Spring Beauty: A Carding Chronicle

SH-Spring BeautyIt’s been a wet spring in Vermont and the river levels have been higher for longer than normal.

Earlier in the month, we had a brief respite of non-rainy days, enough to bring the Corvus River low enough to make it safe for the annual Amnicolist River Race.

Sixteen-year old Faye Bennett, her brother Wil, and their two best friends, Suzanna Owen and Dave Muzzy, came in second—though they hotly dispute the ranking.

No matter. Life moves on. It is spring, after all. And Faye, who often confides in her beloved Uncle Dan, has a new wrinkle in her life that she wants to discuss.

This is their most recent email exchange.

Welcome to Carding, Vermont where life always includes a dash of the unexpected. You can find the little town that no one can seem to find on a map right here in the Carding Chronicles and in the four novels of Carding, Vermont, The Road Unsalted, Thieves of Fire, The Dazzling Uncertainty of Life, and Lights in Water, Dancing.

If you haven’t already, don’t forget to subscribe to the Chronicle by clicking the link on this page. That way, you’ll never miss a story.

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Dear Uncle Dan,

I had the weirdest thing happen to me during river race week.

I think I may have fallen in love.

It all started when I nearly fell out of our raft toward the end of the race. It was a close thing. And it was Wil’s best-friend-since-forever, Dave Muzzy, who pulled me back into our makeshift pirate ship.

Dave and I have known each other since we were in elementary school and he’s stayed overnight at our house more times than I can count. So why is it that I suddenly noticed that he’s an interesting and funny guy? And that he has beautiful brown eyes?

I know you’ve been listening to me whine about Brian Lambert for a while now (I’m sorry about that and I promise this is the last time) about how cool I thought he was, what a good time we had together and then what a rat he turned out to be.

For the life of me, I couldn’t figure out why he dropped me like a glowing ember from a wood stove to go back to his old girlfriend, Sheila, the one from Martha’s Vineyard. The worst part about the whole fiasco was his cowardice when it came to telling me what was going on.

It was pathetic.

But then a couple of days before the raft race, I ran into this very same Sheila in the Coop. She was by herself and I was just going to walk on when she stopped me…to apologize. She claims she didn’t know anything more about me than I did about her.

But that was not the most interesting part of our conversation. That came at the end when Sheila said that the reason Brian broke up with me is because I scare him, that I’m too smart and figure things out that he believes I shouldn’t be able to figure out.

Can you imagine? Seriously, you could have whopped me off my feet with the proverbial feather when Sheila told me that!

I didn’t tell anyone about that conversation until after the race when Wil, Suzanna, Dave and I went out for pizza. (Fiorello’s is doing a new pizza with artichokes now and it is yummy!!)

Well, you know Wil—he just howled with laughter and offered to tell Brian about my math grades. (I truly suck at trigonometry. Who needs to know what a cosine is anyway?) 

In other words, he was no help at all.

But Dave took me seriously. He told us how Brian complains about his dad all the time. “Mr. Lambert doesn’t like to be questioned about anything which leads to a lot of arguments with his wife and his kids,” he said.

“Yeah, we’ve been at Brian’s house a couple of times when they’ve gone at it,” Wil said. “Makes me appreciate the Moms and Dads…”

“And Uncle Teds,” Suzanna added.

“Yeah, and the Uncle Teds we all have.”

“The thing is,” Dave went on, “If you pay attention, you realize that Brian’s just like his Dad. In school, he does this thing with guys where he gets all harsh and nasty if someone knows something he doesn’t. Personally, I think he’s insecure about a lot of things so he pushes people away. I suspect that’s the real reason why he won’t try out for basketball in college. He’s afraid somebody might be better than him and Brian can’t handle that.”

So then I asked Dave: “Are you afraid of me? Are all the guys I know afraid of me because they think I’m smart? Because if that’s true, that’s really sick.” That’s when I noticed that Dave has beautiful eyes. 

He laughed. “Nah, I’ve seen your report card, remember? I figure I can keep up. Besides, I don’t have any patience for people who are deliberately ignorant and I think that what Brian did to you was deliberately ignorant.”

