Dorset Quarry: A good thing gone bad


Growing up in South Dorset, Vermont in the 1950's and '60's there were limited opportunities for fun.

You made the most of what was available, which wasn't much. If you were a boy you were expected to play Little League. I got hit with the first pitch ever thrown at me.

Didn't much like Little League.

You could hang out in the barn with the horses, but that go old quickly. You could always go hunting for whatever was in season, which could easily occupy much of the day. Nice thing about it was that you could either do it alone or grab a friend and head off together in search of come what may. Finding something to shoot wasn't nearly as important as finding our way around the woods and then back home.

There was little to fear in the woods (ticks were non-existent), but that wouldn't stop you from conjuring up something to be terrified of. Something as simple as an unidentifiable sound would do it.

On hot summer days, like the ones we're into right now, the neighborhood kids had the luxury and privilege of being able to cool off in my aunt and uncle's pond my Uncle Pete made. It was down over the bank from their house. There were three ways to get there; one was by the "Indian" path we had made from my house. One was from the road Uncle Pete had made to build the pond and one was from my uncle's backyard. That path zigzagged down the bank, which was secured by a variety of beautiful wildflowers. On the hottest Saturday of the summer there were maybe ten kids that would show up to cool off.

Contrast that to the Dorset Quarry. "The Quarry," as it was known, had no shallow area. It was sink or swim, thus only good swimmers would go there. I started swimming there at the age of twelve. On the hottest Saturday of the summer there would maybe be twenty to thirty local kids there. When it became too crowded some of us would go up to the upper quarry to get away.

The Quarry was owned by Elam Miller. I arrived at The Quarry one hot summer day chauffeured by my grandmother as I was too young to drive. Immediately I knew something was wrong. I saw blood running down the rocks on the opposite side. The blood ran vertically at the thirteenth hole bored into the rock.

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Buddy Baker had fallen out of a tree and tragically landed on a steel rod used for securing cable. The Quarry should've been closed that day forever.

The Baker family didn't sue the Miller family saying that it wasn't their fault their boy fell out of the tree.

That was the day that our town learned that The Quarry was more than just a swimming hole; it was a liability.

Today as you drive to Dorset, cars now line both sides of Route 30. Improvements have been made by the new owners; the McDonough family, which although well intended have exacerbated the ever-increasing problem of more people using it as their personal, private swimming alternative. In a lifetime it has gotten out of hand.

Thanks to social media (arguably the bane of mankind) the entire world knows about The Quarry. Of course they don't know that the water is stagnant, but oh well.

Humans have a way of destroying a good thing. It's why you never, ever tell anyone where your favorite fishing hole is. If you do, the next time you go there you'll find 10 guys with lines in the water and you'll have to go find a new favorite fishing hole; and learn to keep your mouth shut.

Like the days of my youth The Quarry as I knew it is gone. You don't suppose the real problem is too many people, do you?

Bob Stannard lives in Manchester.


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