DUMMERSTON -- Dressed as Rudyard Kipling, performing artist Jackson Gillman stood in front of a room of 22 senior citizens who are taking a class on the famous author.
"I like to think of my home as a ship from which I host many fantastic voyages and adventures. As a man who's traveled all over the world, I can say if you live near here, you are very fortunate indeed because I consider this to be one of the most beautiful places on the planet," he said, impersonating Kipling. "If things would have worked out a little bit better for me, I would have been more than happy to have lived out all my years here."
On March 25, Gillman told three of Kipling's "Just So Stories" to Professor Javed Chaudhri's Keene, N.H., State College continuing education class. Gillman travels from Maine at least once a year to visit Naulakha, the Dummerston home where Kipling lived. He hosts writing workshops there.
"I love Brattleboro," he said. "I approach writing the same way Kipling does. Tell, tell, tell then you write."
One student jokingly asked Landmark Trust Operations Manager Kelly Carlin what Kipling's "Twitter hashtag" was.
Carlin showed the home, which was constructed in 1893. It is now open for the public to rent at a rate of $350 to $450 per night. The Landmark Trust USA currently owns the house.
She spoke of how Arthur Conan Doyle had visited Kipling for Thanksgiving in 1894. The two played golf and went skiing together.
"As far as we can tell, this was the first pair of skis ever in Vermont," she said.
Kipling was drawn to the area because his new bride, Carrie, had family there. In the home, he wrote "The Jungle Book," "Captains Courageous," "The Seven Seas" and "The Day's Work."
Students learned how involved Kipling's wife was in his writing process. She would review all of his work before it was sent to editors or publishers and also handled public relations.
"Anyone who wanted to see Mr. Kipling had to get through Mrs. Kipling first. Apparently, that was not easy," said Carlin. "And so she was sometimes referred to as the dragon lady."
Tours are mostly provided for students between fourth and sixth grade. Approximately 500 kids visit Naulakha each year.
Program Coordinator at the Keene State Office of Continuing Education Heather Jasmin told the Reformer it was the first time that students from the college's program were brought to the house.
"I think everyone seems to love it," she said. "I think it's wonderful. I want to rent it out."
Jasmin noted that what stood out to her was the freedom to touch and open anything inside.
"It's historic but not roped off," she added.
After the tour and performance, the students boarded a bus and headed downtown for lunch and a drink at Kipling's Restaurant and Pub on Elliot Street in Brattleboro.
If Kipling was still alive, he'd be turning 150 years old next year.
Chaudhri grew up in Pakistan reading the Civil and Military Gazette, the newspaper which Kipling had written for and edited in his early career.
In the 1960s, Chaudhri moved to Windham County to attend Marlboro College. He saw Naulakha's exterior then and received a tour from a previous owner later in his life.
"It's time for Brattleboro and Dummerston to start doing something with this great asset and treasure they have," he said.
Chris Mays can be reached at 802-254-2311, ext. 273, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Chris on Twitter @CMaysReformer.