#AmericanGuideWeek comes to the Green Mountain State: Vermont. Photographs are by Tara Wray, a photographer and filmmaker. She’s a native Kansan that’s put down roots in Vermont, a state she calls her home as well as her muse. Follow her on work Tumblr at Tara Wray Photography and find her portfolio site at tarawray.net.
A GUIDE-BOOK exists only, of course, for people who do not live in the region described. Presumably nobody who reads this book knows Vermonters. Are there, we wonder, as the volume goes to press, any general remarks about Vermont which might help visitors to understand, and hence better to enjoy their stay in our midst? It is only honest to say that a great many sensible Vermonters think generalizations of this kind all nonsense. “We’re just like any other Americans,” they say impatiently. “All this quaint old-time stuff is the bunk.” And perhaps it is. How can anybody tell? To know your own home country intimately enough to speak about its ways with authority, you must have lived there so continuously as not to have had time to learn — really learn — the ways of another region well enough to make a comparison. No law of physics is more immutable. So all I can do is to quote a few comments from observers of our ways…
My first commentator is my godfather. His life was laid out according to a geographical pattern very familiar to us here in Vermont. He was born in Morrisville, one of our finest old small towns. When he was small the family moved to Kansas. There he became, after education at the State University, a very successful corporation lawyer, who earned, I make the guess, every year of his life an income seven or eight times the salary of the Governor of Vermont. He had been moved away from Vermont when he was too young to remember it; he lived continuously in Kansas for all of a long and unusually successful life. But he never got over the feeling that he was in essence a Vermonter. I set down this brief account of him as a framework for the remark he often made. We did not altogether like it, and usually protested, but as I grow older I understand more of the truth behind his fanciful notion:
“What ought to be done with the old State,” he would say meditatively, “is to turn it into a National Park of a new kind — keep it just as it is, with Vermonters managing just as they do — so the rest of the country could come in to see how their grandparents lived.”
Now let me put with that remark… another one, frequently made by a French friend of mine, who for many years spent her vacations (her work was in New York) in a small boarding-house in our Vermont village frequented by local people. “It’s so like France!” she often said relishingly. Americans to whom she made this remark always exclaimed wonderingly, “What do you mean?” and she explained:
“Well, when my fellow boarders, chatting about Arlington happenings, speak of somebody they always mention who he is, and by that they mean who his parents and perhaps his grandparents were, who his brothers and sisters are. ‘He’s Lottie Roberts’s son. Don’t you remember, she married Joel Lane’s youngest boy?’ That is, like the French people they instinctively and invariably think of the individual in the frame of his family, not isolated from his past. Of course newcomers and tramps, whose families they don’t know, are disconcerting to them, like silhouettes, only two-dimensional, not to be counted on for lack of knowledge of them. And that’s the way we French feel about strangers and new-comers. And then” — she spoke with Gallic seriousness on this next point — “Vermont is the only place in America where I ever hear thrift spoken of with respect.”
–DOROTHY CANFIELD FISHER in VERMONT: A GUIDE TO THE GREEN MOUNTAIN STATE (WPA, 1937)