Can you ever go home? We probably all think about our childhood homes and in our mental image pictures, they look different than what they are in reality. Below is a Google Earth image of my old neighborhood of West Pawlet, Vermont. Now if you where the Rt 153 marker is, the house that is at 7:00 from that spot was where I spent my first 8 years.
When I was five years old, they sent me off to kindergarten. The school bus used to pick me up on the corner, right exactly where it where 29 is marked. It was a quarter mile (I just measured it out) to the bus. My mother wanted to walk me to the bus but I was a big boy [five] and I really didn’t need to be walked to the bus. It was hard on her, but every day I took the walk and made the bus. In the afternoon, I made it home.
So in my mental image picture, there was a big hill in the road. The top of it would be where Nelson Terrace meets 153. Down at the center of town (where 29 is marked) my buddies and I used to stand on the corner and get the railroad engineer to blow his horn as he went by. Back in that day the Delaware and Hudson railroad used to operate on the tracks.
Down at the bottom of the map are the Durock Corporation’s buildings. I had no idea what they did, we just knew it as “Durock”.
Now I’m not going to burden you with all of the memories and details of living there. I just remember that I had a “huge” front yard, my neighbor’s retaining wall was “monstrously tall” and we were not allowed to walk on the railroad tracks. And running along the tracks behind the house was the Indian River. In my mind, it was as wide as the Hudson.
So fast forward 46 years and the Delaware and Hudson is not operating on the tracks. The tracks have been converted to bicycle/hiking trail. And since my mother and father were not around, I decided that I was going to do the forbidden act and walk along the tracks!
I parked my car across the street from where Dutchies store was a located. (Tragically, Dutchies burned down in 2011.) A quick look over my shoulder to make sure that the “coast was clear” I started to walk down the road bed. (It’s funny after so many years I had the feeling that I was going to get paddled for walking on the tracks! Ha! But I got over it real fast. I’m a big boy [50+] now.)
I walked across the railroad bridge and the woods engulfed the railroad bed which was transformed into an excellent gravel bike path. It must have been a great ride for the train engineer to go through such a beautiful place. All of my familiar land marks were out of view so I just kept walking. After a short while, I arrived at another bridge crossing the Indian River (which should have been named Indian Brook, hardly the might river that I remembered), which confused me because by my five-year-old’s estimation, I had a long way to go before I crossed the bridge behind my house. Then I found my self at Durock, which is now empty and up for sale.
Walking down the street, the neighbor’s retaining wall is barely up to my knees, the massive front yard is really a 20 foot setback, that huge spruce tree behind us in the photo above is long gone. The hill on the way to the center of the village is little more than a speed bump. I didn’t take any pictures. After all, it would be an intrusion to have a stranger pointing cameras at houses. But it’s okay. With all of the changes, much remained the same. It was fun walking on the tracks without getting into trouble, kind of like a dream come true.
Now that I have got my front teeth [still], I look back on those years as different times. Today I drive to work and see school kids in SUVs at the end of the driveways waiting for the school bus. All of us kids used to walk to a common spot to pic up the bus. It didn’t kill us and I remember it being so cold that the hair would freeze in my nostrils. We had one car and dad drove it to work in the morning. It was our responsibility to catch the bus.
Since none of the pictures above are my own, I thought I’d put a couple of snaps I took of the Delaware and Hudson Rail-Trail.
West Pawlet is on the New York Boarder. In this photo, my right foot was in West Pawlet and my left was in Granville, New York.