April Comes to Vermont

wq-april-in-vermontJust at the moment when it seems that winter will never lose its grip on the roads and fields of Vermont, it suddenly gives way with a small sigh of regret.

In front yards all over Carding, folks attack the last stubborn patches of snow clinging in the shady spots, spreading the ice crystals out in the sun to melt.

Everyone’s ready.

More than ready.

Welcome to spring in Carding, Vermont. Invite your friends to come along.

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Andy Cooper breathed in very deep as soon as he stepped outside the back door of Cooper’s General Store. Even though he wasn’t ready to shed his fleece vest and jacket, he sensed the warmth of the new spring sun on his arms.

He breathed in again, picking up the delicate scent of damp earth.

Down at his feet, his dog Sable lifted her nose, reading the passing of squirrels, mice and chipmunks in the air.

“How about a longer walk today?” Andy asked, picking out a number on his phone. “I feel like getting up in the hills so let’s see if Edie and Nearly want to join us.”

“Do you mind if Ruth and R.G. come too?” Edie asked. “The frost is out of the road up on Galaxy Hill and we could all use a good stretch to our legs.”

“Meet you up there in 20 minutes.”

It’s difficult to find clearer skies than the ones that hover over Vermont in the early days of spring. The grass in the fields still looks like a brown comb-over on a balding head and the trees are still thinking about the leaves yet to come.

It means that on a sunny day, you can see forever.

The eager dogs tumbled over one another as soon as the car doors were opened. The friends always parked on a flat, graveled spot at the end of a field so they let their furry companions romp while they leisurely sorted out their leashes and draped cameras over their shoulders.

“I saw a pair of eagles perched in that big cottonwood at the base of the Crow’s Head falls this morning,” Ruth said as they set out. “I keep hoping they’ll roost there but there’s no sign of an eyrie.”

“It is exposed to the road,” Andy said, “though I suspect it’s good for hunting. I imagine the view over the lake is spectacular from up there.”

Edie tilted back on her heels. “My first day walking in sneakers instead of boots,” she said. “It always feels rather odd, as if my feet are free again.”

“Yeah, you don’t realize how heavy our winter stuff is until you pull the spring stuff out of your closet.” Ruth looped her end of the leash she shared with R.G. over her left wrist. “Where to? Cloudland Farm or King Road?”

Andy and Edie groaned. “Oh, I don’t think I’m up for King Road yet,” Edie said with a laugh. “The slope on that thing is as close to vertical as you can get around here. Let’s do Cloudland for now.”

They set off, the dirt road soft under their feet, swapping bits of Carding news, and pointing out birds in the air as well as small patches of green appearing in the wettest spots in the fields. Suddenly, everyone stopped short.

“Oh my, wood frogs.” Edie’s face beamed as the three friends tried to locate the source of the quacking sound. “They’re early.”

Andy held Sable’s leash taut as she quivered with excitement. “Steady girl,” he murmured as they crept close to a swale carved out by water rushing through a pipe that drained one field into another. “We don’t want to disturb them at mating. That’s kinda rude.” But just as suddenly as the quacking started, it stopped, and Ruth sighed.

“They must sense our movements through the ground,” she sighed. “They are so hard to get close to.”

Andy squatted down to get a better look, carefully avoiding a place where the earth was giving way to the water. “I’d say this puddle will be worth a visit in another couple of days. I can see egg jelly down there already.”

After a moment of frog appreciation, the dogs whined and strained at their tethers.

“Okay.” Andy straightened up. “Come on. Spring’s awaiting.”

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 Thank you for journeying with me to Carding, Vermont. If you subscribe to my website, you’ll find a short story in your inbox every Thursday morning.

If you enjoy the Carding Chronicles, please share them and encourage your friends to subscribe to this website. And please review the Carding novels wherever and whenever you get the chance to talk about books. Your opinion matters more than you can imagine. The more folks who share Carding, the more books I get to write, and the more you get to read.

The Carding novels are (in order of appearance):

The Road Unsalted

Thieves of Fire

The Dazzling Uncertainty of Life

Thank you!

 

To the Rescue

wq-dog-rescueMy husband and I share the care for our son and daughter-in-law’s dog. She’s a sweetie and the most exuberant greeter I’ve ever met. Even if she saw you just five minutes ago, she’s just as excited the second time as she was the first.

