History of a Vermont Sheep Farm
Getting Started: You Can Farm Too!
A Flock of Your Own Icelandic Sheep
A Flock of Your Own Chickens
Growing Your Farm: How the Numbers Work
Dreaming Vermont: Relocating and Living in Vermont

Below me lies the Cohen place. The Cohens were summer people, and when I was a child the world ended at the Cohen house. There, two elderly people welcomed us with ginger cookies and ice tea while we dangled our legs off their porch. They shared their treasures: a rock that looked like a baked potato and could fool anyone. A carrot which grew a funny nose. They taught us to make spruce gum and how to work a sheep gate. If there was a world beyond the edge of their carefully ordered garden, we never explored it.

It was the sacred duty of every child on the hill (all two families of us), to troop down before breakfast and raise the flag with Mr. Cohen. In gray light we'd dutifully pledge allegiance, faintly awed by Mr. Cohen's fierce solemnity, before straggling home to bowls of Cheerios.

The flagpole, battered and forgotten, still clings to the old house. But the porch has been torn off. The Cohen place enjoys a spectacular view of the valley. A view so beautiful you can hear cathedral bells as fields roll down to woods and mountains cradle the valley; people were drawn to the porch, to stand on it and breath in the scene.

But the porch, like the house, decayed. The garden ran to brambles. The stone patio and stairs were lost amid wild lilies. Only the lilac, a glorious lilac which perhaps remembers this hill as Mansfield instead of Stowe, only the lilac seems to flourish amid the decay.

The new owner of the Cohen place built a house tucked well down the hill and away from the road the way modern people do. People bring their own interpretation of neighbor to their property. In this new neighborhood going up around the Cohen place children don't troop to a neighbor's house at dawn for flag raising. Nor share potato rocks.

So it happened that a petition was filed to move the old road from where it runs behind the Cohen place; to move it to create a bigger building lot for that spectacular view. As planned, the new road would run right across from the Smith cottage, just to the right of its porch.

The petitioner is to be forgiven if they didn't notice the Smith cottage. The Smith cottage is noteworthy only for its tiny bathroom. So tiny, the shower, obviously an afterthought, is tucked into a corner of the front room, leaving the bather to enter and exit directly in front of a large picture window placed to catch the morning sun. Or trap the unwary bather in full view of the road if they forget to pull the shade.

A tiny bedroom, a smaller kitchen, a lovely stone fireplace, little brother to my own; the cottage is so small benches in the living area turn into bunks. Board games stacked on shelves keep handy for the next rainy day when they'll be served up, with popcorn and mugs of chocolate, on the floor since there is no room for a table.

But it is to this cottage, for better than half a century, the Smith family has come. The first Smiths grew old coming to this house with their children, who in turn grew old bringing theirs. Now, the children I grew up with are bringing their children, and we are the generation growing old.

For almost six decades, every school vacation, every holiday, every summer, the Smith family has left their home and trekked north to the "Stowe house." A five hour trip in bad weather. A little less in good. They've come with pregnant wives, and infants in car seats. They've come with teenagers, who turned into responsible citizens and now bring their children. They've driven up grandparents weak with illness so they could sit on the porch that one last time.

Not much has changed on the hill in this half a century. It is we who have changed, one generation yielding to another. The Cohens, Stanley Mansfield, Louise Smith, Katherine Morrison have left the hill, as we, one day, will leave it.

When Mr. Smith bought the property, four generations ago, he planted daffodils for his bride. Now thousands of daffodils pop up around the Smith place. Long ago they escaped the confines of the Smith's small yard. They charged across the field and into our lawn. They've leapt the road to colonize the Cohen place. The Smith legacy is a riot of daffodils cascading across Luce Hill every spring.

It's just a little cottage, on a sliver of land. But the Smiths have held it from one generation to the next, through splintered marriages, jobs lost and gained, the pressures of educating their children; they have held this bit of ground. Win's teenage daughter Katherine and his young son made the trip with their father, to bear witness before the selectmen, if they could, for the next generation of Smiths. To tell them that a summer home is a little lumber, a little glass, and a kitchen too small, which holds families and neighbors together across time, generations, and distance.

"..indivisible, with liberty and justice..." we'd chant in our little voices, squinting up at the breaking dawn, while one lucky child pulled the flag up and Mr. Cohen stood with his hand over his heart. Rest in peace, old man. Your house is fallen, your gardens gone to ruin, but in our hearts your flag still flies, and we still stand on sacred ground.



Stories From a Vermont Life:

Camilla Blue
Frozen Gifts
Making Wreaths
The Fourth of July

The Farm at Morrison Corner raises Icelandic Sheep on the last hill farm in Mansfield, VT.  Learn about Raising Icelandic Sheep, Raising Chickens, Moving to Vermont and Living in Vermont on this and our other sites.

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