In the land of cigars and rum, Part III

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copyright the Chronicle January 18, 2017

 

By Paul Lefebvre

 

The thought of making a will occurred to me soon after I booked a flight to Havana. Actually, the thought had been trailing me around for the last few years, but I had done nothing about it. Maybe, I told myself, a four- to five-hour flight to an island off the Florida coast ruled by aging revolutionaries who had recently lost their leader will stir you into action.

True to form, I did nothing until the hour was too late. So as I stood with Calamity at the boarding gate and looked through one of the banks of windows that line the Trudeau Airport at Montreal and watched an airplane belonging to Sun Wing — a Canadian airline and tourist company I had never heard of — roll into loading position, I could feel the fear building deep in the well of my stomach.

Thoughts of what would become to my house and hunting camp were rumbling through my head as we taxied down the runway. I waited until the plane’s landing wheels receded before turning away.

“You never should have reserved a window seat,” I thought, as we became airborne and a stewardess began to demonstrate how to put on the life vest stuck away under every passenger seat, in the event we crashed into the ocean. I was among those who clapped when the airplane landed in Cuba.

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In the land of cigars and rum

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copyright the Chronicle January 4, 2017

 

by Paul Lefebvre

 

It had been hot all week in Havana. It was the kind of heat that gets inside your head so you feel hot even when you’re lying in your room with the air conditioner running on high. Ever since arriving in Havana five days earlier, with a stopover at a small airport in the province of Holguin — where they make cheap cigars that are sold at storefronts in the city — the temperature had been running right around 90 degrees.

As in Vermont, winter in Cuba starts in December, only no one here complains about the weather. I try to take it in stride by telling myself this is the tropics; it’s strange, unfamiliar, and far beyond what I imagined.

Upon reaching our hotel, the Hotel Colina, next to the University of Havana, I packed my winter coat and gumrubber shoes deep down in the duffle bag, and shed my socks and my suspenders, which had got me in trouble earlier, going through customs at the Montreal airport. Immediately after the alarm went off, an officer took me aside and had me stand with my arms outstretched while he checked me out with a metal detector.

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Irasburg fire leaves six without a home

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copyright the Chronicle December 7, 2016

by Paul Lefebvre and Tena Starr

IRASBURG — A fire late Sunday afternoon destroyed a camp off the Gage Road here and left two adults and four children homeless.

“They lost everything,” said Robin Beaton, chief of the Irasburg Volunteer Fire Department, speaking Tuesday in an interview.

The two adults, Michael Josey and Kate Shatney, and the children are presently living with James Bromley of Irasburg. The children range in age from seven to 14.

Ms. Shatney said Tuesday that the family lost pretty much everything, but she put a positive spin on the situation. “We didn’t lose anyone.”

The children took it hard to begin with, but the six of them are staying with family, which the kids are enjoying, she said.

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Deer harvest up from last year

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copyright the Chronicle November 30, 2016

by Paul Lefebvre

The head deer biologist for the Vermont Department of Fish and Wildlife speculated Tuesday that the harvest from the 2016 rifle season may be up by as much as 15 percent from the 2015 season.

In an interview two days after the 16-day rifle season ended Sunday, deer biologist Nick Fortin said he expects to see the increase range from between 10 and 15 percent.

While the actual increase won’t be known until all the reporting stations around the state have checked in, Mr. Fortin credited a mild winter for this year’s improved harvest.

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Lost hunter tells his story

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copyright the Chronicle November 23, 2016

by Paul Lefebvre

 

HOLLAND — A seasoned Brattleboro deer hunter who kept thinking positive survived four nights in the big woods here that extend across the border.

John Chapman, 72, was found early Sunday afternoon in Norton after an extensive search that began when he failed Wednesday to return to a friend’s camp on Holland Pond.

When U.S. Border Patrol Agent Matt Bovay located the missing hunter — in what a State Police press release characterized as “a very remote area of Norton” — Mr. Chapman said he was surprised to learn that he was the subject of an intensive search, involving rescue dogs, wilderness response teams, game wardens, the State Police Search and Rescue unit, and Border Patrol agents.

“I didn’t know I had created such a commotion,” he said, speaking in an interview Tuesday as he praised everyone who participated in the search. “I owe a great debt of gratitude.”

