John Mahoney's Free-fire Zone
John Mahoney
John Mahoney
is editor of the Log Cabin Chronicles.

His previous columns are archived HERE.

Posted 10.02.03
Fool's Hollow, Quebec


The Intrepid Trio, in search of Autumn Color, meets Bronson Johnson, the Seamless Gutter King of Milton, and the Sky God of Northern Vermont

We came to the mountain in search of autumn color only to have our visual delights cut short too soon by the capricious Sky God of northern Vermont.

Our Intrepid Trio was not disappointed, no, for not only did we glimpse fine foliage but we met up with Bronson Johnson, the Seamless Gutter King from Milton. For Bronson Johnson, who leads a four-man team of Seamless Gutter Guys that drain and siphon the roofs of the Northeast, was accompanied by the lovely twin sister from Oregon of his current squeeze.

That's some intro, you're thinking. He must have smoked some of those leaves. Please, a little patience. Follow me into the twists and turns of this Green Mountain adventure…

© 2003 John Mahoney

There were actually four who began the quest for color: Charlie Tetreault of Newport, Vermont; my brother-in-law Ray Goyette of Holmdel, New Jersey; the Silver Fox, Jane Goyette Mahoney; and moi.

signOur immediate goal was lunch at Kilgore's General Store in Montgomery Center, Vermont, on the back side of Jay Mountain. The only question was how best to get there before starvation set in.

I voted for the longer, more colorful route south from the border: Route 5, Route 105, Route 100, up over Hazen's Notch, and thus down the dirt mountain road into Montgomery -- sort of the right-angled legs of a triangle.

The Silver Fox, famished in the rear seat, championed the Hypotenuse Trail, which was the quickest route to Kilgore's soup and sandwich special.

Charlie T, the Old Compromiser, directed us over Buck Hill, to the Balance Rock Road -- we never did see the frigging rock -- and thus to the Hazen's Notch Road on which we eventually reached our first destination in downtown Montgomery Center.

Kilgore's has been a general store for well over a century. High-ceilinged, filled with funky things to buy, and the food is toothsome.

© 2003 John Mahoney

I had a bowl of chili -- damn, it was good and spicy, but the recipe remains a secret -- a large ham sandwich with honey mustard on whole wheat, and coffee.

A lot of stuff was on sale and I picked up two sets of heavy duty working man's suspenders for $11 -- two for the price of one, eh? A good deal.

The Silver Fox bought a Canadian-size shot glass -- that's a big one, eh? -- a pair of tiny brass candle holders, and an antique enameled wooden box. Total damage: $8.

We had seen some lovely color on the way to Kilgore's and now, satiated, began driving up the mountain to the Jay Peak Ski Area and the famous arial tramway. My b-i-l Ray was determined to crest the summit of Jay in this contraption and I saw no face-saving way out, so I agreed to go. Charlie, bless his heart, paid the Old Farts tariff for the Intrepid Trio.

We parted company in the parking lot with the Silver Fox who was not going -- under any circumstances…are you out of your mind..no way, José -- to enter the metal and glass box and travel on fragile steel cables far above the earth for 7700 feet to the rocky summit at elevation 3880.

We did not know at that time that Bronson Johnson had the same travel plans and that our paths would cross, there above the rugged slopes of Jay Mountain.

Let me say here that I have had a fear of heights since falling from a building while carpentering some years back, and I do not enjoy having my feet off the ground, so I maintained a secure grip on the client support poles in the tramcar.

© 2003 Ray Goyette

But the view was splendid and there was the sought-after color and we anticipated making some lovely photographs, once at the summit.

We docked in a light mist. It was…chilly. Say, about 37 degrees. And damp, there in the mist 3800 feet above sea level.

No matter. We strolled the few yards to back side of the mountain. To my left, a deranged man clad in a t-shirt -- his jacket was tied around his waist -- strolled into view. It was clear he had become overheated during his insane tramp up the mountain.

© 2003 John Mahoney

Then we saw it coming. A cloud, quite a dark one, was moving rapidly in from starboard. The sweeping panorama of color was disappearing, as if being eaten by an angry Sky God. Soon, we were socked in. The Sky God shed a little dandruff on our happy group, which now included Bronson Johnson and the lovely twin, Christine, to whom he was showing the mountain on which he wed his Ex.

Did I mention Kathy, the Tram Mistress?

What she was doing was trying to free a woodpecker trapped in the concrete bunker at the top of the mountain. With a long pole. In the dark.


Kathy said it had been in there for two days. Every time she makes a run up the mountain -- about every hour -- she tries to free the woodpecker. It didn't seem to want to be free. Hey, it was damn cold up there and spitting snow and the Sky God was outside, waiting. Who knows what that bird thought.

© 2003 John Mahoney

I watched the demented stroller walk into the cloud on his trip back down the mountain. He was wearing his jacket and he didn't say goodbye.

We collected in the tram building, waiting for Kathy's signal to board and descend. That's when we milked Bronson Johnson for his life story.

We soon discovered we had connections, mutual acquaintances, things that interested him: Bronson Johnson lives in Milton, Vermont, just up the street from my old friends and highschool chums Cynthia Cheney and Tink Cornell. He knows them.

Bronson Johnson knows guys in Newport that Charlie knows.

Bronson Johnson's mother attended school at the Ursuline Sisters Convent in Stanstead, Quebec, which I pass by almost daily. It is directly across the street from the Stanstead Journal, where I was managing editor before retiring from the world of dead-tree journalism.

Bronson Johnson wants to come to Fool's Hollow and shoot my deer and give me all the meat. I told him they come right up the porch, but that Charlie has more deer in his backyard than I do. Bronson Johnson thrilled at the idea, listening to Charlie tell about feeding the bucks and does and how easy it would be to bag one but what Charlie didn't tell Bronson Johnson was that his Linda is never going to allow BJ to bag no buck on her back lawn.

That was nearly the finale of our quest for color.

The Sky God was still looming over Big Jay when we drove down the mountain and back into color. We made a brief detour past the now-gorgeous home that, a hundred years ago, housed a cross-roads country store owned and operated by Jane and Ray's grandparents. And then, home to Quebec and a drink in front of the fireplace.

It was nice meeting you, Bronson Johnson, King of the Seamless Gutter Guys.