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Jim Kenyon: Barnard pays tribute to a hero with buck pool fundraiser

  • Jim Kenyon. Copyright (c) Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Valley News Columnist
Published: 11/12/2019 9:50:52 PM
Modified: 11/12/2019 9:50:45 PM

With opening day of Vermont’s annual rifle season set for Saturday, Barnard’s volunteer firefighters and rescue workers have put together their first “buck pool” fundraiser.

All proceeds from Barnard Fire and Rescue’s contest will be turned over to the family of Tyler Webster.

I can’t imagine a more fitting cause.

Webster, a Barnard firefighter and avid deer hunter, was killed last month after his logging truck overturned in Bethel. Webster had a 2-year-old daughter and also helped raise his partner’s two children. He was 32.

“He meant a lot to a lot of people in town,” said Don Stewart, a member of Barnard Fire and Rescue. “It’s tough leaving behind a young family. We wanted to do something to try to help them out.”

On Oct. 4, Webster was headed down Royalton Hill Road with a load of logs when the 2000 Mack truck that he was driving was “believed to have had a brake malfunction and was unable to slow down as it descended the hill,” a Vermont State Police trooper reported in his crash summary.

A crew of utility workers was on a job that Friday afternoon near the bottom of the steep hill, which intersects with North Road. About a half-dozen cars were waiting in line to get the go-ahead from the crew’s flagger to proceed up Royalton Hill Road.

When Webster came around the bend, the workers and cars were in his path. But he quickly swerved to “avoid colliding with traffic,” state police reported.

Webster’s logging truck then sideswiped an unoccupied parked vehicle. His truck overturned after hitting a large pine tree just off to the right of the paved road.

Webster, who was wearing a seat belt, died at Gifford Medical Center in Randolph later that afternoon.

At the scene, witnesses told emergency personnel that Webster had made the ultimate sacrifice when he veered away from the line of cars and utility workers.

“He could have possibly hit a lot of other people,” said Mike Manning, of Barnard Fire and Rescue, who was among the emergency personnel on the scene. “He swerved to avoid everybody. He spared them.”

In an interview with the Herald of Randolph, Bethel Fire Chief Dave Aldrighetti said, “As far as we’re concerned, he’s a hero. I’m sure he didn’t know that he would sacrifice his life, but he made the decision to go that way instead of hitting the cars.”

More than 100 people attended a memorial service for Webster on a recent Sunday afternoon at Barnard’s fire station.

Around the same time, the idea of holding a fundraiser to benefit Webster’s family came up. The department’s 30 or so members “look after each other,” Manning said. “We take care of one another.”

Jim Webster, who also served for a time as a volunteer firefighter in Barnard, told me the support shows how townspeople felt about his son.

“It makes me proud of him,” he said. “He was good friends with everyone.”

A buck pool seemed a fitting tribute. Jim Webster told me that his son had bagged about 40 deer since he started hunting at age 9.

Along with hunting in Vermont, Webster “filled his deer tag” just about every year in New Hampshire and Canada, a friend said.

Last year, he shot a six-pointer that weighed 190 pounds in Lyme.

In many rural communities, preseason buck pools are as much of a tradition as church suppers and holiday bazaars.

Under the rules of the Barnard contest, hunters pay a $10 entry fee. The hunter who reports the largest deer taken during Vermont’s 16-day rifle season will win. If two or more hunters shoot bucks of equal weights, the tie will be broken by the number of points.

The prize: A new Ruger Hawkeye 270 stainless steel bolt-action rifle with a custom-carved walnut stock.

Barnard Fire and Rescue and friends of the department are picking up the cost of the rifle, which allows all the money raised to go to Webster’s family.

The entry deadline is Friday evening. To enter, call Manning (802-234-5263), Stewart (802-234-9653) or any other department member. Contributions from non-hunters will continue to be accepted after Friday.

There’s talk in Barnard of making the buck pool an annual event to help residents who are experiencing hard times.

Over the years, Webster did his part, splitting and delivering firewood on behalf of Barnard’s “helping hands” program.

“We live in such a small community that everybody knows everybody,” said Justin Ward, Tyler Webster’s cousin. “When we see people who are down, everyone pitches in to help.”

Stewart told me that he’s not much of a deer hunter, but he just might get into the woods before the season ends on Thanksgiving weekend.

His friend would have liked that.

Jim Kenyon can be reached at jkenyon@vnews.com.




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