Twist and Shout

Twist and Shout
Life is never straight (Joey Kulkin photo)

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Vignettes from Vermont: Saxtons River and Rabbit the Rescue Dog

BENNINGTON -- One night in Shaftsbury, circa May or June 1998, during a limbotic time in my life, between jobs and hardly two nickels to my name, I watched Michael Jordan and the Bulls whomp another team in the playoffs. I watched the game with a great friend by the name of Joel. Jordan and Pippen and Rodman and Kerr and and Kukoc and Longley and Wennington did little for Joel's girlfriend so during NBA playoff nights she passed the time in another room of the house painting horses and flowers and starry nights on canvas and tabletops and quilt chests.

On this night during the early stages of another Bulls win, Joel and I played Impromptu Phonebook Game. I can't even remember how the game began. In fact, it wasn't even a game, just one more way to fill the space between us. If memory serves, I'd open the phonebook to a random page and pick a name and look what town the person lived in and give Joel clues so he could guess.

"This is one of the most poetic names in America" I said for this Vermont town as big as a speck of dust in the rays of the dying sun.

I could hear the "hmmmm" in Joel's mind as he watched Jordan pass to Pippen who passed to Kerr, who passed back to Jordan, Jackson's Triangle in motion like a Broadway ballet, and No. 23 knocked down another wing jumper from 18. Swish.

"Saxtons River?"

First guess. Impressive.

Saxtons River.

Saxtons River sits in the forest of East Vermont and is surrounded by dirt roads and babbling brooks. It is the home to a 100-year-old boarding school and a New York City writer by the name of Crescent Dragonwagon.

I asked the woman in the picture where she's coming from. "San Francisco." "Oh, cool. I grew up in L.A. What brings you to Vermont?" "We're on our way to Williamstown and then Boston. But I grew up in Vermont -- Saxtons River."

Perfect. "Saxtons River is one of my favorite names in America. Do you know Bob Lockerbie? He's from Saxtons River." And yes I asked that question because Saxtons River is so ballpoint small that most people who live in Saxtons River know each other. Bob Lockerbie is the football and baseball coach at Bellows Falls High, a great guy, the kind of teacher you want motivating your kids, the kind of motivator you want teaching your kids. But Bob Lockerbie's name did not ring a bell.

"I've been gone for 20 years."

RABBIT REFUSED TO LOOK at the camera. I focused and clicked 6 times because she turned her head every time. I settled for the moment Rabbit licked mama's face. "What kind of dog is it?" "Just a mutt. She's a rescue dog, a good one, though -- she rescued my life."

Her emphasis on 'my' struck a deep chord. Back in '98 my life was mutty and limbotic till Joel and Jordan and Pippen and Rodman and Kerr and Kukoc and Longley and Wennington helped me find a poetic balance in Saxtons River.

If you'd like information on rescuing dogs click