Cows have finally come Home…r

Frankly, I knew all along that Homer and Marge Simpson and the kids lived in Vermont. The tip-off for me wasn’t the proximity to the nuclear power plant. It wasn’t even Bart’s iconic, “Don’t have a cow, man,” a trenchant reference to falling milk prices. It was the episode last season when Lisa went to a writer’s conference in Vermont, Wordloaf, and it only took about seven seconds of TV time to drive there.
Am I surprised that our Springfield, however, actually won the USA Today video poll? A little. It’s not that the video the Vermont Film Commission produced wasn’t terrific: It was. I could watch WCAX-TV’s Tim Kavanagh imitate Homer Simpson and chase a rolling, giant pink doughnut down the street for hours, even though Homer Simpson has more hair than Kavanagh. (Of course, even I have more hair than Kavanagh, and there are fish in the ocean with more hair than me.)
No, I was a little stunned because Vermont usually exists on television solely as the Land of the Romantic Bed and Breakfast. When characters on “Seinfeld,” “Friends” and “Will & Grace” wanted amorous weekends away from the city, they always came here. Our biggest TV star is actually the Ben & Jerry’s ice cream pint — not the Homer Simpson doughnut — which appears often when a female character is home and alone and trying to convince herself that food is love.
We won in what is generally considered a monumental upset against much larger Springfields. We were the David to the Goliath Springfields in states like New Jersey, Oregon and Massachusetts.
And yet win we did, sneaking past runner-up Springfield, Ill. by a mere 733 votes — or a little more than half the population of my little village of Lincoln. My wife came racing into my library on Tuesday afternoon when the victory was announced, absolutely beaming. She was bursting with what she referred to as “incredibly big news!” Normally, this would mean that one of our cats had actually caught a small, annoying animal — smaller and even more annoying, that is, than one of our cats (who are extremely annoying), such as a mole or a mouse. This story, in her opinion, was every bit as satisfying as something like that, and produced precisely the same swell of pride.
Which might be an indication of why our Springfield is now the Simpsons’ Springfield: Vermont is so small that we still care about each other and take pleasure in the success of our neighbors in ways that bigger states don’t. I was discussing this issue with Jack Thurston of WCAX the day after the announcement, and he said it better and more succinctly than I could: “Does anyone in Chicago really care about Springfield, Ill.? Probably not — at least not the way that someone in Burlington is going to root for someone in Springfield, Vt.”
I think he’s correct. More of us here in the Green Mountains actually bothered to vote for Springfield, Vt., than people in (for instance) Newark, N.J., bothered to vote for the Garden State Springfield. This may be an indication of just how much we care about each other. Or, perhaps, it’s simply an indication that we are all really unproductive workers and our employers need to watch how much time we are spending on sites like when we are supposed to be on the job. It may also mean that each of us is in serious need of a life.
Either way, I love the idea that Hollywood is coming to Springfield, Vt. I love the idea that a group of Vermonters thought big. Really big.
Next up? Let’s make our presidential primary count and move our primary up to February 2008. Or January. Or even next month. Sure, Hillary Clinton and Rudy Giuliani will never be as hip as Homer Simpson. But it sure would be fun to watch them running after a rolling, giant pink doughnut.
(This column originally appeared in the Burlington Free Press on July 15.)

Chris Bohjalian

Chris Bohjalian is the author of nineteen books, including his forthcoming novel, The Sleepwalker. His other novels include the New York Times bestsellers Midwives, The Sandcastle Girls, The Guest Room, and The Double Bind.

3 thoughts on “Cows have finally come Home…r

  1. Kelley says:

    Them there’s fighting words!! We in NH do like our primary first. 🙂 Though I, too, would love to see them chase a donut. Brilliant idea.

  2. Olivia d'Alessandro says:

    “Don’t have a cow.” Hmmmm. I spent part of my youth in the New Jersey public school system, back in the 60’s. One of our favorite expressions back then was “Geez, don’t have a cow!” Often one would say something like: “Did you see her, she had a cow.” or, “If you tell him that, he’ll have a cow.” Having a cow meant having a FIT. Falling milk prices? I guess I missed that episode.

  3. GardenState Blues says:

    Chris Bohjalian writes: “I think he’s correct. More of us here in the Green Mountains actually bothered to vote for Springfield, Vt., than people in (for instance) Newark, N.J., bothered to vote for the Garden State Springfield.”
    Too true, I am sure. And yet, everyone is this crazy state (NJ) seems to be perversely proud of The Sopranos. ~sigh~ It’s not easy living in New Jersey. Those tomatoes don’t really make up for everything else… (But I do like the boardwalks).

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