(Host) The town of Middlesex said goodbye to one of its oldest and most colorful residents on Monday. Gerald Pease was a lifelong dairy farmer whose life touched many in the central Vermont community.
VPR’s John Dillon has this remembrance.
(Dillon) Friends and family shared their memories at the Shady Rill Baptist Church, where Gerald Pease fired up the woodstove every Sunday morning in the winter.
They recalled Pease’s humor, his storytelling, and his helping hands. No one kept count, but the Middlesex farmer used his John Deere tractor to pull dozens of stuck drivers out of snow banks.
“We came up Culver Hill Road, and there was a tractor, and there was a car off the road. And there was Gerald, pulling the car out with his tractor….”
(Dillon) Pease was born in August, 1915 and went to work at the age of 13. In an interview with Vermont Public Radio last year, the farmer recalled some of the changes he saw in the field. But it wasn’t that he was nostalgic for the old days.
(Pease, archive) “I started in 1930. We didn’t have bales until the 1950s. We pitched it on with a pitchfork. I can’t help but think how much better it is mowing with a tractor than it would be the horses. Horses, by golly, they’d get hot. You couldn’t work ’em half as much as you can…”
(Dillon) For generations of Middlesex school children, Pease was a link to the past who lived very much in the present. He came to classrooms and shared his memories. Perhaps it was a story about a nearby village now under water because of the reservoir built after the flood of ’27. He also taught his neighbors something about community, hard work and laughter.
“I learned a lot about patience. I remember one day we were logging over by Rob and Vicki’s there and I went to fell a big white pine and I got it stuck as hell, halfway down. Then he set a shiv to a tree and tried to pull the butt off the stump. And we broke the winch cable. And what do you suppose Gerald had to say? He said, ‘Always something, Scott.'” (Sound of laughter.)
(Dillon) Pease loved to laugh, and he had a full repertoire of corny jokes. Those in the church Monday remembered them almost line by line.
And when he worked in the hot sun, he also loved to quench his thirst with “switchel,” the Vermonters’ tangy, gingery drink of the hay field.
(Pease, archive) “By golly, we used to have that back when I was a kid, down to uncles. And I used to carry around the pail for the hired help to drink. Put a little syrup and a little ginger and a little vinegar to taste. There ain’t no recipe for it, just go by gosh and by glory….” (Pease laughs.) “How bout that!”
(Dillon) Gerald Pease was buried at the North Branch Cemetery in Middlesex. He would have turned 88 on Monday.
For Vermont Public Radio, I’m John Dillon.