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My Place

BELLOWS FALLS, VERMONT
WHERE IT ALL HAPPENS

Farmers’ Market Sign at The Train Depot
I generally hit the farmers market after my Spanish lesson on Friday evenings. They sell all sorts of fare produced by the many cool cottage industries found here in Vermont. Lots of fresh green lettuce, beets, tomatoes, farmstead cheese, maple syrup, and if you’re lucky, corn on the cob. Then there’s my favorite stand, which belongs to The Waffle Guy. We’re kindred spirits, The Waffle Guy and I, because we’re both dog crazy. And the first time I met him, I was being pulled around the market by Abby, my Golden Retriever. Everybody loves Abby because she’s sweet and beautiful and preternaturally good-tempered. Lots of kids with dripping icecream cones kept stopping to ask “Can I pet your doggie?” To which I always reply “Sure, but watch that cone of yours. She’d sooner eat it than look at you.” We strolled past The Waffle Guy’s stand I stopped to chat, because that’s one of our favorite past times here in Vermont. He complimented me on Abby’s beauty, for which I swiftly took undue credit. Then he began talking wistfully about his German Shepherd, who was MIA. Seems his vieja (that’s Mexican slang for “old woman,” I just learned) forbids him to bring his pooch out on the road on hot days. So we got to swapping tales, as dog freaks tend to do. I told him that Abby’s former owners were nice enough folks, but they kept her inside all day due to their long work hours, a fact of life she plain-out hated. That’s why we try to leave her alone in the house as little as possible. She’d rather sit in the car and know we’re coming back soon. The Waffle Guy’s eyes twinkled. “Here, have a waffle on the house.” Then, nodding at me: “And one for you too.” I protested that I wanted to pay for the proffered treats. “No, no. I appreciate the fact that your dog was a rescue.” Abby and I made off like the wolf in Little Red Riding Hood, scarfing down whole-grain, gluten-free waffles. “Do you realize your dog is eating that waffle on the ground?” some busy-body asked me. “Yes I do, and she’s entitled to it. She was a rescue,” I mumbled through mouthfuls of waffle. I mean, this stuff is better than dog food. The Waffle Guy winked his approval. And the following week he gave me two more free waffles, this time because my miniature Dachshund, Taz, was in tow. “Two Rescues,” he said, by way of explanation. This time my husband was in tow too. He thought it might be a good idea to keep my rampant flirting in check. He was rewarded by a waffle with whipped cream for his efforts. Free. Courtesy of my pal The Waffle Guy. Who doesn’t discriminate with his niceness. Maybe he’s from Minnesota too.

Bellows Falls In Days Gone By. Circa 1900
I snapped these old photos of Bellows Falls at The Pretzel Company, which is right next to Coyote Moon. Coyote Moon is La Tienda de mi Profesor, Aristides. Christine, the owner, bakes awesome cookies along with her signature pretzels, and she steadfastly refuses to give out the recipe to my all-time favorite, the Molasses Ginger cookie. She gave it out once before to someone who promised not to bake-and-sell, then turned turncoat. I’m a decent baker, but I have yet to perfect the ultimate molasses cookie. Which stinks, because I’m crazy about molasses cookies. Although I make a mean gingerbread. So I stare at the list of ingredients and try to imagine the correct proportions. Which is tough when you’re as mathematically challenged as I am.


The Village Square, circa 1900

Bellows Falls and it’s neighbor to the North (Springfield) found their niche in water-powered industries which served as the industrial and commercial centers of the region for more than two hundred years. 
The first bridge ever to be built across the entire expanse of the 410-mile length of the Connecticut river was constructed between Walpole, New Hampshire and Bellows Falls in 1785. The first canal company was chartered in the country in 1791. It created a transportation canal at Bellows Falls. Early locks helped flat boats to pass around the Great Falls, carrying goods between Hartford, CT and the Northern Valley. Bellows Falls also got a smelly claim to fame as paper manufacturers built up the town between 1869 though the 1920s, from the town’s downtown commercial buildings to its Victorian neighborhoods. Fortunately that venture failed. When I was a kid, my family used to drive through St. John, New Brunswick on our way to Maine in the summers. My mother would issue the cry. “Hold your noses!” That’s because St. John is rank with the odor of paper mills. It’s left me with a lifelong aversion to St. John, and possibly all of New Brunswick. Not to mention paper mills.

