Vermont is one of the most “walking friendly” states in the nation, with all sorts of “Yield to Pedestrian” signs about, including in Burlington, Vermont’s biggest city and where we headed next. With people everywhere on the street early this evening and the outdoor cafe tables full, we couldn’t help but think: “Bullhorn Country.” So we got out our $3 garage sale bullhorn, and in the tradition of the old-time campaigns, drove about the downtown slowly and told anybody within earshot (range of about 100 ft.): “VOTE JOE, HE’S THE WAY TO GO!” About the third pass through town, we came across a swank cafe, with outside tables filled primarily with couples. Couples all lost in conversation. That is, they were lost in conversation until the street light adjacent to them turned red and I trained the bull horn toward them: “VOTE JOE…” was all I could get out as people at each respective table jumped, upsetting water glasses and the like. (Our six-year-old Joseph had apparently turned up the volume on the bullhorn before handing it to me.) And there went a few votes…
We toured the National Morgan Horse Museum in Shelburne, VT today and archivist Kathy Furr told me the Morgan, which was the first horse bred in America, was yesteryear’s version of “today’s SUV’s”. That is, they were fast, could plow a field, pull a wagon… I told the Shelburne News that our agricultural platform calls for a return to the small family farm, the use of these types of horses again (like they do in the Amish communities) in tandem with, say, some “low tech,” small solar powered tractors and the like. One of the reasons for this is because the bigger, and more “high tech,” tractors, super-combines, and the like… have opened the door for corporate farming in a big way — pushing the small farmer off the land.
We met with Fr. Jim Noonan in Shelburne, Vermont today. He grew up in Shelburne, but is now a Mary Knoll missionary in Cambodia. He said in Cambodia 50% of the children are illiterate, and 50% are also malnourished. What’s more, the per capita annual income is a mere $300 there. And many of the children in Cambodia, as is true throughout the Third World, die of what are now considered “prevenatble diseases,” said Fr. Noonan. Fr. Noonan said it’s hard to say we live in a “civilized time” when a majority of the people in developed Western countries carry on with their lifestyles, spend billions on defense, and so on… while these little children are dying by the scores elsewhere.
We met with Fr. Gerard Leclerc in Vergennes, Vermont today. Fr. Leclerc was a priest in Bolivia for 20 years and said except for Haiti, Bolivia is, peerhpas, the poorest country in the world. His parish was on the Alti Plano, some 12,300 feet in elevation and where kids were hungry and barefoot, while their parents worked exceedingly long hours for excruciatingly low pay in the mines. And what’s more, the air in the mines is laced with toxic sulphuric and choleric acids. I told the Addison Independent newspaper here that if Americans, at almost any socio-economic level, would cut back some on heating, cooling (We actually used to live without air conditioning. Remember?), driving, junk food… what a tremendous pool of money, and other help, we could generate for the poor in Bolivia, and elsewhere. Note: We’ve been in I can’t tell ya’ how many towns in America, and today was a first. The backs of town city limits signs will frequently say things like: “Come Back Soon!”; or, “Thanks For Visiting!”; or… The back of Vergennes town limits sign simply says: “Farewell”.
‘The British were coming’… and they were met by the “Green Mountain Boys,” and others in the Colonial troops, at the hills of Humbardton, Vermont on July 7, 1777. It was the only battle of the American Revolution to be fought totally on Vermont soil. According to literature at the National Historic Site here, the Colonists gave the British “startling exposure to American courage in battle.” We arrived here a week after the annual reenactment of a battle that claimed 580 casualties, 27% of those who fought on both sides. And though we missed the reenactment, looking out over the expansive battlefield today, it was as if you could still almost hear the pitched musket fire of yesteryear.
We stopped in the small town of Whitehall, New York. This was the birthplace of the U.S. Navy. In 1776, Congress ordered the construction of a fleet of ships here to counter an anticipated British invasion. It came. And on Oct. 11, 1776, 12 American ships sailed foward to take on a formidable British Armada. The Americans, according to accounts, fought valiantly — under the direction of, none other than, Commander Benedict Arnold. And even though the Americans “lost,” with most of their ships being crippled or destroyed altogether, the battle forced a delay in the rest of the British invasion, which, ultimately, gave the Colonial forces more time to prepare. And the rest, as they say, is history… What history doesn’t say, at least much, I told editor Pat Ripley of the Whitehall newspaper here is that that the fleet of First Navy boats that would be launched for “freedom’s sake,” were built in part, ironically enough, by slaves. I learned this, and many other things, at a museum here dedicated to those early Navy days.
We got to Utica, New York just in time to watch the “Boilermaker,” the largest 15K (9.3 mile) road race in the country — some 10,000 runners participated today. My son Joseph and I watched most of those runners go by, including two guys dressed like the “Blues Brothers” in sun glasses, suits, ties… and boy were they sweating. These guys were followed closely by a woman wearing a rather loud pink flamingo hat, with the neck and head duly flopping about. And chugging along behind her, at a pace that can best be described as “average,” was a guy who had a t-shirt that said: “Gary: age 58.” Being ‘average,’ and all, Joseph and I cheered particularly loud for him… We then stopped at the Shrine of Kateri Tekakwitha in Fonda, New York. She is one step from becoming a “saint” in the Catholic Church. Of the Mohawk Tribe, she had suffered much persecution because of her Christian faith in the mid-1660s. She also had a quite noted love of God’s creation. So much so, she is often referred to as a patroness for the environment. And it is the environment that many are out of touch with these days I told an agricultural reporter for the nearby The Amsterdam Recorder later this afternoon. I said often the closest many get to nature anymore “…is watching the Weather Channel.”
We stopped at the Harriet Tubman Home in Auburn, New York. Ms. Tubman, interestingly enough, was one of my wife Liz’s childhood heroes growing up in New Zealand. Ms. Tubman escaped from slavery in 1849 from the Eastern Shore of Maryland, then made 19 perilous trips South to help free some 300 other slaves from the “Jaws of Hell.” A reward of $40,000 was offered for her capture. Liz got a t-shirt here with what Ms. Tubman would frequently say to those she was helping on the trip up North: “Children, if you are tired, keep going; if you are scared, keep going; if you are hungry, keep going; if you want to taste freedom, keep going.”
We headed east stopping at the Women’s Rights National Historical Park in Seneca Falls, New York. It was here in 1848 that the first Women’s Rights Convention in U.S. history was held. Some of the issues included the right to vote, property rights, equal education… The National Woman’s Hall of Fame walls here display all kinds of women instrumental in bringing about some of this change: Dorothy Day, a famous Catholic activist, Bessie Coleman (first African American woman pilot — get her license two years before Amelia Aerhart), Sojourner Truth, a nationally reknowned traveling preacher… Amy Worth, a staff member at the Women’s Hall of Fame, said people come year round from all over the world to visit here.
We headed into the near west side of Buffalo where we met with an absolutely fascinating doctor, Myron Glick. He has started a Family Practice here called Jericho Road. And he treats everyone, insurance or no insurance (using a minimal sliding fee scale). This general area is the home for refugee families from all over the world, and Dr. Glick estimates he’s treated patients from at least 50 countries. He said what drives him is his faith. And that faith (he’s Christian) he believes would say, “…that every person has a right to quality health care.” Dr. Glick is pushing for a National Health Care System. And in the interum, he’s looking to help start a similar practice in Buffalo’s near east side. After meeting with Dr. Glick, I told a reporter from the Western New York Catholic newspaper that Dr. Glick is demonstrating a good example of the spirit of the Catholic Church’s teachings on bringing more social justice to the world.