Good Governance

SH-vote dieppeWe’re winding up Carding’s town meeting saga today, announcing the winner of the three-way race for the open seat on the select board.

As with most local issues, it’s the individual voters and their choices that make the difference in how a town feels and how it moves.

G.G. Dieppe is a relative newcomer to Carding, and she sees a lot that she wants to change. Opposing her is an upstart write-in candidate named Amos Handy. He’s pretty much the eccentric about town.

One of the interesting threads in this story is the impact it has on another newcomer, Brenda Underwood. Her transition from a rather apathetic resident to an active one has a lot to do with how G.G. Dieppe made her feel at her first quilt guild meeting.

For that matter, G.G.’s decision to run for a local office started with her first encounter with Amos Handy. That and her lack of a sense of humor were the impetus here.

Carding’s town meeting saga was inspired by the many hours I spent observing local elected officials in towns around the Upper Valley when I was a reporter. That’s when I realized the power of the individual to make change and to appreciate all of the amazing folks who volunteer to work for their towns.

Glad you stopped by. Enjoy!


Now ordinarily, Oona Lovejoy’s birthday party is a small affair in Carding. Folks make “Love signs” and tape them to lamp posts and trees in and around the town green. Then they take pictures of one another hugging or kissing next to them.

It works sort of like mistletoe only the predominant color for Oona’s day is pink.

But this year…oh, this year is different because of the tensions surrounding the town’s upcoming elections.

When he reached the center of Carding with his father, Mark Underwood could not believe his eyes. The normally sleepy town green was filled with people—women wearing pink pussy hats, men wearing pink pussy hats, and teenagers leading cheers of “Han-dee, Han-dee.”

There were “Love signs” on every tree, pole, post, and bench. A couple dozen folks bearing sandwich boards asking voters to “Write in Handy” circled the green’s circumference, waving at all of the passing cars who honked their greetings in return.

“Daddy, can we go color with those kids?” little Claire asked, pointing at a group of children decorating the sidewalk with fist-sized pieces of chalk.

A woman tending to the kids looked up. “They’re more than welcome to join in if it’s okay with you,” she told Mark.

“Why don’t you hang out here while I go find your mother,” Mark’s father said, bustling of to find Brenda.

“Yeah. Sure Dad.”


Later, as they got ready for bed, Mark tried to describe the scene to his wife. “You know how people use the word ‘community’ so much that it feels like a useless word, almost plastic?”


“Well, I didn’t hear one person in Carding use that word all day and yet that’s exactly what was going on. All these people came out and visited with one another while keeping watch over the kids who were racing through the puddles having a great time.”

His wife smiled. “Yes, I saw the mud on your daughters’ clothes.”

“And people were talking—I mean really talking—about what they want to do in their town, and there were a lot of good ideas floating around,” Mark said. “It was pretty special.”

“So did you get to meet this Handy guy, the one who’s running as a write-in?”

“Yeah, I met him and the woman who’s the director of the Carding Academy—Mom’s going to start volunteering there—and this farmer named Lee Tennyson—his wife just had a baby—and the couple who own the town bakery, and Andy Cooper who owns the local grocery. Dad wants to work there a couple of days a week,” Mark said.

“Doing what?”

“Dad says he doesn’t care. He figures it’s a great way to get to know folks in town.” Mark sighed, contented.

“Which means you don’t have to feel guilty any more, right?” His wife smiled. “What about the woman who lives near your parents, the one whose name is on the ballot? Did you meet her?”

“Well, I wouldn’t call it a meeting, exactly. She showed up with a few of the other women who live in the condo development. Mom calls them the ‘Stepford Wives.’ It seems that someone plastered the bathrooms and locker rooms in the country club with ‘love signs,’ and they figured Mom had something to do with it,” Mark said. “They were pretty nasty but Mom held her own.”

“So did your Mom do it?”

Mark snuggled his beloved closer. “Are you kidding? She not only plastered the country club with those heart-shaped signs, she waited until G.G. left her house and then put one on her front lawn. You know Mom. When she gets riled, she doesn’t do anything by halves.”

