One thing you can usually plan on here in our state of Vermont is that Murphy guy; you know, of “If anything can go wrong, it will” fame.
Yup, Murphy’ll show up as regular as clockwork, like this year at the Morse Ski Center. We had operated it for 18 years, and many of those presented snowless or near snowless winters. Kinda hard to run a ski business that way ... sort of like bein’ a car salesman without the cars, or more aptly, a dairy farmer without the cows. Yup, we decided this last summer to “hang it up” with skiing at Morse Farm and, don’cha know, this winter arrived abundantly and early ... a veritable Garden of Eden for skiers.
In fact, here on the farm, we’ve gotten so used to lethargic early winters that we’ve altered our Christmas tree process. Back when I was younger, we’d spend multiple days flagging our harvestable Christmas trees so that we could find them when heavy snow appeared in early November.
For years now, though, we’ve gotten weak snow amounts before Christmas and started skipping the flagging process. Fast forward to this year ... there’s nothing more distasteful to a Christmas tree purist (both seller and buyer) than an otherwise beautiful tree that’s hiding and bowing under a thick winter blanket. A year like this, in fact, requires the “broom” crew to precede the guy with the chainsaw to make ‘em presentable along with making sure the chainsaw guy is not buried under an avalanche from the branches. And this year, that’s not the end of it: we set ‘em up in our racks for retail sales and, lo and behold, another wet, sticky snow comes down and it’s “bring back the broom crew.”
Once in a great while, we do manage to escape visits from “Murphy,” though. I recently read something from the Morse family archives about a financial crisis years ago when most farmers in these parts were losing their farms to the banks. It seems my great-great-grandfather, John Morse, was out plowing one day with his team of horses when, according to the archives, two “city slicker” race horse buyers appeared. They stopped in the road which bordered the field Gramp plowed and focused from that distance on his team.
When they had finally seen enough, they approached Gramp and offered him $800 for one of the beasts. Gramp cradled his chin, no doubt thinking about the future of farming without a team, but then, who needs a team without a farm? Without a word, he moved to the favored horse, gave its rump a loving pat and unhooked it. He graciously accepted the greenbacks and the farm was saved.
That same place has most recently been farmed by my cousin, Stanley Morse, with the aid of diesel tractors instead of teams of horses. It has finally left the family after Stanley’s passing just last year. Someone else is still haying it, leaving it pristine under the new ownership. I occasionally drive by thinking of all those Morse generations and what might have been if not for that day long ago ... the day when two city folks showed up instead of Murphy.
Burr Morse lives in East Montpelier.