Vermont quiz

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(HOST)Vermont is a place rich in history and natural attractions. Commentator Tom Slayton says a recent quiz he dreamed up produced some surprising answers!

(SLAYTON) When we at Vermont Life included what we called the “True Vermonter Quiz” in our winter issue, we had no idea how much we would learn! One thing we learned quickly was that there’s no fact about Vermont that can’t be bent a bit by interpretation.

For example, we asked: “How do you know sugaring season is over?” Our answer hewed to the traditional folk response: when spring peepers can be heard singing. But many contestants chose a more scientific answer, one that’s just as good: when the trees bud. So we accepted that answer as correct also.

Likewise, when we asked, “What is a gore?” our answer – an unorganized town, like Buell’s Gore or Avery’s Gore – was correct; but most of our respondents used the more technical surveyor’s definition – a small, triangular piece of land “left over” when hilly, irregular land is surveyed. We accepted that answer as correct also.

We asked what was the tallest “building” in Vermont. The answer was the Bennington Monument. A few people grumbled – probably with some justification – that to describe the Bennington Monument as a “building” was misleading. We were trying to exclude structures such as electric line supports and cell towers that might have been higher. However, one contestant added, with what might have been a note of pique that “a court decision” would be required to define the Bennington Monument as a building!

That question called forth some of our most interesting wrong answers. Quite a few respondents guessed that Montpelier’s City Hall or the State House was the tallest. But they aren’t, by a long shot. (The State House, for example, is 134 feet high – less than half the height of the Bennington Monument.)

Another question that proved tricky – though we didn’t mean it that way – was: “How thick was the ice sheet that covered Vermont roughly 13,000 years ago?” The answer was one mile. But some contestants ignored our weasel-word “roughly” and answered that there was no ice sheet at all 13,000 years ago, because ice had covered Vermont 13,500 years ago – in other words, 500 years earlier – and had completely melted by a mere 13,000 years ago!

We asked what was the first name given to “the area that later became Vermont?” and several people said “New Connecticut.” That was sort of right. It was the title accorded the state in 1777, but it was rarely used.

An earlier, more common name was the “New Hampshire Grants,” because New Hampshire Governor Benning Wentworth issued grants of land for towns throughout the region — much to the outrage of New York officials, who felt the region belonged to them.

All in all, the “True Vermonter Quiz” proved to us that one characteristic all “true” Vermonters have in common is a fascination with their state’s past and present.

Though some contestants suggested that answers produced by research should be disallowed, we counted them as legitimate. The whole aim of the quiz was to promote learning and greater understanding of Vermont, after all. And even book learnin’ can help with that!

Tom Slayton is the editor of Vermont Life magazine. He spoke from our studio in Montpelier.

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