Chester

I was making my rounds at Lake View Cemetery on a holiday morning, rediscovering Mary Norton Loney’s tomb, walking over to the Legg/Thayer plot to visit with the lions that guard it, when I saw that I was not alone. A woodchuck, used to having the grounds to himself, was watching me intently, trying to decide if I was friend or foe. He was a chubby, chunky woodchuck, with rolling fur, and after looking me over, he chugged away in the direction of his den.

I was curious to see where he lived and I followed him, walking. His face had reminded me at once of Chester Alan Arthur, the twenty-first president of the United States, perhaps because of the bright eyes and side-whiskers.

When Chester saw me approach, he ducked into a hole located squarely atop the grave of Daniel Kellogg. In fact, while building a home, Chester has sprayed no small amount of dirt onto Daniel Kellogg’s massive white stone. An attorney, judge and man of wealth, Kellogg lived in the Vredenburg mansion after its builder’s death, probably the only man in the Village who could both afford it and carry it off. His carriage had silver wheels and door handles, with blue and gold upholstery. In just two months of 1825, he hosted both Daniel Webster and the Marquis de LaFayette. Today, still gracious, he hosts Chester the woodchuck.

— July 4, 2001

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