My husband works for a place where they claim to be the best strippers in town. It’s a lot more family-friendly than you’d think, though, because they also repair and refinish the furniture once its stripped. Like most small Vermont businesses they offer an array of complementary products like chainsaws and propane, which, in a rural area, makes it a better place to get the scuttlebutt than any beauty shop because everybody – contractors, farmers, and ex-urbanite immigrants – comes in at some point and jaws with the strippers.
It’s also one of the last places in the world where you can get the news of the day and not feel sorry you heard it. So, after chauffeur duty this morning, I popped in for a soda and what I thought would be a quick visit before heading home to work. When I got there, however, my husband was chatting with an old acquaintance who needed a ride from Arlington to Manchester about 8 or nine miles up (and I do mean up) the road. I said I would do it, and, as soon as we loaded up the gentleman’s wheelchair into my car, we headed off.
We met this man over a decade ago because the previous owners of our first house had recommended him as a good source of firewood. We got to know him a bit over the course of a number of deliveries but lost touch when the latest oil crisis spiked the demand for cordwood and we had to diversify our sources a bit. I had not seen him since he acquired the wheelchair, and I sensed that we were both more comfortable with me not asking about it.
So we drove and talked about mutual friends. Who was building this new barn; when that family had moved away; if this neighbor was really in a bad way or was that just a rumor. A former contractor, he pointed out homes he’d worked on and noted changes in favorite projects.
We were still chatting when we got to Manchester, and learning that his ultimate destination was Rupert – another town and a big mountain away – I offered to drive him to Dorset, thinking I would offer to go the rest of the way when we got to there. So we drove the next leg, talking about wood prices and where to get the best ice cream this summer. As we neared the center of Dorset, I noted the lack of a good place to let him off, but he pointed out a place near the country store, and we pulled in.
I was imagining the hot climb he had ahead of him, but before I could say anything, he said, “I’ve been riding all over Bennington County to build up my strength.” And with that he quietly got his gear organized, and settled the matter as he propelled himself down the last leg of the trip.