Mary this Month

Have just returned from working in the Courtesy Booth at the 56th Stowe Show and again was totally amazed by the dedication of all the workers involved. Thanks to huge efforts and some adjustments, the weather Thursday night and Friday, for instance, from what I’m hearing, the Show was quite successful. Bob Chase, Duane and Marnita Leach, the leaders of the pack, did it again! Thanks to Andy and Marty Barnett covering for me at the Courtesy Booth, I was able to ride in the parade with Wendell in the Roadster and to enjoy the obvious appreciation of spectators along the parade route for our vehicles. It’s now back to the realities of weeding the gardens, haying, and hopefully, doing some harvesting of whatever grew in the garden. The weeds at least are doing extremely well! Those who know my husband will perhaps be shocked to learn that we now have a riding lawn mower – into the 21st century at last!! I guess he must see it as some kind of a suburban status symbol. This will, of course, leave me more time for weeding – yippee!

I was once again asked by one of my friends if I get tired of going to car related meetings and on tours, but, again, said that I have met so many truly lovely people I would not have met otherwise, it is just pleasurable, rewarding and fun. The VAE members truly rock, to use an old term, have led such interesting lives, done so many and varied things and are just plain nice. This is a trait (niceness) that seems to be getting lost in much of our world. With all of the digital technical devices being used today, folks can’t look up from their virtual world to view the real world. Writing on paper with a pen, or, gasp, a pencil, or face- to- face conversation with real people, smiling at others, (I do this and get blank, or puzzled looks) – you get the idea. Saw a cartoon recently that showed a person mentioning what they had read in the newspaper, and those present were using electronic devices trying to figure out what a newspaper is/was. Oops, maybe I/m ranting again – sorry. The bottom line here is that I feel fortunate to be a member of the Vermont Automobile Enthusiasts and the old car hobby in general… Happy Fall everyone!

Sad(ly) Missed

I tentatively decided not to go on about my hang up with the loss of adverbs these days, like I once went on about the lack of manual transmissions. This is the “Softer Side” after all. BUT, how many times a day do I see a sign saying “Eat local”. What’s with that? What’s local? Is it something to eat? What’s it taste like? Or is it local? “Buy local”, “Drive Slow”? Is Slow some new kind of car imported from China? I drive a Ford. Whatever happened to adverbs? They “modify a verb, an adjective, another adverb, or preposition, a quality, place, time, degree, cause, opposition, affirmation or denial, and in English also serving to connect and to express comment on clause content”, according to Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary. As an old English major, I, get a little frustrated, literal(ly), reading the Burlington Free Press, for instance, unlike our Wheel Tracks publication. Oops, I did it again, when I’d meant to just mar-vel at the welcome arrival of Spring: the cheery daffodils, crocuses, tulips, lilacs, fiddlehead greens and green leaves, and of course, the “peepers” in our swamp. It also means raking, lawn mowing, garden preparation, spring cleaning (what?). Uh oh, is this the start of negativity?? This being Vermont, we’ll have a rainy spell, but great(ly) needed. Dang, I finally gave up and faced the fact that this is another tirade – sorry. The adverb was my friend. I could use it to helpfully point out to my husband that he was sloppily dressed, rudely sarcastic and usually both. But that friend has sadly passed away – I actual feel real bad about that.

And, by the way, sloppy and sarcastic did some goodly things. He rototilled the garden, readied the lawn mower for me, split wood I could (hopeful) lift, put his dishes in the sink, helped make our bed, didn’t complain, too much, when I left the curry out of curried rice, and always comes home, eventual. After all, there is always a glass of wine waiting. In short, I real miss adverbs; they are great needed.

Sugarin’ and Cats

One of the many things I love about Vermont is the weather, yes, the weather. This is because if you wait a couple of minutes, weather you don’t like will become weather you do like. Of course, it also can become quite dreadful, but that is life in Vermont. According to that noted groundhog, Spring will come early this year – we’ll see! Of course, with Spring comes lawn mowing, gardens to be planted and weeded, haying, etc., but in early Spring, comes sugarin’ time. We didn’t sugar last year due to a lack of help and “someone’s” defective ankle. With no effort, we made no syrup, but others expended a lot of effort and still didn’t make much syrup. It was a lousy season anyway. Hopefully, we’ll be able to get back to it by tapping fewer trees and with help offered by a neighbor who is available during the week. In case you didn’t know, sap usually starts to run on Monday morning when people with jobs have to be at work. Again, we’ll see.

