Rutland’s first family of recreation

cindiCindi Wight is a great ambassador for Rutland Recreation and Parks Department as well as active living in general.
But Wight, the superintendent of the department, has been bringing a lot more to the job than even that for years. She’s been bringing her family. The Wights — husband Keith and children Josh, Molly and Emily — have been fixtures at Rec-sponsored events since they first moved to Rutland.

The kids would be at the start line of races, marking the courses, handing out prizes and snacks. Cindi recalls Emily as a three-year-old handing out doughnut holes — she’s quick to note with just a little wince they hand out healthy snacks at events these days. And I first met Keith when we were both volunteer shovel operators at Pine Hill Park on a work day.

Keith in fact was a part-time employee when Cindi took over as superintendent but with an obvious conflict of interest he had to resign. But he enjoyed it so much that he kept on working as a volunteer.

Cindi says it made hdunkin-donuts-9er work “a family job … special events weren’t time away from the family.”

“The kids always found roles they could help with,” she said, and when trail building got too much they would “spend the day up there … working, building fairy houses, reading.”

On the other hand, Cindi owns up that there were times the kids were “voluntold” helpers. And the sheer length of work days at Pine Hill quickly wore thin for the kids (and others). Keith Wight, Shelley Lutz and Michael Smith, who led many of the work crews, were seemingly happy to spend a full day on the hill but we mere mortals were not necessarily so eager, and Cindi Wight notes that work days at Pine Hill are now over at noon.

“Do a morning, end at noon, everybody’s happy,” she says. And while the park is run by the all-volunteer Pine Hill Partnership, Cindi has a seat at their table and they work closely together.

And the family tradition continues — Keith was helping with a new shipment of balance bikes for an upcoming learn-to-ride program at the North Street building when I stopped by for an interview and Emily had been by the day before with some power tools to dismantle giant comic book covers for storage until the Halloween parade. But with Josh, 22, and Molly, 20, off to college, and with school visits happening for Emily, 17, it’s almost the end of an era for Rutland’s first family of recreation.

Still, with Wight hands on pretty much every aspect of the city’s Recreation and Parks for the past decade and a half, they are leaving a real legacy. And with the tens of thousands of hours of volunteer time that go into every aspect of recreation in a small city like Rutland, from building trails at Pine Hill to coaching, fund-raising and driving kids to events, having the superintendent’s family set the volunteer bar so high seems pretty cool.

This article was originally published in Sam’s Good News; the latest edition is here.

Resolving to run … or plod to fitness

This new year, like most years and like many people, I decided I needed to get into better shape. Which is, let’s face it, how gyms make money.

I saw an article online recently that said as many as 90 percent of people who sign up for health clubs as a result of a New Year’s resolution never use their membership. I can relate as I’m not exactly a gym rat.

Several years ago, when I was working in New Hampshire, the paper I worked for provided a group price at a local gym franchise. It was $10 per month, so I figured even I would get good value at that price. I gave it up after three years and four workouts … which comes out to $90 per workout. Oh, and I got a T-shirt. As long as the shirt turns out to be worth at least $325 on eBay, I made out like a bandit.

But I like the idea of being in shape and I feel better when I am. And we’re an active family. The kids are in the Bill Koch ski league at Mountaintop, at least one child and one parent has run the Crowley mile run annually since 2008 and we were regulars at the Mothers Day 5K when we had babies (and a baby jogger). So I feel like I should do something to not be the family couch Pa-tato.

My wife is a serious runner, with eight marathons to her name. I ran one in the blush of newlywed foolishness and ran sprints in high school, but I’m not a serious runner.

What I am is slow. Not sort-of slow, or not-fast, but S-L-O-W, glacially slow. I’ve never actually finished last in a race, but now that I’m up into the “masters” age group, it gives me something to look forward to.

planet-fitness-free-tshirtStill, every year around this time I toy with joining a gym again … until I see the Planet Fitness T-shirt. So how to get into shape?

I played hockey — goalie — until my mid-forties, when somebody stuck an elbow behind my ear at high speed when I wasn’t looking. When it takes fingers from both hands to count all your concussions it is probably time to take up a slower sport.

