Proctor, Vermont: Flooded Quarries and Forbidden Castles

April 16, 2021. Proctor, Vermont.
Soundtrack: Wind Rose – Diggy Diggy Hole

Vermont is peopled, not with people, but with quarries. You can’t spit without hitting one, and the rare few that are not still in operation because they, what, ran out of rocks? – have gone on to be repurposed into subterranean ice skating rinks and swimming holes, the use of which are deeply, deeply illegal.

Fortunately, the police are (arguably) people, and you can’t be arrested if there’s no one around to arrest you. Which, there isn’t. The entire state is an arboreal wasteland.

“Beefton!” I said. “Do not leap into the quarry!”

“I tire of this life!” Beefton called back over his rippling, comically oversized deltoid. “The time has come for the next great adventure!

We were shouting because there was some kind of bird going absolutely bananas up along the wall in what had to be the most obnoxious, least effective mating display I’d ever seen. And I spent a good deal of time at the West Chester Landmark.

If anyone knows what this loser bird is, leave a comment or shoot me an e-mail. It haunts me to this day.

My attorney approached the ledge again, heaved in a breath, steadied his nerves.

“Farewell, Bastard. Witch. I’ll never forget all you’ve taught me.”

It was at that point he recognized that the quarry was full of water, and he resolved to live another day. Beefton is highly avoidant of swimming, and if a light drizzle wets his fur he goes frothing mad and barrels through the house as fast as his densely packed, efficient little body will go, smashing into every available surface.

There are times I’m thankful he’s more pitbull than labrador, and most of those times are when we’re near a body of water in 40 degree weather. Do you think purebred a chocolate lab would hesitate, for even an instant? There might be ducks in there.

We loaded back into the wagon and resumed our traversal of the woodland wasteland, hoping to find somewhere to eat. In our travels, the universe provided me with a gift to ensure that my conduct was right and in accordance with my destiny.

Astoundingly, the giant gorilla dumbbell shoulder pressing a car was not on Atlas Obscura, but Wilson’s Castle was. Wilson’s Castle was also closed off to the public under penalty of law.

Not very defensible,I decided. Minimal ramparts, no murder holes to speak of. There’s tactical value in the elevation, but you just couldn’t muster a sufficient force of archers on that balcony to deter an invading force. Especially with the ground-level windows!

Disgusted at the misleading designation of this large, butt-ugly house, as well as at the Orwellian hellworld we occupy that forbade me from getting closer to pass still more cutting judgment on its strategic worthlessness, we wheeled the wagon around, returned my legal representation to the humper haunted airbnb, and drifted into Rutland proper, whereupon I learned what risotto is.

It’s this.

Outside the restaurant, I found an excellent mural of a peregrine falcon. Since a fungal encounter with a falcon in the dead of winter in my picaresque early twenties, I take raptors as universal signposts from Athena assuring me that I’m on the right track.

“Okay,” I told her. “I’ll learn a risotto recipe.”



Book Review: How the Dog Became the Dog

How the Dog Became the Dog: From Wolves to Our Best FriendsHow the Dog Became the Dog: From Wolves to Our Best Friends by Mark Derr

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Selective breeding.

Now that we got that out of the way: the chief message Derr was trying to send is that we shouldn’t think of primitive dogs like those shitty hyenas from the Lion King. They get a bad rap from the prevailing paleoanthropological perspective, painting them as skeevy little lurkers at the threshold, gnawing on the mammoth bones and indigestible gristle discarded by early sapiens.

Derr argues that, due to wolves’ capacity for strategic thinking and their hunting patterns that most likely looked just like ours (how we gonna know, though? We’re piecing that together by observation of modern hunter gatherers), it’s likely that dogs and humans co-domesticated one another, working in tandem for the common goal of overwhelming larger prey, minimizing pack casualties, and getting enough meat to go around.

I’m fervently pro-dog, and as much as I prefer to think of them as dignified, tactical li’l gargoyles rather than the unsavory “diaper cleaners” the fossil record’s translators tells us they are, it’s all conjecture. The bones tell us nothing, except for where the bones are buried.

I did like his rambling aside about neoteny, especially as concerns gargantuan, ineffective murder machines like mastiffs. Neoteny is the evolutionary tendency for some creatures (often the domesticated kind) to exhibit childlike characteristics increasingly late in life, often slowing their functional development. A water buffalo, who can walk a few minutes after birth, is not overly neotenous. A human being, who needs assistance to eat and move for the first two years of life, and might not get a productive job until their mid-thirties, is decidedly neotenous.

Dogs are neotenous wolves, which is why they’re dumber, and cuter, and usually smaller. A beefy breed like the mastiff and its many offshoots has become so neotenous that they can no longer function as wolves. If you release a labrador into the wild, it’s not going to thrive, but it has all the parts necessary to function as a D-tier wolf. It’s got the speed, stamina, and social acumen for predation. Mastiffs are so big and bulky that they are wholly incapable of bringing down prey. The capacity for hunting is gone.

Watching my cane corso mix try to chase a squirrel, it’s easy to see what they mean.

Big square-headed fellas like the English and Neapolitan mastiff were bred for short bursts of speed, and to overwhelm their targets with their lovable bulk. The instinct for the kill exists in there somewhere, but it’s buried under thousands of years of this bastardized “guarding” schema, a co-opted version of puppy dominance play.

These big guard dogs, bred to incapacitate and hold, are playing their quarry to death. Mauling is a wildly ineffective hunting strategy, wasteful and dangerous to dog and pack when a well-placed throat chomp could get the job done and dinner on the table right this second.

An interesting book, if wishful and inexpert in its execution.

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