Folklife is everyday life. Drawing from archival audio and the ongoing ethnographic research of the Vermont Folklife Center, VT Untapped™ explores the diverse cultures of Vermont through the voices of its residents. By sharing these stories we seek to make Vermonters more visible to one another and build stronger connections between people. Welcome, and thanks for listening.
Learn more at www.vtfolklife.org/untapped
Episode 16: 2020 Thanksgiving Special!
As we’re all gearing up for what is likely to be one of the most, shall we say “unusual,” Thanksgivings of our lifetimes (thanks again, 2020), here at VT Untapped™ we reached out VFC founder Jane Beck once more in search of suggestions for a seasonal story. Not surprisingly, once again Jane came through!
Jane directed us to a series of interviews she conducted with Earle Fuller of Warren, VT between 1979 and 1983. Jane interviewed Earle over 45 times during that period, discussing his family’s history in the area, and the Fuller family tradition of raising, training and trading horses during the era of horse power. Earle was born in Warren in 1888.
In two interviews, one from 1979 and one from 1981, Earle recounted to Jane the experience of driving turkeys from Vermont to market in Boston. To be clear, when we say “drive” we mean “herd”—literally marching a flock of (in Earle’s account) over 500 turkeys by road, through towns, over bridges on a journey that lasted 10 days round trip.
Turkey drives were a seasonal sight to behold in New England in the 18th and 19th centuries, with flocks as large as 2,000 birds traveling from farms to cities for slaughter and sale. As Earle shares, even railroads were unwilling to transport the live birds, so herding turkeys through the countryside persisted as the simplest way to transport them to urban markets.
Based on a number of clues embedded in the stories we’re honestly not sure if Earle is reporting from personal experience or if he is recounting someone else’s. For one, Earle begins his initial account in the third person—as if he is talking about someone else—then gradually shifts to telling it in the first person, setting himself in the tale. In addition, Earle states that he was 11 when the drive he describes occurred, which would set the date around 1899. As we understand it, the turn of the century would have been pretty late for a turkey drive like this to have taken place. This stated, we really just don’t know with any certainty and—truly—we don’t think it really matters all that much. Earle’s evocative account of trouping a bunch of red-headed, gobbling turkeys from VT to Boston rings true to other sources that describe similar trips, so what he shares is accurate based on comparison. Earle’s own story or not, it’s a trip well worth joining him on.
VT Untapped™ is produced by the Vermont Folklife Center. For more information visit www.vtfolklife.org/untapped
Episode 15: The Apprentices
In this episode you’ll come along with VFC staff on three "virtual site visits” to meet a few of the artists participating in this year’s Vermont Traditional Arts Apprenticeship Program. You'll hear about the art forms and projects they’ll be working on over the course of the next 10 months.
Episode 14: Spooky Halloween Special 2020
It’s Halloween! Which means it’s time for our annual SPOOKY HALLOWEEN SPECIAL! This year we reached out to VFC founder Jane Beck to see if she could think of any extra spooky stories in the archive—and boy did she come up with a corker!
Jane interviewed Floyd Cowdrey on November 14, 1994. It’s a wide ranging interview, with Floyd recounting events from the late 19th and early 20th century including family stories, grisly details of a few local murders, some off-color (and by today’s standards frankly offensive) jokes and, importantly, a pretty darn good haunted house story.
The events described by Floyd took place in the mid 1920s in Hartland, VT. We won’t go into the details here—we’ll leave those to Floyd—but we will say that you might find yourself thinking differently about that mysterious, late night knock on your bedroom door after hearing what Floyd has to say…
VT Untapped™ is produced by the Vermont Folklife Center. Visit our website for more information.
Episode 13: Sounds of Camp
What does a vibrant camp sound like without its campers? Camp Killooleet sits on the banks of the Hancock Branch, a tributary to the White River in Hancock, Vermont. Since 1927 it’s welcomed kids ages 9-14 for a classic summer camp experience. Hiking and swimming, arts and woodworking, sports, horse-back riding and a particularly strong music and song culture due in large part to the longtime connection of the Seeger family with Killooleet. John and Ellie Seeger bought the camp in 1949 and today their daughter, Kate Seeger and her husband Dean Spencer are the camp directors. John Seeger was the brother of the legendary folk singer, Pete Seeger.
Back in August, Mary Wesley and assistant producer Abra Clawson drove down to Hancock to meet with Kate, Dean and Kate’s brother, Tony Seeger. Tony is an anthropologist and audio-visual archivist and he serves on the Board of Directors for the VFC. It was an unusual visit because for the first time in 93 years, Camp Killooleet was closed, due to Covid -19. Where you’d expect to hear splashing and shouting in the pond and music in the camp house there was only birdsong and a slight breeze.
This episode explores the ways in which a summer camp community, an inherently ephemeral group, stays connected over time and distance. Camp Killoolleet in particular offers a unique site of observation and reflection thanks to two albums recorded in 1958 available from Smithsonian Folkways: Songs of Camp and Sounds of Camp. These historical recordings feature documentary soundscapes and sing-alongs that allow us to travel back in time to hear just what was missing from Killooleet during this “camper-less” summer of 2020.
THE RECORDINGSWe thank Smithsonian Folkways for granting us permission to feature selections from Sounds of Camp and Songs of Camp in this episode. You can find both albums--as well as the entire Smithsonian Folkways catalog here on their website.
The campers and counselors featured in this episode are Charlie, Kim, Smitty, Danny and Avi. You can sit in on one of the Killooleet Virtual Campfires here on YouTube.
Vermont Untapped is produced by the Vermont Folklife Center. For more information visit our website.
Episode 12: Project Independence
This episode of VT Untapped™ is the first in a six-part series built around our “Listening in Place” project. We’ll take you into six different Vermont communities where we’ve spent some time listening to what people are going through and what they’re thinking about during the pandemic and beyond.
Since mid May the VFC has been working in partnership with Project Independence, an elderly day center in Middlebury, as part of our Listening in Place project, which seeks to document the everyday lives of Vermonters as they live through the extraordinary events of 2020. Project Independence serves over 100 participants with the goal of keeping elderly people independent and at home for longer. However after the COVID-19 pandemic hit, it was clear that they had to greatly adapt their in-person programming in order to keep their participants and staff safe. Project Independence transitioned to Zoom video calls, which required much technical support and providing people with new devices that would fit their needs. Now each day, participants can take part in a large array of activities online.
Between May 12 and August 5, one of these activities was to participate in an online interview with the VFC. We spoke with 22 different people, participants, staff and volunteers who shared their perspectives on life during Covid.
Having a conversation and recording online could be tricky and many times we heard the common refrain, “Can you hear me? Are you there?” But when technology cooperated the connection went deeper than just a clear internet signal. People shared about the impact of suddenly having to stay home (for some, visiting Project Independence was their only outing), missing family and friends, honest confessions of loneliness and powerful messages of resilience that perhaps only the perspective of age can allow. We hope you enjoy hearing some of these perspectives in this episode of VT Untapped™.
This podcast is produced by the Vermont Folklife Center. Please visit our website to learn more.
VT Untapped Special: Story Circles
This special episode of VT Untapped shares three stories that were recorded during a “Virtual Story Circle” in early April during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Customer ReviewsSee All
I really appreciate prioritizing the ethnographic approach to a more journalistic one. Makes me feel much more connected to VT than an evesdropper.
Amazing Vermont podcast with compelling and fascinating stories from local Vermonters!
A great celebration of the many voices of Vermont! This is a well put together podcast. Pulling from the amazing archive of the VT folklife center, it’s got some pretty wonderful stories to tell!