On a totally different subject, I so related to Nancy’s cat tale, and commend Nancy and Gary for persisting in taking on Willy despite many rejections. So many animals are neglected, abused and/or dumped with no thought about what may happen to them. We have taken in many strays over the years as people see a barn and just know this is a good place to dump their unwanted cat or dog. When we bought our house in the early 70’s, there was a mother cat and her five kittens trying to survive in an old shed. Unfortunately, they all had distemper, so after finally catching them, we took them to the Humane Society for humane care. Our latest cat had to be rescued from a tree (our resident cat had chased him there). He was a skin and bones kitten with what seemed to be a broken tail. His tail was saved and he is now a fluffy, not fat, twenty pound tiger cat. (Those of you who have met Oswald probably are having trouble imagining him as “little”.) As members of his staff, he tolerates us and usually sleeps with us. But never expect a cat to show a lot of gratitude, as they know who is special – after all, they once were worshipped as gods and have never forgotten that! So that’s the weather and cats in one Softer Side!!
(And old cars are right up there with the weather and cats on my good things list, o.k., guys?)

Mary Tours China

It seemed appropriate to give the “softer side” of our trip to China, observations I noticed, such as the flowers, which were every-where possible and all trimmed and lovingly cared for. One example was a wall of flowers in an elaborate pattern composed of plants in individual pots and somehow set into it; apparently this is a standard planting technique for flower beds as well, at least the ones we saw. There were few overweight Chinese as the majority walk or bicycle everywhere. They need to be agile, as cars, trucks, buses, motorcycles, scooters, motorized bicycles with a rickshaw setup for passengers, all competing nonstop for spaces in traffic, and pedestrians do not have priority. As Chris told us, “Look four ways twice” before trying to cross a street! The other part of the street scene is vendors trying to sell passersby everything imaginable, “very cheap” and they are eager to haggle, in fact almost insist on it. These folks are also present at every tourist attraction; the walk up to the Great Wall was lined with them. Meals, ordered by our translator with input from us, were placed, dish after dish, on a huge lazy-susan in the middle of the table. They included lots of tofu, spicy or not, always bok choy, cabbage or swiss chard, a fish and/or meat dish, then rice, and last, soup (it is impolite to fill your soup bowl to the top) and fruit – usually watermelon. Then came the challenge to master chop sticks in order to get the food to one’s plate, not to mention in your mouth – there were spoons for the soup! Speaking of food, we went to a “wet market” where vegetables and fruits were displayed. The meat section was piles of meat – pork, chicken, beef – to be picked over by buyers – a big pyramid of hamburg that was picked up by hand and placed in a plastic bag to be weighed. It was a little shocking as we are used to everything being packaged and in a cooler, but we learned that food is purchased every day, taken home and eaten right away. I stayed away from where the live chickens were, with customers waiting. There were fish, eel, shrimp, clams, crab, etc., swimming around in tanks. Back on the sidewalk there were, besides “very cheap” sellers, street cleaners, mostly women, using what looked like a witches broom made of twigs to sweep up any bit of debris – a lot of cigarette butts, despite “No Naked Flames” signs. There were bicycles passing by with huge loads of cardboard folded for recycling and laundry was hung from racks attached to apartment house balconies. We visited temples which were crowded with people burning in-cense, bowing and praying to Buddha as well as patting the heads of big reddish fish which is believed to bring good fortune, and leaving money in and on the various statues of gods. There are many rituals and traditions the Chinese observe. One last thing to mention were the ladies rooms away from hotels – the “facility” is a porcelain basin set into the floor, no hand holds, and paper goes into a wastebasket. Enough about that! The Chinese people seemed genuinely anxious to try to talk with us Americans, which was gratifying, and their work ethic is to be admired. For someone who originally said no way she would go to China, it was an extraordinary trip, largely thanks to Chris Barbieri’s great organizing, choice of guides, introducing us to new Chinese foods, sights, and all with a fun group of VAE members.