“So do you think Amos Handy will win?”

He kissed her. “I sure hope so. It would be a shame if he didn’t.”


As weather events go, Vermont’s town meeting day was pretty typical—cold enough to wear a winter jacket and scarf in the morning, warm enough to roll down the car windows in the afternoon.

Folks pretty much agreed that G.G. was an impressive presence when the polls opened. Dressed in a deep red coat with a matching hat and shoes, she sported a large button that said “Vote Dieppe” and made an attempt to shake the hand of everyone strolling through the doors to mark their ballots in the high school gym.

Being polite and curious, most voters took her proffered hand. But they also noted the slight moue of distaste that occasionally flitted over G.G’s face if the Carding-ite whose flesh she was pressing didn’t measure up to her standards.

G.G. started the day with a large coterie fluttering around her. It consisted of a dozen women in dresses and heels, hardly the right clothes to wear on an early March day in Vermont. The polls opened at 8 a.m. and by 10:00, most of the over-dressed women could no longer feel their toes.

One by one, they disappeared. G.G. was never quite sure where. She’d turn around and find another one of them gone.

Amos Handy had a grand old time. Normally reclusive, he found the politicking stuff rather intimidating at first. But he gradually warmed to talking to all of the friends he’d made through his position as the book curator in the Swap Shed at the Carding recycling center.

“I always say, you meet the most interesting people at the dump,” he said rather loudly when he was in earshot of G.G.

Amos’s posse changed throughout the day as folks spelled one another. Everyone walking into the polls was greeted with a handshake that included a square piece of card stock with the words “Write in Handy” on it. By the time the polls closed, there were no more squares left.

G.G. was dogged, folks had to hand her that. But even she had to admit she’d been beaten by “that rube at the dump.” When last seen, she was rubbing her feet near a heating vent in the gym. After that, she disappeared.

So after all this, the question is: Who won this three-way race? Was it G.G. Dieppe with her Mount Merino cohort? Eugene Becker, a longtime stalwart of local government in Carding? Or the man wearing the Hawaiian shirt and shorts who held sway over the book exchange at the dump?

The supervisors of the checklist had to count the ballots twice because turnout was so heavy and there were so many write-ins, including a couple for Kim Kardashian and one for Jane Fonda.

There was always at least one for Jane Fonda.

But in the end, by a mere 31 votes, Amos Handy won the open seat on the Carding select board.

Here’s wishing him and the town of Carding the best of local governance in the coming year.

You can visit Carding any time in my novels, The Road Unsalted,Thieves of Fire, and The Dazzling Uncertainty of Life. The fourth in the series, Light in Water, Dancing, will go on sale on June 15, 2018.

You can subscribe to the Carding Chronicles by clicking the subscribe button on my home page. When you do, my stories speed from my keyboard to your inbox every Thursday without any further effort on your part.

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Polite and Curious

Okay, we’ve finally arrived at Carding’s Town Meeting Day.

Just to recap, everyone originally expected this to be a rather quiet year. Insurance agent and incumbent selectman Eugene Becker was the only name anyone expected to see on the ballot.

But then during the extreme cold snap back in January, eccentric-about-town Amos Handy made a small joke about zeroes at G.G. Dieppe’s expense.

G.G., who lives with her husband in a McMansion up on the seventh hole of the Mount Merino golf course, is a woman with no visible sense of humor, and her heart was full of vengeful feelings after that encounter. It didn’t take long for her to figure out that getting a seat on the town select board would give her an excellent way to teach “those people” a lesson.

Now as you might suspect, G.G. is one of those people who leaves irritation, resentments and hurt feelings in her wake.

To newcomer Brenda Underwood, that’s the behavior of a bully. And Brenda doesn’t care for bullies

With Eugene ill and unable to campaign, Brenda has joined the effort to get Amos Handy elected through a write-in campaign.

