Tales and More Tales of Beyonder
by Stephen Morris
This book is a collection of articles originally appearing in a variety of Vermont newspapers. Stephen Morris is an indefatigable chronicler of life in Beyonder, and this is his best work. His offerings on Mud Season and Vermont Holidays is particularly memorable.
Tales and More Tales of Beyonder is part three of "Stories and Tunes," Stephen Morris's "four-part" trilogy of life in the rural North.
The yellow school bus is as much a part of the rural landscape as the red barn or the hay silo. Sometimes we forget about the precious cargo.
I've never met Lamson. I don't even know his first name (or is "Lamson" his first name?), but for the past eight years I have entrusted him, twice a day, with the safety of my children. Lamson is the bus driver who has the route that extends to the far reaches of our hamlet. Although less than ten miles between here and the school, it is a forty-five minute bus route that takes place almost entirely on unpaved, hilly back roads. The route passes dairy farms, rushing brooks, sugar bushes—the best of Beyonder. But to experience it, one must brave the nether side of Vermont's scenic roads—mud, washboard, and ice.
Lamson spends little time sightseeing. The challenge of maneuvering a yellow steel box jammed with kids from five to thirteen does not permit the luxury of leaf peeping. Although I've never met him, he's like one of the family. He takes care of nosebleeds and other unexpected emergencies. The children tease him, and he gives it right back. At Christmas he provides candy, and on the last day of school, sodas.
I hear about it at the dinner table. It is the highest form of compliment when I say that Lamson is a Beyonder kind of guy.
Last year, on the Friday just before Christmas, a drizzle, so fine as to be almost imperceptible, began around noon. I realized there was a problem when I fishtailed on the Interstate. It was one of those situations that the veteran Beyonderite recognizes as Trouble—moisture meets frigid pavement, resulting in ice. Conditions get even worse on the back roads.
The mist became a light rain. In offices around the state, holiday revelry was curtailed in favor of driving home while there was still daylight. Even with last-minute shopping and errands, these were conditions to grind Vermont to a standstill, with residents content to make it to the comfort of the hearth, and no further.
The real extent of this particular Trouble became evident when I saw seven cars awaiting the sand truck at the bottom of the hill leading to Upper Granville.
"The hill's an ice ball," said one of the stranded seven, a native Beyonder, and no foreigner to Trouble.
"Any word on the school bus?"
"It's late, but that's all I know."
The school bus is late. These four words bring many elements of life in Vermont into sharper focus. This is a world where the elements must not be taken for granted. A small slip, an error in timing, an unseeable patch of ice, and our entire lives can instantly be inverted in a ditch.
Because I am not too bright (and because I felt emboldened by my four-wheel-drive vehicle), I charged up the hill, taking with me two neighbors who balanced my chances of making it positively against the time it would take for the sand truck to reach our neck of the woods. Piece of cake (well, maybe not for the ordinary guy, but for someone with my driving abilities, no problem, ma'am).
There was tension apparent in the village, settling in as visibly as the fog and the darkness. The reports were grim. Yes, the bus was stuck, caught between two hills too steep and icy to climb. The sand trucks (both of them) were shuttling back and forth to help, but the rate of icing was too great for them to keep up.
Maybe we should have voted for that third truck at town meeting. It had not seemed necessary at the time, but the kids—our children—had not been stuck in the cold, dark, middle of nowhere then, with no one to comfort them and keep them safe.
Except Lamson. That's when we all began appreciating the guy. We gathered in the kitchen, warmed by the stove and cups of coffee, and the mood lightened as the ice worsened. "Poor kids," we thought, then, upon reflection, "Poor Lamson!"
The phone network kept us informed. After the obligatory Christmas parties at school, the kids had been put on the bus early, where Lamson provided them with even more candy. Now the guy was captive in his steel box with forty-five sugar-juiced, hyper-banshees looking forward to Santa. The man was probably tied to his seat, the wheel commandeered by a ten year old.
It was pitch black, nearly three hours late, when we heard the sand truck grinding up the hill. The school bus was inches behind. The kids poured out, bubbling tales of adventure, none the worse except for one common woe-—everyone had to pee. As the children ran to bathrooms, Lamson barely had time for a wave, let alone the formal acceptance of accolades. Like another man who delivers precious gifts at Christmas, he had more promises to keep. All was well once again in the land of Beyonder, and I swear, as Lamson and his yellow sleigh clattered down the hill, the chains on his tires sounded like jingle bells.
What is a "Four-Part Trilogy?"
Next up from The Public Press: the first three books, revised and improved, in Stephen Morris's Vermont epic, the four part trilogy.
Life has a way of interfering with art. Beyond Yonder, The King of Vermont, and Darwin and the Tunnel of Love were always intended by the author to be a single work, telling the epic story of the daily lives and times of the inhabitants of the tiny hamlet of Upper Granville, Vermont.
But life intervenes. It happens! Day jobs take priority. Parents grow old. Little publishers sell to big publishers. Editors move on to different jobs. Opportunities knock. Kids leave home. It happens! It happens! And it happens!
As a result, the epic novel came out in fits and spurts. First, Beyond Yonder. That's when the publisher got sold. Then, King of Vermont, that's when the editor quit. Meanwhile, a real life equivalent to Upper Granville began appearing on the pages of the Vermont Sunday Magazine. Now, the region had a name, Beyonder, to describe that part of Vermont that is next to nothing, but not far away from anywhere. Tales and More Tails is a collection of Beyonder's "Stories and Tunes."
The Public Press is pleased to present Beyonder in its original glory – ficticious and non-ficticious. This is the Director's cut, digitally remastered, and in full Dolby sound. This is Beyonder at the peak of foliage, at the depth of Mud Season despair, in the procreational frenzy of the vernal kaboom, and in the enveloping eternity of an August night watching the meteors shower in a part of the world where you can actually still see them.
In Beyonder, 4 books make 1 trilogy
interview with publisher and author Stephen Morris
by Stephen Morris
King of Vermont
by Stephen Morris
Tales & More Tales
by Stephen Morris
Tunnel of Love
by Stephen Morris
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