Greene: Kipling’s Winters

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Many people know that Rudyard Kipling lived in Dummerston, VT for four
years. What Stephanie Greene, a writer who lives on the family farm in
Windham County, recently discovered is that he loved winter.

Rudyard Kipling, born and raised in the tropics of India, was crazy
about Vermont winters. After England’s wet, raw climate, Kipling found
our relatively dry cold delightful. And next to England’s weather, ours
actually seemed sunny.

On alighting from the train in
Brattleboro at midnight on Feb 17, 1892, this is how he described his
first encounter with temperatures well below freezing:

"It was
inconceivable until one stepped out into it at midnight and the first
shock of that clear still air took away the breath as does a plunge into

Kipling relished being holed up in Dummerston. He
wrote, "When winter shut down and sleigh bells rang all over the white
world that tucked us in, we counted ourselves lucky."

the ship-like house he designed, was finished in 1892. It had a
south-facing prow, whose eastern windows took in the splendor of Mount
Monadnock. But by our standards, the house wasn’t particularly well
insulated. In addition, Kipling’s design placed the children’s nursery
and playroom directly above his study. The playful tumult was so
distracting that he had seaweed installed as a soundproofing between the
floors. Needless to say, it didn’t cut down on the noise.

work on the house was overseen by Kipling’s brother in law, Beatty
Balestier. At first the in-laws got along well, despite Beatty’s
gargantuan appetite for drink and inability to manage money well. It was
Beatty who introduced Kipling to snowshoeing. Kipling wrote, "The
gigantic lawn tennis bats strung with hide are not easy to maneuver…When
you… can slide one shoe above the other deftly, the sensation of
paddling over a ten foot deep drift and taking short cuts by buried
fences is worth the ankle-ache."

Instinctively Kipling knew that
you must play in snow to get through winter happily. When his friend
Arthur Conan Doyle visited, he brought Nordic skis, and the friends
practiced on the hill in front of Naulakha. Some say that was Vermont’s
introduction to skiing.

Lest one conclude it was all play,
Kipling’s four years in Vermont were very productive. He produced The
Jungle Books, The Day’s Work, Captains Courageous, and a volume of
poetry, The Seven Seas.

He wrote in the mornings, his privacy
guarded fiercely by his American born wife, Carrie Balestier Kipling.
Outside his office was hers, which visitors called "the dragon’s

Another sport Conan Doyle brought was snow golf. The
players dyed the balls red so they could be seen against the snow,
embedded cans in the drifts for holes and had several vigorous (and I’d
imagine hilarious) games. At the end of the session, the front yard was
crisscrossed with red lines where the balls had rolled. Kipling noted
that the snow added new dimensions to the game: "There were no limits to
a drive; the ball might skid two miles."

Personally, I think this is just the wild card golf could use.

I look forward to the sport becoming more popular.

After all, winters in Vermont are long.

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