Category Archives: Carding Chronicles

Short stories about Carding, Vermont

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!

 

Dancing Nancy

wq-dancing-nancyThe days are getting longer and the warming sun has alerted the trees that they’ve got only a few days until the first of spring. So the sap has started to flow in the sugar bush that Amos Handy tends up on Sunrise Hill.

Sugaring is one of the oldest traditions in the Vermont calendar. Folks smile when they see the plumes of maple-scented smoke rising from the louvers atop tiny houses up on the hills.

If you’re lucky, you just might get an invitation to boil sap up at Amos’s place.

Welcome to Carding, Vermont, the little town that no one ever seems to be able to find on a map. There are additional Carding Chronicles to read here as well.

Enjoy and please spread the word.

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You can’t drive to Amos Handy’s house, if house is what you want to call the place where Amos lives. As far as he’s concerned, you can call it whatever you wish. He calls it home.

The closest you can get to it in a car or a truck or a van is a five-minute walk from the end of the rugged cart way that Amos carved out of the earth when he was a younger man just settling into the wayback woods of Carding. And the only reason he’d even considered a cart way was because he wanted to get a portable saw mill close to his preferred home site.

I don’t think anyone in Carding can pinpoint the day or even year when Amos came to town. For a while,he just floated around like autumn mist hovering over the Corvus River, present but not especially noticed.

Anyway, Amos has lived in Carding for so long now, most people figure he was born there. He certainly owns property in town, a 32-acre lot (give or take) way up on Sunrise Hill. It’s on the west side of Carding, bounded on one side by a stretch of the Appalachian Trail and on the other by a rocky knob where the Small family once raised sheep.

Even though the Small farmstead boasted one of the finest views of the Corvus River Valley, it was seldom visited because getting there is so out-of-the-way.

Andy Cooper probably talked to Amos more than anyone else in town. The garrulous owner of the town’s famous general store made it a point to get familiar with all of his regulars but even Andy made little headway with the intensely private Mr. Handy.

“I think he retreated here after the war in Vietnam,” Andy told his best friend, Edie Wolfe. “He’s the right age, and I know he takes the bus to the VA Hospital in White River at least once a year for what he calls a ‘tune-up’ so he is a veteran. He once told me that he’d earned his own peace the hard way, and that’s why he makes it so difficult to get to his place.”

Not that Amos was unfriendly. Not at all. He loved company, and if you were the right kind of people, you might even get invited up to “the Handy estate” in March to boil sap for maple syrup. Edie and Andy go every year just to inhale the edifying aroma of the wood-and-maple scented steam rising from the evaporator.

The boiling event always includes a walk through Amos’s “sculpture park” to check out his latest additions. Last year, it was a dinosaur made from a scrapped tractor and bed springs. The year before that, it was a delicately balanced kinetic piece that looked like a dandelion going to seed one minute and a flying bird the next. And there was always something new in what Edie called the “heron rookery,” wading birds welded out of discarded gardening tools.

“What do you suppose he’s added this year?” Edie asked as she and Andy sloshed up the muddy track in their rubber boots.

“No idea,” Andy replied as they stepped around a half-frozen puddle. “Melvin Goode tells me that Amos has been collecting cans of white spray paint and old bicycles lately, if that gives us any clue.”

Edie laughed. “Remember when Amos got that warrant article through town meeting to build that swapping shed at the dump? Who knew we were creating his art supply store at the same time.”

They’d just come around the last turn in the path to the sugaring shack when the two of them stopped short with a collective gasp.

“Oh my.” Edie’s voice had a little tremolo in it. “Oh, that is just wonderful.”

She grinned up at the white dancing sculpture while Andy laughed in appreciation. “Well, that does beat all. What would you call that, a dancing eagle?”

Then Amos stepped into the path, his arms crossed over his chest. The smile on his face could best be described as smug. “So what do you think of it, Edie?’

A smile on her lips, she inspected it closely, recognizing the straight pipes and fenders of bicycles, part of an old shovel, and what looked like the cover from a barbeque grill. “Oh Amos, you have really outdone yourself this time.”

“Yeah, I thought so.” He let his hand rest on the sculpture’s bent knee. “I’ve been trying to push my creative expression, you know, challenge myself.”

“So what are you calling this one?” Andy asked as he slowly circled the eight-foot figure.

“Well, I heard this song on Dirt Road Radio the other day when I was giving this a second coat of paint, and I like the name. ‘Dancing Nancy’ it was called.” He gave the knee a fatherly pat. “What do you think?”

Andy squinched up his face as he shaded his eyes from the sun to admire the sculpture. He had to admit, it was one of Amos’s best efforts to date. “Doesn’t it look more male than female? Maybe it should be ‘Dancing Ned’.”

Amos tilted his head up too. “Could be. I dunno. Maybe we should call it ‘Transgendered Nancy.'”

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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!