My office is located just a ways down out of the frame, on the left. Above what used to be Brown and Robert’s Hardware Store. Now it’s J&H Hardware store. That’s another curious thing you’ll notice in Vermont. Whenever you ask someone directions in these parts, there’s a good chance some aspect of the answer will include: “You know where such and such used to be, right? Well turn left there.” Most of us flatlanders perish the thought of giving ourselves away by admitting frankly that, well no, we don’t know where such a place used to be. Because a regular old Vermonter would know, and pride himself on it. (Yes, that’s right. Him. By old Vermonters, women are oft referred to as “she.” For instance, when the man who did the excavation for our septic system crowned the mound with an ugly round of concrete he remarked to T that “maybe she’d like to plant some flowers around it.” Right again. She was me. And T loves to refer to me as she to all old Vermonters just for the raw thrill it gives him.) Here’s my favorite example. We buy hay for our horses from an old Vermonter called RS. The first time I called RS to ask where he was baling, I could tell he was uncomfortable. That’s because he expected to be doing business with my husband. And now he does. But his answer to my innocent question has been permanently earmarked in my memory, along with a long collection of Windham County notables. Get ready. ‘Cause this one’s a whopper. “Do you know where that paraplegic used to do his gardenin‘?” the old farmer asked. “Well, that’s where my barn is.” Hold the phone. “T!” I yelled. “I think you need to talk to this guy. This one takes the cake!”
Turns out God does have a sense of humor. About two years later I told the story of the odd “used to be here” directions (smugly, it must be admitted), to the group of flatlanders who formed my writing group. One of them, unbeknownst to me, happened to be a 25 year card-carrying resident of Windham County. “Oh yeah. The paraplegic guy who gardens by the red barn in Saxtons River. Sure, I know him.” So I got my comeuppance. Serves me right. Damned flatlander!

Clock Tower. Bellows Falls Opera House

Opera House Today
The newly renovated movie theater at the Opera House rivals The Old Castro Theatre in San Francisco. Which has to be one of the choicest theaters in the country. O.K., so this one doesn’t have the white grand piano rising out of the floor on a palanquin, but aesthetically, it darned close. And it’s the only place I know of where you can have a night out for 7 bucks. That includes the movie, soda and a popcorn. The movie is only $4. The screen is huge. There’s even a balcony. 

Visitors’ Center & Farmers’ Market Site

Bellows Falls Train Station
Bellows Falls was a rail hub for trains crossing tracks from Montreal, Boston, and New York. Amtrak still stops twice a day at this historic 1920’s brick train depot, the second built on this site. Trains pass through a stone arch tunnel that runs underneath the village’s downtown square. The Green Mountain Flyer runs from Bellows Falls to Chester Depot during the summer months. You can sit in one of those old coaches where the seat springs will launch you airborne. It takes about 15 minutes to drive to Chester from Bellows Falls. It takes about an hour by train. But the views are better, just on general principle.

View From The Connecticut River
It was a rainy day when I snapped these, but the Connecticut was deep and dark and the flowers looked great. My office is in that brick building over yonder. That’s the back view of it.

Bellows Falls Sidewalk Cafe

Bellows Falls Pretzel Company
This morning I gobbled down a delicious egg and cheese sandwich served on a bagel after dropping Jamie at preschool. T had one on his way to work too. We love The Pretzel Company. His first day. Of preschool that is. Sniff. This is a real rite-of-passage for the mother of a three year old. It must be admitted that T shed more tears than I did, though. He’s the sentimental one in the family. 

A Little Bit of Mexico in Vermont
Best Shop in town and Where I Go for Spanish lessons. Sometimes I work there too. I have another odd habit besides picking my hair. I love to polish silver. And El Jefe has lots to polish. My other weird fetish is cleaning leather. I can spend days cleaning and conditioning my saddles and bridles. And don’t let’s get started on my purse collection. As they say in Noo Yawk: fooget abow it.”


Comments

Comment from Betts
Time August 27, 2008 at 1:23 pm

As a native Vermonter that grew up in the Bellows Falls area… WELL DONE! The town has gone through a real renaissance in the past few years. I’m glad you’re enjoying it.

Comment from suttonhoo
Time August 28, 2008 at 5:05 pm

"Do you know where that paraplegic used to do his gardenin'?"

brilliant.

you've really gotta start posting your pics on Flickr, sweetie. Let Flickr do the serving; cut and paste the img src here. visually nothing will change, but under the covers you'll get even better link equity *and* additional traffic from Flickr over time.

sorry. doing that dang internet consultant meddling thing again. can't help myself. 😉

love that you're blogging. & love what you're blogging. been meaning to add you to my blogroll forever — thanks for the reminder.

Comment from Elefanterosado
Time August 29, 2008 at 6:10 am

Thanks betts. So glad to hear from a townie. BF really rocks these days, and has a sweet spot in my heart. It really is where it all happens for me.

Suttonhoo: thanks for the input. I think you’re right about the photos ’cause the time it takes to post is a drag. I’m a computer cavewoman, so the suggestions are welcome.