By Judy Reiss
In 1965, Malcolm and I were married in November and late in the spring, we bought our house, the same house that we are still living in! Of course, it needed a lot of work to make it habitable. But one of the first things we needed to do was to fix the driveway. What we had was just a dirt path from road to house/barn, so we did what everyone else did at that time. We called Freddie Viens an he took his backhoe and scooped up gravel from the river, brought it up and spread it on our dirt path. And “ta-da,” what we had was a nice driveway. Although I can’t tell you how often, I know that over the years we called Freddie again and again he would bring us gravel.
And for years, I never remember the Mad River flooding over its banks. Why? Because the Vermonters who have lived in the Valley for years and years knew how to keep the river in its banks. A lot of the gravel and sand that was washed down from the mountains was scooped out. It not only kept the river under control, it also made it possible for people like the Reiss’s to get the gravel that they needed at a very reasonable price. Did the fish mind this rearranging of their habitat? I would assume no because back in the day, the fishing was good. So I would assume that this was a win-win.
It would seem to some uneducated person like me, that someone from somewhere else has come along and decided that no one, not Freddie nor anyone else can remove the gravel and sand from the river. Before the snow and ice, you could see large islands of sand building up. And every single time I went across our covered bridge to go home, I wondered what would happen when spring came!
Now I was wondering about that before this horrendous winter. So, here is what I wonder about now. No longer are we allowed to remove the gravel and sand building up in the river. That is a given. Now we have tons and tons of snow that covers our roads and fields. And of course, we have snow banks of epic proportions on the river. Where do you suppose all that snow run-off is going to go? Re-gardless of how careful we might have been in keeping the river free of natural junk, with this much snow and run-off from the mountains, we are going to have a problem when spring comes. But this year, because some do-gooder, who has decided that the river must be left alone and that no one can remove anything without a special permit, and heaven forbid the fish should be disturbed (what fish), we could see a monumental disaster. And this is if we just get warm weather and let nature take its course. What are we going to do if it rains and rains hard for a couple of days or even weeks? Not if, but when the river floods, I am sure that someone in Montpelier will insist that it wasn’t his or her fault. How did they know?
Well, I know that this is an outrageous idea, but how about asking the old timers who have lived in the area for their whole lives and most of their parents have, too. Most of these people have kept the river controlled for many, many years. I know that this is probably an outrageous idea, to ask those who know how to do it, but what the heck. It’s probably too late for this year, but how about fixing it so it might work correctly next year and on?
I know I am old and I know that I don’t have all the information and surveys that are used in 2015, but I also know that I live way up out of town and away from the river and all the destruction that hap-pens when the Mad River actually gets mad, it doesn’t reach my house. Oh, and does anyone think that the rocks that they put on the river banks to contain the river when it actually gets angry will work? I don’t know where they will go, but if they don’t wash way it will actually be a miracle.
Stay warm if you can and if you need help, call a neighbor and be sure and let them know. In this winter that never seems to end, if you can help someone else, please do so. And remember. Spring will eventually come, I think!