction and it would have gotten his heart or lungs. He applied the only first aid treatment possible: he put his hands over the gash. Over his guts, or “they’d have fallen on the ground.” Then he started walking to where his brother was working.
The chainsaw roared on. “I could hear it all the while I was walking out,” Felion said. As he and his brother left in their pickup truck to meet the Rescue Squad, “I could still hear it screaming. I said, ‘Let it blow up, it’s done enough damage to me today.”
Memoe said it wasn’t so much that Felion was literally holding himself together, but that he didn’t panic. In many injuries of such severity, shock itself can lead to fatal complications.
“His coolness was undoubtedly what saved his life,” Memoe said.
On the day of that accident’s 25th anniversary, Felion was in the Smoke Rise Restaurant in Brandon, and Memoe, who hardly ever went there, walked in. Felion told him that in an hour he was taking his son up to Huff Pond to try to get a picture of the stump.
“I’m so happy he could continue in his profession,” Memoe said. “He’s one of those real unique rugged Vermont outdoorsmen. It’s a way of life. He’s a wise old guy. He’s got a lot of common sense, and we’re short of that today.”
Then there was the time he broke his ankle, so badly the doctor said he would need a steel plate. Two weeks later, he found he could stay upright, then walk a few painful steps, then walk.
“Where are your crutches?” the doctor asked when the four week appointment came around. “He said, ‘I can’t believe it.’” Still recommended a steel plate, but Tweeter said “It doesn’t hurt, let it go at that.”
“Here I am, 46 years later,” he said.
‘Work in woods all day and then come home and build this house,” recalled his wife Jean.
They may come tougher than Tweeter Felion, but not enough to matter. A lumberjack roundup champion as well as a lifetime logger, he is still getting working for the A. Johnson Lumber Company in Bristol, going up into places like Bristol Notch, cutting and skidding logs, at age 66.
Back in the early 1960’s when Sonny “The Big Bear” Liston became heavyweight boxing champion of the world, there were press reports that talked about his huge biceps, which were 16 and 1/2 inches around.
One of Felion’s co-workers, who had been reading one of those accounts, said, “Come here, Tweeter, let’s measure you.” His were bigger.
That’s not because Felion is a towering giant. Of ordinary stature, he would disappear in a crowd. Rather, it’s because he has logged, so to speak, a lifetime’s hard work.
“Went out this morning,” he said. “I’ve been going out since I was 13,” at first logging with his father, for S. L. Griffin, in Danby, with axes and crosscut saws. (His father gave him the nickname “Tweeter,” and like a lot of old-time Vermont nicknames, it stayed with him.)
Actually, “logging” of a sort started earlier. His father, who kept his axe razor sharp, always hid it from his son, who kept finding it and imitating Dad by filling his toy wagon with firewood. Missed the chopping block and got cut twice with that one.
His family photo albums include pictures from others of his numerous accidents. Looking at a cut knee, he said that was just one of the knee mishaps. “I’ve got so many battle scars, I always say I’ve been through the Battle of the Bulge and never fired a shot.”
Common sense? Felion shakes his head at the way today’s regulators act like they’re so concerned about workplace safety, yet this society has let worker’s compensation rates for logging go so high that a lot of young guys starting out can’t afford help and are working alone, miles back into the woods.
“All he has to do is cut his hand right there and he’ll bleed to death,” Felion said. “And they call it safe.”
But “I don’t think I’m going to get killed in the woods,” he said. “I think it’s going to be Route 7. That’s where the trouble is.”

