In Other Words


This habit of speech, which, it seems to me, somewhat qualifies the northern New Englander’s reputation as a man of few words, is much easier to hear than it is to explain. Perhaps it has something to do with life as it is lived in unpredictable extremes of weather and climate which can make solstice and equinox little more than dates on the calendar. That the subject of the weather inspires those speculative, conjectural habits of thought and response in which we Yankees seem to reside most comfortably can be verified early any morning among the men who begin their day at the back of the Teago General Store in South Pomfret, Vermont. Sitting there in March or April next to the coffee machine with its sign saying “We’re probably going to raise our coffee to 50 cents someday” (even the store owner, a New Jersey native, has succumbed to the local idiom), even the most definite opinions about whether we have finally come to the end of winter are always cheerfully undercut and concluded with the consensus, “But you never can tell.” On Teago’s front steps one cold, overcast November morning, I thought I smelled snow in the air and asked Wayne, the woodsman, if snow was coming. He answered in a string of qualifiers that, to an outsider, would sound more like the beginning than the end of a conversation, "It almost seems as if it might be," and headed for his pickup.