That night, after we all got home, Dave texted me to ask if I wanted to hike up to the old Small farmstead on Sunrise Hill. I haven’t been up there since Dad, Suzanna and I released that red-tail hawk back into the wild.

It’s a beautiful spot but that was the same day Dad’s truck slid off the Hooke Road bridge and he nearly drowned so I’ve been sort of superstitious about both places ever since.

I figured Dave was asking all of us but when I texted back, he said no, he was just asking me.

That made me feel funny and I almost said no. But then I thought, why not?

I met him in front of the library, hoping that Wil wouldn’t see us. I love my brother (don’t you ever tell him that) but honestly, he’s getting to be more of a pain the closer he gets to graduation. I know he’s nervous but seriously, I can’t wait until it’s over so he can go back to being his usual jerky self. That I can handle.

I could tell Dave was kind of nervous when we first set off but after a while we got into oohing and aahing over all the wildflowers on the trail. I’ve never seen so many spring beauties in bloom at the same time. There was one slope that was carpeted with them. I took pictures with my phone and I attached one of them to this email so you’ll miss Carding and come visit soon.

We both brought stuff to eat and drink and we spread it all out on a big rock when we got to the top. The view of Carding from up there is like I imagine Rivendell looked to Bilbo Baggins the first time he saw it. You can see the Crow’s Head Falls way off in the distance and the river snaking through town and the spire of the Episcopal Church.

After we finished eating, the two of us just sat there cloud watching. And then we were holding hands. And then we were snuggled up close with our arms around one another.

I don’t think either one of us thought much about what we were doing or what it meant or could mean. It just felt right, really all right.

And then we kissed one another. More than once.

And that felt really all right too.

Is that how it works, Uncle Dan? One minute you’re standing on one side of a line and the next minute you’re on the other side and you have no idea how or when you moved?

I’m not sure but I think I floated back down the hill. We barely talked except for Dave asking me to go to the senior dance with him and for me to say yes.

Dave graduates with Wil next month and then the two of them are taking off for Costa Rica to volunteer in an eco-agriculture program for six weeks and then they’re off to UVM for school. And I have plans for after I graduate next year and I don’t want to get attached to anyone who gets in the way of doing them, no matter what. 

I’m trying to wrap my head around all of this but it’s kind of knocked me sideways. Any advice Uncle Dan?

Love as always,
Faye

•••

Dear Faye,

I have three observations to make about the new turn in your relationship with this young man. Take them or leave them as you will.

The first is: Good friends are very hard to find. As you said, you and Dave have known one another for a long time. No matter what paths your lives follow, you now both know that there’s someone out there who “gets” you, who will take you in no matter the time of day, and who will come to your aid in every crisis. You can depend on Dave. He can depend on you.

Believe me, dear niece, that is more important than anything. That’s what your Mom and Dad have, a deep friendship built on trust with a bunch of love thrown in for good measure.

Second, one of my favorite expressions is: Blessed are those with no expectations because they will never be disappointed. In my opinion, unmet expectations are one of the banes of human existence.

Look at what you know about this situation: Dave is your friend, he likes you a lot, you are both incredibly comfortable in one another’s company, so much so that you don’t feel the need to talk about your relationship.

In my opinion, messing with that is just asking for stress and hurt feelings. Let it be.

And third, I like Dave. I’ve always liked Dave. And I’m an extremely good judge of character so it’s all good with me.

Will you cry when he goes off to Costa Rica and then UVM? I expect so. Would you stop him from going to either place? Of course not. Is there a possibility of the two of you having adventures together at some point in the future?

I, for one, will be interested to find out what happens.

Love from wherever I am to wherever you are,

Uncle Dan

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Remember, you can visit Carding any time by scouring the archive of older stories or by reading one of my four Carding novels, The Road Unsalted, Thieves of Fire, The Dazzling Uncertainty of Life, or Lights in Water, Dancing.

Thanks for stopping by.

Spring Beauty

It’s been a wet spring in Vermont and the river levels have been higher than normal for longer than normal.

Earlier in the month, we had a brief respite of non-rainy days, enough to bring the Corvus River low enough to make it safe for the annual Amnicolist River Race.

Sixteen-year old Faye Bennett, her brother Wil, and their two best friends, Suzanna Owen and Dave Muzzy, came in second—though they hotly dispute the ranking.