I considered curling (Canada’s second winter sport, its national championship was hosted by the Macdonald tobacco company until that was frowned upon, at which point Labatt’s brewery took it over … any sport sponsored by beer and cigarettes can’t be all that aerobic). There is a club — Rutland Rocks — at Giorgetti Arena but I haven’t been able to make the schedule work.

And several people told me I should do yoga to keep me flexible enough to play goal in my golden years. I tried –and enjoyed — it a few times, and we have a couple of friends who teach so I’ll probably give it a more extended go at one yoga-ouchof the city’s many, many studios one of these years.

But for 2017, I took up running with our dog, Maisie. It’s perfect: I already have a pair of sneakers, it gets me out of the house without a schedule, and the dog wants to stop and pee about every 100 feet, which gives me an excuse to catch my breath. And if somebody notices that I’m doing 17-minute miles, I can blame it on the hound. Good dog, Maisie.

If you live in the Northwest neighborhood, you’ll eventually see Maisie and I trundle past. Don’t be alarmed, that’s my regular skin tone during exercise and the pained look goes away once I get into shape … around May.

This article was originally published in Sam’s Good News; the latest edition is here.

Food, from farmers

By Randal Smathers

Can eating your veggies make you healthier? There’s an innovative program in Rutland that aims to show it’s a fact.

Each Wednesday, 100 bags of locally grown vegetables are handed out by the Health Care Share program to families and residents of senior and assisted living homes whose doctors have prescribed them.

Heidi Lynch, who runs the program for the Vermont Farmers Food Center on West Street, said the Health Cares, in its second year, is unusual in that most similar plans offer coupons instead of hard, cold cash crops. They get the produce in turn from small and / or beginning farms from around the region: Alchemy Gardens in Shrewsbury, Breezy Meadows Orchard and Nursery in Tinmouth, Caravan Gardens in Cuttingsville and Yoder Farm in Danby, as well as the Smokey House Center in Danby.

Education is a major part of the program. Every week, recipients get a printed sheet with a list of veggies, recipes and health tips, and there’s a demonstration of recipes or samples during distribution at the Food Center where roughly two-thirds of the bags are picked up. The other third are handed out at the Community Health Centers of Rutland County on Stratton Road.

The produce naturally varies by season. The last week of August the bags included tomatoes, melons, squash, zucchini, carrots, onions and kale – almost seven and a half pounds of fresh food. It’s designed to serve a family of four for a full week. If there is any extra, families are welcome to take more. Due to health concerns not everybody can used everything in the bag, so there is some swapping. Corn in particular can be too high in sugar for Type II diabetics, said Lynch, but those conversations are also an important part of the educational process.

From 10 to noon is farm dropoff time. Then there’s two hours of sorting and bagging and a pause before the distribution starts at 3 PM. After an initial rush, things typically slow down, said Lynch, then pick up again around 5:30 as people get off work. By 6 it’s all over. There’s a secondary distribution on Thursday and if any is still unclaimed it is donated to the Turning Point and / or Dream Center. There’s surprisingly little turnover: Some 85 percent of users pick up their shares week in and week out.

The program is 9 weeks into a 12-week run, with monthly “harvest shares” planned for the fall / early winter. Folks wishing to participate should ask their doctor. The year started with five medical offices prescribing. Two more recently signed on. Lynch is signing up doctors and farmers in February and March; April through June is open enrollment.

Lynch is an enthusiastic proponent. A Rutland native, she attended St. Mike’s in Burlington where she was introduced to organic gardening. She was introduced to a program similar to the Health Shares in Richmond, Vt., then talked to Greg Cox, the president of the Farmers Food Center, about it and it took off. Now she discusses “the food system,” and how the program works as a wholesale opportunity for small farms that don’t grow enough to attract a regular bulk purchaser. A vegetarian, she can still discuss the relative merits of local, organic meat versus corporation-farmed soybeans shipped thousands of miles.

And it’s a combined effort. Besides the farmers and Farm Center, Vermont Youth Conservation Corps volunteers and the youth team at Vocational Rehab have been regulars at helping sort and bag the produce, along with help from Grace Congregational and Good Shepherd Lutheran churches, College of St. Joseph and Green Mountain College. The major funder (Lynch calls it “seed money” with a straight face) is the Bowse Health Trust of Rutland Region Medical Center. Rutland Area Farm and Food Link, Vermont Fresh Network, Hunger Free Vermont, UVM’s Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program, and SAGE (Shrewsbury Institute for Agricultural Education) provide the training, nutritional expertise and recipes.