MAKING THE CUT

It might not seem so, but lumberjack roundups can be hazardous, too.
The Felions have a row of trophies and a box of ribbons from the 1960’s, when the two of them would travel to competitions in New York, Vermont and New Hampshire.
Old Forge, New York, Northeast Championship, 1965, first place in tree falling. The Boonville, New York Field Day, 1966, tree falling, second place. First place that year in Lamoille County’s competition, in the crosscut saw.
Not such a strong finish in a pole chopping competition at Tupper Lake, New York in 1964, where he hadn’t heard the starting bell. Finally, Brandon logger Rhodes Wyman yelled out, “Tweeter! What are you doing?” and he started chopping. Only got third that time.
And so on. Then, in 1967, there was an incident that led him to give up competitive chopping.
At Boonville, the poles they were supposed to cut weren’t put securely in the ground, and they weren’t allowed to tamp them down. A pole going back and forth will hit an axe that is swung at it with much more force than if the pole is standing still, Felion said.
Taking his best axe out of its case, he said, “Watch this,” and ran the blade along his arm. Three inches of hair came cleanly off at the first stroke.
That axe glanced off the pole at Boonville and came through one leg of his pants, part of his leg, and then the other side of his pants. “Five thousand people, and no one knew first aid,” Felion recalled. “It took 135 stitches.”
He put four of his five axes up for sale at Addison County Field Days, for $75 apiece. People told him it was too much. He said, “I know what they’re worth. If they don’t get that, I’ll throw them in Otter Creek.”
They meant a lot to Jean, too. They used an old grindstone to put on a razor edge. “We used to crank all the time,” she recalled.
They sold. Dave Warner bought one and took three championships with it and then sold it _ and unknown to him, his son bought it back.
His son came to their door and said, “Come out here. Shut your eyes. Hold out your hand.”
As for his reaction, Felion only said, “I may be strong, but I’m softhearted, too.”

THE OLD SCHOOL

He was born in Leicester, and aside from a brief stay in Londonderry as a kid, that’s been it. His last formal education was at the District Number Four school in Leicester, through eighth grade.
“I went to the Old School, and I’m glad I did,” Felion said. “The hills. I learned the best education anybody will ever have.”
Of course there was a different kind of education involving Jean Roberts, a girl who had come from Poultney when she was 18, and who one time helped arrange a blind date for Felion with her best friend. Then she changed her mind about not going out with him.
She said, “I want you to come down here tonight, and I’ve been there ever since. Forty-five years _ right, Ma?”
But also, there’s been Mother Nature.
“I’m a great believer in looking out in the morning and at night, when the sun goes down,” he said. “The old sayings are better than any weather forecast.”
“Horsetails in the sky,/ Never leave the ground dry,” was one. Someone who knows how a warm front comes in, cirrus clouds first, would have to agree.
About 27 years ago, he said, Russell Whitney told him that an old-timer had told him that “The last thunderstorm in the fall will be 30 days before winter sets in.” Felion said, “I’ve followed that for 22 years, and I’ll tell you, that guy is not wrong.”
What if there’s thunder in the winter, like Vermont has seen in recent years? Felion said there as one time he heard thunder in December, and that winter the ground never really froze up.
What was the coldest day he ever faced? “Two clapboards below,” he said. “That was South Pond, Pittsfield, Chittenden,” working for Bubby LaRock, maybe 1957, 1958.
They were using an old Army personnel carrier to take a crew of eight to 10 workers to the job, and they had to keep it in a shed at the landing, with a fire going all night, so it would start. When they looked at the thermometer in the morning, the mercury was right down in the bulb, and Harold Mitchell said, “Two clapboards below.”
The wind was so bad he could see his son’s face turning white from frostbite. “I said, ‘Let’s get the hell out.’ That was cold.”
But there’s another kind of storm Felion has been watching from the mountains, one that could hit with stronger forces than wind and lightning.
“You sit up there on the hill and watch the smog down in the valley, Death Valley,” he said. Around Rutland, “it doesn’t raise till about noon. You know how lucky you were to be in the forest.”
“You used to see the thunderheads come rolling, the lightning,” he said. “Now you see just a solid cloud, and a clap of thunder.”
And there are strange things happening with the animals, new animals that weren’t ever here before, like possums and turkey vultures and moose. And big flies: on two different mountains, he’s encountered swarms of flies about an inch long that he’d never seen before.
“All I can figure is, they came with the moose,” he said.
Environmentalism? In the old days, they used to cut selectively, so they’d have a job in the future, Felion said. “What really makes you think is when you come back and do a job you did 25 or 30 years before that.”
There are letters in the family scrapbooks from the National Forest Service, Vermont forestry officials, and others praising the Felion family’s work. “The best logging crew I’ve ever worked with,” wrote one landowner.
“Thank you and your crew for the conscientious manner in which this job and all the other jobs that you have done over the years,” said David Stevens, formerly director of the state Department of Forests, Parks & Recreation.
Today, Felion said, there are more people on the mountains than ever before. There are mountain bikers who come down the roads that crews built with horses in the first half of the 20th century, many by Civilian Conservation Camp workers, and on wet days they slice right through the water bars, raised ridges to keep stormwater from washing out the roads.
“They don’t even think of that,” he said. “They’re having fun.”
And one of the worst forms of the erosion is in the work ethic. A lot of the young guys don’t even think about really going to work until they’re 35.
Where things used to take hard physical work, “now they’re got levers, and they’re too lazy to pull the levers,” Felion said. “What the hell has the human being done to himself?”