No matter. Life moves on. It is spring, after all. And Faye, who often confides in her beloved Uncle Dan, has a new wrinkle in her life that she wants to discuss.

Here’s a sample of tomorrow’s story.

Welcome to Carding, Vermont where life always includes a dash of the unexpected. You can find the little town that no one can seem to find on a map right here in the Carding Chronicles and in the four novels of Carding, Vermont, The Road Unsalted, Thieves of Fire, The Dazzling Uncertainty of Life, and Lights in Water, Dancing.

If you haven’t already, don’t forget to subscribe to the Chronicle by clicking the link on this page. That way, you’ll never miss a story.

SH-Spring Beauty

 

The Great Amnicolist River Race: A Carding Chronicle

SH-Rubber DuckieThis is the last of three parts about Carding’s annual Amnicolist River Race, a contest of homemade rafts down the frigid waters of the Corvus River.

So far, we’ve been introduced to some of the rafting teams and their assortment of whimsical craft. We’ve also learned about the current state of angst among some of the town’s teenagers.

If you need to catch up, part one is here and the stuff in the middle is here.

This week, we get to watch the race and congratulate the winners.

Welcome to Carding, Vermont where life always includes a dash of the unexpected. You can find the little town that no one can seem to find on a map right here in the Carding Chronicles and in the four novels of Carding, Vermont, The Road Unsalted, Thieves of Fire, The Dazzling Uncertainty of Life, and Lights in Water, Dancing.

If you haven’t already, don’t forget to subscribe to the Chronicle by clicking the link on this page. That way, you’ll never miss a story.

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Excitement fizzed through the air on the beach in old Carding town as Charlie Cooper raised a bullhorn to his mouth. He’d been the master of the Amnicolist River Race ever since its inception. (If you catch him after a second glass of wine, he might even tell you how it all got started.)

Now it was time for this year’s race to begin.

“In order to make the race fair,” Charlie’s voice obliterated all other sound from the crowd, “everyone starts on shore behind this line.” He pointed to a white streak of lime across the still-greening grass.

“When I say go, you run to your raft, push it into the water, and get on top or into it as you can. Does everyone understand?”

“Yes!” the rafter yelled.

“Are you ready?” Charlie yelled.

The crowd roared back.

“Get set.” He raised a duck call to his lips.

“Go!” The magnified squawk matched the roar of the rafters and Carding’s annual Amnicolist River Race was on.

“Yeehaa!!!!”

The four teenaged Pirates pushed and pulled at their galvanized steel stock-tank raft. The rounded rocks in the water made their footing treacherous. 

Suzanna, being the smallest of the quartet, was challenged to keep up with the much taller Wil Bennett and his friend Dave. As they swung their waders over their craft’s gunwales, they just caught Suzanna’s hands before the current grabbed their raft and propelled it downstream. As Faye jumped in, she caught a glimpse of her grandmother flailing to get on the soda-bottle raft she’d made with the other Old Ladies, her friends Ruth Goodwin and Agnes Findley. 

As soon as it was launched, the raft made out of styrofoam coolers was sucked into an eddy and jammed against a rock as its crew applied themselves to their paddles with a furious energy. As predicted by the crowd, the air mattress raft began to sink.

The crowd roared with laughter and approval.

“Paddle,” Faye shouted to her shipmates.

“Get ’em girls,” Agnes hollered as she hauled Edie into place. “This is no race for pirates!”

The shoreline was crowded with bellowing spectators shouting advice, watching for spills, and cheering on the intrepid rafters. 

A crew from a college fraternity with a raft made of empty beer kegs were the first to overturn, tipped up by a succession of hefty rocks that the locals knew as the “shark’s teeth.” They were greeted with hoots as they waded to shore as the rest of the rafts swept downstream.

“Watch the curve! Watch the curve!” Dave yelled to his fellow Pirates. “Get to the inside. Paddle, paddle.”

Behind them, Faye heard her grandmother and her friends laughing and shrieking but she didn’t dare turn her head again to see what was happening. Suddenly, the frayed end of a summer rope swing appeared on her right. 