For more information, see

This article was originally published in Sam’s Good News; the latest edition is here.

Summer @ the Farmacy

By Randal Smathers

Madison and Griffin Kingsbauer have a different story to tell when it comes time to write their “what I did this summer” essays. The sister and brother – she’s 15 and he’s 13 – ran a farm stand at their father’s medical practice.

Every Monday from April 9 to August 22, the two set up their “Farmacy” vegetable stand outside Rutland Community Health Center (12 Stratton Road, across from the hospital), where Dr. Matthew Kingsbauer practices. Their mom, Trish Kingsbauer, said the idea came from a farmers market in New York City; the family then contacted Greg Cox of the Farmers Food Center and he put them in touch with Carol Tashie, who along with partner Dennis Duhaime runs Radical Roots Farm, which provided the produce.

Tashie would tell the Kingsbauers what was available and what was unusual about it. Then the kids would pass that along to their customers. Griffin listed beet greens, heirloom tomatoes and heirloom broccoli as some of the more unusual offerings they taught their customers about. For the record, unlike more common varieties which have an edible crown and woody stem, the stem of heirloom broccoli stays tender and delicious all the way down.

The most common purchase was the humble cucumber, helped by the $1 “prescription for vegetables” discount – $1 just happening to be the price of a cuke.

Trish said learning about the various foods and passing that on to the customers was the biggest thing the kids learned – along with the social skills needed to interact with the public, and making correct change. Griffin joked that they probably lost money on the first day by giving out too much change. They also homeschool, so they will get full credit for the work they put in.

Both Trish and Griffin think the Farmacy might work better a second time around – although he’s not interested in doing it again, in part because it took a while for the idea to gain popularity, which made for some slow days before they built up a steady clientele. Any leftovers were donated to the homeless shelter, so nothing went to waste.

It wasn’t all work for the kids this year – there was climbing camp, 4H, and the family took a vacation to Washington, D.C. Among the sights they took in was a farmers market — where they duly took note of various ways of setting out produce and signage.

A love of veggies comes naturally to the Kingsbauer family, who have enjoyed a vegan diet for the past eight years. But Griffin did notice that a lot of kids would come up to the Farmacy with their minds made up – “they would say, ewww, broccoli!” And he at least came away with a new appreciation: He says that while he wouldn’t want to run a store, he might just like to be a farmer when he grows up.

Although the Farmacy is closed for the season, Radical Roots is at the Vermont Farmers Market every Saturday, 9 AM to 2 PM and Wednesdays, 3 to 6 PM; in Depot Park in Downtown Rutland.

This article was originally published in Sam’s Good News; the latest edition is here.

Signage at Rutland Free Library

Back from the dead

I haven’t used this blog for a year or two, but I have to present my reading list from my young adult reading class, so I’ll be filing (a lot) of posts over the next few weeks, almost all about books. Who knows, if the conversation gets rolling, I might keep doing this. Most of the posts will be over in “Reading between the lines.”

It was the big ice

kunitz_noseSo with the Olympic hockey tournament over, a ponder:

  • Would people please quit making excuses for the Russian team? They sucked. They suck. They will suck. They have a handful of players with great skills who are wildly overrated by the US hockey media, who will frankly cheer for anything that’s not Canadian because they are deep down boosters and can’t stand watching their boys (and girls) lose to Canada.

Case in point: A.O. Alex Overrated. Look, he’s got a great shot and when he’s motivated he works really hard. He’s a great straight-line skater with above-average stickhandling and slick power moves. Hey, I just described Ricky Vaive! OK, that’s low. He’s better than Vaive … although strangely no more effective.

