There is a beginning with everything. So far as this book is concerned, annual driving trips through Central Vermont are responsible. They were great events, planned months in advance. With a three-seated carriage and a stocky span good for thirty miles a day and only spirited if they met one of those new contraptions aglitter with polished brass gadgets, that fed on gasoline instead of honest cracked corn and oats, we took to the road. A newspaper man, vacation-free from Broadway first nights and operas sung by Melba, Sembrich, and the Brothers de Reszke, was showing his city-bred children his native hills and introducing them to the beauties of a world alien to asphalt pavements and brownstone fronts.
It was leisurely travel. When the road was unusually steep, to spare the horses, we walked. If Mother’s eagle eye spotted a four-leaf clover, we stopped and picked it. If a bend in the road brought a pleasing prospect into view, the horses could be certain of ten minutes for cropping roadside grass. Most of all, no farmhouse nestling beneath wide-spread maples or elms went without careful consideration of Father’s constant daydream, a home in the country.
These driving trips often included overnight stops with relatives living in villages undisturbed by the screech and thunder of freight and way trains, or with others living on picturesque old farms. Afterward there was always lively conversation concerning the possibilities of Cousin This or That’s home as a country place. This reached fever heat after visits to Great Aunt Laura who lived in a roomy old house painted white with green blinds in a town bordering on Lake Champlain. A pair of horse-chestnut trees flanked the walk to the front door,—a portal unopened save for weddings, funerals, and the minister’s yearly call.
From here could be seen the sweep of the main range of the Green Mountains. The kitchen doorway afforded a view of Mount Marcy and the Adirondacks never to be forgotten. It was the ancestral home with all the proper attributes, horse barn, woodshed, tool houses, and a large hay barn. Father’s dream for forty years was to recapture it and settle down to the cultivation of rustic essays instead of its unyielding clay soil. However, he was first and last a newspaper man and his practical side told him that Shoreham was too far from Broadway. So it remained a dream.
His city-born and bred son inherited the insidious idea. Four years in a country college augmented it and, as time went on, the rumble of trucks and blare of neighboring radios turned a formerly quiet street on Brooklyn Heights into a bedlam and brought matters to a head. Great Aunt Laura’s place was still too far away but explorers returning from ventures into the far reaches of Westchester County, and western Connecticut, had brought back tales of pleasantly isolated farmhouses with rolling acres well dotted with trees and stone fences. Here, thanks to the automobile and commuting trains, was the solution. A country place near enough to the city, so that the owner could have his cake and eat it, too.