“We’re at the kettle hole,” she screamed, digging her paddle into the freezing water. The mad swirl of the kettle hole was notorious for eating kayaks and canoes. No telling what it would do to a leaky stock tank.

At that moment, the tank began to tip and water rushed into Faye’s waders. Dave lunged at her, pulling her to his side of the raft. The force of Faye’s lurch made the back of the tank kick out wildly and the pirates were suddenly headed downstream—backwards.

The four of them shrieked with one voice. Wil dug his paddle into the water, hoping to hit bottom so he could swivel their craft in the right direction.

Just at that moment, the Old Ladies and their soda bottle raft swept by. Agnes and Edie weren’t paddling any more because Ruth was half in the frigid water and half out and they were attempting a rescue. 

Panting, Faye reached her paddle across the gap between the two rafts. “Grandma! Grab it!”
Edie caught the end of the paddle with one hand as she tightened her grip on Ruth’s hand with the other. At that moment, the back end of the stock tank hit a submerged log near shore and both rafts lurch around in the opposite direction. Dave reached over to grab Ruth’s other arm while Agnes tried vainly to control their wild swing by jamming her paddle between the rocks just twelves inches below the surface of the water.

A great wail went up from both crews.

“I don’t know how much longer I can hold on,” Edie yelled.

Just then, a horn blast made their heads swivel toward shore. Hands reached out to bring the panting rafters to safety. 

“Who won?” Ruth gasped. At that moment, an empty green plastic bottle floated loose from her raft. 

“Get that raft out of the water before it comes apart,” Andy Cooper yelled from shore where he’d been standing snug and warm in his jacket and jeans. He’d helped his brother Charlie with the first couple of raft races when they were much younger. Nowadays, Andy considered himself much wiser and he figured he’d earned the right to watch from shore. “I got five-cent deposits on those soda bottles and I want them all back.”

The crowd laughed.

Suzanna was shivering and she couldn’t feel her feet. She had no idea who had dragged her onshore but she knew she was grateful. Just then, her Uncle Ted appeared with a bag in his hand filled with a pair of dry socks, jeans, and shoes. He pointed toward a nearby tent. “The girls change in there,” he said, his eyes twinkling. “And there’s something hot to drink when you’re ready.” 

His niece grunted her thanks and trudged toward the changing room with Faye and Edie and Ruth and Agnes. For the moment, no one had the power to speak.

Later, as tales of the race were told indoors by a wood stove (yes, Vermonters can run a wood stove even in May), Charlie Cooper declared the Old Ladies the winners of the Amnicolist River Race and awarded the trio of rather shaken friends the official Rafting Rubber Duckie.

“They won by a nose,” Charlie said. “Ruth’s.”

“And we promise not to do it again next year,” Agnes said.

Wil tried to argue that it was really the Pirates who had won because “our raft didn’t come apart.”

But he was overruled when it was pointed out that no one on the Pirate ship could have seen who came in first and who came in second because they were floating backwards at the time.

And really, when you get right down to it, isn’t the whole point of a spring raft race in Vermont getting outside to enjoy a day in May?


Remember, you can visit Carding any time by scouring the archive of older stories or by reading one of my four Carding novels, The Road Unsalted, Thieves of Fire, The Dazzling Uncertainty of Life, or Lights in Water, Dancing.

Thanks for stopping by.

The Great Amnicolist River Race

SH-Rubber Duckie

This is the last of three parts about Carding’s annual Amnicolist River Race, a contest of homemade rafts down the frigid waters of the Corvus River.

So far, we’ve been introduced to some of the rafting teams and their assortment of whimsical craft. We’ve also learned about the current state of angst among some of the town’s teenagers.

If you need to catch up, part one is here and the stuff in the middle is here.

This week, we get to watch the race and congratulate the winners.

Welcome to Carding, Vermont where life always includes a dash of the unexpected. You can find the little town that no one can seem to find on a map right here in the Carding Chronicles and in the four novels of Carding, Vermont, The Road Unsalted, Thieves of Fire, The Dazzling Uncertainty of Life, and Lights in Water, Dancing.

If you haven’t already, don’t forget to subscribe to the Chronicle by clicking the link on this page. That way, you’ll never miss a story.

Author of the Carding, Vermont novels, quilt books, and book publishing guides.