|A local shaker and MOOver|
by Bryan Thomas, Winter X Games lead researcher
Spend any time driving a car on Route 100 near Mount Snow, and odds are good that you've caught yourself staring at a cow's rear-end. Or at least its tailpipe or emergency exit. The fleet of 25 MOOver cow buses that dot the main arteries and side roads of the Deerfield Valley are perhaps the most recognizable and unique form of public transportation in New England.
"I still grin every time I see one," says Skip Morrow, the local artist/ entertainer/ designer/ renaissance man who came up with the idea over three years ago. "The design had to be something that would stick out from the thousands of tourist buses that come through here every year," he says. "Lots of kids-both local and visiting-use the system quite a bit, so we needed a look that would not get confused."
Morrow, whose I Hate Cats cartoon books enjoyed national popularity in the early 1980s, was given free rein on the bus project. "I asked the people on the business end how much fun I could have with this, and they said, 'It's all yours.' So I started thinking to myself... 'a people mover ... moo-ver ... MOOver ... uh-oh."
Just as it is when creating cartoons, says Morrow, sometimes the idea for the pun or the joke comes before the idea for the artwork. Morrow got together with some local volunteers and "a couple hundred rolls of finishing tape" to paint the first group of 12 old and mismatched buses in 1996. The fleet has since gained in funding and size, growing to include 25 buses that run nine routes (five routes are focused on the ski area, two are devoted to servicing the elderly and disabled, and two are assigned to the 36-mile loop linking Readsboro and Wardsboro.) But the man responsible for the cows on wheels is not a one-trick pony. He recently brainstormed another viable traffic solution for the Deerfield Valley. For approximately 30 years, locals have discussed building a by-pass around Wilmington to alleviate the log jam at the intersection of Routes 9 and 100.
Millions of dollars have been spent researching a solution, says Dover Chief of Police Robert Edwards. "So enters Skip stage right: 'Move the town!' At first I looked at him like he had lost it. Then I realized he had a great idea."
Morrow formed an exploratory team to research the idea and they found that it would actually be cheaper to move the town than to build a major by-pass. "We were very conservative on all of our price estimates," says Morrow. "And we worked through every last detail-new streets, sidewalks, sewer systems, the actual cost of moving buildings.... One of our researchers was a Harvard architect. We were very thorough."
The new site that Morrow proposed for the town is on a peninsula of the Harriman Reservoir just west of Wilmington. "Wouldn't be the first time the town was moved," he says. "The original town of Wilmington was about a mile north of where it is now. In the 1800s when [present-day] Route 9 was built, they moved Wilmington to be closer to the cross-state commerce. They did it in the winter-just put the buildings on sleds and pulled them with horses."The main problem with Morrow's plan is selling it to the residents. The Wilmington Selectmen (town council) currently recognize it as one of two main solutions, but chance of the plan coming to fruition, Morrow admits, is fairly slim. Morrow has lived in the area for over 20 years. "I could live anywhere," he says. "I know it sounds corny, but where else would I find a place like this? I can still leave my keys in the car in my driveway. Sure, it gets pretty cold, but we don't have the floods and pestilence of other places." When Skip Morrow is not moving towns, designing cow buses, writing books, publishing greeting cards and calendars, or drawing cartoons, he can be found playing guitar and singing with his wife, Laraine, at Fennessey's Parlor (connected to the Deacon's Den). They perform there every Saturday night.
|Transportation isn't a problem at Mount Snow thanks to the MOOvers.|