If you’d like to read the full Town Meeting saga, I’ve put all the stories together here.

Now lets check in on the political life of Carding, Vermont, shall we? Here’s a sample of what’s in store tomorrow.

SH-vote dieppe

The Refugee from Mount Merino

SH-write in handyVermont’s actual town meeting was March 6 this year. But we’re on Carding time, and there’s been so much going on, we can’t end the story right here.

But I promise the election will be over next week. And I think you’ll like how it turns out.

If you need to catch up on our town meeting saga, you’ll find all the previous stories right here.

In the meantime, let’s head over to the Carding Academy of Traditional Arts where there’s a lot of folks working very hard to put eccentric-about-town Amos Handy on the select board.

Glad you stopped by.


If Brenda Underwood expected to see uncontrolled mayhem on the second floor of the Carding Academy of Traditional Arts, she was disappointed. What she found instead was focused attention, and high energy concentration.

Music bounced off the walls, and many of the “Love sign” makers moved their bodies to the dominant beat but the gluing and drawing and coloring and creating never stopped.

“Faye,” Edie said in a raised voice. Her granddaughter’s head popped up, and she nodded at Edie’s wave.

“This is Brenda Underwood, a refugee from Mount Merino,” Edie said when Faye reached them.

“Hey Brenda. Glad to see you made it,” a voice called across the room. It was the Episcopal priest, Gordon Lloyd, holding a number of signs proclaiming “SAVE CARDING! Write in Amos Handy for select board.”

“Refugee, huh,” Faye said, her arms folded across her chest. “How do we know you’re not a spy?”


“No, no, it’s a fair question,” Brenda said. “I would ask it if I were you.”

Faye tilted her head in a listening pose. “Have you lived up there long?”

“About six months,” Brenda said.

“Do you play golf?”


“She’s trying to be a quilter, and ended up at a Carding Quilt Guild meeting last night where she met Gordon,” Edie explained. Then she handed Faye the G.G. Dieppe campaign material on its pink paper. “Brenda brought this in.”

Faye scanned the sheet then raised her eyes to examine Brenda more closely. “What did you think of the guild meeting?”

Brenda laughed. “Not much. G.G. didn’t like my sewing box. I gather it didn’t meet her standards.”

“That woman sure knows how to make friends, that’s for sure.” Faye stretched out her hand, and squeezed when Brenda took it.

“Okay everyone, we’re going to see if our idea works,” she said in a raised voice as she let go of Brenda’s hand. Then she smiled at the older woman. “Look at your palm, please, and tell us what you see.”

It was a square of sturdy card stock that fit snugly in the curl of her hand. It bore a single word—“Handy.” When Brenda held it up for the room to see, folks started clapping.

“Okay, listen up,” Faye said. “There’s a small pile of these sitting at the end of that table.” She pointed. “Everybody please take one and let’s practice palming them to one another in a handshake. The idea is to give folks a way to remember who to write in on their ballots without drawing a lot of attention to what we’re doing.”

The practice session was noisy and giggly but very effective. Impromptu teams soon gelled among the teenagers as they raced one another to see who could palm the Handy cards fastest.

“So,” Edie said as she drew Brenda to one side, “do you know anyone up on Mount Merino who might be persuaded to vote for Amos?”

“I can only guarantee my husband Clark. No one else, I’m afraid,” Brenda said. “I’d be happy to make some phone calls or pass out campaign literature for Amos if that will help.”

Edie tapped her toe while she thought about that. “Not many folks from Merino ever voted in our local elections before. But I’m concerned that G.G. may have stirred the pot enough to get them to the polls.”

“Well, Clark and I were talking about that last night, and he’s not so sure about the depth of her support,” Brenda said. “He goes to the gym at the country club about three times a week to play racquet ball, and he said there’s not much talk in the locker room about Carding’s town meeting at all.”

“Hmm, I do hope he’s right. But you know what I would like to know?” Edie asked.

Brenda smiled. “How many people show up at G.G.’s campaign event tonight?”

