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VPR's coverage of arts and culture in the region.

Averyt: A Real Place

I had a friend once who called Vermont a pretend state. He said that the state tourist office plants the meadows with wildflowers in spring, hires cows who moo on cue, infuse the Green Mountains with chlorophyll every summer and cart snow in from Canada to blanket the winter hillsides.

That friend has long since moved away. But I often think of his notion that Vermont offers a Bob Newhart country inn life. It’s true that tourists - and often flatlanders - flock here in search of nostalgia, looking for a simpler life, a simpler time. Still, the reality is more complicated and far richer; Vermont is a state with many faces and multiple personalities.
A few weeks ago, I headed on my leaf-peeping tour as usual, following out-of-state license plates down Route 7, through Middlebury Gap and north on Route 100. I stopped at the country store in Ripton, had homemade pie in Rochester and this year added a local winery to my itinerary, sampling some Vermont fruit of the vine. I felt fortunate to call this special place home.
But I will always think of myself as an interloper, a flatlander. Though I’ve lived here more than 30 years, I'm not a native. I understand the difference a little better now since I took a late autumn ride with someone who can call himself a real Vermonter, whose roots sink generations deep into Vermont soil.
We walked through the small local cemetery in Bakersfield where his grandparents are buried and drove in search of the field where their dairy farm once stood. We saw the Underhill house where my friend first moved with his young family, and we stopped in Jeffersonville to wander the deserted yard of Dr Mann's Hospital. Dr Roger Mann died not long ago at the age of 103. Over the decades, countless Vermont children, including my friend, were born in that three-story white clapboard house that served as a way station and rural hospital.

My friend shared a piece of real Vermont and the love he has for his forbearers and home state. It’s the story of a state that, for those born here, is not imaginary or pretend, not just picturesque and idyllic. Vermont is a very real place where they grew up - and their parents and parents' parents. A place they call home. And now, so do I.

Free lance writer, Anne Averyt, lives in South Burlington, with her cat Sam and as many flowers as possible.
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