Ode to a Pothole

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(HOST) All this week, VPR has been reporting on the state of Vermont’s roads after one of the worst winters. Today, commentator, storyteller and contractor Willem Lange is here with the lighter side.

(LANGE) Years ago, during mud season, I lost a perfectly good white cat. I was standing by the front door, looking out at the knee-deep mess in the dooryard, and I saw him in the woods over on the far side, trying to pick out a route across it.

I opened the door and I hollered, "Don’t move! Let me get my boots on; I’ll be right there!" But when I turned around he was gone, and I never saw him again. I figure the mud must have got him, poor little guy.

There were two old fellas sitting on the porch in mud season, and here came something small and brown down the road. They thought it might be a raccoon, but when it came closer they could see it was a fedora hat. One of them walked the plank down to the front gate, gave the hat a poke with his cane as it went by, and there was a head under it.

"God, Ralph! You all right? You’re in pretty deep, ain’t you?"

"No, I’m okay, but my poor old hoss is just about drownded.

We call those the good old days. I had a friend named Elmer, used to make money with his horses during mud season, pulling people out of the muck. The local doctor was the first to have four-wheel drive, an Army surplus Jeep he was pretty proud of. But he got stuck, too, and when Elmer pulled him out he was shaking his head disgustedly. "Don’t feel bad, Doc," Elmer said. "That’s a pretty good vehicle. But she ain’t no good unless she’s got her feet on the ground."

We don’t have too much of that any more. There’s still Brook Road, from Plainfield to Orange: pretty spectacular a few weeks each spring. But we’re mostly hard roads these days. Which doesn’t mean we get off easy: we get potholes. If you could look at the State of Vermont from above, you’d see it looks as though it’s been hit by a million meteorites about the size of bushel baskets — and all of them somehow struck right on the hard roads. My favorite one’s on the east side of Lake Morey in Fairlee. Goes the whole way across the road; you can’t see it, and you can’t miss it. You won’t forget it, either.

It’s a nice way to finish up the ski season, though: you can do right in your car what you do on the mountain. Some folks schuss right through ’em on the theory there’s less damage that way. Others do a giant slalom; you see one of ’em coming at you, you kind of wonder for a second. And then there’s the frost heaves and washboards: like skiing moguls sitting down. Good idea to keep your helmet on.

Best thing about it is, it can’t last. In no time at all the roads’ll be drying out, and the mosquitoes and black flies will be swarming out of the swamp.

This is Willem Lange in East Montpelier, and gotta get — look out for that — oh, you hit it!

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