• City Room: A homespun Vermonter
    November 26,2012

    File Photo Local farmer and sugarmaker Burr Morse has been spinning yarns about Central Vermont for years.

    Growing up in central Vermont, you come to know the Morse name. With no disrespect to Burr, I knew his brother Elliot first. Our family had Volkswagens that seemed to always be in some state of needing repair. Elliot was our mechanic. It was always a big thrill for me to ride over to his garage, listen to the grownups catch up and talk politics.

    That’s a far cry from sugaring, but it is a slice of small-town life. It wasn’t until I moved back to central Vermont, and moved back into the house I grew up in in Plainfield, that I became acquainted with Burr’s column on these pages. (In case you were wondering, there is one today on A4.)

    I have always appreciated newspapers that devoted space to locals who had something to say. There are plenty of people out there who can write, but they really have nothing very original to say. And, in all honesty, no one enjoys reading something that isn’t either a) well written or b) interesting. Otherwise it is just self-important ramblings. (I’ve been accused of that on more than a few occasions.)

    When Burr Morse’s third book came out earlier this year, he was 64. Clearly, across those decades, Burr has observed our rural life and collected details like shells off the beach. What differentiates Burr from the rest of us is his uncanny ability, in fewer than 1,000 words at a shot, to pull us right up to his kitchen table, sit us down with a hot cup of coffee, and make us feel right at home in the telling of a tale. Most of them are laced with humor; a few of them are sad but the humor is still present, even if it is just in the way it is told.

    That is a gift. And this newspaper has been very lucky over the years to devote space every other Monday for Burr to muse. Some would say he’s a celebrity; others would say he’s a humor historian; some might even infer a tall-tale teller. But no one can argue that they don’t feel like Burr’s friend after reading his columns.

    His books, including “Sugar Words,” are compilations of those weekly columns that started out here but also were sent out to thousands of folks across the country who have come to depend on Burr Morse for a dose of Vermont. Many of them are people from here who moved away; many others are people whose lives have been touched by Burr’s writings or by visiting with him at Morse Farm in East Montpelier. Either way, he connects with people in the simplest, most congenial way there is: he captures the kindness in moments, the little things in life, and every column is filled to the brim with evidence that Burr Morse is living his life to the fullest.

    He reminds us often that we need to take more time to notice, to take in the little things. We need to pay attention to the natural world around us, and appreciate more the interactions we have — because there are always lessons to be learned and moments to celebrate.

    We are proud to have Burr’s musings on our pages. We all need friends so warm and thoughtful. We all need writing so original and ideas so fun and thought-provoking. Burr Morse is, through nostalgia and everyday life, writing our history.

    That’s pretty sweet stuff from a fifth-generation Vermonter. We are all pretty lucky to have Burr at our kitchen table over coffee these mornings.

    Burr Morse’s books are available at area bookstores and at the Morse Farm, of course. Steven Pappas is the editor of The Times Argus; he remains in awe of this beloved Vermonter.

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