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My Little Piece of Vermont

04/18/08 7:55AM By Willem Lange
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(HOST) It's been a long road, but storyteller, contractor and commentator Willem Lange finally feels at home.

(LANGE) My wife and I have been in Vermont only about a year, but already I think of it as "my Vermont" - well a little piece of it anyway - a new house on the edge of green timber downhill from a swamp. The original residents of the woods and swamp had a hard time getting used to the intrusion. The deer retreated a few hundred yards back into the woods; the ducks and geese moved their ducklings and goslings away, as soon as they could move, to the next beaver pond up the valley; and the red squirrels, as soon as they figured out they could get into the house by various holes, since plugged up, carved rectangular flaps in the plastic lids of my trash cans in the cellar. After a couple of pretty exciting broom chases around the basement, Mother finally caught a couple of 'em in a Havahart trap and exiled them to Hubbard Park in Montpelier.

Our human neighbors proved aggressive too - aggressively friendly. They showed up on the back porch with German potato salad, coffee cake, brownies, vinegar, and great cloves of garlic. We were invited to neighborhood suppers, meetings at the State House, and Town Meeting and potluck lunch. We're still meeting Vermonters faster than I can learn their names. In how many states does the Governor call a couple of elderly immigrants by their first names? And we have a morning newspaper carrier so early I've never gotten even a glimpse of her.

Well, the geese and the ducks left for the South in late September; took their kids with 'em. I hope they'll be back this spring; I love the racket they make. The deer slowly got used to our habits and our dogs. I think they figured out the little one was too old to care about chasing anything, and the big one too well trained to leave the porch when she saw them. She quivered, but she stayed put, and they just stared at each other until finally a white tail went up, and the whole herd trotted off behind a screen of white cedars.

This morning was above freezing. Mother was out in the kitchen. She hollered, "Quick! Come look at this!" Down in the snowy brook bed below the kitchen at least a dozen red squirrels were playing chase. Geese have gaggles, you know, and there are kettles of hawks, but what do you call red squirrels? How about a scattering of squirrels? I don't know where they spent the winter, but it wasn't in the house. Wherever it was, I hope they stay there.

Well, even in my piece of Vermont, the driveway's finally thawing out, even in the shade, and I've changed from YakTrax to muck boots to go get the paper. I went down this morning with only one dog - the big one went to Heaven yesterday - and I was feeling pretty bad. Just then a mourning dove called from across the brook, and another answered from the pines on my right.

This is Willem Lange in East Montpelier, and I gotta get back to work.
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