You Can Take That| To The Bank

     On the day the French bank Société Générale announced that a “rogue trader” had cost it $7.2 billion, I got my bank statement.
     The credit union has resurrected the “Trading Post,” a swap meet sheet in which members advertise stuff to sell or swap. Used trucks, mostly.
     Two sides of the banking industry: a 31-year-old nitwit who’s paid $140,000 a year to work in a bank’s personal hedge fund loses the combined annual income of most of the state of Vermont; and here in Vermont, our bank helps us swap trucks.
     None of the people who advertise in the Trading Post will ever make as much money as Jérôme Kerviel, who apparently lost, or misplaced, $7.2 billion. But I think our priorities are in better order, and that most of us live better lives, which means, in the long run, we will be a lot happier than Jérôme Kerviel – whatever happens to him.
     And I, for one, don’t care.
     Getting a swap meet sheet with my bank statement is one of the things I like about Vermont. It reminds me that our planet is still populated, in part, by humans.
     Another thing I like is the Green River Bridge. “Two Dollars Fine to Drive on This Bridge Faster Than A Walk,” the signs on it say. That was a lot of money when the bridge went up, back in 1830.
     Covered bridges were not built that way just to be pretty. People covered them because in New England weather a wooden bridge wears out in about nine years. Covered, it can last for 80 years.
     “Post No Bills” it says on the west end of the bridge, so people post bills on the other side. Here’s what some of them say.
     “18 year old boy looking to live/work on farm in and around this area next summer. Good kid, athletic.”
     Underneath, in time-honored fashion, the good kid wrote his phone number six times, and tore the paper between, so you can rip off the number and take it home. 401 area code – Rhode Island. He’ll get a job. A couple of the strips are gone.
     Here’s another one: “Do you know someone in Guilford that spends most of their time home alone? Guilford Cares Friendly Visitor Program matches people in the community with a house-bound neighbor for informal social visits.”
     It tells you how to call for a Friendly Visitor, and how to be one.
     There’s a Tai Chi class announcement, and cards from two covered-bridge societies. “This country’s remaining Covered Bridges are a National Treasure!” says the card from The National Society for the Preservation of Covered Bridges. “Even in their sometimes dilapidated and/or poorly restored condition, these spans still bear truthful witness, one way or another, to much that is American Culture and Heritage, and ought thus to be preserved, cost what it may! …
     “Will you therefore, dear traveler, help the National Society with its important work? Will you a) notify the National Society at its permanent address should you learn of any plans to demolish a covered bridge and b) consider joining the National Society yourself? There is, after all, much strength in numbers.”
     If you look through a hole in the covered bridge, you see the timber crib dam, a pretty, Lincoln Log-type construction that Jonas Cutting built “around 1800,” to supply power to two factories. The last factory, which made furniture, burned down in 1918.
     In 1995, the pretty old dam was put on the National Register of Historic Places – just in time to be wiped out by a spring ice flow. So townspeople formed the Green River Village Preservation Trust. They collected money, cut logs and put the dam back up with wood from hemlock trees on the surrounding mountains.
     Now as I look at the dam, maybe 20 feet high, maybe 100 feet long, the Green River flows under and over the enormous ice stalactites that cover the limestone-chinked timbers. Big logs stick out over it into the air, caught in the ice, waiting for the spring thaw.
     “No Parking With In 100 Feet of Bridge,” a sign says, but the only wide place in the dirt road is right by the bridge.  There’s no place else to park.
     I throw my pen and reporter’s notebook onto the front seat of my illegally parked truck, put on an orange stocking cap so hunters don’t think I’m a deer, and trot out on my run. I wonder what Jérôme Kerviel thought he would get out of that $7 billion. I wonder what Jonas Cutting’s life was like. I look at the snow-covered fields, at the water flowing in the icy river, at the black branches of the old trees.

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