Wednesday, September 21, 2011


Vermont has a large number of homes and commercial structures that were built in the early 1800s-to-early-1900s and, over the years, Vermont's frugal citizens have maintained, repaired, restored and reallocated these buildings.

In 1791, Vermont became the Union's 14th state. Oklahoma, my home state, was admitted to the Union as the 46th state in 1907. With over a century head-start, Vermont's moneyed families employed skilled, immigrant workers to erect magnificent edifices, while Oklahomans were still living in tents, sod-houses or ram-shackled, wood-frame dwellings.

Vermont's early buildings were built to last. They were set upon deep foundations of granite, which enabled their roof lines to remain straight and their brick and stone walls to be without cracks.

In the ultimate form of recycling, many of Vermont's elegant, 19th-century mansions now house health clinics, senior citizen centers, libraries, state agencies and offices for attorneys and insurance agents.

Other brightly-bedazzled, Victorian homes are no longer occupied by single families, but have opened their doors for many guests to sleep beneath their roofs. In Burlington, the windows of these homes frame many families in their daily routines and countless students at their studies.

In addition, Vermont's abandoned factory buildings, often previous fabric mills, have transformed into apartment buildings, restaurants and shops.

Built in the early 1800s, many of Vermont's massive, stone churches continue to hold Sunday services. Likewise, many banks of similar vintage, with their original vaults, continue to transact business.

Unlike Vermont's architectural heritage, Oklahoma's aged buildings are too often demolished, with the remains deposited in a land fill, while new structures, of dubious quality and scant beauty, take their place, to repeat the cycle anew in 30-to-40 years.

Oklahomans, too often follow society's illusions and build their dream McMansions, which keep the builders and bankers in money, but leave the new homeowner with a large mortgage and a lifetime of work.

On the flip side, Vermont, as does Oklahoma, has it's trailer-house blight, with no aesthetics and a short life expectancy but, gratefully, trailer homes do not have a significant presence in most of Vermont's towns and villages.

Because Vermont's residents often live in smaller, more centralized communities they frequently walk or ride bicycles to shop, visit friends or go to school, work or church. Vermont also sports numerous fit mothers pushing baby carriages, with their elder children in tow.

Frequently, Vermont's children can be found playing outside. Its high school students can be seen walking home after school. These same students are frequently without cell phones or DVD players plugged into their ears, and they actually laugh with and talk to each other.

In contrast, after the last school bell rings, Oklahoma's mothers are usually lined up, with engines running, in their over-sized vehicles, waiting to pick up their darlings, the latter of which, upon arriving, promptly put on a head set or start pushing buttons on their electronic gizmos.

Overall, Vermonters are much slimmer than Oklahomans. Our state ranks dead last on the health polls and at the top of the obesity charts.

Besides recycling, repairing, maintaining and reusing their buildings, Vermonter's environmental consciousness was also evident by their volume of pedestrian traffic, clothes billowing dry on clotheslines and well-placed, recycling containers.

I love Oklahoma and its people, but it is time for Oklahomans to wake up and get with the program, and Vermonters have much to teach us.

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