We witness our generation and our times. We watch the weather. Otherwise, creation would be playing to an empty house. ~Annie Dillard from The Meaning of Life edited by David Friend
I needed to drive to Walmart in Hinsdale to pick up Rich’s prescription which required a drive down to Brattleboro and over the bridge that crosses the Connecticut River into New Hampshire. You know you’ve left Vermont when you pass the state liquor store and the fireworks shops.
At the pharmacy a seventy two year old woman used a three footed cane to navigate the shelves filled with prescription bags. She told me her sciatic was acting up. When she asked for my husband’s birthdate she said, “Oh! That’s today. Tell him I said Happy Birthday.”
“Yes, he’s 59 today,” I replied.
She laughed. “In my next life I’m going to be 59 forever.”
I wondered what circumstances in her life had led her to a job standing on her feet all day at a Walmart Super Store at the age of 72. Did she need the money to pay the rent or the insurance deductibles or the prescriptions she needed? Whatever her circumstances, she was witty and sarcastic and making the best of her situation.
Out in the parking lot I passed a car with two flags attached to the hood. Don’t Tread on Me and the U.S. flag. The back of the car was covered with bumper stickers. Impeach Obama. Trump for President. If You can Read This You’re In Range. Make America Great Again. It’s 3 a.m. and Hillary’s Already Telling Lies.
It was all very depressing but the If You Can Read This You’re in Range was startling and frightening. Where are we headed after this election?
I’d been driving to this Walmart since we moved to Vermont in May. I decided it was time to see what else Hinsdale had to offer besides Walmart, bottle rockets, and cheap booze so I left the parking lot and headed south along the Connecticut River to the center of town. On the outskirts I passed a couple of next door neighbors with opposing political points of view.
Hinsdale Headline: A 38 year old Hinsdale man was accused of raping a 14 year old girl he knew. He locked her inside a house and tied her up before raping her. He was released on $10,000 recognizance bail due to the fact he had cooperated during the investigation and when told by the police they were ready to press charges, turned himself in. The man lived with his parents and bail is continent upon him continuing to do so.
In Vermont, most people have taken down their lawn signs now that the election is over and we are learning how to live with the results. Except for the Bernie signs and bumper stickers which are everywhere. Don’t Blame Me some of them say. I too voted for Bernie and feel sad and helpless every day I hear about another Trump appointment. I guarantee Bernie would not have chosen a Treasury Secretary even remotely connected to Goldman Sachs.
The population of Hinsdale is 4,046. 1,548 people live in the designated downtown area. Pisgah State Park and Wantastiquet Mountain State Forest are inside the town limits so there is some excellent hiking around here. The farmland is also described as excellent.
Hinsdale Headline: A 24 year old local woman has been charged with possession of heroin with intent to sell and pleaded not guilty. Police found 130 “bindles” – small packages or bags – in the car she was traveling in. She was pulled over on Brattleboro Road (where the Walmart is located) because her drug counselor was driving eleven miles over the speed limit. The woman was sitting in the back seat and one of the police officers recognized her from a previous arrest for driving with a suspended license. A warrant has also been issued for failing to appear in court so she was asked to step out of the car, which she did while pulling 2 bindles (equivalent to 20 bags) of heroin from her bra. The police asked the driver if there were any more drugs in the car and he said he saw the woman place a large quantity in her coffee cup where allegedly the officers found an additional 110 bindles. Two more bindles were found in her purse. The driver told the police he had come to Hinsdale to pick up the woman and drive her to Connecticut to continue her rehab. She is being held on $50,000 cash bail but the court approved $30,000 personal recognizance bail if she is accepted into the Cheshire County jail’s electronic monitoring program.
The media is now analyzing what went wrong with their election predictions. They blame the faulty polls, the DNC, Hillary’s emails, the FBI chief Comey, the fact people wouldn’t admit they were voting for Trump, and angry white men. They also blame each other. It was Fox. No, it was CNN. Rarely do they admit they all ignored the candidate drawing the largest crowds. Bernie Sanders. They were too busy making sure Donald Trump dominated the airwaves because he was good for business. His tweets were breaking news.
Hinsdale headline: A 50 year old man has been accused of home improvement fraud. He allegedly accepted more than $50,000 for a project located in Vermont but never did the work. The Brattleboro State Police arrested him in Townsend, VT without incident and the accused man did not post the $5,000 bail. He is currently at the correctional facility in Springfield, VT.
In 1875 George A. Long built a self-propelled steam vehicle in Hinsdale. It was referred to as the Long steam tricycle for which Mr. Long received one of the nation’s earliest automobile patents. Hinsdale was also the home of a paper mill that manufactured tissue and toilet paper.
The oldest continually-operating post office in the United States is also here. It was established in 1816 and is located on Main Street. A popular greyhound race track was a draw to the area but it was closed in 2008 due to competition from casinos. The facility has since been demolished.
According to the website Best Places the unemployment rate in Hinsdale, NH is 2.80%. That’s damn close to full employment. Future job growth over the next ten years is predicted to be 37.57%. The state of New Hampshire has no sales tax or state income tax. Income per capita in Hinsdale is $24, 362 with a median household income of $48,015. The average price of a home is $150,300 but mobile homes are available for as low as $13,000. 88.4% of students graduate from high school. 43% of students are economically disadvantaged.
Hinsdale Headline: A 37 year old Hinsdale man allegedly jumped through his neighbor’s windshield and faces four charges in connection with the incident: criminal threatening, resisting arrest, reckless conduct, and criminal mischief. Police said his behavior was due to a drug-induced psychosis brought on by “two drugs mixed into one”. The drugs he took are unknown. The incident occurred when he was walking down the street and saw his neighbor driving toward him. He sprinted at full speed toward the car and hurled himself through the windshield, landing partially in the passenger side. After being extricated from the vehicle, he started to growl and the responding police officer had to use a taser to subdue him.
The only coffee shop in town appeared to be closed. Despite the neon Open sign, the shades were drawn and no cars were parked out front, so I didn’t have a chance to talk to anyone in Hinsdale. When I took a photo of the waterfall that once powered the mills that are no longer here there was only one other man walking his dog in the small public park. He stared at me in a suspicious sort of way. As I walked through the small town taking photos the rain picked up. A couple of people ran into the post office but other than that the streets were quiet. A sign in front of the Congregational Church had an ominous warning: “Watch and Get Ready. You Don’t Know When the Master Will Come.”
On November 8th, Hillary Clinton won Hinsdale 917 to 733 votes. Surprised? Yes, I was too. I admit when I Googled election results I expected to find Trump had won here. I’m not a politician or a public policy expert. I don’t know what Trump voters were thinking here or across America on Tuesday November 8, 2016 but I am living with the results of the election and I worry about my daughters who are just setting out on their lives as young adults in a very divided and troubled nation.
I left town heading west toward Route 91, referred to as the Heroin Highway around these parts. I am trying to find answers, trying to keep an open mind, and digging deep for empathy and understanding. I’ve visited a lot of these towns throughout America. I have seen the forgotten places and the people who are hurting. I am searching for hope in what feels like an angry, bitter world.