This story appears in the April 5, 2012, edition of the Rutland County Express.
President Obama’s visit to Vermont last week may have been the first from a sitting president in 17 years, but throughout its history, the Green Mountain State has played host to many others. Some have come to campaign, some have come for pleasure and two were even born here. But, few, if any, of these visits were very remarkable. With that, I present an alternate history to Vermont’s presidential visits.
1831: While visiting Bennington, the famously hot-tempered President Andrew Jackson initiates the first-ever interspecies duel after an ill-tempered mule interrupts Jackson repeatedly while he speaks to voters. Amazingly, the mule beats Jackson to the draw managing to shoot the president in the left arm. Wishing to keep the embarrassing incident under wraps — especially, in an election year — the mule is quietly sent to Canada rather than being charged with attempted assassination.
1867: Rumors swirl that President Lincoln is alive and well and living in Manchester when Mary Todd Lincoln tells a Washington, D.C., reporter that she “summers with Abe.” Abe is later discovered to be a goat that lives on a nearby property. Mrs. Lincoln slips deeper into madness.
1881: Like President Obama, the location of Chester A. Arthur’s birth was also highly scrutinized. While records show he was born in Fairfield, his rivals alleged that he was possibly born across the border in Canada. The matter comes to a head during Arthur’s first State of the Union address when the he mispronounces the word “about” several times.
1901: Teddy Roosevelt successfully traps and domesticates a catamount, which he names Winchester. The cat becomes a key point of leverage in the trust-busting president’s war on corporate monopolies, and is alleged to have mauled Andrew Carnegie on at least two separate occasions.
1930: Famous for his quiet demeanor, Plymouth-native Calvin Coolidge spends his post-presidential years as a mannequin in the window of a Rutland department store where he dies on Jan. 5, 1933. This fact goes unnoticed for two weeks.
1912: One of our nation’s heaviest presidents, William Howard Taft is prohibited from visiting father’s homestead in Townshend when it is discovered that his envoy exceeds the legal weight limit for the road into town.
1955: A lover of ghost stories, President Eisenhower visits the famously haunted town of Chittenden during a campaign stop in nearby Rutland. While exploring a mysterious cave, the president inadvertently releases an evil spirit, which takes possession of Vice President Nixon. The spirit promptly exits, declaring the vice president “uninhabitable.”
1995: President Bill Clinton visits Church Street Marketplace in Burlington where he spends the afternoon busking with his saxophone. He earns $17 in tips and a couple of phone numbers.
2008: Brattleboro approves a measure to arrest President Bush and Vice President Cheney on charges of perjury, war crimes and obstruction of justice. Bush is taken into custody when he arrives to participate in the city’s first annual Presidential Chili Cook-off. The former president is currently serving out his sentence at the Southern State Correctional Facility in Springfield. His chili took the third-place ribbon.
2012: President Obama visits Burlington. Deeply touched by the warm reception and fed up with Washington partisanship, the president resigns and moves to Burlington to open a combination bicycle repair shop/organic smoothie bar on College Street.