May 27, 2018

Places I’ve Played: A whale of a tale

Hila Holstein, aka Bill Skiff

Hila Holstein, aka Bill Skiff

By ‘Hilda Holstein’                                                 

September 19th, 2013

This is a tale of two tails. Once upon a time there was an ocean, and it covered most of Vermont—even Lake Champlain. It was big and beautiful—and very, very deep—so deep in fact that it had many fish in it, including whales.

One day, two junior whales were swimming around having fun and jumping to show off for their girl whale-friends. One time they jumped really, really high—so high, in fact, that they could see Montreal.  When they reached the top of their jump they turned around and headed back down, whale-head first. What they did not know was at that very moment the earth had tipped slightly to the Southwest—and all the water covering Chittenden County had run off and covered most of Cape Cod.

The poor whales landed in a meadow in South Burlington whale-head first. BANG, BANG they hit, one after the other. The ground was so hard that only part of them sunk in while the other quarter was left sticking out of the ground. Believe it or not, they are still there today. You can see them every time you drive on Interstate 89.

People did not know what to make of them so they called them “art.” There are many forms of art, so I guess this is one of them. Whenever I drive by I ask myself, “Are these whales tails, sticking up in the middle of a Vermont meadow, as appropriate a form of art as two Holstein cow’s tails would be sticking up through the beach on Cape Cod?”

I saw the other day there was a for sale sign hanging from them. Maybe some leaf-peepers will buy them and provide a new home.

Oh well, the old bull says it’s time I get into the 21st century, and I guess he’s right. But, I still scratch my horns every time they pasture me there.

NOTE: In order to devote more time to the writing of “Willie the Jumping Frog,” a story about the Williston Fourth of July Frog Jumping contest, I need to take a break from my column. Thanks for all your support and encouragement. We will meet again.

Bill Skiff grew up on a farm between Cambridge and Jeffersonville. After a career in education, he now lives in Williston, where he is a justice of the peace and Fourth of July frog-jumping official. In “Places I’ve Played,” he shares his experiences of growing up in Vermont. Comments are welcome at


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