Shuffle off to Buffalo? No, silly. Your list!

Have you ever noticed how things get lost in the shuffle? 

From the extra sock in the laundry room that hasn’t found its mate, to the health savings card sitting on your desk that needs verification on how much money is left on it, to the pile of stuff at the bottom of the stairs that needs to go upstairs and find their home. Those are just a few of the things in my life that need to be taken care of. Do we call it procrastinating or ignorance, or are we just bored with the vagaries of life? 

Boredom is defined as the state of being bored; tedium; ennui. Ignoring something can be interpreted as refraining from noticing or recognizing. And of course procrastination is defined as deferring action or delaying. 

How would you define those items in your life? I think most people would say any or all of the above would apply at different times. 

So many things have changed in the last 18 months: how we socialize, learn, work, play. And how much time have we had on our hands that we could’ve dealt with our own personal “shuffle” category? But we’ve found creative and energizing ways to fill that time: Zoom meetings, getting outdoors and enjoying nature, taking online cooking classes. Our own personal lists are endless. 

But now with Vermont past the 80% vaccination rate, things are opening up for all of us to come together. We’re celebrating at a hurried clip. The 4th of July just passed and we got out and celebrated like it was the first 4th! Which brings me to our famous car show that is right around the corner. 

I know the committee has been working diligently through Zoom meetings and finally in person to make this a grand reopening of our wonderful VAE. You can’t say they’ve been procrastinating or ignoring the details. So it’s now up to all of us to put the finishing touch on the show by bringing our cars and that neighbor/friend/relative who has never been to the show. How cool would it be to have a record attendance? Pray for good weather so no one can find a reason not to come. 

Do not procrastinate, become bored or ignore things in your life. Look at the rest of this year and beyond as a whole new time to get those socks matched and clear the path up the stairs! 

What’s on your personal shuffle list to finally deal with? 

Life Changes

For as long as I can remember, the previous generation or generations have had changes, that they were very vocal about, said changes not being right or not needed. 

“Things had never been done that way and it makes no sense to change them now”. 

One of the ‘biggies’ was the automobile. Stories have been written about how much chaos they caused with the noise and how they would scare the horses and pedestrians. I am sure there was a learning curve that was or was not followed many times. 

Many changes seem to appeal to the younger set, as a rule. Probably when you are young, everything is thought of as possible and all the fear that goes with change is not there. I, personally, have never cared for change but I have some definite ideas about what ones are good and ones that are not. 

I remember several years ago, schools started changing to “open concept” classrooms. Several grades in one big room, partitioned off with bookcases, student cubbies and movable blackboards. At first, I thought, ‘this is crazy’ only to remember I was in a one room schoolhouse for 1 – 6 grades, one teacher and we did well. Several students went on to Jr High and High school and graduated top of the class. 

Another change was bus pick up. In my time you had to live more than a mile from school to be able to ride the bus. My children had to walk to the main road (about ½ mile) and catch the bus. Now, the bus comes to each house on our street. 

One of the changes I really could not believe, when I first heard, was that cursive writing would no longer be taught in the schools. 

I had kind of forgotten it until recently when I sent my 16-year-old grandson a card. 

I had written him a quite lengthy note enclosed with $20 and he called to thank me (and Grandpa). 

I asked what he thought of what I had written to him and he said ‘have to wait and have my dad read it to me, I can’t read cursive’! 

Now I know this is a bad change, but I am not sure what I can do to change it. I would like to know the reason for the change. Is it because almost no one writes notes anymore? They email, tweet, Facebook, text and other methods that I do not know anything about. I understand that ways of communicating have changed but who would rather receive a tweet than going to your mailbox and finding a note, written in cursive, from a friend, giving you the news in their life. 

I vote we go back to cursive. Or printing and some times called Technical Writing. One vote per person please.

Spring Anxiety

It’s that time of year again, when I feel overwhelmed with chores. This happens every year about this time. What few spring cleaning chores I feel I need to do in the house always have to wait until mud season is over. 

Muddy boots and muddy dogs make it difficult to accomplish much in the house and I usually want to wait ‘til I’m not running the wood stove 24/7. So, I put these housecleaning projects on the back burner and go back to my book. The problem with that is, once mud season is over, I wander outdoors and here is where I am overwhelmed. The yard is a mess, with leaves that never got taken care of, thanks to the oak trees that don’t drop their leaves until I’ve put the rakes, etc., away and little branches that have come down when the wind blew. 

