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Today is November 22, 2019

Outdoors

Quiet and distant places

By Tony Kinton

Quiet and distant places

A distant and quiet pool seemed to appear out of nowhere in the mountains of Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom. Photo by Tony Kinton.

Vermont was the destination. Driving this time. Traffic from Birmingham to upstate New York was imposing, even frightening. Ground transport was decidedly dissimilar to my customary and accelerated travel by jet, the latter whisking me away to Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom in a half-day, layover in Atlanta included. Ostensibly, this trip was to hunt bears around cornfields, but it was equally, if not more so, an adventure in search of quiet and distant places. I found all I sought.

We one midday stood at an over-look, farmland and hills and lakes scattered across the countryside. A line of mountains framed this pastoral scene. “Quebec,” my host said. That certainly qualified as distant. It is a long way from Mississippi to Quebec. And save some limited conversation and hushed breezes, there was quiet.          

Farther along, there was a secluded pool, not huge but not small either, encircled by spruce, birch, maple. Rocks protruded here and there from placid waters. Those waters were perfectly peaceful. Nary a ripple. And all was quiet. The faraway was at hand, almost as if it were a worn and familiar wool jacket slipped on at daybreak. Colors were present in subdued pronouncements,  the genesis of autumn in this rugged landscape.

And there was a rock culvert. The trickle it corralled spilled into that pool. A date — I couldn’t read it — was chiseled into a specific stone, and I assumed it recorded the completion of this structure. But by whom? A rugged road passed atop the culvert, but no one lived nearby. Perhaps someone had at once. Perhaps not. Such a mystery only added intrigue to the quiet and distant.

The bear hunt, that entity which had initiated this trip early on, morphed from cornfields to hound dogs. This came serendipitously when a local, Bennie, stopped by camp and offered an invitation to join him the following day. He still practiced a tradition that was and is steeped in the history of that region but is one that is likely passing away when men and women of Bennie’s ilk are gone. He said he was 62. A tough, hardy and jovial 62.

Bennie’s dogs were marvels, Treeing Walkers from a line that had been in his family for generations. Those dogs were disciplined and dedicated. They lived to pursue bears. It was the pursuit, we soon learned, that spurred Bennie to action. He no longer actually collected bears. He just pursued them and then walked away, dogs dutifully and in regimented order following. I would actually take the bear if success smiled on us. It did.

As we passed an aging rock fence somewhere along the way after that productive hunt, I found myself wondering who and what and why and contemplating time’s passing. That passing, it seemed, was in a terrible hurry. I would soon be leaving the Northeast Kingdom, a quiet and distant place. Memories would remain.

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