Friday, December 14, 2007

Christmas in Vermont

According to old custom, newcomers to Vermont are called “flatlanders.” Because our family recently moved here from Montana, where the elevation of many riverbanks is a good deal higher than the peak of Mount Mansfield, I consider that a peculiar term. But, since I’m undeniably an outsider, I’ll save that discussion for another day.

This is not our first attempt to set up house here. In 1988, a few months before we left New England for the second time, we scanned the real estate ads with eager eyes, looking for anything within 30 miles of Woodstock that might prove affordable on a teacher’s salary.

As you might expect, we didn’t have much luck, although one enterprising agent did show us a derelict farmhouse with running water in the cellar. It was more of a brook, actually, and made a pleasant sound as it burbled through the foundation stones.

I was tempted by the prospect of flyfishing from the basement steps, but we couldn’t manage the mortgage. Even then, average property values near Woodstock were unrelated to average income.

Not that the place wouldn’t have made a good investment property. Although you can’t eat the scenery, there are plenty of folks willing to pay for it. By 2005, Woodstock’s median home value was $335,800, nearly twice the figure for Vermont as a state.

What do these residents get for their money? In December, it's the annual Wassail Parade: a cable-ready spectacle of horses, costumes, and costumed horses, in sizes from barndoor to wee beastie.

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