Then there are the ruts from vehicles driving over soft spots and leaving a nice mess on the lawn. There is the remainder of the wood on the back porch that needs to be moved so I can put the furniture back on the porch, but I can’t do that until the wood wagon gets welded or the manure is removed from the back of the truck. Can’t do that until the lawn dries up a bit more. The weather becomes a factor. We get four inches of snow and the wood stove is back in use. The snow then melts but the lawn, once again, is too wet to drive over. On a warm sunny day I’ll start to notice all the things that need doing…another list to start. 

Clean gutters, reseed places that got dug up because of the snow plowing, rake stones that are on the lawn by the side of the road, repair things, paint things, replace things. 

The list goes on and on. Is the lawn mower ready for mowing? Does my little tiller start? Is the tire flat on my garden cart? Are my garden tools sharp? 

Do I start bringing in the bird feeders (bears)? Snow tires taken off? Suddenly the spring housecleaning chores get crossed off the list. They can wait until next year. Again. 

Then, one day I notice the colts foot along the road is in bloom and I start looking for the dutchman’s breeches. A neighbor stops by and tells me that her daffodils are ready to bloom and I discover the trillium in bloom. 

My wandering around outside often finds me in the old chair down in front of the barn where I’ll sit while organizing my thoughts. This is where I meet neighbors out walking and enjoying those early warm sunny days and everyone’s dogs are out wading in the pond and puddles. If I can cross one thing off one of my lists, no matter how small, that makes my day. My spring season anxiety diminishes and everything starts looking a little better. 

The mud on the couch from the dog’s feet will dry and get vacuumed . 

No big deal. 

What a difference a year makes

It is hard to believe, but it has been a year since COVID-19 reared its ugly head and put us in lockdown. Though I think it was around several months before that, we were made aware of it, and during that time of ignorant bliss, were totally naïve of the “train” that was speeding at us and what damage we were about to witness. 

Even if I had been told what was coming, I do not think I would have had a clue how to prepare. I wonder if I would have ‘stocked up’ on toilet paper! Probably not! So, guess I for one, would be in the same spot I am now. 

What a year it has been. Gary and I have not put more than 30 miles a week on my car. The year before, we put at least 500 miles a week going to our grandson’s basketball games. I now try to shop once every week or week and half. Before, I would run to the store almost everyday for something. I tend to make lists now and plan for meals, so I do not run out or come up lacking when preparing meals. 

I had picked up my mail when it struck my fancy but now I go about 4:00 in the afternoon when I am more apt to have the post office to myself, at that time of day. 

“In the old days”, the family gathered for holidays, birthdays and just plain gathered. This year is the year for Zoom. My daughters-in-law are good about setting that up. Last year I cooked, baked and cleaned for those get-togethers but this year not so much. When I do cook or bake (no cleaning), I would fill my long-lost pie basket with a meal and leave it outside the door of a single friend of mine. 

We were able to see everyone’s face back then, and this year there is almost always a mask covering it. I remember over the years seeing people, mostly Asian, with masks and thinking how odd it looked and wondering if they were embarrassed to wear them. Gary, who spent 2 years in Japan, says that masks were worn out of respect for others, when the wearer had a cold or something, that might be given to someone else. Just a way of life for them. This year I must admit I have become a mask vigilante. I have not taken up telling people to put on a mask, but my eyes have! 

I can hardly wait to be able to meet people and HUG them. I want to go out for breakfast where we used to go and meet friends and sit and talk, laugh and yes, HUG! 

My Window Feeder

Last Fall I bought a new bird feeder. 

From Judy’s window
From Judy’s window

I have quite a collection of feeders, bird seed and suet, in various stages of disrepair in the cellar and because I can’t throw anything out, they are mounting up. A lot of them claimed to be squirrel proof. No such thing! 

Occasionally, I would hang a feeder in a different location, forgetting about the possibility of three feet of snow. How many times have I gone into the woods in the summer to find a Christmas tree, forgetting about snow and then being unable to get to it the week before Christmas because of deep snow. Well. 

