Commentator Martha Molnar is a recent transplant to Vermont who
learned some interesting things about Vermonters at her Town-wide yard
sale this summer.
(Molnar) The annual
town-wide yard sale offers ample opportunities for finding bargains,
admiring babies, peeking at people’s gardens, and for newcomers like us,
for meeting neighbors.
It makes for easy first conversations, since most of the items for sale come with entertaining stories.
embroidery hoop I bought last year? I never have and never will
embroider, but it had been used by a neighbor’s grandmother to monogram
her trousseau! And even though we have a built-in bread drawer, I
couldn’t pass up a fine mid-century-modern breadbox with a storied past.
This year, we manned a table in front of the Castleton library.
My husband, Ted, had decided the library was a good cause, and agreed
to get rid of the ancient, made-in-India dental tool samples that had
moved with us across state lines.
"Why would anyone need dental
tools?" I asked. "Why do people buy anything?" he answered. "It’s not
because they NEED anything."
I couldn’t argue with that, given
the embroidery hoop and bread box sitting in the garage. And he was so
right. By lunchtime we had sold out of almost every tool – more than 300
of them at a dollar a piece.
But most astonishing was the
widespread, universal interest they inspired. People claimed they needed
the pliers, tweezers, clamps and picks for all kinds of uses – like
grabbing yarn through the underside of hooked rugs, lifting worms for
fishhooks, grasping pieces for miniature cars and cleaning windshield
washer nozzles, or picking away at bits of glue and residue.
Some people bought half a dozen, convinced they would find a use for each. And they will too.
Vermonters’ famous can-do attitude, self reliance, patience and Yankee
ingenuity there’s no doubt those old dental tools will see hundreds of
uses their manufacturer never imagined. A generation from now they will
be sold at some other yard sale, and some enterprising Vermonter in 2050
will marvel at these strange antique tools and speculate on their uses
in bygone times.
After all, Vermonters have long been known for
their ingenuity and inventiveness. It seems our small scale and harsh
climate have always demanded the ability to adapt creatively. Every day,
I see it in our neighbors’ and merchants’ admirable ability to mend or
fix or make anything in the most economical way.
is their cheerful attitude toward these puzzling projects that offer
little monetary reward. Each is a test of imagination that Vermonters
pass with flying colors. And that’s encouraging, because our future
depends on our ability to adapt to a changing earth.
ingeniousness on display at that one table in that one town gives me
faith in Vermont as a center for innovation, an incubator for new social
experiments and paths to economic development.
The hundreds of
dollars folks spent on clumsy dental tools paid for reupholstering the
beloved reading chairs in the library. And with that kind of attitude,
anything is possible.