I keep telling people that here in my new Vermont home the vast stillness is unbroken except for the occasional sound of distant church bells and passing trains. That is not precisely true. Rutland City does have one big noise to offer those who can’t stand too much peace and quiet: the Ten of Nine Whistle.
Horn of Plenty
The Ten of Nine Whistle is actually a large airhorn that sits atop the fire station in the center of Rutland, and diagonally opposite the house I now occupy. The horn has a rich history, and a loud voice, and to love both is to be a true Rutlander. In fact, whenever anyone has attempted to silence the Ten of Nine, it comes back even stronger, always an appealing and admirable trait.
Downtown Rutland in 1907
Back in the old days, the horn was primarily used to summon firefighters. Like most emergency alert systems, it required testing, sometimes daily, and always at the same hour to distinguish it from a real alarm. Rutland later began to sound the horn at 8:50 every night, as a warning to teenagers that the 9pm curfew was imminent and they had ten minutes to get off the streets. That curfew was short-lived, but the 8:50 sounding of the horn persisted. In recent years, from what I can learn online and in talking to locals, thanks to various changes in government, the horn was first allowed to fall into disuse, then reinstated, then put on a reduced schedule, then not only restored to its regular nightly blast, but given the added duty and distinction of sounding at 8:50 every morning as well.
A few years ago, they even put the issue to a vote and Rutlanders overwhelmingly supported the maintaining of this twice daily schedule. Living so close to this undeniable piece of history capable of rattling windows and knocking you out of your shoes if you aren’t expecting it, and most nearly resembling the sound of the Queen Mary entering port, I fully understand those in the minority who cast dissenting votes, but given the chance, I know that I too would have voted in favor of the horn. It begins the day in a tone that is proud, clear and bold, letting all good citizens know that we have made it through the night and all is well. And after an honest day’s work and a hot meal and everyone safely in their homes, it seems to say “the day is done, good job, it’s alright to rest now.”
Ten of Nine
But here is why I really love this horn. Today is my birthday. On December 7th 1962, at 8:50 in the morning, I was born. Ask not for whom the horn sounds – today, it sounds for me.