“I hate to ask you but…”

“I’m happy to do it,” Brenda said, “as long as I can make signs while I’m here. When will you put them up?”

“Tomorrow night after supper. It’s Friday and we wanted to save our town manager the headache of dealing with G.G. when she sees them. Town hall is closed on the weekends, and Paula’s planning to be out of town and out of touch.”

Brenda laughed. “Can I take a few of them with me to tape to the clubhouse door after G.G.’s campaign meeting?”

Edie laughed. “How many would you like?”


Even though his parents had lived on Mount Merino for nearly six months, their son Mark Underwood kept wondering if encouraging them to move to Carding had been a good idea. When Clark and Brenda lived in Boston, their lives had been filled with music and nonprofit work and sampling new restaurants with friends. They were hardly ever home.

But ever since they’d moved to Vermont, Mark had the feeling they were bored. And that left him feeling guilty because the move had been mostly his idea.

So when he brought his kids around to his parents’ condo for a Saturday morning visit, he fully expected to find his Mom and Dad listlessly drifting about.

Not so.

“Your Mom’s out campaigning, and I’m making phone calls,” Clark informed his son once his arms were full of grandchildren.

“Campaigning? Campaigning for what?”

“For whom, actually,” Clark said. “There’s this guy who runs the Swap Shed at the recycling center named Amos Handy, and he’s running as a write-in candidate for the open seat on the select board.”

“Since when do you two get involved in local elections?”

Clark laughed. “Ever since your Mom went to her first quilt guild meeting up here. There’s this woman named G.G. Dieppe…”

“…and Mom took a shine to her,” Mark said with a smile. His Mom had a habit of adopting people who needed a helping hand.

“Oh no, quite the opposite. This Dieppe woman really rubbed your Mom the wrong way.” Clark waited for his son to grasp the full meaning of his words.

It didn’t take long before Mark began to smile. And then he began to laugh. “I don’t envy that woman at all. Can I take it that Mom’s found some allies in her battle against this G.G.?”

Clark’s eyes danced. “I know you’ve been worried about us old folks over here wasting away on the golf course.” He bent down to put his wiggling grandkids on the floor. “And you were right to be. But as it turns out, it may not have been a mistake to move to Carding after all. I think the mistake, if there was one, was moving into this condo development. As soon as town meeting is over on Tuesday, your mother and I are going to start looking for a house in town.”

“Really? Are you sure?”

“Very sure. Coffee?” Clark turned the kettle on when Mark nodded. “Do you know what your mother and I did last night? We hid in some bushes over by the country club to spy on a campaign meeting for this Dieppe woman.”


“Yeah. It was great fun. We wanted to know how many people showed up, that’s all, and it didn’t take long to count them. When we were done, we headed over to the Carding Academy of Traditional Arts—what a great place—for the best potluck supper I’ve had in a long time. Your Mom made her garlic kuchen, and it was a big hit,” Clark said. “And we met the craziest bunch of people, all of them working to get this Amos Handy guy elected. We felt right at home.”

“Grampa, are these Valentines?” His granddaughter Claire held up one of the “Love” signs lying on the kitchen table.

“No, not a Valentine exactly. But I know your Grandma made that one especially for you,” Clark said.

“So where’s Mom now?” Mark asked.

“Celebrating someone named Oona Lovejoy’s birthday down on the Carding Green. I was thinking of joining her. You really have to see this to believe it. Want to come along?”

Mark stood there with his mouth open for a moment, simultaneously trying but not trying to understand what in the world was going on. His father still seemed like he was sane. But what about his mother?

“Sure. Why not?”

You can visit Carding any time in my novels, The Road Unsalted,Thieves of Fire, and The Dazzling Uncertainty of Life. The fourth in the series, Light in Water, Dancing, will go on sale on June 15, 2018.

You can subscribe to the Carding Chronicles by clicking the subscribe button on my home page. When you do, my stories speed from my keyboard to your inbox every Thursday without any further effort on your part.

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