Patent Pending

SH-mailboxThere are a couple of ways you can get elected to the select board in a Vermont town. You can collect voter signatures in January to get your name printed on the March town-meeting ballot. You can put together a write-in campaign. Or you can be nominated from the floor of the meeting at the time of the vote.

Well G.G. Dieppe has got enough signatures to put her name on the town ballot, and that has sure stirred the local political pot.

Carding’s town meeting saga continues. Oh, and there’s a bunch of stuff in here about building mailboxes too.

I’d like to add a thank you to Beth Hill, town clerk of Hartford, Vermont, for the information she provided about town elections for this story.

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, Lights in Water, Dancing, will be out early in 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.



It’s been a tough winter cold-wise but not so bad snow-wise. Most folks in Carding can still see their mailboxes at the ends of their driveways while looking out the front windows of their houses.

And that counts for something.

Except for the snow-filled months, folks don’t pay much attention to their mailboxes except to retrieve what mail carrier extraordinaire Ruth Goodwin puts in them.

But that all changes when the white stuff starts falling. Suddenly, mailbox architecture becomes a hot topic of conversation in Carding. This is something you would understand if you’d ever experienced the dreaded “wintry mix” of snow, sleet, and freezing rain that plagues Vermont from time to time, and how much effort it takes to shovel it away from a mailbox, especially after a snow plow has passed the end of your driveway.

Some folks just grin (or maybe that should be grimace) and bear it, muttering while they shovel. But others look at beating the snow and snow plows as a challenge.

Charlie Cooper, over on Sycamore Street, pioneered a pivoting mailbox that’s been widely copied around town. He started by sinking a stout, 8-foot pressure-treated wooden post into the ground, leaving the top four feet of it exposed.

Then he mounted his mailbox on a ten-foot length of 2 x 4 which he attached, at its midpoint, to the wooden post with a bolt that lets the mailbox move. Now when a snowplow comes in contact with the mail receptacle of “Mr. Charles Cooper and Ms. Agnes Findley,” it simply pivots out of the way—no damage—and Charlie swings it back into place as needed.

A variation on this was built by Sam Willis (aka Sam the Younger). Sam used metal to construct his mailbox architecture, metal being his preferred medium of creativity. First he sank a pipe into the ground that was 15 feet long with a crook at the top. Once in place, Sam welded loops of steel to the underside of the pipe’s arc as well as to the top of his mailbox. Heavy chains linked one to the other so that the mailbox hovered in place in good weather while being easily knocked out of the way when the town plowed his road.

But the prize for most innovative mailbox architecture has to go to Amos Handy. It took a lot of tinkering but Amos eventually perfected a telescoping unit. When activated from inside his house, a set of three nesting tubes spanned their way over the mounds of dirty snow stirred up by the plows so that Ruth could reach the mailbox opening from her Jeep.

After he picked up his mail, Amos simply hit a switch and the tubing retreated to its original position.

He told anyone who asked that his mailbox design had a patent pending.

The telescoping mechanism worked perfectly until a day when Carding had freezing rain and high winds that froze Amos’s mailbox in its closed position.

He’d been trying to thaw it out with a battery-powered heat gun for a couple of hours when Ruth showed up with his mail.

“I was wondering if the storm would give you problems with that,” Ruth hollered through her open window as she rolled to a stop.

“Hmph, you better have something good for me after all this trouble,” Amos grumped, his hand outstretched.

“Well, no bills that I can see,” Ruth said, handing him a small bundle wrapped in a rubber band.

“That’s a good thing, isn’t it?” Amos said, casually flipping through envelopes, circulars, and cards. “Hey, what’s this?”

Ruth looked. “Oh that. Political stuff. It’s the season, you know.”

“I don’t want this,” Amos said. “You can take it back where it came from. There’s no way I’m ever voting for that G.G. Dieppe woman.”

Ruth shook her head. “Sorry Amos. She paid the postage so I have to deliver it like anything else.”

“But I don’t want it,” Amos said, trying to shove it into Ruth’s Jeep. “I’m not out here trying to fix my mailbox just so that awful woman can fill it with her garbage. I don’t care how much she paid for postage.”

“Sorry Amos, truly sorry. I’ve been hearing the same thing all over town. Ted put a second wastebasket in the post office lobby so folks wouldn’t throw them on the floor,” Ruth said. “You have to admit, she does know how to rile people up, doesn’t she?”

“What does she mean that we should charge rent to people using the common for concerts in summer? And what’s this about charging folks for eating at the town meeting potluck? And she wants to letting the grass go in the town cemetery to save money? And give over the town beach to be run by private business? And cut the library’s hours?” Amos snorted, good and loud. “That’s not fiscal responsibility, no matter how she tries to say otherwise. That’s the stuff that brings people together, that does. It’s what makes the town what it is, and it’s worth every penny we spend on it.”

Ruth leaned out the window, her face screwed up with concern. “I gotta tell ya, there’s a lot of people living up on Mount Merino that support her.”

“But they’re not real Carding people. What do they know about how we want to live our lives?” Amos huffed so hard, a cloud condensed around his head.

“And I even heard they’re talking about doing away with the Swap Shed,” Ruth told him in a lowered voice.

At that, the older man exploded. “Why? It’s not costing the town one red cent.”

“Well, the gossip is that the Mount Merino folks think it’s an eyesore.”

“An eyesore? At a dump? That’s absurd!”

Ruth nodded. “I agree with you. Personally, I think it all goes back to your making a joke about how G.G. couldn’t figure below-zero temperatures. The woman has no sense of humor that I can see, and when we all laughed at your joke, she got pissed and decided this is the way she’s going to get even.”

Amos stood there, G.G. Dieppe’s political postcard in his hand, breathing deep and struggling with his strong feelings. Amos made it a point never to get involved with politics beyond voicing his opinion. But this was a direct threat to his way of life. The Swap Shed was his pet project.

“Ya gotta get signatures on a petition in order to have your name printed on the ballot, right?”

“Yeah, that’s right. But Amos, the deadline to get those names in is the 29th of this month.” Ruth said.

“Hmph. So the ballots aren’t even printed and she’s already sending out this trash.” Amos looked off above the trees, all the way down to Half Moon Lake dozing peacefully in the distance. “I guess we still have time to put a petition together, right?”

They looked hard at one another, both of them nodding.

“Does Edie know about this yet?” Amos finally asked.

“She does.”

“Well, looks like I’m making a trip into town today.” He shook the postcard in Ruth’s face. “This will not stand.”

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