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Mountains That Were As High As The Himalayas
A Bit about the Book by Janine Weins

In February, Wilcot Harrington and his wife Hortence purchased the Walter's property just up the road from Elwood and Agnolia. Agnolia, who had not had an occasion to meet her new neighbors, was delighted to receive an invitation from the Harringtons for dinner Saturday evening.

Saturday's dinner party started in the living room with cheese, crackers and some locally brewed hard cider. After a discussion about how wet April had been there was a pause in the conversation. Elwood, not certain what topics would be of interest to his new neighbors, turned his attention to a large book on the coffee table and said, "That book, Hands on the Land, A History of the Vermont Landscape looks interesting."

It was immediately obvious Elwood had found a topic of interest to Wilcot. Picking up the book, Wilcot said, "I have always been interested in how people and the landscape interact. The author has done some fine research. The book starts with a very interesting discussion of the geology of Vermont."

Handing the book to Elwood, Wilcot said, I didn't realize the Green Mountains were once as high as the Himalayas, and that before Vermont was settled nearly a third of the trees were Beeches, now less than 5% of the trees are Beeches and about a quarter are Maples.

Elwood, who had been looking at the book while Wilcot talked about the height of the mountains and the distribution of tree species, looked up and said, "This bar chart on page 60 is interesting. It shows what native Americans ate. I'm surprise they ate Venison from October until March, but only ate Moose in February and March. I wonder why they didn't eat Bear in December. Their corn must have kept well if they could eat maize from August until the next April."

While Elwood flipped through the pages Wilcot said, "I think the most interesting parts of the book are the chapters that discuss how Vermont has been changed by 'hands on the land.' The native Americans 'cleared great tracts of trees through burning.' The earlier settlers "engaged in trapping, lumbering and mining" all of which had the potential 'to cause great environmental harm' and the settlers hoped bring them 'fast profits.' The 20th century saw many changes including the building of interstate highways and ski areas."

In the Introduction the author describes Tunbridge as the "perfect Vermont village." On the last page the author reminds us that much as Vermont has changed Vermont still has villages that "have their greens, and white-steepled churches, and general stores --the institutions of community--all ringed by open fields."

Jan Albers

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