Originally Published: 10/10/2011
Photo Source: Library of Congress
The day was warm for fair season, but the breeze carried a heady mix of fried dough, cotton candy and the last swirls of the morning wood smoke. The speakers played “The Anniversary Waltz” and “(I’ll Be With You) In Apple Blossom Time”, mixing with the sounds of bells clanging, cows snorting and auctioneers calling. Roland Heath and his grandson Jack were taking it all in from the top of the Ferris wheel.
“See all them trees turning all them pretty colors out there, boy?” Roland said to Jack, spreading his hands in an arc. “A lot of them was just saplings when Ethan Allen and his boys was protecting this area from New York and the British. But they was there in the ground, a hundred and fifty years ago, just like they are now. What do you think about that?”
Jack, awed at being so high off the ground with such a view of the world, and as always awed by the strong presence of his grandfather, just smiled and stared out at the faraway hills. He had learned about Ethan Allen and his battles for the Vermont Republic in school. Jack imagined battles between the Green Mountain Boys and the British with their red coats on the hills, with big guns and cannons going off. And to think that they may have fought on those same hills by the same trees! Gee!
“Tell me more about Ethan Allen, Grandpa!” Jack yelped, unable to contain his excitement.
“Well, ain’t you a curious fella!” Roland exclaimed, patting his grandson on the knee and lighting a cigar as the Ferris wheel spun. “It all started when New York thought they owned some Vermont land and Ethan Allan thought they didn’t. He and his boys showed them New Yorkers a little what for! They also captured Fort Ticonderoga, so he want just a Vermont hero, he was an American hero.”
“What’s Fort…Ticonoga?” Jack asked.
Roland chuckled. “Ticonderoga! It’s in New York, just over the lake over there. The British ran it, and it was an important fort for them. But they lost it to Ethan Allan!”
The Ferris wheel was at the top again. Jack just kept staring out at the far hills and the rolling farmland, imagining long ago wars and the Green Mountain Boys fighting for Vermont, and wishing his grandfather would keep telling tales all day. He thought about being a soldier when he grew up, and he thought about being someone who knew about trees and how they turned color and all. Mostly he thought about growing up to be like his grandfather; strong and smart and gentle.
They got off the wheel, got bottles of Coca-Cola and cones of vanilla Fro-Joy and wandered over to the grandstand where the cows were being auctioned off. They sat on a bench, feet in the sawdust, and made the most of their day at the fair, in their own time.