The Understory

August 9, 2008 by Ellen Stimson in Firefighters, Rain, Vermont. New England

These rains just keep coming. There are sunny breaks but they are just that, moments when the sun breaks through before the storms blow back and take over the skies, the roads, and our mountains. A quiet walk through our mountain woods tell the tale. The understory of our wooded trails are plants gone wild. The paths have winding curling vines creeping, crawling, and climbing up the sides of the trees, and covering the paths of these soft cushy piney woods. The smell of pine, always strong in these Green Mountains, is especially heady during these wet days.

The Rupert Carnival was tonight. It is the first of a string of late summer then autumn festivals. All the little towns come out. We raise money for our volunteer firefighters with vinegary French fries and maple shakes. The kids run wild playing games of chance and winning poppers and silly kazoos. There is always a honky tonk band. The names change but the sounds are the same from town to town. And every evening ends with a plate of maple and cinnamon drenched funnel cakes. Tonight the rains kept us all huddling under the big tents. We still sucked up the bad for you but delicious foods that the local ladies turned out in spite of the thunder and lightening over head. The sluice of water flowed in rivulets through the tents. We slid and squeaked and added sweat shirts as we shivered.

But the firefighters were all there. So we were too. Because they always are. In a mountain town where the nearest hospital is about forty five minutes away these guys give the words ‘first responders’ a whole new meaning. You call 911 and before you get the phone hung up all your local volunteer firefighters are pulling up your road. They come from your town and the one just over. Whoever thinks they are close, comes. There are a few who know how to treat a burn, and others who specialize in heart attacks. These are the guys who put out fires and carry a chain saw in the back of their trucks for clearing our roads after a storm. These men and women are there for us, and for a few summer nights every year, rain or shine we get to be there for them too. They are the understory on the town side of the woods. They keep us safe. And these humble little carnivals are a celebration in honor of them. Tonight, soaking wet and shivering, we thank them with funnel cakes and maple shakes. We literally couldn’t live without them…..


  • Anonymous

    Great tribute to the heroes! Hey, I never had or heard of a ‘maple shake’, but it sounds delicious!! We also don’t put maple on our funnele cakes here in Iowa. I never knew we were so deprived! GB 🙂

  • Jennifer

    The true definition of community.

  • maggie

    understory…what a great word. i may just steal it

  • beesknees

    Maple shakes sound yummy. We have fried cheese in WI

  • painted maypole

    true heroes, indeed
    (and all that food… yum….)

  • library lady

    I don’t know if you heard about it, but the St. Louis area is still reeling from the killing of one of our first responders–a young fireman from Maplewood, who was shot as he attempted to put out a vehicle fire that eventually caused the killer’s house to burn to the ground. There is a special place in the universe for those firefighters whose only goals and motives are to save people and do good. God bless them.

  • Anonymous

    God bless em’ all

  • TheCynicalOptimist

    I just got some measly caramel sauce on my funnel cake at the Iowa State Fair. Bummer…

    Great tribute!

  • Anonymous

    We’ve got Festival of Nations in a couple of weeks and that’s always great for so much food and much fun (providing we keep this great weather). And I was surprisingly and perhaps too vocally proud of our little berg having its own iteration of World Naked Bike Ride … Made me pretty proud of our often stodgy town.


    p.s. and everyone was very grateful that my bike had already been stolen… 🙂

  • Nellie

    They are wonderful and they look really cute in those uniforms besides…

    Leave a Comment

    Your email is never shared.
    Required fields are marked *