A DIFFERENT VIEW

After working up and down the Green Mountains from Dorset to Bakersfield, all around Camel’s Hump, Felion sees through the valleys from the top down, and the present from the past.
When he looks at Mt. Abraham, he thinks of the time the small plane came down there, shearing off treetops, and he and his boys were the only ones near, and thanks to their help all three survived. When he sees Hanley Mountain, overlooking Route 4 toward Castleton, he knows what the platform looks like that the hang gliders jump off, and that they can see all the way to Whitehall.
Likewise, he knows there’s a place on the Churchill Lot, near the abandoned Middle Road between upland Goshen and Chittenden, where he was working on what must have been a 60 percent grade, where it’s possible to see Lake Champlain. And up north, around Camel’s Hump, the White Mountains are visible.
“Of all the times I’ve been on hills, I’ve always tried to get a bearing point from different peaks,” he said.
There are odd things up in those highlands, Felion said. Catamounts, for instance. “When they say they’re not here, they’re crazy.”
Driving along Route 116 one morning with his brother Ronnie in their 1957 Chevy, to get to a job behind Waterbury Dam, they saw one of the big cats standing broadside to them by the side of the road. There was no doubt: it was “mouse-colored,” Felion said, with a tail “that long,” indicating about a yard.
“When that cat jumped across out of the ditch, he was 12 feet from us,” Felion said. “He jumped like he was on springs.”
There are unusual human signs, too, like the woman’s watch they found once near a place a woman had disappeared, maybe murdered, though the police could never find a body and prove anything. Up in “No Town,” which some call Chateaugay, in Bridgewater, way back in the hills, there are cellarholes “with trees this thick growing out of them.”
In Sudbury one time they found a big wall, going nowhere, no other wall around, in the middle of the woods. Not a stone had fallen. No idea why it was built.
In Chittenden, way high up, there’s a sign on a tree saying “Grove Street,” perhaps stolen from Brandon’s Grove Street. Bad pun: “When you walk out of the woods, you’re in the White Pastures,” the open fields visible from down on Route 7.
One time, working at the Bolton Ski Area, he had stayed to punch out a road while his sons went home. The next morning they drove loads of logs over the road, until the second uncovered a box which proved to contain 50 dynamite caps.
“I said, ‘We’d better get the hell out of here.’” The bomb squad came from Pittsford. Unsolved crime _ maybe a theft from when a ski trail was being carved out of the mountainside.
Once, up above Brandon, Felion found a tree with the name Ray Downs carved in it, and the information that he had shot a buck there during a long-ago hunting season. He cut a six-foot log out of the tree and brought it to Ray’s son Steve, for their hunting camp in Forest Dale.
Downs said it’s still there at the hunting camp.

ENDANGERED SPECIES: WORKING VERMONTER

Felion has seen enough changes to wonder what future logging will have. There used to be 10 logging outfits around Brandon, while F. O. Dutton’s two mills were still going on lower Carver Street, and their Saturday night carouses at LaDuke’s in Brandon (where Felion, who doesn’t drink, didn’t go) made the bar regionally famous.
All up and down the Green Mountains, the loggers worked in the hills and the mills were busy in the valleys, he said. They cut 20 million board feet a year on government land, and now, with “the tree-huggers,” there’s hardly any logging, he said.
As for the regulations, he said, “If you’ve survived 50 years in the woods, you shouldn’t have to take a class to be a certified logger.”
Felion isn’t ready to retire, but he can see it coming. Andrew Johnson, head of the mill he has worked for during the last 36 years, told Felion, “You’re like an old tree _ even they wilt.”
He gave up smoking more than a decades ago. He’s still sharp enough so when he visited the opening of the railroad museum in Center Rutland that has Henry Carris’s collection (Tweeter gave him a jack he didn’t have), he could still remember all the section bosses on this part of the Rutland Railroad from two years he worked on it as a teenager.
“It’s a good life, and it’s going to come to an end, I guess,” he said. “I hate to see it end.” And not just his part of logging.
Some day he wants to go to the West Coast and see the biggest trees, just to look at them. Because that’s all you can do, nowadays.
“It’ll probably come to that here, some day,” he said.
“Some day, they’re going to remember us, because they won’t have us to do it,” Felion said of the old-time loggers. “What will we do then?”
_ 30 _