This is the story of how one rescue dog came to Carding, inspired by the one whose care we share.

Enjoy and please pass this to all of your canine-loving friends.

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Andy Cooper, the owner of Cooper’s General Store the everything-you-need emporium in the center of Carding, never meant to get another dog. As he told his best friend, Edie Wolfe, he’d lost enough fur-bearing buddies to last him a lifetime.

But he still retains a very squishy spot in his heart for dogs which is why he’s been letting the folks from Vermont Dog Rescue park in the store’s lot for information and adoption days for so many years.

If there’s one thing that Vermonters share, it’s a deep love of dogs. The Coop’s parking lot overflowed all day with people stopping by to pat the would-be adoptees, donate to the rescue organization or take home a new pet.

Every time the latter happened, Andy heard a large “Whoop! Whoop!” from the crowd, and he smiled to know that another little one had found a good home.

It was a busy day so he never got the chance to venture outside for himself until afternoon. By that time, the volunteers from the rescue organization were starting to pack up to head home.

“Thanks Andy,” Ellsworth Fynn said as they shook hands. “I always appreciate that you let us come here. Carding’s such a receptive place.”

“Did the Elliotts come by? They lost their big German shepherd last fall, and I know that Bruce and Cate planned to get a dog today,” Andy said.

Ellsworth looked down at the paperwork on the clipboard in his hands. “Yep, they were the first ones here this morning. I think if it had been left to their kids, they would have taken all the dogs home.”

Andy laughed. “Yeah, there’s a lot of energy there. I expect I’ll see them all racing through town this summer.”

Just then, a low moan made his head turn toward the organization’s van. “Somebody sick?” he asked.

“No. We had one little girl left,” Ellsworth said, reaching in to stroke the ears of a large brown dog with expressive eyes.

Andy leaned over to pat her as well. “Soft ears,” he said. “What’s her name?”

Ellsworth looked at his paperwork again. “Sable. We rescued her at the last minute from a place down South. The family who dropped her off said they had too many dogs and couldn’t take care of the ones they had. Too typical a story by half.”

Sable groaned a little louder, rolled over on her side, and embraced Andy’s arm with her front paws. “Aawww. She’s a charmer.”

Ellsworth cocked an eye in Andy’s direction. He was well aware of the store manager’s objection to owning another dog, and he appreciated it. Pets leave big holes behind in the lives of their humans when they move on to doggie heaven. But he said nothing, just in case Andy might change his mind.

“How many dogs did you bring today?” Andy asked as he sat down next to Sable to give her a more thorough rubbing with his hands. Her fur was short but not coarse, and he guessed her name came from the way she felt. Sable closed her eyes in appreciation of his gesture.

“There were a dozen with us,” Ellsworth said. “It’s been a good day for a lot of dogs as well as humans.”

“Yeah, I can see that.” Andy drew in a large breath, remembering the promise he’d made to himself about “no more.” He pulled his hand away. Sable sat up, her nose pointed down, her deep brown eyes flicking back and forth between Ellsworth and Andy.

Andy rubbed his face. “Oh man,” he whispered, shaking his head. Sable’s head drooped. “How long have you had her?”

“She’s been with her foster family for about a month,” Ellsworth said. “Though I think we’re going to have to move her because they’ve got three other dogs, and Sable is so docile, she never gets her share of food or attention.”

Andy sighed, and stood up. Sable moaned, a low tone that probably reached only Andy’s ears. They looked at one another for a long, long, long minute. Ellsworth held his breath. He knew this was the crucial moment.

“I hope I don’t live to regret this,” Andy whispered to himself. Then he turned to Ellsworth. “So, how much is your adoption fee?”

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 Thank you for journeying with me to Carding, Vermont. If you subscribe to my website, you’ll find a short story in your inbox every Thursday morning.

If you enjoy the Carding Chronicles, please share them and encourage your friends to subscribe to this website. And please review the Carding novels wherever and whenever you get the chance to talk about books. Your opinion matters more than you can imagine. The more folks who share Carding, the more books I get to write, and the more you get to read.

The Carding novels are (in order of appearance):

The Road Unsalted

Thieves of Fire

The Dazzling Uncertainty of Life

Thank you!