  • Would the American team (and media) stop making excuses for the American team? Anonymous “players” blamed the ice at the Bolshoi arena for their play down the stretch. A couple of their players said Team USA somehow “didn’t show up” in the game vs. Canada. Maybe you showed up but aren’t good enough?
  • Half of the leads on the gold medal game talked about a banged-up Swedish team because they’re missing Zetterberg, one of the Sedin twins and now Niklas Backstrom. Good thing Canada wasn’t missing any top players. Oh yeah, besides Steve Stamkos and John Tavares. Yes, it’s less critical for Canada because of the depth (Matt Duchesne played well in the gold medal game, filling in for Tavares on a line with Martin St. Louis, the replacement for Stamkos). But it’s an excuse. Anybody really think Backstrom would have made a difference when, on Sweden’s second power play, the scoring chances were 2-0 for Canada?
  • One more excuse to shoot down note … Russians blaming their coaching staff because putting Ovechkin on the point on the power play took away his scoring chances. Drew Doughty scored twice in one game (four overall) coming off the point, Eric Karlsson had eight points. With teams sagging into the slot, the point was the best place to score from.
  • Nice touch by Mike Babcock, btw … Dan Hamhuis, Canada’s 7th or 8th defenseman, was on the ice for the final seconds of the gold medal game … one of the first to get to Carey Price after the game.

The biggest raspberry goes to the media and the IIHF for their all-tournament selections. The IIHF chose Carey Price, Karlsson and Phil Kessel as the best players at their respective positions and the media chose Teemu Selanne, Kessel, Mikael Granlund, Karlsson, Drew Doughty and Henrik Lundqvist to their all-tournament team.  So two Swedes, two Finns an American and a Canadian on the all-tournament team, and no skaters for Canada get recognized as the best at their positions.

Here’s the actual facts: The best skaters were Sidney Crosby and Jonathan Toews. Which one was better is up to you. What, they didn’t score enough? They were the on-ice leaders for a team that went 6-0 and never trailed in the tournament, crushing the souls of all the rest of the medal-round teams; they scored the two biggest goals in the gold-medal game and never once let ego get ahead of team. Does anybody honestly think that Kessel or Granlund running up the tallies against the Middle European Sisters of Mercy was more impressive than completely overwhelming the US, Finland and Sweden when it counted?

So throw in Selanne as the third forward as a lifetime achievement award and that’s the forwards.

Doughty and Shea Weber were the two best defensemen in a tournament where all six of Canada’s first-choice defenders were in the top 10. 

Lundqvist, the best goalie? Actually, this is the closest to being accurate, although it’s hard not to give it to the Price as the guy with the microscopic goals-against average.

Look at the gold-medal game. Lundqvist could have read the play better on the first goal: There was nobody but Toews to worry about, nobody on the back post. So if he gets down early and closes the five-hole, the deflection is an easy stop. Beaten by the best player on the planet for the second goal, so no shame there, but clearly at fault for the third, where he didn’t come out to challenge Kunitz at all. So just a so-so game when it counted … advantage Price. But god knows after constantly harping on the weakness in the Canadian net, it wouldn’t do for the media to eat crow and give the best goalie award to the guy who did what the media said he couldn’t.

What it really shows is that the media didn’t see Canada clearly early in the tournament and were busily patting themselves on the back for “analyzing” what was wrong when the Canadian team and anybody who understood what they were looking at weren’t ruffled. Norway and Latvia parked the bus, to use a soccer expression, choosing to play defense first, last and only, even when they trailed, in the hope they could stay close and maybe get lucky. It almost worked for Latvia … while being outshot by 40 shots. The scorelines flattered both the Americans and the Latvians.

Finland, in the opening-round game, was much the same. They amassed six shots on Price in the last 40 minutes of a game where they trailed, then they lost fairly meekly to Sweden. How many Finns were in the best of the best again? Sweden never played a good team until the Finns and were completely outclassed by the Canadians.

But the thing that totally pissed me off, that set off this whole diatribe (“rant” for those of you who can’t manage a three-syllable word) was Patrick Berglund’s hit from behind on Chris Kunitz, driving him face-first into the boards. You know, we’ve seen this hit by Canadians in other tournaments and it always leads the media (especially the Canadian media) moaning and oh-my-god-how-could-he-do-that-ing about how we are vicious brutes and the hockey team embarrassed the nation. Berglund’s hit should have been a five-minute major; it likely would have been except the refs didn’t want to kill the gold medal game. It was a suspendable offense in the words of Brendan Shanahan. And not a word about it? Cam Cole. Jeff Z. Klein. Damien Cox. Heck, even Mark Spector. How ’bout it boys? Doesn’t fit the script so we’ll pretend it didn’t happen?

