the better truth

the better truth

Saturday, September 07, 2013

100 Year Anniversary of the Plainfield Vermont Volunteer Fire Department

The Plainfield Volunteer Fire Department was formed the same year a band of Vermont Civil War Veterans had gathered to mark the 50th anniversary of their struggle at the Battle of Gettysburg. This year, a century later, Vermont Veterans organized a parade to mark the 50 year anniversary of the Vietnam war.  Things change... but the important things remain.  The people who founded this organization probably never saw an engine driven firetruck - they were invented only 6 years earlier -  but they would be familiar with the real part of being a volunteer. Being called away from the office, farm or quarry at an odd hour to risk one’s life to help save a random neighbor for no reason that anyone from ‘away’ would understand.  Robert Frost said “Good Fences make good neighbors”.  People often quote this line to underscore our individualism which is as bountiful as all those granite boulders that pop out from the dark brown cow pastures. We are set in our ways and our ways are not our neighbors. Back to Mr. Frost’s poem: “He is all pine and I am apple orchard”.  What people who live ‘away’ don’t understand is that the neighbors in the poem re-build the wall TOGETHER - every year. They do it even though one of the neighbors thinks the other is crazy and there is absolutely no logical need for the wall as neither has livestock and the boundary is clearly marked by a change in tree variety. One keeps asking questions. They other keeps answering by not answering and yet.... they BOTH keep re-building the wall every year.

I have little doubt that if the original fire brigade was looking around at us they’d be asking some serious questions: what is a traffic light? why do you spend so much time on those things you call radios? why are those things you call firetrucks ‘yellow’?  But when the siren rings everyone would fall inline.  The men of 1913 would join with the people of 2013 and they go and put out a fire. They’d be uneasy on the truck; which would seem to move as a rocket compared to their horse drawn rig. They would not be familiar with working with women in this capacity..... but in the end they would all join in the rescue. The important things remain true. Whether pine or orchard, EVERYONE knows: good fences make good neighbors and good volunteers make a good town.

Organized firemen have been around since the days of ancient Rome. Volunteer Fire Departments have been in the United States since the beginning. President George Washington was a volunteer fireman. This gives me hope that the institution will survive in some form for the bicentennial in 2113.  Perhaps a young child who is here with us today will be an honored guest at that celebration. I’m sure there will be questions. I can imagine the man who wears the white helmet at that time showing this person an image of Chief Martin in a multi-colored Plainfield Volunteer Fire Department shirt. The question would be ‘what is the significance of the pattern on the clothing?’. The person would respond: "it’s a Tie-dyed T-shirt. The hippies used to wear them." And the current Chief would say: "what is a ‘hippie’? and why was Chief Martin one of them?"  At the same time the Old Home day parade would be hovering slowly down a palm tree lined Route 2 in the modern flying vehicles.  They would pass the Gary Graves Town Hall Building; which would be famous at that time for having the driest basement of any structure in Vermont. At that point the parade route would pass through the dangerous intersection down into Plainfield  Village- the town would still be trying to get funds from AOT for repairs and the Selectboard would still be saying ‘it’s a few years away’.  A young child will point at the Plainfield  Volunteer Fire Department Vehicle and ask her mother. “How come our town has a yellow one and all the other ones are red?”  The mother will answer in a very clear voice: “Plainfield is not plain. Never has been. Never will be.”  The important things remain true.

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