• Fighting words from Arizona
    September 16,2013

    A few days ago Wilson Ring, an Associated Press reporter, came up to the farm to see me. After a hurried salutation, he asked if I’d “seen the headline”. Quicker’n I could say “Syria,” he shoved his smartphone in my face and there the ugly headline glared: “Autumn in Arizona and why it’s better here than in Vermont.” The first words outa my mouth were “Those’re fightin’ words!” and, don’tcha know, Wilson sent my remark out on the wire to places all around the country, including Arizona!

    Not wanting to start a war (God knows Syria has a sizable handle on that these days), I do radically disagree with the notion that Arizona could even hold a cactus scented candle to Vermont’s autumn beauty! I’m starting to get feedback from my words, like from Debra Slade who has lived in Arizona:

    “I opened my paper this morning. Imagine my surprise to find Arizona claiming a birthright they have no business claiming. There is ABSOLUTELY no comparison. Sure, Sedona and the forested northern parts of Arizona are beautiful. However, you can smell, and almost taste, autumn in New England. I have never seen a place to compare to New England. Especially Autumn.”

    And the piece de resistance came this morning from and old friend, Geoff Sweeney:

    “In 1992 I moved my family to Prescott, Arizona. At this elevation, we get four seasons, but they are all relatively mild. But having spent my first 40 years in Vermont and the last 21 in Arizona, I feel extremely qualified in stating that Arizona residents have no idea what fascinating foliage really looks like (they also don’t have a clue what real winter can be like).”

    Geoff mentioned several other families from this central Vermont area who had moved, including the late Roy Haggett and Alice and Butch Bussino. I remember them all as great Vermonters who moved away, away to a place called Arizona. They might well have moved for reasons of drier atmosphere, warmer weather, or better jobs but I’ll betcha dollars to donuts they didn’t move for better fall foliage!

    It’s good to have “boots on the ground” like Debra and Geoff but I am feeling a bit guilty for my impulsive, “prickly pear” remarks, especially when I learned the basis behind the headline. It came from Arizona Highways Magazine and its editor Robert Stieve explained: “People who live in the metropolitan areas of the desert actually have to get in their cars and drive to it (the Arizona countryside that he attributes as spectacular) for the best stuff.” He goes on, “So part of our cover line was to inspire some of our own readers to get off the couch and get out and check things out.”

    It was Robert Stieve’s response to a pouncing Vermont press, however, that turned me as flaccid as a dead rattlesnake. He acknowledged that Arizona’s offerings “probably don’t compare to Vermont’s” and went on: “The truth is, we set Vermont up as the gold standard for fall leaves.”

    To that, I say “Here, here!” ... Vermont is indeed the “gold standard for fall leaves” and our season is about to begin. I’m thinking of ways to make it up to Mr. Stieve: adopt Arizona as “gold standard west”? Pray that the World Series comes down to his Diamondbacks and our Red Sox and that Arizona wins? “Like” the Grand Canyon Facebook-wide? I’ll start with just a simple matter of diplomacy, a genuine apology: “Mr. Stieve, I’m sorry for my impulsive and hostile ‘take’ on your headline.”

    There...whew...now if only Syria could be that easy.

    Burr Morse lives in East Montpelier.

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