The sleepy town of Arlington, Vermont: famous for inspiring Norman Rockwell’s work and for having some of the best trout fishing on the east coast, thanks to the Battenkill river that winds its way lazily through the quiet valley.
It’s home to a little over than 2,000 down-to-earth people who favor flannel over floral patterns. It was recently named the #1 small town in Vermont by http://www.onlyinyourstate.com. “Visitors love this town and the locals love the vibrant community spirit.” YES.
I have been connected to this town since I was a child. It’s the closest thing to heaven on earth for me and is the epitome of happiness. From the smell of the air to outdoor activities readily available in all seasons and all weather conditions to the friendly people, this place seems to bring out the good.
Which is why the horrible crime that took place last week has shaken this idyllic town and its community. It would rattle any town, but this sort of thing hasn’t happened in Arlington in over thirty years. A woman was brutally murdered in her home a mile away. The killer still hasn’t been caught. The presence of the local & state police and media vehicles outnumber the cars that usually drive on 7A at “rush hour.”
This sort of thing just doesn’t happen here. But it did. People are understandably on edge and guarded. In a town where I have felt so safe for so long, I now wake up to every little noise I hear and scan the dark woods for any movement. It sucks. Safety/security is one of my top cravings in life.
But in the midst of the chaos and fear, there are still moments where I’m reminded of how great the people of Arlington are. Like yesterday.
I hear a whistle. It’s 45* – a heat wave for these parts right now, and I’m enjoying a balmy day working in the garage with the door open. I pop my head out and see my neighbor up on the ridge.
“Need some grit?” She calls to me.
I glance at the gravel driveway that has been a solid sheet of ice for the past four weeks. “I’ve tried. I think this is as good as it gets for right now. I wouldn’t be surprised if Arlington moves the community skating rink up here.”
“Hey hon, go grab your shovel and some buckets. I’ll pick you up in a minute. There’s free grit in town to take care of that!”
I do as she says and soon we’re bouncing down the mountain in her pickup. We pull up to a mountain of grit near the hardware store. As we load five-pound buckets and she does it with ease, I feel like a soft flatlander for the first time in months. She sees me struggle and comes to assist me as I swallow my pride. Vermonters are tough.
I expect her to drop me and the grit off in the driveway when we get back up the mountain. Without a word, she starts to pull buckets off the bed of the truck and spread the grit. I expect her to keep half for her driveway, but she doesn’t stop until we have covered the entire driveway with all of the grit, except a bucket that she places by my walkway for the next storm. She nonchalantly tells me to get more buckets from her shed whenever I need them and drives off.
My eyes well up.
THIS is Arlington: The town where a neighbor doesn’t think twice about spending time and energy to teach a greenhorn the ropes and offer a helping hand. Where the same neighbor, concerned a few snow storms ago that I was stranded, plowed the driveway to make sure I could get out if I needed to. Where an 84-year old man will call from 3/4 of a mile away to make sure I still have heat up on the mountain and to check to see if I’m ok. Where another neighbor will bring up the mail to me. Where a local friend who relocated to Myrtle Beach still calls to warn me about the weather forecast and to make sure I’m safe. Where you will typically see one or more of Norman Rockwell’s models, now in their golden years, at any local event.
Given the recent events, it’s only fitting to publicly release one of my pride and joy pieces, inspired by a fellow Vermonter, adapted by another carpenter, refined by a chef, and then built by me. It’s a community piece. (It takes a village…) “The Redneck Butler” debuted this past summer at Green Mountain and Adirondack shows. It proved to be a great conversation piece and one of my best-selling items. Who would have known.
So what exactly is “The Redneck Butler”? Why, it’s your universal bar tool! An all-in-one opener. Wine corkscrew, bottle cap opener, and foil cutter all wrapped up in one rustic little crazy package. This durable piece will outlast all of your other bottle openers. Great for camping, hunting camps, porches, or as an ice breaker when everyone is congregating in your kitchen and you aren’t sure what to say.
Go ahead. Leave it outdoors all year long – it doesn’t matter! It’ll still do its job. That’s what matters. Built from the outdoors for the outdoors.
There are three versions available:
“The Redneck Butler” – made from reclaimed Arlington trees (corkscrew, bottle opener, and foil cutter):
“The Baby Butler” – a smaller version (corkscrew and bottle opener with a magnet so you don’t drop those caps in the mud) available in…drum roll…hand-painted CAMO! Naturally.
(Complete with a redneck mani, courtesy of staining today. One of these days I’ll wear gloves.)
“The Bourgie Butler” – yep, the “high end” version of the classic redneck for all of you classy-er peeps out there. (My classy BiL gave me a look when I told him this was the high end version when I broke this out to use at Christmas.)
Available in black or natural (and by natural, I mean natural – like naturally weathered from whatever the umbrella handle that served as the medium for this went through. Reclaimed wood creations, people. It may not look bourgie, but did you see its cousin? ‘Nuff said.)
All of the wood is reclaimed. All of the hardware is…well, hardware. From the hardware store.
And they all come with a “corkscrew protector” so you don’t impale yourself. You’ll thank me if you are the type of person who keeps one of these in your purse or vehicle. You never know when you’ll have an impromptu picnic or decide to go camping last minute and you need a Butler. Or if you go tubing/kayaking. (If you’ve seen the Battenkill in the summer, you’d understand.) Butlers float!
As we are hit repeatedly by negative things that try to steal our happiness, remember that there is still good in the world. A “vibrant community spirit” perhaps in your town. Kind people willing to put you before themselves and risk throwing out their backs for a couple buckets of grit so you don’t break an ankle. Friends that stand by your side 1,000 miles away. And wonky, little gadgets that make opening a beverage just a little bit easier.
Choose joy, my friends.
Shipping is available nationwide!
“The Baby Butler”: $12 (+ shipping)
“The Redneck Butler”: $19 (+ shipping)
“The Bourgie Butler”: $19 (+ shipping)