Within the village of Carding, Vermont, the Wolfe family is well-established.
The original members of this family were Kitty and Daniel, founders of the local newspaper (the Carding Chronicle). Their son, Danielson Wolfe, was elected Senator from Vermont for three terms. He and his wife, Caroline, raised their two daughters, Edie and Rose, in Washington, D.C. before returning to their beloved home town.
Edie now lives in the family home, a sturdy Victorian on the town green, and she’s the executive director of the Carding Academy of Traditional Arts. Her daughter, Diana, owns the Crow Town Bakery with her husband, Stephen Bennett. It’s located across the green from Edie’s house. They have two children, Will and Faye, both of whom are making their way through high school at the moment.
Edie’s taking over the Carding Chronicle today. I’m sure she’ll take good care of you.
There are times when I think that life in Vermont is all about winter—getting through it, getting prepared for it, and recovering from it.
While tourists cherish our autumn colors (for good reason), what they fail to notice is all the scurrying among us locals as we hurry to get our gardens down, store our hammocks and lawn doodads, stack wood in its winter home, and take advantage of the annual sales on boots, coats, heavy socks, and mittens.
This fall, I finally admitted that my trusty old snow blower had died a good death and had to be replaced. I don’t need one for my driveway—my son-in-law Stephen takes care of that for me—but I like to take care of my own walkways and carve out spots for my dog, Nearly, to do his business.
Which is why I’ve always kept a snow blower.
So I set out last summer to find a good snow clearing machine with grips the right size for my hands. The first part was easy. The second part, not so much.
For some reason, manufacturers believe that only men clear snow so they make the grips that operate a snow blower’s auger so difficult to maneuver, my hands ache before they can get cold. That’s why I hung on to my old machine for so long. Its auger grip fit my hand.
My hunt began in August when all sensible people buy their new snow removal equipment. If you wait until Thanksgiving, nothing is on sale and the selection is pitiful.
I started off by doing a bit of research among the knowledgeable in Carding. That included Stan the Garage Guy, my son-in-law, my best friend Ruth who can sniff out a bargain better than anyone I know, and our can-do-anything, man-about-town, Amos Handy.
Of course, four people equals four opinions with some overlapping and some diametrically opposed to one another.
Which is what I expected.
Ruth came with me on my shopping excursions and my grandson Wil supplemented our information-gathering with digs through the clutter of the internet. I finally fluttered down on a diminutive machine that not only fit my budget, it fit my hands.
Ruth and I were very happy with our find but according to the males in my life, my choice was either crazy, foolish or tragically under-informed.
“It’s too small to clear a walkway in one swipe,” Andy Cooper said as he examined my gleaming new purchase on the crisp October morning when I brought it home.
Amos Handy just happened to be passing by so, of course, he had to stop too. “Hmph, I see it’s one of those newfangled electric kind,” he said as he examined its stout recharging cord. “So what do you do if it dies in the middle of the yard?”
For an answer, I tilted the machine back on its wheels using only one hand, and pushed it back and forth. “I don’t go very far, Andy. Just in my yard. I can get it back into the garage easily enough if I have to,” I said.
“Hmph, and what if we have a power outage?”
“I wait until the power comes back on, just like everyone else,” I said.
And so the comments heaped up until we had our first real snowstorm last week. By that time, I admit I had become anxious and was starting to second guess my choice.
The clearing started when the white stuff measured six inches on the ground. But then the plow on Andy’s truck got stuck in its raised position, leaving the parking lot of Cooper’s General Store in a wretched condition for several hours while he struggled to fix it. Then Amos’s favorite snow blower suffered from a clogged carburetor so he had to shovel the walkway to his front door. And my son-in-law Stephen got so busy clearing his own parking lot and then helping Andy, he never got to my house until after dark.
Which at this time of year is about 3:00 in the afternoon.
I admit that I didn’t try very hard not to look smug as I clutched a cup of cocoa and waved at him from inside my kitchen as he struggled to beat back the snow. I hoped he noticed that all of my paths were clear and my new snow blower was relaxing in the garage, contentedly soaking up electrons while it recharged its batteries.
Sonja Hakala lives on a river in Vermont and is the author of the Carding, Vermont novels and an upcoming mystery, The Burnt Fool.
The Carding, Vermont novels, in order of appearance:
The Road Unsalted
Thieves of Fire
The Dazzling Uncertainty of Life
Light in Water, Dancing