Accolades to Stowe Show Organizers

When I met our dedicated Wheel Tracks editor, Gary “Scoop” Fiske, at the Stowe Show, he reminded me that it is “my” month. Uh oh, I’m in Stowe, the computer at home in Milton, ideas, nil. As the show went on, RAIN and shine, I decided that what better topic than to tout the organizers of this event. To most folks, this is a great show that “just happens” in mid August and is greatly enjoyed by casual spectators as well as rabid car enthusiasts. What is probably not generally realized is that it is the culmination of a full year of monthly meetings by the show committee to plan, organize, arrange, and try to anticipate whatever may or may not come up. These organizers have many years of experience to draw upon and are a totally awesome and dedicated group. Then during the week of the show’s opening, the field has to be set up, signs put up, packets prepared, get media coverage, food prepared for workers, sound system setup, parking area ropes and signs for show cars and the public, car corral setup, flea market setup, a plan for weather changes, places for visitors to sit and rest, golf carts ready, contacting and confirming the Stowe Fire Department, EMT and police presence, port-a-pot folks, trash pickup (what a great job they do), constantly being available to solve whatever problems arise on the spot – all that and more! Then comes the inglorious task of taking down and packing up everything, maybe getting a little break, be-fore starting plans for next year’s show. Whew!!! There just are not enough good things that can be said for Bob Chase and Duane Leach’s leadership, but I’ve tried, lest they think no one is aware of all they do, as they, literally, run from one situation to another. We realize that whatever the weather brings, or what problems arise, the Show will go on and will be spectacular. Thank you from the softer side! Marnita, you are awesome as well!!

Ode to Stuff

Okay, this is no ode – poets write loads of odes, and to everything; urns come to mind, but I don’t believe I’ve seen one to “stuff”. When I was trying to think of stuff to write about this month, my erudite husband suggested I write about “stuff”. Now, who was the English Lit major?? Not him! Anyway, we all have our stuff, usually unique to the individual, and very dear to him or her. Beanie babies, Cabbage Patch dolls and pet rocks were a lot of folks’ obsession a few years ago. Then there are thimbles, paperweights, cups and saucers, old bottles, books (yes!), stamps, old coins, chickens, old tools, license plates (1909 dealer plate anyone?), art, CAR PARTS – amazing! Many of us have family heirlooms, but where, oh where, to put all of one’s stuff?

It could be put in a stuffing box, but that is a whole other thing, right, old car guys? An addition could be built, another garage, wall- to- wall shelves, hang stuff from the ceiling? Or hand it off to children – probably not, their interests aren’t necessarily ours, so, I say, enjoy your stuff, even flaunt it. Some of our best “stuff” we dug up in our back yard, apparently considered to be “trash” by an earlier generation. So who’s to say what stuff will be collectible, valued, or found in a flea market, o.k., or on line, in the future? As I was writing, I looked around at some of my stuff. Pictures, old books, bottles, old kitchen utensils, a spinning wheel, books, boom chains, rusty iron tools, bowls and baskets, college mugs, coffee grinder, glass and ceramic cats and birds, pewter tea and coffee pots, did I mention books, wooden boxes, Matchbox cars (none made in China), old clocks, 45 RPM records of the 1950’s, old kid’s toys and dolls and more books. Almost forgot, interesting rocks from interesting places we’ve visited, except from England, as “he” wouldn’t let me put them in our luggage, bird’s nests and sloughed off snake skins. Then I think that when I’m gone, these will be what I’m remembered by? Oh well, flaunt our stuff now!!

A Thanks to Our “VAE Family” and…

The first thing I want to say this month is a heartfelt “Thank You” for the caring condolence cards sent us by VAE members after Wendell’s mother passed away in December. She was 107 years old, which was amazing, but she truly was an amazing lady and gave a whole new meaning to “Mother-in-law”. She was “Mom” to me as well as Wendell. Makes me glad all over again to be part of the VAE family! Our VAE Christmas party seemed like a family get-together as do most of our meetings. How often do we actually look forward to a “meeting”?? Now for something completely different.

I was recycling the other day and noticed, once again, how many people don’t bother to read what is accepted as recyclable. I grant that most, at least, aren’t tossing it out their car windows, but that’s another story. Apparently our legislators aren’t doing a very good job either, according to an article in the Burlington Free Press recently. Which brings me to mention throwing trash in with recyclables, tossing plastic silverware and glasses away when they can be washed and reused. It really doesn’t take much time to rinse out cartons, jars and cans, fold out cardboard boxes, remove small lids. And then there’s soda cans and bottles that are returnable for money – they should be rinsed out as well. Our son, in his younger days, worked in a bottle return center and I always think of the yucky smell, especially beer cans and bottles, and particularly in the summer. So I’m a little fanatical about this subject. Of course, there is also my wanting to ‘clear up’ after a meal or a meeting, which goes back to my waitressing days. It drives Wendell a little crazy, but I just feel I have to help “neaten” up, clustering the cups and glasses, etc., for easier removal by our server. My fellow writer, Nancy Olney, and I are on the same page with this “neatening up”, should I say, hang-up!? Anyone who has been to our home probably wonders why I don’t practice what I preach – my answer is, too busy baking!