A number of years ago, I found bird feeders that hitch to the windows with suction cups. I bought two and put them up on two kitchen windows. I love them. I can sit in my recliner and watch the birds a few feet from my chair. The cats enjoy them too. They do attract other critters besides birds though. Once in a while a bear or two wanders through the yard and checks them out. What a treat to be sitting two feet away from the window and watching a bear get to the seeds. 

Probably like you, I get my fair share of squirrels too, both red and grey. I had wide window sills and the squirrels were able to jump up on them and then empty the feeders in jig time**. They are fun to watch too but what a nuisance they are. Then there are the chipmunks. So cute, but real pests. It seems like everyone was inundated with chipmunks a year or two ago. There were hundreds of them in the yard. They were living on the porch, getting into the cellar, the cat was bringing them live into the house. They were eating my flowers, or I should say, biting the flowers off at the stem and leaving the flowers on the ground or in the pot. 

Last summer I finally gave up and let them go at it. Then, for some reason, the population diminished greatly and I haven’t seen one in quite a while. 

Back to my bird feeders that were turning into squirrel feeders. Last fall, I had the siding on the kitchen replaced and also had the men replace the window sills. After fifty years of bear, squirrels and chipmunks clawing their way to the feeders, the sills were in pretty bad shape. I didn’t think of it at the time, this was before the birds were visiting the feeders in earnest. The new sills are so narrow they can’t get to the feeders. Now the cute little things have to settle for the seeds that get spilled onto the ground and for the crumbs under the suet feeder. Poor squirrels! I’m buying about half the amount of sunflower seeds than in years past. 

A few weeks ago, I purchased a third feeder. As I am typing this, the chickadees, nuthatches, titmice and redpolls are having breakfast and the woodpeckers are busy eating suet. No sign of squirrels. I actually had a pileated woodpecker at the suet feeder a number of times. Soon I’ll be looking for the rose breasted grosbeaks. 

**Editor’s note……”Jig Time” definition: 
Extremely quickly; in a very short time. Derived from the Celtic music/dance known as a jig, which is typically triple-time. 

A Different Kind of Pandemic Story

Since the beginning of the pandemic last year, I’ve been thinking a lot about my maternal grandfather. His name was Maurice J. Villemaire, M.D., and he served the town of Milton, Vermont, as a general practitioner for 40 years. He was born in 1902, grew up in Winooski, went to medical school at the University of Vermont, did his residency out of state, and came back home to marry a cute nurse. They settled down on Main Street in Milton, hung out his shingle, and started practicing medicine in the early 1930s. until his death in 1972. His home and office were one and the same. 

All this background leads me to the early 1980s when, after my grandmother passed away. My mom and family were cleaning out my grandparents’ house, getting ready for sale. I remember we discovered heavy cardstock signs, 12 x 5 inches, with words like “mumps,” “German measles,” and “scarlet fever” on them. My mom told me the Vermont Department of Health provided these to doctors around the state for when they made house calls and diagnosed one of these dreaded diseases. She remembers my grandfather would nail the appropriate sign to the front door of a house as a quarantine measure. I always found it amazing that any of these signs survived, but under the front stairs were a stack of them! 

Science has come a long way: German measles (rubella) is no longer constantly present in the U.S. thanks to a vaccine developed long ago. Likewise, smallpox, a highly contagious, disfiguring and often deadly virus, was also eradicated decades ago after a worldwide immunization program. The World Health Organization considers it one of the biggest achievements of the time, in international public health. Whooping cough (pertussis), though not eradicated, is a highly contagious respiratory tract infection that is easily preventable by vaccine. 

The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) reported that polio was once one of the most feared diseases in the U.S. In the early 1950s, before the polio vaccines were available, polio outbreaks caused more than 15,000 cases of paralysis each year. Do you remember seeing pictures of people lying in an iron lung? 

Following development by Dr. Jonas Salk in 1955 of the polio vaccine, the number of cases fell rapidly to less than 100 in the 1960s and fewer than 10 in the 1970s. 

His name was Maurice J. Villemaire, M.D., and he served the town of Milton, Vermont, as a general practitioner for 40 years. 

