The View from Faraway Farm: About as welcome as Uncle Jack


My grandfather on my adoptive mother's side was about as subtle as a brick upside the head. My grandmother was this petite Victorian-era woman who was prim and proper and just a sweetheart. Opposites do attract. She was a Perkins from South Woodstock, Vermont, and he was a Richardson from Hartland, Vermont. They lived in Andover, N.H. from 1932 until their deaths. My grandfather was lured there by his cousin, who was U.S. Poet Laureate Donald Hall's grandfather. My grandparents are buried next to Donald and his wife Jane Kenyon in a family plot in Andover. This is veering way off the subject, but it is an interesting side-fact.

My grandmother's sister Ethel and her husband Jack lived in the section of Woodstock known as Prosper. They had a side-hill farm and a passel of kids and made the best of what they had. Jack had epilepsy, yet it didn't slow him down much. I have a beautiful spice cabinet that he made in my kitchen to this day, and I often wonder how he did such intricate work without getting hurt during a seizure. This is where all the preamble ties in: Jack and Ethel would drive over to my grandparents in Andover to visit, and on one such occasion Jack had a seizure on the living room couch which resulted in Jack wetting himself. No big deal, right? Well, not to my grandfather. It became family lore that every time he would learn of a potential visit from Jack and Ethel he would proclaim in a loud bellow "Better get a towel out, Jack's comin' over to piss on my couch again."

Jack and Ethel were really a sweet couple. I remember going to the old White River Drive-in Theater to see a horror movie once that was filmed in Vermont. There was a corner cafe in Woodstock where they filmed a restaurant scene, and to my shock and surprise the scene opened up with a shot of an old couple at a table. It was Aunt Ethel and Uncle Jack! Twenty feet tall towering above our heads on the giant screen in living color! The movie was "Ghost Story" and it starred old Hollywood greats such as Fred Astaire, Melvyn Douglas (who lived in Fairlee) Patricia Neal, and John Houseman. That was Jack and Ethel's 8 seconds of fame and it was rather cool.

So today I was reviewing past columns to see if any of my expressed opinions have changed much over the years. Have I contradicted myself? Have I reversed directions at all? Not from what I've seen. I'm still a person who sees the world in my own particular (or peculiar) way and I'm not one to deviate too much from my trajectory. That attitude has always put me at odds with authority, especially in my younger years. Being told that I was my own worst enemy didn't really sink in for at least a decade after those words were delivered. Even then it didn't make much difference. I was also told that I have a very strong sense of right and wrong and it was true. Yet until a point in my life when I really recognized my own ability to make major mistakes and to own them, I was pretty much blind to it.

When you share opinions on a weekly basis you have a number of folks who agree with you. That's really comforting to have them there. You also have a tendency to punch the hot buttons with folks who do not agree with you. I most certainly have done my share of that over the years.

I suppose you can look at it as you would view your own family. If you are a regular reader and you watch this space and find agreeable statements that fit your world view I am happy to oblige. If you read this to get yourself riled up or to get one more insight into the minds of the folks you dislike and disagree with, well, I am also glad to provide the service. Maybe you can outline for me where exactly my thinking went off the rails for all the good it would do. All this does is make us family in a sense. While some of you will enjoy the visit, others will be calling for a towel to cover the couch.

Arlo Mudgett's Morning Almanac has been heard over multiple radio stations in Vermont for nearly 30 years, and can be tuned in at 92.7 WKVT Monday through Saturday mornings at 8:35 a.m. The opinions expressed by columnists do not necessarily reflect the views of the Brattleboro Reformer.



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