What’s in a Name?

wq-bird-feeder-in-snowThe pace of life is quickening in Carding. Daylight savings time has arrived (a fact that makes everyone grumpy and feeling a bit jet-lagged), there’s water streaming off the icicles fringing the roofs, folks are boiling maple sap, and there are new arrivals in the barn up on the Tennyson farm.

Welcome to spring in Carding, Vermont. Please share this and the other Carding Chronicles with your friends, colleagues, and general acquaintances!

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It’s rare for the month of March to pass by Vermont without dropping snow. Usually a lot of it. And frequently.

As the month ages, however, even large amounts of the crystallized white stuff are regarded with disdain. After all, frost heave notices have been posted on the paved roads while folks who live on the back roads are complaining about the tire-sucking mud. And that means that all this white stuff is gonna melt very soon.

So why stress.

Up on the Tennyson farm, the first lamb made her appearance on a peaceful night that included a six-inch snowfall. As soon as the little one arrived, Lee and Christina’s sons didn’t have to be summoned to the breakfast table any more. They were up with the earliest rays of the sun, scuttling across the yard in their pajamas and boots to see the new arrival in the barn.

“Can I name him?” Little Freddie asked as he stuffed the last of his breakfast into his mouth.

“Who? The lamb?” his father asked.

“Yeah, the wamb.” Freddie’s little legs were already moving before his feet hit the floor. “I wanna name him.”

“Actually, I believe it’s a girl lamb,” his older brother, Scott, said. His mom tried not to smile at his use of the word actually. He was only six, and anything more than two syllables sounded so precocious coming from his mouth.

“I can… I can do a girl’s name, can’t I Mommy?”

“Of course you can. So what do you want to call her?”

Freddie stopped, his sturdy legs planted on the floor as his upper body swayed in surprise. He’d been concentrating so hard on claiming naming rights to the baaa-ing bundle of wool in the barn, he’d never thought about what he would call her.

“Uuuummmm.”

“Do you need help?” Scott asked.

“No. Yeah.” The little guy shook his head vigorously. “No. I can do it.”

But it quickly became obvious that Freddie wasn’t going to come up with a name under the watchful eyes of his parents and brother. Privacy and thought were important for such a task.

After his brother left for school, Freddie assumed his daily task of shadowing his parents around the farm. One of his favorite chores was bringing fruit and vegetable scraps from supper out to the small flock of chicken who brooded in one corner of the barn. As he followed his mother across the yard, she heard him name each of the landscape items along the way, testing them and tasting them for their usefulness as names.

“Clothes line,” he whispered. “Shovel. Fence. Bird…birdie…birds…birdfeeder. Garbage can!” And then he giggled.

As soon as he emptied his pail for the chickens, Freddie raced over to the hay-filled corner where the sheep munched and baaa-ed in a desultory attempt at early morning gossip. When he reached the new mother, he carefully turned his pail over at a point close enough to watch but not too close to cause concern on the part of the ewe.

Lee and Christina still marveled at their youngest’s innate respect for the critters in their care. They’d never had to teach Freddie not to press in on new mothers at the farm. He’d just acted that way from the very beginning.

“Hay…bales…boots…mittens…,” he muttered, still not satisfied with his choices.

And so it continued all day, Freddie touching and naming everything in his orbit. But he still hadn’t found a name that he liked, and reported the problem to his brother as soon as Scott got off the bus at the end of their driveway.

“Well, you’ll figure it out,” the older boy said as they stamped snow off their boots in the mud room.

But Freddie was frustrated and he kicked at the door jamb in frustration, skidding in the melting snow left by a day’s worth of stomping. Then he stopped.

“Snow,” he said, naming the most ubiquitous—and easily missed—element in his environment. “Snow, snowing, snow plow, snow day…” He whipped around to face his brother, his little face now radiant with success. “Snowflake!” he yelled triumphantly. “Mom…hey Mom…I got a name!”

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 Thank you for journeying with me to Carding, Vermont. If you subscribe to my website, you’ll find a short story in your inbox every Thursday morning.

If you enjoy the Carding Chronicles, please share them and encourage your friends to subscribe to this website. And please review the Carding novels wherever and whenever you get the chance to talk about books. Your opinion matters more than you can imagine. The more folks who share Carding, the more books I get to write, and the more you get to read.

The Carding novels are (in order of appearance):

The Road Unsalted

Thieves of Fire

The Dazzling Uncertainty of Life

Thank you!

 

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