This brings me to the date of May 4, 1954, when my grandfather, Doc Villemaire, administered the first polio vaccine shot in Vermont to a child in Milton as part of national testing of the vaccine! I’ve often wondered what was going through his mind at the time? Would it save lives? Was he doing the right thing? 

Now, here we are, in 2021 with our very own version of a pandemic that has killed so many worldwide. I’m sure you’ve all read or heard news about the unprecedented research, development, time, money, and rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine. 

1954 polio shot
Boston Herald, May 5, 1954 Sandra Smith of the Checkerberry School in Milton, VT gets her Salk anti-polio shot from Dr. Villemaire. Milton was the 1st VT town to start the trials.

I still marvel today how men and women so many, many years ago, without the high-tech computers and modern-day scientific tools, were able to discover and produce those older vaccines that are still in use. 

I’m so very proud I can say that, back in his day, he was on the front lines and helped save lives! This also goes to show just how far the human race has come, yet how far we still have to go. 

UPDATE: With regard to my last article about the woodchuck, it seems he got into our neighbor’s shed and met his demise! I didn’t ask cause of death. 

Lost – Found – Give

I do not know about you, but I ‘hate’ to lose something. 

I would rather drop it and see it run over by a bus (or in my case, an antique car would be more likely) and know its whereabouts and thus know what happened to it. The other is to give it away, I love giving things away. Gary had a grandmother that you had to watch what you said to her or you could go home with several items from her house. All you needed to say is, “oh grandma, that is so cute, I love it”. It would be in your bag as you left. Much to the envy of the other relatives, I might add. Though I might say I have seen her generosity used for someone’s’ benefit, too. But you can read that in my memoir someday. 

When I was first married, I ran to the Grand Union and did not take my purse. I carried a $10 bill in my hand. When I got to the register, it was gone. I re-traced my steps but to no avail. There was one person, who I thought was keeping a close eye on me, and I always thought that I had dropped the money, and he picked it up, and was watching me to see my reaction when I realized I couldn’t pay for the items I had picked up. Probably more likely he could see how cute I was (1972) and wanted my phone number. Never found out any of it! Was it the money or my looks -probably neither! 

I lost a ring when I was 8. My mother had given it to me, and I was going to get my initials engraved on it but lost it before that could be done. About 3 years later, a neighbor girl and I were playing, and I noticed her hand. She had a ring that looked exactly like my lost one. When I mentioned it to her, she said, ‘it probably is yours, I found it in my yard where we always played dress-up’. She gave it back to me but about a year later I was helping my mom throw brush over a bank and the ring came off – never to be seen again but I guess in this case I at least know where it is!! 

This brings me to a lost item that you may know about, my pie basket. I could buy another, but the reason it means so much to me, is my dear friend of many, many, years did a painting on the lid. 

It is of apples and is done with a technique called Tole Painting. I have had it for almost 50 years. 

I have searched everywhere I could think of and asked countless numbers of people if they had seen it. I even searched the cupboards of the church in Waterbury, in their fellowship hall, because I know I have sometimes taken it there, with my contributions to the lunch, for ‘show and tell’. I admit I ‘kind of’ accused my oldest son and his wife, Kate of having it under something in their garage. Like I should accuse anyone of having it under something in their garage (have you seen the Olney garage lately)? 

Gary Fiske put an ad in Wheel Tracks a few times, thank you. I have gotten ‘over’ the ring and the $10 but could not seem to let go of the pie basket and just hope that someone was enjoying it as much as I. 

The other day my son Josh put on Facebook that he was collecting winter coats and boots at his store in Orleans, Vt. You could bring them in and donate or if you needed some items, you could pick them out and take them home. 

I went into a closet where I knew I had some extra coats. I found 1 jacket I had been looking for, 3 jackets to donate and low and behold my PIE BASKET!!!! 

How did it get there? The Olneys have people that come in when we are away and move things around. That is the only explanation I have. 

My suggestion to each of you (with 4 fingers pointing back at me) is to give things away. That way you will not lose them, damage them or have them become mice food. There will also be less for the folks who come in and move things around when you are gone! But the big PLUS, you get to see the smile on the receivers’’ face. 

