When I can't sleep I do not count an endless line of sheep, but, with my mind's ear, I listen to the hum of industry in the old woolen-weaving mill which I knew in my youth...I am surprised every time that I take inventory of the many things made and invented in Vermont..." Charles Edward Crane
During my long hiatus from posting, I've been traveling abroad to teach or paint, or holed up here on the hill, working in my studio . But enough's enough! It's time to drive dirt roads, and show you, and myself, more of Vermont.
While I've been away from this blog, I've been busy with a series of paintings inspired by Mt. Tabor, a little settlement that lies along Route 7 in the southern part of the state. This crossroads of train tracks and highway, with its old feed towers, depot and storage sheds, is a very interesting place to anyone with an eye for color and composition.
But Mt. Tabor also has a story to tell us about Vermont's past. This town, like most in the area, was founded in the late 1700's by immigrants from southern New England. From the beginning, Mt. Tabor (or more properly, "Harwick", as it was originally called until changed in the early 1800's to avoid confusion with an identically named town) was probably an easy place to miss. Travelers between the busy burghs of Manchester and Rutland have never had much reason to visit this quiet community backed up against Green Mountain wilderness.
Even today it can be difficult (as with so many of the 251 towns of Vermont) to find the center of Mt. Tabor. What I know of it are a few visually intoxicating blocks between Mill and Brooklyn Roads next to Route 7. But-- is this really Mt. Tabor, or is it Danby, a larger and more prepossessing neighbor? Well, let's leave that quibbling to the tax listers, and look more closely at MY Mt. Tabor.
Instead of a steepled church or village green, the heart of this tiny Vermont community is a grain mill. First established in the early 1900's, Crosby & Sons built a reputation for offering area dairy farms top quality feed. Then, as now, heat is essential for surviving the winter in Vermont, and Crosby sold coal that was hauled in on daily trains, eventually adapting to changing times with fuel oil and pellet stoves.
Today the overgrown, deserted train station is a beautiful but sad place, looking like it could be haunted by the ghosts of prosperous farm wives heading off to Rutland to spend egg money on the latest calico. More happily, the tracks running beside the station are again in use by very slow but steady Vermont Railway freight trains.
Mt. Tabor's past, and the history of the state, and of the United States, is embodied in these buildings and this landscape. Our national prosperity was built on the foundation of three pillars: agriculture, industry, and transportation. In this tiny community's grain elevators, silos, train tracks and loading docks, some in ruins, some still in use, we can see our prosperous past, hard-working present, and, maybe, our precarious future.