Just 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.
More than ready.
Welcome to spring in Carding, Vermont. Invite your friends to come along.
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.”
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.
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The Carding novels are (in order of appearance):