MEMORIAL DAY: EXLOSIVE MIXTURES

MEMORIAL DAY: EXLOSIVE MIXTURES

Memorial Day makes me think of the post-World War II G.I. Bill of Rights, which included the right to a college education. You have me here in Vermont, for better or worse, because my father came to Vermont to avail himself of that right, and because my mother, on her way to a well-paid executive career, decided Vermont would be a good place to start a family.
Both came from upward-struggling Hungarian families that came through Ellis Island in the 1890’s. My mother had been a star at the New Jersey high school from which she graduated early in the Depression: a girl whose mother cleaned other people’s houses but who became the valedictorian and the first-ever female president of the Athletic Association, having won letters in three sports. One of her teachers loaned her the money to go to Ursinus College in Pennsylvania, where she again lettered in three sports on her way to becoming a teacher. She had been “pinned” by the captain of the hockey team: she wore his fraternity pin, he would date no one else, and a future engagement would surprise no one.
Then came the day, back home, when her younger sister’s date (and future husband) Francis Barna had to be driven to the Bedners’ mini-farmstead by his older brother Bob. He had been in her class, but was now a chemical plant worker. They got to talking—and when she returned to Ursinus, she handed back the hockey captain’s fraternity pin. Explosive Mixtures, chapter one. She and my father would marry during the war, before he went overseas, at Langley Field in Virginia.
As a child, my father had fallen from a considerable height onto his head. In school, in Western Pennsylvania where his family had a produce farm until the Depression, he was considered retarded. The teacher put him in the back of the room with the other unreachables and unteachables.
Then one day in fourth grade Bob raised his hand: “Teacher, I know how to read now.” In fifth grade, he spelled down the school. Apparently he did have the family ability with languages, like his father, who could talk with anyone of any nationality at the Erie, Pennsylvania farm market, or the distant ancestor who supposedly led a peasant delegation to speak with Emperor Franz-Josef. Maybe he was like my late brother Walt, who didn’t talk until he was three because he didn’t want to unless he could speak in complete sentences; later he would com within two points of a top score on his SAT’s, come within a point of doing so with his GRE’s, and master six languages, not counting computer codes.
Bob didn’t compete in athletics during high school because he had a hernia, and his Old World parents thought surgery was “going under the knife,” and wouldn’t consider it. He had to get a job to pay for an operation, and to get a job, he would have to be examined by the factory doctor, to make sure nothing was wrong with him. He would have to squeeze his stomach muscles together to pack in his hernia. So he did sit-ups, by the hundreds. He got the job, hired the best surgeon he could find, and was told afterward that the man had never seen as thick a stomach wall in his entire career. Those were the days when my father would walk to the Watchung Mountains on his days off, to save money, a roundtrip of 20 miles or more. Farm kids.
As the war went on, and the call was for fighters more than factory workers, he enlisted in the Air Force. As part of basic training, everyone took a number of tests, including something called the Alpha Speed. This was, he learned later, the IQ test of that era. He went home on leave, came back to Langley, and found his whole unit had gone to Germany, except for him and one other guy. “You’re going to navigator school.”
The plane loss rate for the Eight Air Force over Flak Alley in Germany, with its radar controlled guns, was about 90 percent. Instead, my father flew in a B-24 bomber halfway around the world and over the Himalayan “Hump” to fight in China. In all probability, that’s why I’m alive—though he went through enough rough stuff to win two Air Medals and two Distinguished Flying Crosses.
Meanwhile, instead of my mother joining “Rosie the Riveter,” she became the supervisor who helped make Rosie more efficient. She was a time-and-motion expert for Merck Pharmaceuticals, good enough so that after the war, they offered her $500 a week—a huge sum back then—to stay. But it was Bob’s turn to go to college, and besides, she wanted children.
