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I remember the day I first heard Vermont Public Radio tinkling against my eardrums. It was a prickly April morning, and the sky was an angry shade of dawn. I was driving to Wallingford to help grizzled old Mr. Wethersby shear sheep at Sniveling Pig Farm.
Suddenly, the compact disc player in my car conked out. It sputtered and shuddered and coughed and croaked and, finally, the music died. Of course, when you rely on modern electronics for your entertainment rather than on the labor of your own two hands, something is bound to go wrong. On this day, losing my music as my car zigged and zagged over the rolling, verdant hills was as traumatic as when Mother’s hens were eaten by a wily fox that prowled our homestead back when I was a pup.
Not sure what to do, I turned on the radio, expecting to hear the kestrel-like screech of a shock jock. Instead, the hushed, understated tones of Vermont Public Radio washed over my ears. It sounded like a dule of doves cooing in their rookery. So soothing! How could I not have known such soulful intonation and mastery of English phonemes existed at the northernmost end of my radio dial?
I listened as I traversed pine-choked wilderness and acres of radiant columbines, brilliant harebells and magnificent asters. The air was heavy with the fragrance of the morning dew shimmering on shoots of timothy.
Suddenly, my tires slipped on a pile of slick azure cornflowers that were most likely pushed into the road by a rascally opossum pawing the ground for grubs. My vehicle spun in circles. It reminded me of the time I rode the teacups at the Tinmouth town fair and threw up in Mother’s purse. Mother just laughed, brushed my hair out of my face and reminisced about the time Grandpappy drove the old Massey Ferguson tractor headlong into the gully after a long night of tippling at Jasper Smith’s barn.
Before I knew it, my car was skidding into a culvert filled with purple loose- strife. I thought it good in a way, as at least my mishap would draw someone’s attention to the presence of this unspeakably invasive species in Vermont. The smell of baked apples mysteriously wafted through the air as my car careened into the vibrantly heliotrope thicket.
When the world finally stopped spinning, we were upended, my car and I. Thankfully, my seatbelt, snug and firm as Mother’s starched apron, held me in place and prevented my ejection into the tentacled perennials.
After what seemed like hours of sitting in my topsy-turvy car wondering how I might get out of this pickle, a voice emitted from my speakers, and I knew everything would be all right.
It was the earth angel Jane Lindholm applying her vocal salve to my psychic wounds. Oh, what comfort Jane wrought with her mellifluous voice ringing through the vast and impenetrable silence of a flipped-over car lying in a bed of purple loosestrife! I could tell from her delivery that Jane was a woman after my own heart — sturdy, unflinching, her hair exuding the scent of victory. I knew Jane would get me out of this mess and, in no time, this tough old cookie would be back in her root cellar canning dilly beans and churning butter.
Luckily, my faith in dearest Jane was rewarded. The topic of “Vermont Edition” on this gloomy, rain-sodden day just happened to be accidents on Vermont back roads and what to do when you find yourself tits below ass in a loosestrife-smothered culvert. Calmly, Jane and her panel of experts walked listeners through the steps one should take when one is hanging upside down by one’s seatbelt.
As I listened to Jane guide me through my extrication, I saw a Blackburnian warbler land on my rearview mirror. Oh, what beneficent being could have orchestrated such blazing orange majesty?
Slowly, following Jane’s instructions, I unbuckled my seatbelt and dropped to the ceiling of the car. With the sap bucket that was stashed in the backseat, I broke the window and climbed from the vehicle, nary a scratch on my body. I grabbed my slicker and galoshes and headed down the gravel road to find a telephone.
I hated to leave Jane, but I knew on that day, a day as damp as a dog gone swimming in Lake Elmore, our friendship was cemented just like so many roads in Vermont. I would forever be a VPR listener. Just don’t try to ask me for any money, Robin Turnau. I’m all tapped out.
This is Lauren Ober in the Old North End of Burlington, and I’ve got to go fix the weathervane before I bring the cows in to milk.