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Moose kill down from 2015

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copyright the Chronicle October 26, 2016

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by Paul Lefebvre

The success rate among moose hunters for the 2016 archery and rifle season, which ended Thursday, October 20, is lagging slightly behind the 2015 rate.

According to a press release from the Department of Fish and Wildlife, preliminary reports suggest an overall success rate of 45 percent, down from the 47 percent of last year.

It’s pretty close to what we expected,” said the department’s moose biologist, Cedric Alexander. He said the rate was especially low in some of the wildlife management units in the southern part of the state.

Although reports on the 2016 season will not be final until January 2017, Mr. Alexander noted that hunters could only shoot bulls in most of the units.

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Montreal man starts hemp farm in Holland

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copyright the Chronicle October 5, 2016

by Paul Lefebvre

HOLLAND — A former construction worker from Montreal with dual American-Canadian citizenship is hardly the kind of farmer one would expect to find here cultivating a crop still deemed to be illegal by the federal government, in a field only a little more than a stone’s throw away from the border.

But Morgan Laurent is among a handful of farmers in Vermont who want to break new ground with the plant they are growing and turn industrial hemp into a legitimate crop.

Standing among row after row of bushy green plants that smell like, and dangerously resemble, the illicit weed marijuana, Mr. Laurent is growing industrial hemp in the spirit of a visionary. Rather than grow a crop used to make rope or paper, he is growing a plant that produces medicinal oils and are used to make people feel better, without getting them high.

“I’m not doing anything wrong,” he says, after pointing out one of his premier specimens with buds thick and sticky enough to earn the moniker “Juicy fruit.”

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Foresters talk stewardship at Craftsbury Outdoor Center

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copyright the Chronicle September 28, 2016

by Paul Lefebvre.

CRAFTSBURY — To see the forest and not the trees could have dire consequences for the landowner who wants to be a good steward of the land and pass the fruits of his or her labor onto future generations.

That was one of the take-aways from a conversation among foresters, landowners and citizens here last week at the Craftsbury Outdoor Center.

The discussion was the latest in a Summer Forestry Series focusing on land that constitutes the watershed of the Black River. As one of the organizers of the series, Orleans County Forester Jared Nunery said in an interview this week that the series has explored bedrock, soil types, and what he called the nuts and bolts of the watershed’s ecological system. Tuesday’s talk added human beings to the mix.

Henry Cold, a landowner, warned his listeners that while society has passed laws to protect land uses, it still lacks a land ethic. He said that landowners’ privileges have not been matched with landowners’ obligations when it comes to recognizing the forest as a community in which human beings are only members.

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Morgan appeals PSB approval of Seymour Lake Solar project

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copyright the Chronicle September 14, 2016

by Paul Lefebvre

MORGAN — Selectmen here are accusing the Public Service Board (PSB) of failing to give the town a fair shake in granting a Certificate of Public Good (CPG) to the developer of a 500-Kilowatt solar project.

On Monday, attorney Cindy Hill, representing the town, filed a motion with the Public Service Board (PSB) requesting it reconsider its decision.

“Morgan is not a town that’s going to roll over,” said Candy Moot, a resident of Morgan and an opponent of the project. “We’re going to fight this.”

The motion contends that board Chair James Volz did not follow through on his promise to grant a technical hearing in the case.

“The town feels that due process was denied,” Ms. Moot charged.

In an e-mail to the Chronicle Monday, Ms. Moot wrote that “the PSB issued a CPG without responding to or considering the comments raising substantive issues by the Town of Morgan, the Agency of Natural Resources, Division of Historic Preservation, Department of Public Service or Vermont Electric Co-op.”

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Fire destroys historic round barn in Irasburg

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copyright the Chronicle August 24, 2016

by Paul Lefebvre

IRASBURG — A fire Tuesday destroyed the round barn here on Robillard Flats that had become a cultural landmark for those who live or travel through Orleans County.

Originally built in 1908, the barn had been in the Robillard family since 1960. Two generations of dairy farmers had turned the land, as well as the barn, into a showpiece that attracted natives and tourists alike.

A fast burning fire that started early in the afternoon completely destroyed the wooden round barn and left the remaining metal barns, where the livestock were kept, scorched and crumpled.

It’s a disaster,” said Bernard Robillard, who bought the farm from his father, Guy.

It’s still uncertain what caused the fire.

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