Ross Murray's Border Report
Ross Murray
is a freelance writer living in Stanstead, Quebec. You can reach him at
Posted 09.08.08
Stanstead, Quebec



STANSTEAD, QC | When you think about it, it's a bit unusual to encounter more than one armed individual when you're going camping.

Normally, we'd expect one: the border guard on our way to Brighton State Park in Island Pond, Vermont. You never know how that encounter's going to go. You could face the dour, rubber-glove-at-the-ready Customs officer or it could be the chatty officer whose easygoing ways lull you into letting it slip about smuggling all that citrus fruit.

This past weekend, we had a chatty one. He playfully challenged us on our French skills, asking whether we knew the word "fossette."

I asked, "You mean, 'Turn on the fossette and pour me a glass of water'?"

No, he said, it's French for "dimple."

Well, you have a gun, sir, so I'll take your word for it.

Then he asked me if I had any citrus fruit.

Fruit-free, we continued on to Island Pond.

Now, the thing you need to know about Island Pond is that it's notorious for traffic enforcement. For years, town constable Teddy Miller nabbed drivers going a fraction over the limit or not properly stopping at the intersection. In fact, in 2006 alone he reportedly issued over 1200 tickets and more than 1600 warnings.

Consequently, I've always been a little cautious driving through Island Pond -- watching the speedometer, checking my blind spots, making sure all citrus fruits were properly secured.

But at this past spring's town meeting, Constable Teddy lost his re-election bid to Constable Bucky. I really have no idea how strict Bucky is.

Still, it was quite a surprise to roll into the village and find a police checkpoint clogging the main street. And this wasn't the town constable.

These were Vermont state troopers, close to a dozen of them checking all the cars, their cruiser lights a-flashing, their sidearms a-ready. But before we could run this gauntlet, we had to pull into Ted's Market to purchase the all-important camping beer.

"What's with the roadblock?" I asked the cashier.

"I think they're checking for drunk drivers," she said.

"Does this happen regularly?"

"Not really," she said. "I think it's because it's the long weekend. And also a couple of weeks ago, someone stole an M-16 out of a police cruiser."

This is true. Someone actually broke into a cruiser parked at a state trooper's home just outside Island Pond and stole a semi-automatic weapon from the back seat. This is exactly the reason I always leave my M-16 at work.

Really, though, that's got to be embarrassing for the police. No wonder they were flexing their muscles with this sobriety check. But a dozen officers? Wasn't that a bit much? I mean, Island Pond's population is just over 800, maybe 1000 if you add the campers at the state park. Are there really that many drunk people?

And if you were drunk, why would you subject yourself to the checkpoint? Instead, you would just pull into Ted's Market, turn around, and find an alternate route. Unless, of course, you were too drunk to figure that out...

We left the market and proceeded through the checkpoint. Now remember, we were on our way to the campsite with three of our kids plus two friends. The van was packed so tightly there was barely enough room to squeeze a lime.

"Hello, sir, we're just doing a sobriety check," said one of the troopers, leaning in the window. He saw the crowd in the van and smiled. "I assume you haven't been drinking."

If you think about it -- camping with five kids, one of whom in a couple of hours would burn a hole in our new tent, all of whom would soon be singing "O Canada" at the top of their lungs at our American campsite -- that's really not a very safe assumption.

Given the all-clear, we continued on. Thankfully, we would encounter no more armed individuals for the remainder of the weekend. Just suicide-bomber chipmunks.