Why are all hockey observers morons?*

ImageAfter a while, you just learn to turn the sound off. It’s not like listening to a broadcast will add anything to your understanding of the game anyway. In hockey, I mean. I gave up on baseball broadcasters long before Tim McCarver was honored as one of the best at that, but baseball is different. It’s a slow game, so the commentators have to fill in the gaps. In hockey, they just need to tell you who’s on the ice and fill an occasional bit of dead air.

As I’m living in the U.S. of America, I’ll be picking on the coverage down here, but you can’t tell me it’s better in Canada as long as Harry Neale still has a microphone in front of him. Well, OK, one reflection on Harry Neale: The man’s almost as good an announcer as he was a coach and a quick look at his won-loss record (150-212-80, for those of you not inclined to click on the link above) tells you how good a coach he was. I have no idea how he’s back on the Toronto Maple Leafs network after his infamous call blaming Doug Gilmour for Marty McSorley going all, well, McSorley on him (Neale’s blathering starts 1:25 in … “there might have been an elbow.” F*** you, Neale, and the Gretzky f***ing bandwagon you rode in on).

The on-air guys are at least as bad down here.  But I digress, because what’s really got me going is the “analysis” of the Olympic hockey tournament. Just about every discussion has mentioned that Canada and the U.S. are at a disadvantage because the big ice doesn’t suit our style of play. The AP article was, to borrow an expression, a new high in lows:

The return to the European-sized rink – 200 feet long by 100 feet wide – will give hosts Russia and the nine other European teams a better chance of taking down Canada and the United States. The extra 15 feet on each side – a combined 3,000 square feet larger than the NHL version – minimizes brawn by making it harder to check opponents and gives speedsters like the Russian duo of Alex Ovechkin and Ilya Kovalchuk and Swedes Erik Karlsson and Carl Hagelin more room to maneuver.

Or the Americans, with Phil Kessel and Zach Parise, or the Canadians with, oh yeah, the whole team. Look, if Canada wanted to play a “Canadian” style game and lose, they would have taken Milan Lucic … the prototypical power forward in the NHL these days, a proven winner with an attitude and a big shot, a Vancouver native in his prime. Instead, they took Matt Duchene and John Tavares and, well, you get the idea. Russia’s checking forward is Nikolai Kulemin, who is a perfectly serviceable third-line checker on My Beloved Toronto Maple Leafs, but Canada’s designated checker is Patrice Bergeron. Tell me again how more room to skate is a bonus for Russia?

Or the Swedes, who have exactly one-half of the Sedin twins and an average age of 73. Or the Finns, who are ready to party like it’s 1999, with Teemu Selanne, who got practice on the big ice during the NHL lockout of 1994 and Olli Jokinen, who is playing for the Winnipeg Jets and it only seems like he’s been around since the WHA’s Winnipeg Jets.

I understand that commentators are desperate to come up with reasons why Canada shouldn’t win the gold, because a) everybody else is jealous of the Canadian team and b) it’s boring to say “Canada should win,” but Canada should win. I mean, there’s been this whole discussion of whether having P.K. Subban holding the door open during line changes will hurt Canada defensively, while Russia’s best player is so dire defensively that his club team often benches him late in games where they have a one-goal lead.

Look, Canada is not a lock to win a medal because our goaltending is not the best in the league and because anybody can be Hillered. But if we lose, it won’t have anything to do with the size of the ice surface not suiting our troglodyte game … just don’t tell that to the “experts.”

* Apologies to my buddy Greg Wyshinski who at least comes by his man-crush on A.O. legitimately, living and working in the D.C. area.


So I am rolling in fantasy novels right now … which is typical of my reading. I will go through a phase or an author where I read little else, then move on.

My fixation with the fantasy genre started … well it started with The Hobbit, but that was many years ago. More recently, it started with The Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin. Working in a library, it was hard not to notice how many users were interested in the series (both the videorecordings and the old-fashioned dead tree editions).

So I dug into those fairly obsessively, while reading Potters, Harry, Nos. 1 & 2 to the boys for bedtime stories.

