News from Vermont #268 - Charting a Course of his Own

August 8th, 2012


Hello again Maple People,
I'm quite partial to the "youngest in the family" being one myself. Looking back at my youth, I remember a stark overage of tasks like taking out the garbage, feeding the calves, and mowing the lawn...ask any of my siblings and they will no doubt disagree but of course I'm right (cockiness is another mark of the "youngest"...survival, you know). This brings me to thoughts of a fellow "youngest", a guy by the name of Brian Pagel.
    My youngest taking care of the cows.
My first introduction to Brian was back when my oldest son Rob was a seventh grader. At that time, Betsy and I were a bit concerned because Rob had suddenly "molted" his giggly youth and taken on a "serious" armor. Day after day he'd come home from school to study and practice his horn but there never seemed to be room for levity anymore. There was just one exception: when he described a certain kid in his class, he just could not contain himself. "Mom, this kid is Buddha-like!" he'd say. "He's always smiling and he wants to work at Morse Farm.". Rob's brief enthusiasm would always end in contagious laughter about this unusual kid who most of us had never seen.
Rob brought Brian home one snowy day in December and Betsy, our youngest son Tommy, and I couldn't wait to meet him. Our eyes followed them getting off the bus and walking up our long driveway. When they came into the house, Rob introduced Brian, a big boy with a huge smile. "Hoi" his smile timidly said in a very Vermont twang. For Betsy, it was love at first sight; she ruffled his hair like she would have a cute puppy and said our house was his house. In no time he was in our refrigerator making scads of cold meat and milk disappear.
Brian came from a wonderful family in Putnamville, Vermont. Healthy activities surrounded the Pagel homestead, maple sugaring in the spring, luscious gardens in the summer, fall duck hunting, and snowshoeing to the hinterlands by winter. On the surface, this young man had it made but there are always familial quirks of being the youngest, like the garbage and the calves and the mowing were for me. Brian Pagel craved "structure", structure like the two Morse boys were getting five miles away in East Montpelier.
Betsy Morse's "mom" style was to prod her boys toward doing their best and that prodding, although packed with love, often went against their grain! Brian, on the other hand, craved being prodded. He started working at Morse Farm the summer after we met him. Most days he'd ride his bicycle over the five miles of gravel roads between Putnamville and Morse Farm and usually be here before the rest of us got started! He and the Morse Boys worked hard and well together and whenever Brian got a break, his "craving" would lead him on a specific mission to our house. "Betsy, would you drill me on world capitals (or Latin names, or Russian literature) today?" he'd ask. Betsy'd always stop what she was doing and settle in with Brian; it was never a chore but more, a perfect symbiosis.
For the years until high school graduation, Brian was like our third son only in our house, he played the role of "oldest" and family jokester. One time I overheard him say, "I know why Betsy doesn't have any comfortable chairs here...she doesn't want anyone to sit down, relax, and watch TV .". Along with graduating near the top of his class, he became an Eagle Scout. After graduation he went on to college and also "spread his wings" to Australia and Germany for a few years. He became fluent in German but more importantly, fluent with life.
Brian recently drove up our same long driveway to visit us from Portland, Oregon where he has made a life for ten years now as a "numbers" guy. We wondered if that smile was still intact but the minute the car doors opened, we knew the same.
      Brian and his family.
Betsy recently referred to Brian as a true autodidact. I said "auto-what?" and immediately went to look it up. An autodidact, I learned, is a "self taught" person..."Hmmm, fits him to a point but doesn't go far enough" I thought. Brian has a long list of "teachers" including early morning bicycle rides, grueling hard labor, and common folks like Betsy Morse. He desperately wants to move back home to Vermont with his young family. To that I say "make room, make jobs, and put out the welcome sign". We need folks like Brian Pagel.
Remember...keep in mind when you need something "maple". Thanks so much for your support!
Elliott and Ray in the canning room.