Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Happy Anniversary

I've been at this 2 years now. I had no idea it would go this long. In celebration I will present you with my 4th cousin Donald. He told me on my visit that one thing he wants in life is to be remembered. I will remember him. Now you can too. Donald is 80 years old and the last of my family on a working far in Waitsfield, Vermont. I dropped in to visit him and we had a nice chat. I let him tell me stories too. We both enjoy that and the stories you get from your elders are always entertaining and help you understand how you got to be. We covered the big lawsuit in town...You see, a neighbor had a dog that kept coming down to the farm and making himself a nuisance. My Great-Grandfather told the neighbors that if they didn't do something about it the dog would be shot...Needless to say there was alcohol involved, the dog got shot and a lawsuit ensued getting the whole town in an uproar. I think that story blends in nicely with Donald's fence...
In case you can't read it, it says "ABANDON ALL HOPE YE WHO ENTER HERE. BEWARE THE OWNER!" If you ask him, he will explain in an off-handed way, with a strong Vermont accent that he is not clever enough to have come up with the phrase all on his own...He simply read Dante's Inferno many, many years ago and liked it. He painted it on his fence and it's been there since. When he needs to build a new fence he used old wood and and the same phrase. It's been there well over 20 years.
His mailbox reads "Attila the Hun." The story behind that goes back to some politician running around campaigning and trying to talk to the folks in the town. Donald managed to get the guy in an uproar and to quote Donald was told "Sir, your views are very much to the right of Attila the Hun." and with that the politician stormed off.

And the stone? Yes, it does read "Misery Manor" and upon closer inspection you would find him name carved into the granite stone. He installed that under the stone wall about 20-30 years ago and like to share that it cost $600. He'd got onto folks naming their places and decided that this is one way he'd be remembered long after he'd gone. He thought Misery Manor was as good a name as any so he had the stone brought in from the quarry whereupon it was carved.

You might see these and wonder of he is a depressed or morbid man. He's not. He's perfectly content living on the farm that has been in our family for generations doing what he does...tending his flock and herd that provide his living. Donald is the picture of an old Vermonter. He believes in fairness, but not interfering with others. He was worried about his dog, Rascal the day I visited. Rascal is a working Border Collie that he had to give up a few days before I arrived. You see, the farm covers both sides of the road, as they often do, and Rascal had free run tending the animals. She was obedient and an excellent herder and protector but she did not like all the foot traffic he's been getting on the dirt road lately. When Donald was off in a barn or something he could not call her down. She would bark and nipped a woman on the heel. The woman was upset, but rather than being ugly she offered to take the dog, as she had 3 of the same breed so that the same event could not repeat itself on a child. Donald agreed and gave her his beloved, working dog. He's worried about her adjusting to being a pet and is afraid she won't be happy at all...She's just down the hill though. So he'll check.

Donald lived with his mother her whole life. He never married, never had children and wonders what will become of the farm when he's gone. I wonder too. He has a sister left in a town not too far away, but she's got Alzheimer's and he doesn't get to see her much now. I imagine her children will fight over the estate and the land will all be sold off. It's worth well over a million dollars you see. If I had my way I'd move in a re-hab the place setting up a lovely B&B...Or at least take the granite rock. His health is beginning to deteriorate. He broke 8 ribs last month due to dizziness which seems to be caused by not getting quite enough oxygen and has some kidney issue they want to check out. He's agreed to let them take a look but isn't worried. I think his attitude will help him take it all in stride.


  1. This post totally captivated me. I'll bet you could write an entire series of short stories about Donald. I, for one, would love to read more.
    Thanks for the share!

  2. What an awesome story! Thanks for sharing.

    And, happy blogiversary!

  3. i want more. seriously. he is great!!! happy anniv. :)

  4. Hope you got more pictures of your cousin Donald too. What a character (meant in a very good way too)....a down to earth type of man. Great posting!

  5. great post! and Happy blogiversary.....