Eminent Domain in Ascutney, Vermont | I Will Not Leave
For us today, Romaine Tenney’s death is the story of “imminent” domain–a story told hundreds of times a year as neighbors face some new road, big-box store, or cell tower. It’s the story that’s being played out right now in the battle over New Hampshire’s Northern Pass power-line project (see “‘My Roots Are Deeper Than Your Pockets,'” p. 92 in this issue). Somewhere this week or next, someone will approach the microphone in a tense public meeting and say, “I was born here and I’m going to die here. I won’t sell out. All I ask is to live in peace on this small plot of land. Why can’t you let me live in peace?” And at those times, Romaine Tenney is in the room.
But that’s not the whole story, either. Talk of Romaine’s death overlooks his life, obscuring his gentleness. What people don’t see about this bachelor farmer is that this is a love story. “It’s all centered around love and dedication,” Rosemary said. “He was born there. He loved the land. He loved farming. He loved–I’m talking truly loved. He worked hard every day, seven days a week, and it was all out of love–not out of duty or commitment or need.”
“We put that on his gravestone,” Joan said, “and it’s true: ‘Guardian of his land & friend to all.’ And that’s what he was.”
“It was the love of the land,” Rosemary said. “That’s all it was.”
And that is what makes Exit 8 on Interstate 91 in Vermont just about the saddest spot along thousands of miles of highway.