[For several years I wrote a bi-weekly humor column for the Vermont Sunday Magazine, at that time the largest circulation daily in the state. Eventually these were collected into a book called Tales and more Tails of Beyonder, that being the name for this region of Vermont that is “not close to anything, but not far away from anywhere.” Yup, you can still get the book on Amazon. This week will feature a few samples of what Beyonder is all about. SB SM]
THE LOCAL NEWS
At deer camp there are always a stack of newspapers from a few years ago. Who needs new ones; there’s just as much good reading in going through the papers of yesteryear. I steal some of my best material from the local news.
Occasionally, the creative well runs dry, leaving me with a blank sheet of paper and a deadline. For inspiration I turn to an unfailing fountain of stimulation, the local newspaper.
Some nameless columnists exist by pilfering material from stories readers send about exploding cows and monkeys who can sing the Star Spangled Banner.
I cannot, however, because my readers are different. They’re Vermonters, and Vermonters don’t laugh…well, not out loud. Their idea of a good yuk is seeing a Flatlander’s BMW burrowed in a ditch (ok, I admit, it’s funny), but in general this is not a funny place. And Vermonters work hard enough at their own jobs that they don’t think they need to help me by sending funny news clips.
They can’t stop me from reading the local paper, though. Here’s a sprinkling of what is passing for hard news in Beyonder:
Hm-m-m-m. Here’s a little piece under the headline “Tomato Surprises Local Woman.” Seems that local resident Vendla Cushman (a wonderful name-I’ll have to steal that for my next book) cut into a tomato and found what appeared to be a family of worms waving their tails. In reality she had discovered a rare miniature audition for the spokesmodel segment of Star Search. Had she used a microscope, she might have discovered a little bitty Ed McMahon.
The local news is always laden with little pearls, especially if you get into the nitty gritty of visiting relatives. It was here that I learned about the folks from Massachusetts who had to take their son to the emergency room because he stuck a bean up his nose. The reporting was sketchy so I never found out whether it was a string bean, lima bean, or baked bean, but I did conclude they sure eat funny down there.
I always check out the weddings, in case someone has done something in shockingly bad taste. “The bride wore a lavender bowling shirt and carried a bouquet of non-descript shrubbery. The cake, a Twinkie the size of a large watermelon, weighed almost 50 pounds and was put on display afterwards in Floral Hall at the Tunbridge World’s Fair.”
But I’m being silly. Back to the hard news stories: “Pig Found Swimming in Lake Fairlee.” No, this wasn’t about the bride in the bowling shirt. This was about a 40-pound piglet from Post Mills that managed to elude the game warden and a vigilante posse from Thetford for the better part of two days. Ya gotta love a little porker with that kind of spunk.
An item out of Vershire a while back was carried in the local rag under the headline “Landowner Threatens Town With Blacks.” The gist of the story is that a dispute about a stone wall became so heated that the owner of the wall threatened to donate his land to the NAACP for use as a summer camp. This was a classic Beyonder fracas, with a matter of small significance being exaggerated onto a larger stage. (And, in this case, getting ugly in the process. Moving right along )
How about “He-Man Woman Haters Club disbands?” This was from the little town of Burlington where some love-scarred UVM students brought the wrath of the entire student body, the administration, and the American Civil Liberties Union down upon their pointy little heads by declaring their independence from the opposite sex. It does not matter that activities like this form the dramatic nexus of most Shakespearean plays; you don’t do this in the enlightened twentieth century where man and woman exist equal and entwined, like vanilla and chocolate creemee swirl.
That’s what I like about the local news. It makes you think. What started out as a goofball prank by some bozos at the pinnacle of bozodom ends up as a lesson in the finer points of the First Amendment.
Then, there was the case of Ken Royer, reported in the Barton Chronicle in the article “Royer Sentenced for Jacking Fake Deer.” This is a complex case with overtones of Peewee Herman.
Mr. Royer was nabbed for plugging a fake deer, set out by the game warden. He then led enforcement officials on a merry chase that ended when his car swerved off the road. Knowing that he was caught, Mr. Royer went over to the game warden and shook his hand, congratulating him for catching red-handed such a clever deer jacker as himself. Then, in a speech that seems crafted by a member of the screenwriter’s guild, he said, “My father was a deer jacker, I jack deer, and my boy will probably jack deer. It’s in my blood. I just cannot help it. Jacking deer is in my blood.”
With the right press agent, I think Mr. Royer could become a surprise celebrity guest on the MTV award show.
Makes you think, doesn’t it?