When I report to someone who is unacquainted with our summertime activities that we have a cabin in Vermont, eyes light up and minds begin to manufacture visions of edenic splendor. And when I complain about the lack of connectivity in the Green Hills, the first response is how wonderful it must be to be free from phones and computers and other gadgets that go ringing in the night and catch viruses with regularity.
No, that isn't my Vermont. My Vermont, fifteen hundred feet above the Connecticut River Valley, is the wilderness I have sought to tame to a suburbanite's comfort. Herewith I explain what I mean by tame.
When we acquired our small shack (and it was that, a shack) in 1960, there was no indoor running water (except when it rained), a hot plate for a stove, a plug-in heater for a furnace, an outhouse for a toilet, and a foundation rolling around on top of the ground with the porcupines.
In the summer of 1962 with grandpa's aid, we raised the cabin, replaced the sills, and poured cement piers to keep the frame stationary in winter's deep freeze. The work was completed during a month when it rained eleven consecutive days and Barbara washed baby Kathy and toddler Gwen's diapers by laying them on the lawn in a downpour. What fun!
Over the course of the next several years we, with help from family, added to the shack a room twice its size. It featured a sleeping loft and storm windows provided by my parents and Barbara's aunt from homes undergoing upgrades to self-storing aluminum windows. Subsequently a back porch was added; then an outdoor shower, eventually enclosed as a shower and toilet room; a grandma's bedroom, 12 x 12, to make room for my parents in August and as we aged becoming the master bedroom; and, lastly, an enlargement of the kitchen area, now moved into what was the old shack, with a wall pushed out several feet.
Eleven hundred square feet of rest and retirement in the Green Hills, but hardly edenic or palatial splendor.
Along the way running water was supplied. This improvement deserves a chapter of its own, considering the many starts and stops, necessitated by drought and contamination, along the way to the present complement of modern devices including kitchen sink, hot water heater, shower, indoor toilet with septic tank and leach field. Eight "camps" of the Chelsea Farm Society now share two deep wells (at a total depth of 750 feet), a 3600 gallon covered reservoir, two above ground water pumps in their own separate houses, and a plastic pipe system a half mile in length. Rube Goldberg applauds.
The New Deal REA somehow found this rural corner of Vermont early on and our shack-become-palace was wired before we acquired it. Barbara's father built his cabin earlier without the aid of electricity. Ours, however, would never have been realized without power tools. You name it, I bought it and used it. The Long Island bedroom Franklin stove, a Davis family heirloom, was charming to behold, but as a cabin-warmer it was woefully inadequate. I installed six electric baseboard heaters, requiring, of course, an upgrade of our electrical service to 200 amps. A four burner electric stove and an 8 cubic foot refrigerator made our kitchen serviceable for family and small parties.
On the second try we found a mattress large enough and compliant enough for our queen bed, beside which the dog sleeps until the morning hours when she demands to be lifted onto the bed. The failed mattress occupies the loft, off limits to the princess sensitive to peas, where guests and family may take a night's rest.
Twenty years ago the two acres around the cabin were subjected to the smoothing and leveling of a handyman expert with a small bulldozer. His efforts, along with those in recent years of a young man (only sixty years old!), clearing the edge of the property with a weed whacker and a brush hog provide us with this nearly 360 degree view of our "estate." Let the rich and famous of Greenwich eat their hearts out.
Those of you who know Critical Christian well enough have already spotted what is still missing in this description of the refuge in the Green Hills. Right!: electronic connectivity. Twenty years ago we had it all, phone, TV, and internet. The bag phone worked splendidly. The TV was limited to four channels. The internet was dial-up. But we were connected to the world and I could keep track of the Mets and the parish three hundred miles away. Then the world went digital. We were stranded in a cell phone dead zone. The trees grew and blocked TV satellites. Those who think Vermont a blessed retreat from civilization would be pleased with these developments. I, the tamer, wasn't.
Today, August 2, 2016 was supposed to be the day of the final step in the mastery of the green wilderness. We are to be connected. With a phone. With DSL for my computer. The field manager for the local phone company made an onsite visit yesterday. Chris assured me he had thought of everything and a "connector" technician would be here this morning. He was. But by noon he ascertained that though I was connected on my end, the other, the phone company's end, was still waving in the wind. I phoned the main office and registered my complaint even as I provided them with chapter and verse as to what and what was not done. They said they would phone me to let me know when the line was really connected. It has been a two year adventure. I have regularly rattled the cages of the people who run things. I know the bosses by name: Tucker, Tom, and Chris. I get the sense they want to oblige me, if only to get me off their backs; but intra-company lack of communication and cumbersome work rules seem to get in the way.
Today, August 10th, half way up I-91 for another week in the cabin the cell phone rings and the telephone company agent tells me we have phone service in the cabin. Wonderful, except... except the computer capability would have to wait another week. So I cannot fully celebrate and tell the world just yet.
Today, August 16, 2016, finally, absolutely, positively, so help us God, Fairpoint Communication promises to get me up and surfing on the internet. You can understand why I might be a tad unbelieving. At 6:30 this evening a truck appeared, the dog barked, and the technician had my computer online in twenty minutes. Hallelujah! Subsequently I learned, following dinner with family and friends who have also suffered with the phone company, that when they inquired as to when their new phone would be installed, they mentioned my name. "Oh, yes," the technician replied, "we have two pages of notes from his calls to the office."
I've always maintained that persistence, not my brains or beauty I've been told was in short supply, was my main suit. Tomorrow, Wednesday, August 17th, in the morning I'll upload this posting to my website, the last straw, er step, in my Vermont progress, getting the word out to you.
Phone your congratulations to 802-685-3009.