Here's part of "Tricky Living," copyright by Russ Walter, first edition. For newer info, read the second edition at


Next to New Hampshire lies Vermont, which is a bunch of farmers manipulated by outsiders.

Even the name “Vermont” was invented by an outsider, Dr. Thomas Young of Pennsylvania, in 1777. Since the place was full of green mountains and a bunch of radicals called “Ethan Allen and the Green Mountain Boys” Dr. Young named it “Vermont,” which is archaic French for “Green Mountain.” Notice that he named it in French instead of English to make the place sound as high-falutin’ as a French restaurant.

“Ethan Allen and the Green Mountain Boys” tried to keep Vermont independent from the evil colonies of New York and New Hampshire, which wanted to capture it. Vermont stayed an independent republic until 1791, when it became the 14th state.

For a while, Vermont was full of dairy farms and had more cows than people. During the 1970’s, many hippies from New York moved to Vermont to get away from the city rat race and commune with nature. They tried to become farmers but discovered they were more successful at milking the tourists than the cows: many tourists visit Vermont in the fall to see the leaves turn color while the cows moo at the leaves.

Ben & Jerry

Ben and Jerry were a pair of New York Jewish hippies, both born in Brooklyn, 4 days apart. In 1977 they moved to Vermont, where they started a factory that turned Vermont milk into fattening ice-cream for hoity-toity New Yorkers, who felt less guilty about getting fat because Ben & Jerry gave them just tiny portions and donated part of the profits to liberal causes. In the year 2000, the company became secretly owned by Unilever, a Dutch-English conglomerate.

Howard Dean

Howard Dean was another left-of-center New York City kid who moved to Vermont and became a big shot there: he became governor. Then he quit and ran for President.

He met his wife while they were doing crossword puzzles in grad school. They’re both M.D.’s, but his wife says he eats too many doughnuts.

Farmer talk

Vermont farmers have an amazing gift of language. They talk in a slow drawl that’s very effective at deflating the egos of their natural enemies, such as bureaucrats, academicians, lost drivers, tourists, spendthrifts, New Hampshirites, and Texans.

Vermonter versus the bureaucrat This is a true tale. A Vermonter fell off the roof of a barn and died. The insurance company gave his family a death certificate to fill out. The certificate was long and complicated. At the bottom of the certificate was a space labeled “remarks.” For “remarks,” the family wrote, “He didn’t make none.”

Vermonter versus the academician A Vermonter riding a train struck up a conversation with the passenger next to him, who happened to be a Harvard professor. The Vermonter admired the Harvard professor’s brilliance, and the Harvard professor admired the Vermonter’s common sense.

The professor suggested a contest to see who could “stump” the other person. The person who couldn’t answer the question would have to pay 50¢.

“Okay,” said the Vermonter, “but since you’re so much smarter, I think it would be fairer for you to pay me a dollar.”

“Okay,” agreed the Harvard professor. “You go first.”

“Well,” said the Vermonter, “What has three legs and flies?”

“I give up,” said the Harvard professor. “Here’s your dollar. What’s the answer?”

“Darned if I know,” replied the Vermonter. “Here’s your fifty cents!”

Vermonter versus the lost driver Walter Piston (a famous Harvard music professor) was driving through Vermont, got to a fork in the road, and asked a Vermonter, “Does it make any difference which road I take?” The Vermonter replied, “Not to me, it doesn’t.”

Vermonter versus the tourist Many tourists visit Vermont in the summer. One of them told a Vermonter, “You have a lot of peculiar people around here.” The Vermonter replied, “Yep, but most are gone by mid-September.”

Vermonter versus the spendthrift Vermonters don’t like to spend money. Vermont legislators say, “When in doubt, vote no. Let’s not get something we don’t need and pay for it with money we don’t have.”

Vermonter versus the New Hampshirite Robert Frost wrote a long poem called New Hampshire, which proclaimed page after page of praise for New Hampshire’s beauty. But to understand the poem’s true meaning, you must read the last line, which says simply and proudly, “I live in Vermont.”

Vermonter versus the Texan A Vermonter was chatting with a Texan, whose drawling wisdom was no match for the Vermonter’s.

Texan:         What kind of farm ya got?

Vermonter:   Oh, I got a coupla acres.

Texan:         Why, why that’s a piddlin’ small farm. Why, where ah come
                    from, ah kin git in mah car and drive half a day, befo’ ah git ta
                    the end of mah farm!

Vermonter:   Yup, I had a car like that myself, once.

Recorded tales Those tales were collected by Al Foley, a Dartmouth College history professor who became a member of the Vermont legislature and president of the Vermont Historical Society. Hear him speak on a 33 RPM record called A Vermont Heritage.