Loving Vermont

It is one of those classic images that we Europeans treasure about America. It sums up the wonder of Autumn or Fall, as the Americans call it with admirable lack of poetry. Well, that is much too harsh, Fall does always makes me think of falling leaves but Fall is at its best before fall, if you see what I mean.

I have been thinking about Vermont a lot recently and, whatever else you may say about it, it sure does a great Fall with all those Sugar Maple Trees with their multi-coloured leaves which, apparently, are particularly magnificent in Vermont because of the soil rather than the trees but, Vermont also has a heck of a lot of trees too.

In fact 77 % of this, the second smallest state (after Rhode Island but that is tiny) in the United States, is forested. The rest, I am told is swamp…woops, sorry, I was joking. There are a lot of lakes and puddles though. With America’s smallest largest city, Burlington and smallest capital city, Montpelier. How wonderful for an American state to celebrate having the smallest biggest anything – I admire their confidence.

I have never been to Vermont but it must be a wonderful place to spend an Autumn Break….Fall Break has other connotations in East-of-the-Atlantic English.

All those Sugar Maple Trees produce maple syrup, of course and that too is one of my early images of the USA. On my first morning in the States, I was sitting in a hotel restuarant in downtown San Francisco and had my very first pancake with maple syrup for breakfast. I was told, with a fair amount of American pride, that this particular syrup was called Vermont Fancy. It was, and is, wonderful. Vermont is the country’s largest Maple Syrup manufacturer, a tradition that goes back to the Algonguin Native Americans who first learnt how to tap the sap from these beautiful trees.

So thanks Vermont for your beauty and your syrup. Thanks also for being the first American state to abolish slavery in your constitution and to supply during the American Civil War a very handy sugar replacement when sugar cane farming was part of the slave trade.

Thank you also for being a major manufacturer of one of my other favourite things – the teddy bear.

Vermont has the second lowest population in the USA, 621,270 and the second lowest birthrate but the population is growing elsewhere with dramatic results. Every year, the Vermont Teddy Bear Company creates 500,000 teddy bears…soon they will swamp human inhabitants by a very large margin. I cannot think of living anywhere better than a land flowing with teddies and syrup.

Vermont teddies are also very, very cute and I want one now – especially one of the Star Trek series.

No one is perfect though, not even the Vermont Teddy Bear Company. On Valentine’s Day in 2005, they unveiled the “Crazy For You Bear” who was trussed up in a straightjacket and sold complete with certification documents. It caused an uproar amongst mental health professionals and after it was sold out, no more were produced. Now, of course, they are highly sort after by collectors.

As a Recovering Brain Injury Survivor, I can see why anyone who has suffered from mental illness might take offence. There is still a lot of stigma attached to mental health and a bit of sympathetic understanding would make a lot of lives less difficult. It is careless language I suppose to say “I am crazy about you” but I think it is a shame if such a descriptive and romantic phrase has to be out-lawed. “Take These Chains From My Heart” could be banned too if we look too closely into some of the darker uses of chains.

So, it is probably a good thing that the Vermont straightjacket teddy has become a limited edition, you can still find them on eBay if you want one, but the Anti-Vermont Teddy people who came up with this next image, took things much too far. I am all for releasing teddy from his bondage but decapitation is just plain wrong. Vermont really does disapprove of capital punishment – it is a beautiful, sweet-tasting and kind-hearted place.

No, let’s not take it out on Teddy – my only gripe about Vermont is that, still, it is the only state in the USA that has no wolfiewolfgang readers. Come on citizens, we are made for each other. I love forests, syrup and bears and I am the smallest big wolf in Britain.

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