West of Birdseye
The term “west of Birdseye” refers to a geographical region of Rutland County that lies west of Bird (or Birdseye) Mountain. The region includes Castleton, Hubbardton, Fair Haven, West Haven, and sometimes Poultney and Benson.
A prime chronicler of the region is Pamela Hayes Rehlen of Castleton. Her latest work is entitled “The Vanished Landmarks Game,” with the subtitle “Vermont stories from west of Birdseye.”
The title comes from a game she played with some people by referring to locations whose nature had changed. In Rutland City, for instance, a person might locate an incident by saying, “It happened in front of Howe Scale” even though the Howe Scale Co. has been gone for years.
Mrs. Rehlen has done a marvelous job of evoking the people and places of the area she’s writing about. Some of the chapters are only a page or two in length.
There are people who stayed on a farm despite all the economic disadvantages, sometimes remaining self-supporting by taking other jobs like mail carrying or milk delivery.
Then there are the women she remembers, including those who gave her information about families and customs. She gives details about special places — homes or quarries — that may surprise some who are new to the area.
Her own family included many teachers. She tells of having someone do a task for her especially because her mother was his teacher in grade school.
Her father, Rex Hayes, is mentioned several times with family photos, one of which shows him as a teenager in Fair Haven in the days when knickers were a standard part of men’s wear. Another photo shows him as an older man in front of the former Fair Haven High School, and still another shows him in his 90s.
The author tells about her first day as a freshman at Castleton State. When her parents went there it was a teachers college only, known as Castleton Normal School, referred to as “The Normal.”
In all, this is a very worthwhile addition to the region’s history of people and places, easy to read and admirably printed. Pamela Hayes Rehlen is to be congratulated for doing good work.
Kendall Wild is a retired editor of the Herald.