My Gypson Tours

The other day I saw a photo of the car I rode in for the Gypson tour this year. It was BJ Gonet’s 1931 Chrysler, a beautiful car. It was a lovely but cool day and Cousin Hal and I rode in the back with the top down for better visibility. I started out with my winter coat on and eventually put on my hat and gloves. Filling out the answers on the papers was a bit difficult but when I dropped the pencil for the umpteenth time, I ditched the paper and just enjoyed the scenery. By the time we arrived at our destination I was under one of the blankets that was kept in the back of the car.

1931 chrysler gypson tour
Fred (driving) and BJ Gonet, in front. Cousin Hal and Judy Boardman, in the back

I was reminded of past Gypson tours that we took, one in particular. We were to meet in Jeffersonville, so the Sanders probably had something to do with the planning. It was a cold, blustery, drizzly day and by the time we got to Jeffersonville in the 1929 Chevy I was frozen. Gael loved open cars and he never seemed to get chilled. Anyway, in drives Jim Sears, in his closed car. It didn’t take me long to make arrangements to ride with Jim and I think Cousin Hal might have ridden with Gael. We eventually departed and Jim and I headed down the road in a closed car with windshield wipers and heat.

The tour took us all over the back roads of the neighboring towns crossing over many railroad tracks. Here again, Bill Sander must have had something to do with the route because a lot of questions were railroad related. Because I was trying to fill out the paperwork without much success, I happened to tell Jim about a dear friend of ours who lived in Underhill. Stan Hamlet was a true railroad buff. I then mentioned to Jim…if only I had a cell phone, I would call Stan for help. Jim whips out his phone and for some strange reason I remembered Stan’s telephone number. I dialed the number and much to my surprise, Stan answered. I proceeded to explain the situation to him and read him some of the questions. Well, he knew the answers to most of them and then told me much more about the railroad scene in that neck of the woods than I needed. He did go on a bit, the way old car guys can do with their conversations. I promptly filled in the blanks. Fast forward and you can imagine what happened next. Jim and I won the Gypson tour that year. Thanks, Stan.


1928 packard gypson tour
Dave Stone’s 1928 Packard sure fills the bridge!

The Gypson Tour this year started at Wendell & Mary Noble’s home in Milton and ended at Tom and Michelle Noble’s Home in Fairfax. Their two homes are 22 miles from one another and somehow, they made member’s old car travel 50.4 to get there while finding the answers to 27 quiz questions on the way. The Gypson journey traveled North with a loop through Fairfield, including a covered bridge in East Fairfield, then South through Fletcher to Fairfax. We heard one vehicle was too tall to fit through the covered bridge and had to detour a bit. One quiz question at the 32.1 mile mark was “This is maple country but what are they tapping here?” (Answer…. A field of huge solar panels was tapping the sun.)

This year’s Gypson Tour was won by Buzz and Sandy Stone, congratulations. The Gypson family has provided a trophy since the beginning of the tour, 32 years ago and you will be presented yours when this upside down world allows us.

A little VAE history from Ken Gypson:

This tour’s first name was called the “Fall Foliage Rally” and started in 1956. It was won the first year by Rod and Emily Rice.

In 1960 the name changed to “Gypson Trophy/Fall Foliage Tour”. (Ken’s dad, Ken Gypson, was a founding member of the VAE.) In 1969 the name changed again to “ Fall Foliage Gypson Trophy Tour”. From 1977 to 2002 it was simply called “The Gypson Tour”. The 1988 Gypson Tour began in Vergennes and had 16 pages to the quiz…that is 144 questions! Aren’t we lucky it is the year 2020?

In 2002, my Mom was sick and in Long-term care. My Dad requested the VAE Board change the name to “The Anne Gypson Tour”, which it is presently called. In January, my Dad received a letter from board members, Jim Willett and Gael Boardman, agreeing to change the name. Mom passed in September 2006. Dad passed in August 2004.

How much wood can a woodchuck chuck

You all probably know I love to garden. 

Well, by now I’ve started to put the flower beds to rest for the long winter ahead, but I’ll tell you about my August/September problem. And it turned out to be a BIG problem. 

It seems we had a gopher invade our lawn. Well, at least that’s what I thought it was. I even looked up pictures of it and, yep, seems like that’s our guy. Well, the little bugger was living in the culvert that goes from one side of our driveway to the other and would come out to eat. It was eating the clover and I thought, great, I gotta deal with that clover at some point anyway, so have at it. 