After earning a bachelor’s degree in German and a master’s degree in French at Middlebury College (my mother earned her “third degree” at Porter Hospital, having three boys in four years), my father found that no one was interested as he had been in finding out how the great German civilization had become such a chamber of horrors. He never got to teach German. Moreover, he discovered he didn’t have enough credits in teaching courses to get certified. So for three years, while he took night classes, he was Captain Barna at Massanutten Military Academy in Woodstock, Virginia. She taught as well.
Then another Midd grad, Tom Whalen, principal at Brandon High School, invited the two of them back to Vermont. Many people in Brandon still remember my parents, either from BHS or from Otter Valley Union High School; at one or the other, they taught from 1955 to 1970.
Which brings us to Explosive Mixtures, chapters two and three.
Since BHS needed someone to teach chemistry, my father took on that job, before finally going to the English department. He always said one of the things that convinced him to hand off the chemistry duties was the day he left his best, most reliable student in charge of the lab while he took a quick break, and returned to find that the student had generated enough inflammable gas to create an explosion so powerful that no one could ever find any pieces of the beaker. Fortunately, none of the bits of glass made it into Bill Herzog’s eyes; he would become Otter Valley Union High School’s first Harvard student, and went on to a distinguished career in the ministry.
The part about no pieces of glass made perfect sense to his three sons, because they had figured out how to turn cherry bombs into hand grenades.
We would get a metal-topped glass jar (DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME!), make a hole in the lid with a nail, put the fuse through the hole, screw on the lid, and while the thrower held the grenade, his assistant would light the fuse. After a pause to make sure the grenade would explode just over the Nazi trench ahead of us, the thrower (usually me) would hurl it high into the air, and all of us would hit the dirt. If done with the right timing (it took practice), this would not only create a most satisfactory blast, it would be followed by the sound of myriad pieces of invisible glass pitter-pattering to the ground all around us.
Moral of the story: smart kids don’t get into trouble as often, but when they do, things can get very complicated.
Which brings us to Explosive Mixtures four and five.
When the old high school closed, there was the problem of what to do with the chem lab’s hoard of ancient substances. My father helped make those decisions, and I happened to be there the day he dealt with the sodium.
Sodium is a soft, silvery metal, but if anyone ever tells you he’s seen such a metal in nature, he’s lying. It’s so reactive that unless the artificially generated pure form is kept in something non-reactive like kerosene, it will vanish. The oversimplified explanation goes something like this: all the elements are happiest with eight electrons in their outer ring. The most reactive are the ones with either just one, which they are willing to get rid of on the molecular equivalent of Ebay with no bottom price, and the ones with seven, who are like Ebay collectors missing just one of a series, and willing to pay anything to get it. Sodium is a plus-one. Chlorine is a minus-one (in other words, a plus-seven), which is part of why there’s so much sodium chloride (salt) in the world– and why chlorine has been used as a poisonous gas in wartime.
Knowing all this, my father took the jar of kerosene-soaked sodium metal behind the school, to a place overlooking the Neshobe River.
“Watch this,” he said. He dumped out a chunk of sodium, grabbed it with some paper towels he had brought for the occasion, and sent the mass fluttering into the river below. After a brief pause during which the stuff sank and soaked, there was a serious flash and a huge WHOMP as it exploded.
When we went back to the school, we entered through the boys’ side. Brandon High School, like many schools of its era, had separate entrances for the boys and girls, and different areas for them to store personal belongings and use “the basement.”
School directors in those days held the quaint belief that if you were simply to mix the sexes at the age when males were at the peak of their testosterone production and females had no direct personal experience with pregnancy, childbirth, and infant care, the results could be premature in all sorts of ways. Of course we know so much better.
In any case, that was Explosive Mixtures chapter five.

