Column, Mountain Meditation, Uncategorized

Challenges and Critters Building our Killington Dream Lodge, Part 6

We were making progress on Dad’s Killington dream lodge, but it was slow going with lots of delays, often due to frequent weather changes. Whenever it rained, water leaked onto the floor. When it was bitter cold, ice carpeted the back room. With electricity in our basement at last, extension cords snaked around the room. It was a miracle we weren’t electrocuted by all the live wires on our wet basement floor.

After our incident on the outdoor two-seater (it broke with Mom and me sitting in mid-air), the weather began turning colder, so Dad bought a camping potty chair. Mom hung a curtain just past the beds and placed the new john in the back room’s far end. It felt like a luxurious 5-star hotel to sit and ponder in privacy indoors.

Another joy was our animal encounters—one of the things I love most in Vermont. Near the main road to Killington, myriad creatures showed up in our woods and sometimes even entered our home—at times, a mixed blessing, but always enlightening. It is a gift to live in Vermont.

A baby mouse fell from her nest right into Mom’s suitcase. I was ecstatic. Mom was horrified. “Now I know why you chose the bottom bunk,” I said.

I rescued the newborn and gave her a home in a tiny box with a bed inside. I fed her warm milk with Pablum cereal in an eye dropper every two hours. She accompanied me wherever I went. Unfortunately, that very week, my Girl Scout troop climbed Mount Mansfield, Vermont’s highest peak. Due to her feeding times, I carried my baby mouse along, warmly wrapped up in my breast pocket. I wasn’t certain if it was the wind, altitude, or chill that did her in. I was heartbroken by my tiny friend’s demise. She never even opened her eyes. We held a funeral with a song and a prayer and buried my mouse in her box in our yard.

When a chipmunk snuck into our basement back room, our black Lab, Star, went beserk. She started to chase him. He ran under the beds. Star leapt above, from bed to bed. At the end of the room, they turned around and began their race again.

One night, when we arrived quite late, Star barked and barked and wouldn’t stop. We finally spotted, high in the corner, behind our new potty chair curtain, a fairly large porcupine. There was no way to coax it outside, even when a professional tried. “We’ll have to shoot it to remove it,” he insisted.

We were devastated.

We never discovered how the creature got in. What a tragic and sad weekend that was.

The next critter that hopped into my life was a tiny brown toad I found in the grass. I adopted and adored Frisky the toad. For several weeks, Frisky traveled back-and-forth between New Jersey and Vermont with us. His cozy home was a little box where I often arranged fresh leaves and grass. He drank from and swam in a bottle cap. I fed him assorted insects I found. Frisky was a fun companion (until he escaped and leapt away), but nothing could possibly replace our dog Star.

Black Star of Highland, our Labrador retriever, followed me everywhere much of the day, always ready for adventure. She also followed Mom at meal time and Dad as soon as he headed outside. Wherever the action was, Star was there, retrieving branches we heave-hoed down the hill, galavanting in our woods, fetching Route 100 spring water, and keeping watch on every road trip.

When we ate indoors, Star waited at the table, watching for tidbits to fall to the floor or for a handout from her admirers. She was crazy about dog biscuits and everything else (except dill pickles). My brother Billie taught Star to stay put with a tidbit on top of her nose. “On guard” was the command he gave. As she patiently waited, her nose slowly rose until the treat fell or Billie said, “Go.” Then she tossed it up high into the air and caught it in her mouth, of course.

There is nothing like a Lab. I’m grateful Billie brought her home when she was only 8 weeks old, in spite of Mom’s protests. (She never owned a dog growing up and had no idea what she’d missed.) Star was my best friend and loyal companion. She read my mind, and I talked to her. Star understood my extreme sensitivity and lovingly ushered me through my childhood.

Marguerite Jill Dye is an artist and writer who divides her time between Killington and Bradenton, Florida.

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