Big Shoes to Fill

As you all, I’m sure, are aware by now, Gary Fiske a number of months ago sent word to the Board of Directors that he had made the big decision to step down as Editor of Wheel Tracks after publication of the October 2021 edition. He did not come to this lightly and let the board know that he needed to slow things down in his life and felt now was the right time to pass the job on to another person (though how can he slow down when he’s now the new president of the VAE and, as we saw in the recent October Wheel Tracks, his wife, Sharon, surprised him with an anniversary gift in the form of an antique GMC fire truck that needs A LOT of work?!)

Gary put out the call for a new editor, and after not hearing from anyone who wanted to take over, he embarked upon an ingenious way to break up the 12 pages of the magazine with 3 editors each taking four pages, and so far he has found two people (yours truly and the duo of Nancy & Ken Gypson). Unfortunately he’s still looking for that special third person but will continue editing pages himself (fortunately for us), until that time comes. So Nancy & Ken and I have agreed to become editors of eight pages. It’s a monumental task for us as neither Ken & Nancy nor I have any experience with MS Publisher. Gary has spent countless hours giving us a crash course on the software, even driving from his home in Enosburg to Colchester where I live not once, but twice, and driving to Poestenkill, New York, and staying overnight with Ken & Nancy to get them up to speed. So please be patient with us as we climb this steep learning curve to deliver to you the quality you’ve become so accustomed to.

Now back to Gary……..

Do you realize that at the end of this year he will have been editor for 11 years?!? That’s 11 years of gathering stories and photos and ideas from anyone and everywhere he could to compile 121 +/- monthly editions. And that’s month after month after month………for 11 years! Every month we’ve looked forward to seeingwhat he’s gathered, what submissions he’s received, what pictures he himself has taken, and every month Gary puts together a magazine as slick as any you might find from an association like ours.

So this is our inaugural issue. I know the Gypsons will agree with me that we have big shoes to fill. We’re up for the task, but please be patient with us as we learn how to make text boxes, insert pictures, line up headers, align, arrange, clip, cut & paste, change fonts, colors, scream, holler, and call Gary for help when you’ve just spent a couple hours on a page and it all of a sudden moves right by six inches seemingly on its own!

(Really, I didn’t do anything, and that’s a true story and I’m sticking to it.) He is ever so patient and calm in the midst of hysteria, even nine o’clock at night at the other end of the phone. Thank you, Gary, for giving all the VAE members a truly wonderful magazine delivered to their door each month. Ken & Nancy and I will hopefully do you proud!

Saying Goodbye

I have written a couple of times about my precious kitty, Willy, and how he came into our lives, along with his history or what was the last 7 years of his life with us.


Well, his time has come to an end, and we have had to say goodbye. We were fortunate to have about 2 weeks to know he was living his last and to try and pamper him and love him even more than usual, if that was possible.
It just amazes me that an animal can work his way into our hearts, even when he wasn’t a perfect kitty by any means. At times, he seemed to love me as much as Gary but then he would run at me and bite and run away. Then he would just stare at me, his face looking like, ‘what are you going to do about that?’ Gary did get bit a few times but never with the frequency of me. He always laid in Gary’s lap but never mine. The closest was him settling himself on the arm of my chair.


He slept at our feet and usually tried to sleep on mine. Doing this he became like a lead weight, and it proved extremely difficult to get him off. Most days he was up at 6 AM and would cry until one of us got up and fed him. By the time he had us up, he would go back to bed for a few hours – so no making the bed until after 10.
He had long hair which was scattered through out the house.


He loved treats and would sit by the dishwasher and cry until you accommodated him, even when he had exceeded the package recommendation of ‘no more than 8 pieces a day’.


He hated going to the Vet and would hide when it was time to corral him into his carrier. I have had to cancel appointments because we couldn’t find him in the house. This behavior led to a long list of tricks, which would never work twice. But, even with all the annoyances, and ‘bad kitty’ behavior, we loved this guy and wept for him when his time came. We still miss him, and I am sure I can hear him in the night coming into our room and jumping on the bed.


My advice to anyone out there considering adopting a pet, whether it be a dog, cat or another animal, know that…..

  1. They probably won’t be perfect
  2. There will be times you will think, ‘why me’ and you will try to think of any place that would take them.
  3. But know, in the end you will have a broken heart for awhile and wish them back no matter how they acted, but you will come to the realization that it was all worth it.

Flowers – Pruning & Blooming

I have recently come to the realization that I’m not a very good gardener. When we first moved to Underhill, being very young and having started accumulating kids, we moved into a wonderful old house that once belonged to Gael’s grandparents. Gael’s Grandma Bessie was an amazing gardener and she started her flower beds in the late 1920’s. When we moved in, in 1961, there were well established beds. Unfortunately, I couldn’t remember what flower was what, so I would have to invite Grandma Bessie’s friends over to, once again, tell me the names of the flowers. 

Fast forward a few years and we bought the old farm up the road and eventually built a house there. When we got around to sell our old house, I had to bring some of Grandma Bessie’s flowers with us. It was pretty much a clean slate at the new place, so we dug some beds to put the flowers (temporarily?) in. I moved as many plants as I could. Because there were a number of stones left over from the house, I started a big rock garden. By this time, we started having goats, pigs, ponies, a dog and cat or two. 

My time was limited, but I was young and had grand ideas. I moved phlox, hollyhocks, iris, lilies and probably some flowers that I couldn’t remember the names of. Some did really well and others didn’t. To this day I can’t get a hollyhock to last more than one season. The goats we had were “flying-goats” and could jump over or crawl under any fence we built and 

they loved to eat (prune?) my flowers. It was an ongoing battle for years. They were really fond of the first daffodils that bloomed in the spring. 

But the flower beds did really well considering the fact that I had lots going on and couldn’t tend to them properly. I would read articles about perennial flower beds and the need to separate or divide things. I just didn’t have the time! But the plants bloomed anyway. 

I don’t know why but friends were always bringing me plants and because my flower beds were getting a bit cramped for space, I would stick these gifts wherever I could. I also had a rock problem, I couldn’t dig a hole without uncovering rocks. Everywhere!!! 

There was one summer when oldest daughter worked at a landscape nursery. In the fall, they were going to toss the perennials out, so she brought home all she could fit in her car, not once but many times. Gael tilled up yet another bed to put them all in (temporarily). 

Well, time flies and here we are in 2021. The flower beds are a mess, crowded and diseased. It starts with little green worms on my azaleas. Then. spider mites appear and soon after the powdery mildew. So, I spray everything with whatever I have on hand and hope for the best. Then there are the weather extremes, hot/cold, dry/wet and so on. I’m overwhelmed. It is much easier to mow the lawn, just sit and steer, than to tackle the perennial flower problems. 

Flowers still bloom, sort of, and not everything makes it through the winter, but I can’t do much about it anymore. I just enjoy the flowers and weeds that do bloom, and that’s about all I can do. A gardener like Chris Sears, I’m not. 

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.