Unfinished business

Searsburg Post Office. Photo provided by Ron Patch.

Hunting rattlesnakes

Ken Cook called me last month. Ken was my neighbor growing up on High Street. Ken wanted to talk about my father, Arnold, hunting rattlesnakes in the 1950s. Ken urged me to write about it. I do remember the rattlesnakes. Dad hunted rattlesnakes on the slate piles in Fair Haven. Vermont paid a bounty of a dollar each in those days.

I have a 35mm slide of me at four or five years old holding a rattlesnake. I told Ken I would need the slide to write the story. The problem is, the slide is in a crawl space that no man dares enter.

This past weekend Bill Burton called. Ken Cook and Bill married sisters. Bill remembers my father going to the Burton house to show Bill’s father, Wendell, rattlesnakes he got that day.

Bill said his father took a photo of my Dad holding two rattlesnakes. Bill doesn’t have the photo but is going to ask his sister, Brenda, if she might have it. That photo would be perfect with this story.


Photos, postcards, and unfinished business

I have an excellent book, “Vermont Album,” 1974, with text by Ralph Nading Hill, and published by Vermont Life and The Vermont Historical Society. In it I found a few postcards pictured that I have. But I need written permission to use the text in the book. I will inquire.

One postcard description I need permission to use is the Post Office in Searsburg, Vt. It is the photo with this article. Needham Drury Bartlett stands in the doorway. He was an old Yankee. He raised a few vegetables on the hillside behind the shack. He had a string from the shack to the garden. A postal customer would pull the string, which activated a bell in the garden. It’s a fun story.

Another photo in this book I also have is a butcher with his horse-drawn meat wagon. Painted on side of the wagon is “L.E. Stratton.” The butcher stands at the tailgate wearing a white apron and cutting meat. I knew nothing about this postcard until this past week. I saw Quint Carr at Chester Post Office the other day. We got to talking about things.

I told Quint about the Stratton postcard. Quint told me his father, Paul, has the same postcard. Now it got interesting. I’ve known Paul for years, and sometimes visit him. Paul is in his 80s and grew up in Williamsville, the other side of Newfane.

Paul has some wonderful stories about growing up in Williamsville. Quint told me L.E. Stratton was a foster parent of Paul’s father, or grandfather (I forget which now), and he was a butcher peddling meat in the area.

I’ll pay Paul a visit and record this history before it is lost. Paul told me a story that dates to 1913. A man was chopping firewood with his Dalmatian close by. A large bear slipped off a ledge above, and rolled down next to the dog and man. The bear aggressively took after the dog. The man with the axe killed the bear with one blow. I don’t recall if Paul has this postcard or not. If he does I’ll copy it.

If you have any information on any of these stories please call or email me.


Yankee cuisine

Ted Spaulding and I were talking about my New Year’s story last week. We talked about Yankee food. Salmon pea wiggle, dried beef gravy, salt pork and codfish gravy, sausage gravy with biscuit, and the dreaded meatloaf.

Next we talked about horseradish. I love horseradish. We grew horseradish when I was young. It’s a large root. Once cleaned, we ground it and added distilled vinegar. The fumes are so potent we ground it in the barn for better ventilation.

Oyster stew is another favorite of mine. Oyster stew suppers were held at churches and fraternal organizations years ago. Ted told me about such a supper at the Odd Fellows Hall in Saxtons River. The cooks were busy keeping customers supplied. Claude Tenney was adding pepper to a kettle of oyster stew when the cover came off the pepper shaker, dumping large amounts of pepper in the stew. Ted described it this way: “Claude bailed out the pepper.” That expression struck me funny.


This week’s old saying was sent to me by a reader. He asked an elderly man how he was doing. “Circling the drain, Lindy, just circling the drain.”

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