National Geographic : 1974 Jul
with wild mustard. "They planned to build a major city here, the equal of any in America. Thank heaven they never succeeded." At home in this setting of woods and water, crofters cleared high mowings; they raised oats to feed their bodies and unpretentious churches to nourish their souls. Trees have reclaimed most of the meadows; stone walls that once fenced well-kept fields are almost lost in forest. But the look of Scotland still lies across a landscape that summer's vetch and vervain blossoms brush with hues of heather. SKIRTING TICKLENAKED POND (so named, some say, by early skinny dippers dunking in its plant-filled waters), I turned toward Barre. Here an im posing midcity statue of poet Robert Burns reminded me that not all Scots lingered in lower Caledonia County. "My grandfather came straight from Aber deen to work granite here," said Frederick S. Ralph, a pit-to-vice-president executive at Rock of Ages Corporation. "Holding down a job in those hand-tool and horse-drawn days required a rugged sort. It still does, but now the descendants of Italians and French Canadians outnumber the Scots." Riding a derrick-controlled grout bucket, operations manager John Fondry and I dangled 400 feet above the quarry floor on Millstone Hill (following pages). Below, beetle-size men with torches segmented the blue-gray stone into 40-ton blocks. Under extreme heat the rock expands, then flakes off, creating a narrow channel that can be etched to any depth within flame's reach. "Quicker and neater than dynamite or drill," John said. "Still we lose 80 percent of the rock in cutting and finishing." Even so there is little danger that Barre will soon run out of granite. Geologist Mal Heyburn gave me his calculations: "After chipping away for more than a century, we've removed about 7.5 percent of the reachable supply. At this rate the last block should be coming out around 4 p.m., October 2, in the year 3206." I decided not to wait. While early Vermonters reaped meager rewards from the rocky soil, later ones found riches under it. The state has long been among the nation's leading producers of marble as well as granite, and of asbestos, talc, and slate. Threading a maze of tunnels, I followed Industry, plain and fancy N BURLINGTON sample bobbins of hardwood (below) fill bins bearing customers' names at Vermont Spool and Bobbin Company. Designed for the weaving industry, the cylinders have become popular with collectors, and many now find their way into antique shops. At an IBM plant in Essex Junction, technicians in futuristic smocks (right) fashion wafers-computer memory circuits -with the aid of TV cameras aimed through microscopes. The box marked HOT LOT holds a test batch requiring special handling.