Dr. Metablog is the nom de blague of Vivian de St. Vrain, the pen name of a resident of the mountain west who writes about language, books, politics, or whatever else comes to mind. Under the name Otto Onions (Oh NIGH uns), Vivian de St. Vrain is the author of "The Big Book of False Etymologies" (Oxford, 1978) and, writing as Amber Feldhammer, is editor of the classic anthology of confessional poetry, "My Underwear" (Virago, 1997).
The old West Bradford cemetery, which is carved out of our land, is peopled by the Worthleys, Hacketts, Kidders, and Sleepers who first settled this part of Vermont. Some were long lived, some passed through this thoroughfare of woe only briefly. There are o-so-many of those sad stone lozenges at the foot of a grave that signify infants who died too young to be christened.
Our most disturbing gravestone, in my opinion, is the the one for Stanley Franklin Dwinell, M.D. born in 1920 and who died along with James Scott Dwinell (age 7), Peter Dewey Dwinell (age 6), and Jonathan Dwinell (age 2) all on the same day, December 11, 1952. What a horror, I thought -- a man and his three young sons all at once. A tragedy. But what sort? A plane crash? A boating accident? House fire? Perhaps even an infectious disease.
An internet search came up empty-handed, so I enquired of our longer-tenured neighbors. And here's the local legend. "Oh yes, the vet," I was told (although the tombstone distinctly says M. D., rather than D. V. M). "He was driving along Route 5 in Fairlee one winter morning and it was a icy road and foggy and he went out of control and all four of them died instantly. His wife was at home drinking a cup of coffee when she got the phone call. She left the coffee half-finished on the kitchen table, left the house without a word, and was never seen again. Didn't even take her clothes. Just disappeared."
It's a good story and it sounds like the plot of something by Alice Munro, but I don't believe it.
The same gravestone reveals that Constance S. Dwinell, wife of Doctor Stanly Franklin Dwinnel, died January 25, 1985, at age 65.
I'm trying to imagine the remainder of poor Constance's life. It's hard to construct a scenario that isn't completely dreadful. Most likely, Constance returned, shattered, to the small town in New Hampshire, let us say, where she must have been born. She moved back into her parents' house and took a job as a town librarian, her life blighted by the tragedy. She never remarried.
But I prefer to imagine that she moved to Paris (she had majored in French at Wellesley, I'm guessing,) and never told a soul about her first family. There she was wooed and won by Guy de Condorcet de Noialles but could never conceive a child. It was a long happy marriage. After Guy died, crashing his motorcycle on the Riviera, she returned to the States a rich woman, and lived out her life in a Park Aveue apartment in New York. Friends and neighbors who had no idea of her first life were shocked when they read the will which specified that she be buried, along with Stanley and the children, right here in West Bradford.
That's my story and I'm sticking with it though I would very much like to know the truth.
November 14, 2015 Larry Coffin, president of the Bradford Historical Society, writes:
I would like to correct your information on Dr. Stanley Dwinell. He and his three sons were killed in a collision with a train on a crossing in Newbury, Vt as he was going to treat a patient at Woodsville (NH) Cottage Hospital. His father Dr. Franklin Dwinell was in a car following.