As many readers have guessed, eccentricity is woven into the fabric of Carding, Vermont. There’s a farm where you can buy magical Christmas trees.
Or so folks believe.
And a school (the Carding Academy of Traditional Arts) that preserves traditions that can be traced back to the 18th century.
Then there’s the fact that Carding cannot be found on a map of the Green Mountain state. Ever wonder why?
Welcome to Carding, Vermont where life always includes a dash of the unexpected. And you can find it any time, 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.
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The following is a conversation overheard in Cooper’s General Store and Emporium, located in the heart of Carding, Vermont.
“Excuse me,” the harried man said as he approached Brenda, the head cashier at Cooper’s General Store. “Can you tell me where the Tennyson Farm is? We have a reservation for their AirBnB and the GPS on my phone has sent us all over the place.”
“Aah,” Brenda said, pointing at the digital device. “That’s your trouble, you see. Those things just don’t work in Carding.”
The man looked very confused. “What do you mean they don’t work? This is the latest phone on the market. It works everywhere.”
Andy Cooper, the owner of the store, shook his head as he looked over the man’s shoulder. “Well, I think Brenda may be right. It couldn’t help you find Tennyson’s Farm, could it? What you need is a real map.”
“This is a real map,” the man said.
A young woman appeared behind him. Her hat matched her jacket which matched her gloves. Her matchy-matchiness was a sure sign that she was “from away.”
“Honey, don’t they know where the Tennyson farm is?” she asked. She looked at the group with the stoic resolution of someone who’s sure she knows everything.
“Oh, we know where the Tennyson farm is,” Andy said. “The Tennysons are an old family here in Carding. We buy our Christmas trees from them every year. The problem is, you need a real map to get there.”
“You lookin’ for the Tennysons’ place?” Lydie Talbot asked as she joined the queue. Then she spotted the cell phone in the man’s hands. “Aww, no one ever finds the Tennysons using those things. You need a real map.”
The traveling woman’s eyes flitted from Brenda to Andy to Lydie and back again. She tugged on her companion’s arm. “Come on, Hef, let’s go. I’m sure we can find it on our own.”
“Not without a map,” Gideon Brown said as he joined the circle, a six-pack of Carding Cream Ale under his arm.
The harried man shook his head. “Look, this is a real map.” He shook his phone in the air. “If you could just tell me what street the Tennysons’ place is on, we’ll be on our way. That’s all I need to know.”
The Carding crowd looked at one another. “Well, the road to their place is off of Belmont Hill,” Andy said. “On your way up there, you should check out the ice formations on the trees next to the brook as you go up the hill. They’re pretty impressive this year. Best we’ve seen in a long time, if you’re into that sort of thing.”
The matchy-matchy woman rolled her eyes.
Then Andy turned toward the small crowd that had clotted around the cash register. “Do any of you know if the road up to the farm has a different name than Belmont Hill?”
Heads shook from side to side.
“So you really don’t know where the Tennyson farm is after all,” the woman said.
“Oh, we all know where it is,” Brenda said.
“Here, let me draw you a map,” Gideon offered. Brenda tore off a length of receipt tape from her register and laid it down on the counter with a pencil.
The man named Hef sighed, disgust thick in the sound of it. “Belmont Hill, you say.” He shoved his phone in his pocket. “What is with you people? What century do you live in?”
Andy laughed. “You do realize you’re standing in a town that’s not been on a map of Vermont since 1761. In a way, you’re trying to find something that doesn’t exist.”
“That’s impossible,” the woman said. “Every town has been mapped.”
“Not Carding,” Gideon said, and the crowd could hear the pride in his voice. “When the first definitive map of Vermont was drawn in 1761, it was done by a man named Robin Dutille and printed in Boston by people who didn’t know anything about our state.”
“Well, technically speaking, there were no states back then,” Brenda pointed out. Arguments about historical minutia were her specialty.
“So?” The young woman’s lips were now puckered white with irritation.
“Robin Dutille was an ornery man,” Andy said.
“History says that he always thought people were stealing his stuff,” Brenda added.
“To prevent that, Dutille put fake towns on every map he drew so that if someone plagiarized his work, he’d catch them,” Lydie explained.
“So the mapmakers who followed him were pretty careful about copying his work. Dutille was still alive when the map of Vermont was revised in 1774 by Augustus Chapman,” Andy said. “Chapman was definitely copying Dutille’s work—everyone copied Dutille’s work back then—so to avoid trouble, he left off the towns he thought were fake.”
“How did this Chapman guy know which ones were fake?” In spite of himself, Hef was getting pulled in by the mapmaker’s story.
“Actually, he didn’t have a clue what was fake and what wasn’t,” Gideon said. “Some of the towns he left on the map never existed and some of the ones that did exist were taken off. He thought Carding was one of the fake towns so he left us off his map.”
“And we’ve never made it back on,” Brenda said.
Hef sighed again. They could feel the force of it in the back of the store. “Okay, can you or can you not tell me how to find the Tennyson Farm?”
Gideon picked up the pencil and placed its point on the register receipt that Brenda had laid on the counter. “Here, let me draw you a real map,” he said, wetting the tip of it with his tongue.
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.