GOING TO NYC AND NEW JERSEY

GOING TO NYC AND NEW JERSEY
(2007)

Since my Hungarian immigrant ancestors first arrived in America via Ellis Island, I’ve known the New York City-New Jersey area since childhood. My parents were among the first to fly from the ethnic nest, but we went down again and again for visits and reunions.
So I can remember when only the Greater New York City glowed red at night. Even before sodium vapor lights put similar caps of ruddy illumination over almost any municipality of any size, the concentration of warning lights, neon lights and billboard reflections was enough to make driving into The City a Dante-esque journey. When I first heard the Rastafarian reggae singers using the name “Babylon” to refer to the unnatural life of big commercial cities and cultures (in the 1970’s, when WTBS MIT-College had a Jamaican show; “That guy Marley is a damn good songwriter!”) this was the image that came to mind.
This past week, I drove into New York City to see my brother Joe’s one-man show on how seeing Sputnik before there was any announcement of its existence changed his life. (For Brandonites: this took place while he was lying on the Brandon High School lawn. Later, he was able to confirm that the orbital path went over Brandon. There is a lot more to his show, which is very witty and funny, and which I hope he’ll get a chance to do around here some day.)
Here are a few observations from the 698 miles I put on my rented Toyota Corolla:
–I had to drive at least 70 miles an hour to avoid getting rear-ended on the Thruway and other Interstate-type highways. Coming back, I hoped this would relax north of Albany, but no such luck. There is a kind of convoy psychology at work: all the drivers know they’re speeding (the limit is usually 65), but if no one goes too much faster than that, the cop cars will remain at the No U-Turn strips between the one-way lanes, hoping someone will get heavy-footed enough to be worth pursuing amidst all the vehicular clutter. Bringing the rental car back from Middlebury to Rutland, I had to be very, very careful not to zoom up to 65 on Route 7. The cars these days are made for such speed, and backing off on the accelerator puts your foot under such strain that you are in danger of cramping. Everything—airbags, car body armor, sound insulation, stereo systems, the power available at the touch of a foot, the power of the braking systems—conspires to lock this country into a culture of speeding. Like the pattern of suburban housing development (aka sprawl), this complex of mutual reinforcements has painted us into a corner.
Like the spirits who are blown endlessly around and around their circles in Dante’s Inferno, we are trapped, and don’t know how to get off.
–As an experienced cloud-watcher, who has posted 91 pictures so far this year on Weather Underground (see previous entry; site is at www.wunderground.com; look at ERLBarna), I can report that the clouds over urban New Jersey are STRANGE. Sometimes there is a peculiar haze in the air which, at a certain altitude, turns into white puffs—a phenomenon I’ve seen taking place (via Weather Underground) during some Western wildfires. There is a phenomenal amount of gunk at high altitudes, probably from air travel. Clouds often take on forms never seen hereabouts, and I saw nothing like the crisp “fair weather cumulus” clouds we get here on cool summer days. Yiddish, a language which some say “has more vitamins” than many others, has a great word for clouds this crazy: “farpotchket.”
–New York City has been fighting for years the same battle over creeping gentrification that is now showing up in Vermont as unaffordable housing, unbearable property taxes, and so on. The Medicine Show Theatre, where my brother performed, has been in existence for 37 years, in 13 locations, their director said. They’re trying to acquire their present 10-story building on 52nd Street West, but only have the first three floors so far due to political complications. Meanwhile, the block, which was terribly run-down when they arrived, has seen a total transformation since the artists arrived, with big money buying structures and tearing them down to put up bigger moneymakers. Like Soho, she said: the artists found low-budget lofts, created a vibrant art scene, were catalysts for the development of galleries and restaurants, then the area SOuth of HOuston Street became so desirable that the artists were priced out.
(Steven Spielberg’s movie “batteries not included” is, among other things, a fierce satire on this sort of commercialization and destruction on New York’s Lower East Side).
–Driving with Joe to his New Brunswick home after the show, I got to see a zone that made me ache for the time and resources to photograph it. Hyper-industrial, it includes huge power plant towers pouring out steam (just steam, we hope), Erector-set factories, squat but looming oil terminal tanks, and arrays of electrical transmission lines that made the VELCO upgrade look like child’s play. Shrouded in mist and lit by the almost-danger-orange sodium lights, this concentration of power was, in its way, awe-inspiring and even magical. Like it or not, this zone is a major organ of the body politic of our “civilization.” Flying along an Interstate trajectory through it is just as dizzying as looking down from the Empire State Building, and relying on this Gut for our sustenance is every bit as risky as ripping through the air along strips of paint-splotched asphalt at 75 miles per hour.