Meanwhile, I moved onto Tarzan (strictly not fantasy, but close enough), re-reading J.R.R. Tolkien to make sure it was OK for Callum to read; then finding read-alikes for Tolkien and Martin.

But right now, I have about 1,500 pages of fantasy novels sitting at home, waiting to be read. First I spotted that the library was weeding out an old, old copy of H. Rider Haggard’s adventure novels that hasn’t circulated in a few years, so I snagged it off of the free books cart; then a hold I placed came in on The Name of the Wind, a book that the adult services librarian recommended to me as a way to minimize my Game of Thrones jones.

she naughty


Haggard has been on my to-read list since I was six or seven. Someone left a copy at the house (probably one of the cowboys who helped out at the ranch in Hazleton during the summers). I picked it up to read it, but my

shefolks thought it was too risque. Though I was barred from the illicit fruits within, the cover burned itself into my memory.

I know what you’re thinking, but it was the cover on the right, not the one on the left. Still, I wasn’t prevented from reading much. Besides She, the list of banned reading in our house pretty much encompassed the pulp detective magazines one of my uncles used to have lying around when we visited.

Having read hundreds of pulp detective stories since then, She is the last of the to-reads on that list. I’m not expecting much, but it did get me thinking about covers; what works and what doesn’t.

name of wind



I had heard good things about both The Name of the Wind and its author, Patrick Rothfuss, but a glance at the cover made me think it wasn’t the book for me (and yes, I know, book, cover, judging, etc., etc.). I mean look at it … it looks like a bodice-ripper for a medieval cosplay fan club.

I’ll update my Goodreads account when I finish reading it, let you know how it comes out. In the meantime, I think I’ll invest in some plain brown paper and some tape so I can read it without scarring the children.


Notes from the editor emeritus

In early 2012, needing a job, I went to work at a small newspaper in nearby Granville, NY. It was eye-opening.

My adopted hometown of Rutland, VT, has a reputation, well-earned, for having a problem with petty crime caused mainly by abusers of recreational drugs, largely prescription but also pot, heroin, coke and the rest of America’s drug cabinet. Given that Granville shares the same white-trash underbelly, I expected the town/schools to be run pretty much the same … badly, on the whole, with honest, well-meaning efforts to overcome the miasma. It was, only worse. Much, much worse. Mostly because of the “honest” part.

As I move on, here are some observations from a passerby:

Dear Petty Official:

Stop lying so much. You’re not fooling anybody.

First off, you need some new material. I might believe you when you say my reporter never even asked you a question, except the entire editorial staff of the Sentinel shares one slightly oversized cubicle, and I listened to them ask it. Hell, I made them ask it. Here’s a hint: When a reporter calls back the day after the initial interview to verify a quote, that means a) the editor likely made them and b) yes, it’s going to appear in print. If you wish to beg for leniency from your own stupidity, that’s the right time, not wait until the paper comes out, then claim you never said it.

I also understand you are going to claim you never said it at Rotary. If they choose to believe you because they want to believe the word of the person responsible for teaching their kids or maintaining law and order in their community, that’s their willful suspension of disbelief. Some people like to think Liberace was straight, too, because the idea he might have been gay completely destroys their world view. I can’t help that and have given up trying.

But don’t bother trying to lie to me to get my reporter in trouble, because it just further discredits every single thing you say from then on. Remember, I’m the guy who told the reporter, “We can’t make Chief Wiggums/Principal Skinner/Mayor Quimby look like an idiot without at least giving the poor sap a second chance to clarify what he meant.” Not my fault you didn’t take it; not the reporter’s.

And when you do go to Rotary and tell them I got a whole story wrong when I was doing a little reporting myself, you might at least have the decency to call me back and tell me what was supposedly inaccurate instead of hiding behind your secretary.

Here’s another hint: When you tell the club over breakfast that I got everything wrong, then write a letter to the editor repeating the story pretty much verbatim except for the addition of the spin that you’re right and the teacher’s union is wrong, I’m going to run it. And not just because it kind of makes it obvious to everybody that the original story wasn’t so much “wrong” as “blatant, self-serving propaganda for the school district.” K? Thanks.