As The Leaves Are Falling…

…As the leaves are falling, old cars are being readied for their winter rest, gardens mulched and the lawn mowers put away, I watch farmers trying to get in their corn, chop the last loads of silage, and, of course, spread that aromatic slurry, I marvel at their tenacity in keeping their family farms intact and maybe make enough money to be debt-free. That ethic, in my opinion, is the best of Vermont. Wouldn’t it be nice if those who wish to demonstrate, wave signs, and do “sit-ins” put their energy and enthusiasm into helping folks trying to recover from tropical storm Irene or even help out on a farm. How much better off we would all be if that time and energy were put into producing material well-being. And there are jobs to be had; nothing wrong with a “menial” job – we can’t all be, or want to be, CEO’s. It is necessary to take the first step to get to the next one.

While in high school, I worked as a waitress, in a shop at a golf course (never did play golf), babysat and when in college, tutored a student who was dyslexic. She once asked me how you look up the spelling of a word in the dictionary, if you don’t know how to spell it. Good question since we didn’t have spell-check, let alone computers! I guess my point is, there should be a “point” to what we do in life, and we are so very lucky to live in a country where we have the opportunity to do so. See, I didn’t even mention manual transmissions or trash thrower outers!

The Tropical Storm and…

Trying to think of a “Softer Side” topic, I initially drew a blank, so I picked up a new, yellow, lined pad of paper for inspiration. Hmmm, not so inspiring after all. Then came tropical storm Irene and the havoc it wreaked on Vermonters. We were in northern Maine that weekend for a family reunion, where there is no cell phone or radio reception. There were lots of relatives, pine trees, lakes and loons, but no information on the storm‘s track. The last we knew Friday morning when we left home, was that it shouldn‘t affect us until late Sunday afternoon. We left Maine early on Sunday, not knowing anything until well into Vermont. Thanks to VAE member, Ken Squire’s reporting on radio station WDEV, operating on generator power, we were guided safely across northern Vermont and all was well, but, oh, poor central and southern Vermont! Reports of Vermonters helping Vermonters, including several VAE members, men, women and schoolchildren all were working to restore power, repair roads, clean up people‘s homes and posses-sions, bringing in food and water, rescue and recovery operations, were so heartwarming. Such a lot of courage and resilience was shown by all involved. On the lighter side, we have been enjoying the Mountain Slow Spokes and Gypson Tours lately. What is especially enjoyable about old car touring is the great reception you get from people as you drive by. Most people notice and give you a smile and a wave. They all appreciate and are glad to see you. We even pulled up alongside a State trooper who rolled down his window and gave us a thumbs-up, even though we didn‘t have an inspection sticker. When you are in an old car, everyone is your friend. What a shame that some folks miss this experience, and don‘t even realize they are missing it. One can drive an expensive sports car and get attention, but the reaction from observers is more of a single finger wave, than those smiles and waves our classic cars receive. As VAE members, we treasure that reaction and hope more folks will be eager to take the road to that same experience.

You Want Character… Live on a Dirt Road

There has been a lot of complaining in the media, diners, coffee shops, etc., about poor road conditions, from pot holes to mud bogs, now flooding. We live on a dirt road, and, in fact, with each new Town Manager, we bring him or her a copy of a piece entitled “Dirt Roads”. A quote from it says, “People who live at the end of dirt roads learn early on that life is a bumpy ride”. Thus dirt roads give one character. We do not want our dirt road paved as we need all the “character” we can get. I guess “character” started when we had to walk to view this house with the realtor as the road was a mud bog – but we still bought it! Just like our vintage cars, the roads we drive them on need maintenance. This is particularly true for dirt roads. Technically, of course, the Town is responsible for road maintenance, but they need a little help from the taxpayers to let them know what is needed and where. There are two approaches to doing this, the positive and the negative. Although some people don’t seem to understand this, the negative approach gets negative results and the positive approach gets positive results. With the negative approach, you make a phone call to the highest possible town managerial level, and speak loudly to be sure you are understood. Be sure to mention your credentials in terms of taxes paid and political clout. Also mention your assessment of their credentials and then explain what you want done. This will definitely get results. For example, during a winter snow storm, your road will be widely plowed, giving the mailman easy access to where your mailbox used to be. The positive approach doesn’t require any phone calls. I’ve found that a periodic stop at the town garage with a tin of sticky buns or whoopee pies gets very positive results. Our road is frequently graveled, graded, raked and chlorided to keep the dust down. That’s how they let me know when some more treats would be in order. Just as a little attention and TLC keep our vintage cars running smoothly, the softer touch keeps the roads smooth. Now don’t let me get started on people who feel a dirt road is a good place for their trash to be tossed. There is not enough room to cover that!