TIME TO GROW UP POLITICALLY 3

THREE HABITS OF SUCCESSFUL REPUBLICANS

The Republican Party’s slick, cynical manipulation of American voters has vetoed, stonewalled and brinkmanshipped whatever respect I had for it. The superrich smell blood: if they can leverage a supposed citizen consensus about ending governmental deficits into a belief that anything is right that decreases the size of government and that any taxation is only a way of increasing the size of government, they will have cemented into place their phenomenal aggrandizement of assets.
“Since the 1980s, income for the richest 1 percent of Americans has exploded, while hardly budging at all for everyone else,” wrote one analyst of U. S. Labor Department statistics. Cornell economist Robert Frank found that the top 1 percent owned 8.9 percent of the nation’s wealth in 1976, but by 2007, that had increased to 23.5 percent. “In the same period, the average inflation-adjusted hourly wage declined over 7 percent,” he found. But the average voter doesn’t like to hear experts cited in speeches. Academics-what do they know?
If the electorate can be persuaded that deficit control is the essence of civic responsibility, in effect we will have traded the Bill of Rights for The Right to Be Rich. Make no mistake, the current clash over the federal debt ceiling is a historic juncture, a point at which our society will make a critically important decision. The Republicans are like a poker player making a big bet, which may or may not be backed by a good hand, in the case of the poker player. If Congress caves on No New Taxes, the Roberts Court ruling on corporations having the same free speech rights as individuals will let those with money to burn spend it on highly sophisticated, poll-driven, focus-group-tested catchphrases that will keep the momentum going for many years to come.
I chose the words “slick” and “cynical” to begin this piece because there are several tactics I can count on the Republican Party to use again and again, in blatant disregard of the fact that many people can see through them. As long as those people are in the minority, it doesn’t matter how correct their analyses may be-the sloganeering will go on.
To illustrate what I mean, I will give three examples of ways that the right wing has shown its contempt for the intelligence of the average voter.
1. Pre-emptive namecalling.
For instance, as soon as anyone starts talking about how the Bush tax cuts have added trillions of dollars to the federal deficit and worsened income inequality, they are accused of starting class conflict, even though the conflict has been going on for years and one side has been the overwhelming victor. To describe a problem is to be the cause of it. This sort of preemptive strike has been employed again and again, so keep looking for it.

2. Fearmongering.
The federal debt ceiling has been raised numerous times without bringing catastrophic consequences, and doing so again would not result in any. There is general agreement that budgets need to be balanced, but the ship of state can’t be turned in a different direction like a taxicab. There is momentum of many sorts that will only be braked with time, military involvements being the most obvious. But to hear the Republicans talk about it, adding debt would bring down the nation-when in fact it is the threat of not increasing the debt ceiling that could bring disastrous results. The fears aroused around the world by Republican intransigence are crossapplied by the fears’ creators to the federal budget, and goodhearted voters who believe in balancing their own checkbooks are suckered into thinking that their household finances are a good guide to national policy. (Actually, if a household is facing big bills, part of the solution is likely to include taking a temporary job, starting a sideline home business, holding a yard sale, selling something on eBay, etc, etc.-raising revenue as well as cutting expenses.) It hurts to see honest, sincere, hardworking people being manipulated like this-but as I’ve said, the right-wing Republicans don’t care if you can’t fool some of the people all of time as long as they can fool most of the people most of the time.
The repeated statements that Social Security is about to create a debt crisis fall into this category. In fact, trillions of dollars have gone into the Social Security fund, only to be taken out by Congress and used to reduce the apparent debt, leaving only promises that the money will be returned. If those promises are not kept, all the talk about preserving the full faith and credit of the U.S. by avoiding default is just hot air. But for the Republicans, it’s only when something might have an effect on business conditions that debts must be paid.

3. Misnaming.
In a landmark essay, George Orwell, the author of the anti-fascist and anti-Stalinist novels 1984 and Animal Farm wrote that his time was faced with a seeming conspiracy to call things by the wrong names. That hasn’t ended.
Take, for instance, the Bush tax cuts. They were a tax break, intended to be temporary, with a sunset date written into the law. But now that the time has come for them to end, terminating them is characterized as raising taxes. Restoring taxes to their normal levels isn’t raising them, but by hammering away at the idea, they have fixed it as such in many people’s minds. If so many political figures are saying the same thing-that it’s raising taxes-surely it must be true, or at least many people think it is. To believe the reverse, they would need to accept that it is possible for powerful people who say they are acting for good of This Greatest of Godfearing Nations to have unspoken hidden agendas, and their minds just won’t go there. In Hitler’s day, this was called the Big Lie method of propagandizing a population-but of course to make such a comparison is to be guilty of saying that the Republicans are Nazis (see the section on preemption).
Calling Social Security an “entitlement,” as if people were being given money just because the program exists, is another example of misnaming. The elderly are entitled to that money because they paid it. A promise is a promise-or at least it should be.

As in the past, I hope that these or similar writings will reach the less academic members of my high school class and others like them. I know they are capable of standing up to tyranny, just as much as the Tunisians or the Syrians, once they know who the enemy is. Friends, if my word means anything, please believe me when I say that government is not the enemy. Government of the people, by the people, and for the people-as Lincoln put it in the Gettysburg Address that gets read at Fourth of July commemorations every year—may be the only thing standing in the way of a takeover by the powerful. Don’t let Congress do what our enemies have been unable to do: tear it to pieces.