Left in Andover: The carrot and the bun

By Susan Leader
©2020 Telegraph Publishing LLC

March 2012, a historically warm month, I floor my gas pedal to climb the steep mountain road. High atop Finn Hill in Andover, my daughter, who is in her early 20s, has set up housekeeping in a rented apartment.

I am on assignment, delivering a first batch of specially ordered local buns and condiments for her new mobile hot dog stand, set to open tomorrow, 7 miles away on a busy street corner in Chester.

As a life-long vegetarian, I have my reservations about this enterprise. The next generation, however, is not so emotionally encumbered. She has spent the winter navigating the State of Vermont’s rules and regulations for home catering licenses and negotiating with Liberal Beef in Claremont, N.H., to supply her with Hebrew National Franks.

I steer through the rapidly drying mud in my daughter’s driveway. The hot weather this March has short-circuited both sugaring and mud season. Calculator and ledger in hand, my young entrepreneur greets me from a chaise lounge in her front yard. Her big black lab bounds over to greet me as I step from my car. He has a grand career ahead, as top hot dog recycler-in-chief.

My daughter’s hot dog stand sign from 2012.

I unload six dozen freshly baked split white buns from the back of my battered Saab wagon, then barrel  back down the mountain road. Exactly 55 years ago, I began first grade at the red brick Peaseville Schoolhouse on the flat below.

In 1957, I was almost certainly the first vegetarian my classmates ever encountered. For many months, I exhibited my timid but resolute vegetarianism, nibbling away at cold lunches of soy and egg salad sandwiches on Mom’s hard dark bread.

Come June, our well-intentioned teacher put her whole heart into including me in her plans for a grand end-of-the-year wienie roast, down by the stream, just east of the school. Anticipation ran high among us kids as school year’s end drew nigh.

Picnic day finally arrived. In a diabolical stroke of genius, Mrs. H dreamed up the idea of substituting a whole carrot on the grill for me instead of the perquisite hot dog. This toasted carrot, nestled in a hot dog bun, she triumphantly awarded to me as if it were a grand prize, right in front of the whole school. I who asked nothing more than to pass unnoticed, almost died of embarrassment.

Once over the shock, I sidled over to a blackberry thicket where I tossed the carrot. Then, unwilling to let even this final insult deprive me of the much anticipated white bun, I ate it empty, tears for a condiment.

It never occurred to me to share my hot dog trauma with my parents, or anyone else for that matter. That had been the 1950s, after all, before the age of helicopter parenting.

Class photo Susan second row, second from left.

Andover’s two one-room schoolhouses closed their doors permanently at the end of the 1967-68 school year, early victims of the consolidation of small rural schools into union districts.

My prescient dad did, however, record his observations regarding his non-starter of an Andover political career, including his perspective on the end times of its one room schools:

“At town meetings during the 1950’s and ‘60’s, I had to nominate myself to various town offices, but only towards the end of our residence there could I get many votes … The school situation disturbed me especially, for the superintendent was using our one room schools as a sort of Siberia to which to assign poor or obnoxious teachers.”

The one-room Peaseville school house as it is today.

“I aspired especially to a school board seat to get into the best possible situation to preserve our two schools against the then-current tide towards consolidation. At least one Andover resident would invariably be elected to our local school board who was a teacher in another school in the superintendent’s district, and she could hardly be expected to oppose his wishes; here was a clear conflict of interests. Ultimately at my instigation a law was passed in Montpelier ending this deal. But the State Education Commission, backed as I believed rather correctly by the construction interest lobby and further tempted by federal subsidies, opted for consolidation, dooming our potentially beautiful one-room-schoolhouse arrangement, essentially the raison d’etre of our mountain hamlet.”

By the time the one-room schools closed down, I had long since lost my appetite for white buns, and had come to appreciate Mom’s pioneering commitment to whole grain baking. As for hot dogs, my daughter finally convinced me to try one of hers in 2012, with all the fixings.

I had for quite some time contemplated breaking with my long-standing vegetarianism. A hot dog stand on the corner of Main and Grafton in Chester seemed as good a place as any to start. My daughter graded me A+ for effort.

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Filed Under: Community and Arts LifeLeft in Andover

About the Author: Vermont native and noted potter Susan Leader grew up on Popplewood Farm in Andover. At age 17, she was inspired to take up the potter's wheel by "a charismatic potter" from the Society of Vermont Craftsman. She spent 18 months apprenticing at pottery villages throughout Japan. She returned to Popplewood Farm, where she and her husband, fiddle player John Specker, raised their two daughters.

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