, Newburyport, MA

July 12, 2013

The yin and yang of New England

Newburyport Daily News

---- — It wasn’t enough that NBC Nightly News left New Hampshire off the map when reporting on the deadly train accident in Quebec.

Adding insult to injury, their graphics wizards replaced it with Vermont.

Anchor Brian Williams was forced to issue an apology to the entire state.

Any resident of either the Green Mountain State or White Mountain State knows there’s a measure of disdain for the other that simmers deep beneath the surface of the Connecticut River, New England’s longest and largest, that divides the two.

Topographically speaking, New Hampshire is Vermont turned upside down — or vice versa. Even that is subject for debate.

Both states have long laid claim to prolific poet Robert Frost. He lived and farmed in both states, though longer in Vermont.

Frost won the first of his four Pulitzer Prizes in 1924 for “New Hampshire: A Poem with Notes and Grace Notes.”

If New Hampshire disappeared, the two states could stop squabbling over longtime Red Sox catcher Carlton “Pudge” Fisk. He was born across the river in Bellows Falls, Vt., but lived and went to school in Charlestown, N.H.

He crossed the river again to play Legion ball with Post 37 in Vermont, but went to school at the University of New Hampshire. Maybe after his DWI arrest in an Illinois cornfield last year, no one cares to claim him.

Both states declare spring the sweetest season, when maple trees are tapped and steam rises from sugarhouses around the clock. But New Hampshire’s production is a drop in Vermont’s bucket. This year, Vermont produced 1,320,000 gallons of maple syrup, New Hampshire just 124,000 gallons.

To be fair, Vermont’s state tree is the sugar maple. New Hampshire honors the white birch.

They are almost identical in land mass — Vermont’s 9,614 square miles puts it 45th in size. New Hampshire is right behind it in 46th place and 9,349 square miles.

But New Hampshire feels bigger. Maybe that’s because it has more people, 1.3 million compared to just 626,000 in Vermont.

If the map mixup stuck, Vermont’s motto of Freedom and Unity might be better suited than Live Free or Die. Or, perhaps, Granite Staters would take the motto to heart and vanish along with the state.

If Vermonters saw the newscast they must have exulted in losing their status as the only landlocked New England state. For one brief news cycle, they could lay claim to New Hampshire’s paltry 13 miles of coastline. And Vermont’s senior U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy could drop his 15-year campaign to have Lake Champlain declared the country’s sixth Great Lake.

But New Hampshire’s U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte, among those who pointed out the error to NBC, would surely have shuddered to leave her congressional seat to the likes of Vermont’s firebrand independent U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders.

New Hampshire residents can, once again, scale Mount Washington and look down their noses at the Vermonters waving from atop Mount Mansfield, some 1,893 feet below.

For their part, Vermonters can still lay claim to the greener pastures, er, mountains.

Both parties will likely be the happier for it.

While others may see the two states as mere halves of a whole, few who live there do.

Perhaps Frost was one of those few, for he wrote of New Hampshire, “She’s one of the best states in the Union. Vermont’s the other.”