Well, fast forward through to September and – dang it! – it turns out that it wasn’t a gopher at all. I discovered it, one morning, standing on its hind legs eating – EATING! – my flowers in the very large pots on our front porch. It stood 14-16 inches, and that ain’t no gopher. Gophers weigh between one and two pounds, and this was much bigger than a couple pounds. So back to Google I went and, lo and behold, it turns out that it’s a groundhog, otherwise known as a woodchuck. 

Okay, so this means war. I tolerated it for the previous month because it wasn’t doing any serious damage, so I thought, and then to find it eating my petunias and brand new phlox in my brand new front bed, plus it started on my Montauk daisy that I’ve been babying since last fall, and I’d had enough. 

Out came the animal trap. As you are reading this, I’d like to say we caught the woodchuck, but I can’t, so you’ll have to stay tuned to my future Softer Side and I’ll put a side note in to let you know how this terrible saga ended either for me or the woodchuck. 

I’m sure reading this, what comes to mind, is the following, which I’ll end on: 

“How much wood can a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?” 

Editor’s notes…. 30-aught-6 comes to my mind Anne. 

Just saying. 

Stories for your Grandchildren

I was thinking, the other day, about Covid-19 and what it will be like to be on the other side of this horrible time. Of course, I hope that we will all get to the other side of this virus. Like most things in history at some point our grand or great grandchildren will hear of the terrible epidemic of 2020 and want to know how it affected us, good and bad. So, the following is the story I will tell (if I remember!). 

This is not your grandpa, or his camp, just an example. Actually, he was very happy at camp, with his old magazines.

It was March 2020 and Grandpa had left for his yearly trip to Chickasha, Oklahoma with his friend, Vin Cassidy. Before he left, we had been hearing news of a deadly virus in China, but things seemed to be simply fine here in the USA, so he left. He was probably two thirds across the country when there were cases in Seattle, Washington being reported. They continued toward Kansas first and then on to Oklahoma. About the time they hit Kansas, events started to be can-celled but so far, the Oklahoma event had not been. Grandma, being somewhat of a worry wart, suggested they head home to Vermont but Grandpa, being an Olney, moved on with no fear, even spent time with some ‘car guys’ from Seattle headed to Oklahoma. Suddenly it seemed that overnight a great concern hit the country and you could not keep up with the cancellations and closings. Grandpa and Vin headed to Oklahoma even though the event had been cancelled, thought they would just say, ‘Hey’. 

This is when Grandma said, ‘COME HOME!’. There was talk that some states were about to close their borders to all who were not essential. Of course, Grandpa would not believe he was not (essential), but they did high tail it back to Vermont. Now, we had to decide what to do with Grandpa once he got back. Answer: go to camp. Grandma packed food, water, clothes and other items in totes and put them on the porch 

because Grandma was not letting him in the house until he had quarantined for at least 2 weeks. The plan was to come to the house in Derby Line, get the truck and the packed items and head to camp. 

Problem #1: big snowstorm all the way from Massachusetts 

2. Truck would not start. So, Grandpa slept in the front of the 2006 Ford Fusion and the next morning shoveled out, jumped the truck and headed to camp. Thankfully, the snow did not last too long and with 4-wheel drive he could get in and out. 

The camp had no running water, (which causes a bathroom problem), camp not well insulated and totally open underneath so a bit tricky to keep warm with electric and wood heat. At this time, the lake was frozen over, still. 

Grandpa stayed over a week before he came out to stock up, again, still not being allowed in his house. Probably the children will ask, ‘what did he do?’ Well, he read newspapers, clipped old Life magazines, cut wood, and did yard work (once the snow was gone. Of course, some time was spent making his own meals, but he would bring his dishes to the house and Grandma would wash them and send them back. It was about 3 weeks before he was allowed home to shower and shave. 

To get all the yard work done and wood cut, he ended up staying for about 2 months. By now, Grandma was used to being a single woman and enjoying it, I might add. But it was Grandma who finally said, ‘pack up and come home’, Willy the cat misses you. And so, he did, and he is still there (home) today. 

The End.