United States/Canada Border
“Come!” he shouts. “Come!” When I reach the customs station, he admonishes me sternly: “You could be arrested! Don’t you know?” His words are inflected with heavy French tones. “You have not checked in, and you are out of your car wandering around!” I explain that I want to photograph the marker. “You are not allowed to do that,” he replies. “You are not allowed to get out of your car!” After abruptly checking my passport, he waves me through, clearly impatient.
In the morning, I stop for gas on my way out of town. Fernando Beltran is leaning on a Vermont State Police cruiser, talking with a female trooper. He waves across the parking lot, and I go over. He tells me to go up to the very top of Shattuck Hill and take a picture of the view. “You’ll see the whole lake from there,” he says. “Man, is that bee-yootiful!”
From Shattuck Hill I see cloud shadows playing on the green hills all the way across Lake Memphremagog and into Canada. Memphremagog is a mystical 27-mile-long glacial lake, about a quarter of which lies in Vermont, the rest in Quebec. It’s 350 feet deep and harbors not only the legend of a monster named Memphre but smuggling lore galore, including caves where contraband was hidden.
The tip end of the lake is surrounded by the city of Newport, Vermont, a busy little community with a surprising number of banks. I walk down to the waterfront, with its small harbor and marina, an idyllic stretch of water that would set any sailor to longing. I look for the harbormaster. There’s a little building on the dock, with a phone on the outside wall. The sign instructs anyone who’s coming in from Quebec to call the customs agent from this phone. Inside, the office has a desk and a chair but nothing to indicate that anyone ever sits here.
A burly fellow is emptying the trash. I ask where I might find the harbormaster. “That would be me,” he says.
“Where are all the boats?” I ask.
“Well,” he replies, “these are international waters, so it gets kind of messy. The waters are patrolled.”
“So people don’t want to keep boats here?” I ask. He shrugs.
“Are there harbor tours?”
“Used to be,” he says. “But they don’t do that anymore.”