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Eminent Domain in Ascutney, Vermont | I Will Not Leave

Eminent Domain in Ascutney, Vermont | I Will Not Leave
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It was an extremely hot fire, so hot that it melted the plastic light on top of the fire chief’s car, which was parked about 80 feet away. “With our little engine with only 100 gallons of water on it, we couldn’t do a thing,” Spaulding recalled. The nearby town of Windsor had also sent 10 men and an engine, but it was no use. The firemen rounded up the cows and spent a half-hour reviving one calf. Neighbors would take the cows and Spot; Romaine’s niece Rosemary would take his other dog, Prince.Almost 50 years later, that night still upsets Spaulding: “It’s a terrible, helpless feeling. Been through it a couple of times. It’s just terribly hopeless. You go because that’s what we do, and you get there and there’s nothing you can do.”

On the solemn morning after, Romaine’s family stood by the smoldering ruins with hundreds of others. They had been there all night. “‘This can’t be true. This can’t be true,’” Rosemary recalled thinking. “I didn’t know where the animals were. I didn’t know where he was. It was just a total, total loss. And this beautiful farm and this beautiful man and those animals loved him as much he loved them. And it was gone. All over a ridiculous highway–which could have, and should have, taken a big old turn.”

She had seen Romaine just hours before, around midnight. She and her sister, Joan Newcity, and her brother Ron had gone over to the farm with her father to move some of his things to their house. They thought he was going to move in with them. Romaine and her father always took a long time to part, chatting by the car. “That night Romaine cried,” Rosemary recalled. “I remember him saying, ‘I didn’t even milk the cows today.’ He was very emotional.”

“Don’t worry,” Emerson had told him. “We’ll fix you up. There’s got to be some way out of this.”

The firemen searched the woods for Romaine all night and the next day, hoping that he was “sitting up in the back somewhere,” having a good laugh. Rolly and Lois also thought he might be hiding. They put food out in the woods: “We hiked all over the area, calling his name and telling him that there was food and where it was.”

Joan kept seeing Romaine in her dreams. She would dream that he was hiding in a small cavelike space among the ledges up behind the house, where they used to play: “We used to crawl in. In my dreams he was in there, hiding. I always used to think that.”

“For the longest time,” Rosemary said, “we all just expected him to come out of the woods.”

He had said that he was going to burn down his farm. “I was born here and I will die here,” Romaine had said. When his closest neighbor heard the fire siren, she knew: “He has done what he said he was going to do.” Rolly had offered him big boxes to pack his things to move. Rolly was on the school board, and they had just gotten a shipment of new desks that had come in big cardboard cartons. “Well, yeah,” Romaine said slowly after a minute, “and if I don’t use them for that, they burn well.”

He had said goodbye many times, but no one had really believed him. “Toward the end, you’d ask him how he was when you saw him, and he’d say, ‘Living now, but I won’t be living long.’ But it was hard to know if he meant it,” said Deputy Sheriff Gale, who’d known him well. “One minute he spoke like that, and the next he’d be joking and laughing.”

Please Note: This article was accurate at the time of publication. When planning a trip, please confirm details by directly contacting any company or establishment you intend to visit.

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