Tag Archives: Carding Chronicle

All the Love in the World: A Carding Chronicle

SH-sable storyThe dog in the illustration for this story was rescued by my son and daughter-in-law. Her name is Sable and we get to take care of her while they are at work.

She is a love.

And she inspired today’s Carding Chronicle, All the Love in the World, one that I repeat this time every year.

I am so glad you stopped by to enjoy this story with me.

Patting—and rescuing—dogs is so important, don’t you think?

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.

If you haven’t already, don’t forget to subscribe to the Chronicle by clicking the link on this page. That way, you’ll never miss a story.

———————————————————————–

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?”


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.

All the Love in the World

SH-sable story

The dog in the illustration above was rescued by my son and daughter-in-law. Her name is Sable and we get to take care of her while they are at work.

She is a love.

And she inspired tomorrow’s Carding Chronicle, All the Love in the World, one that I repeat this time every year.

I hope you can stop by to enjoy this story.

Patting—and rescuing—dogs is so important, don’t you think?

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.

If you haven’t already, don’t forget to subscribe to the Chronicle by clicking the link on this page. That way, you’ll never miss a story.

 

Contending with the Snow on the Ground

SH-Snowdrops

While dogwoods may be in bloom elsewhere, Vermonters still have to contend with snow on the ground.

Watching the white stuff melt is like watching winter in reverse. The fluffy snow on top coagulates into ice crystals that act and sound like glass beads when you walk through them. And when you get to the very bottom of the snowy mounds, you find the sheets of ice laid down in a fury of December storms that brought the dreaded wintry mix of sleet and freezing rain to the area.

But where there’s melting snow, there’s hope for spring, right?

Please note, this story was written before the specter of COVID-19 raised its ugly head.

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.

If you haven’t already, don’t forget to subscribe to the Chronicle by clicking the link on this page. That way, you’ll never miss a story.

The Vernal Equinox Arrives: A Carding Chronicle

SH-A Boy Full of GleeThe Vernal Equinox arrive today at 11:50 p.m. That’s the exact moment when the sun’s rays hit the equator full on and those of us who live “up heyah” enter the warm time of year.

Officially, that is. Here in Vermont, there’s still a lot of lingering winter to get through.

And nothing reminds Vermonters of this lingering more than what we call Mud Season. It’s usually heralded by signs put up on the roads by the local crews proclaiming many of our byways off-limits to anything heavier than 25,000 pounds. That’s so the asphalt roads won’t collapse into bigger potholes.

And there’s the tire-sucking mud on our dirt roads. I guess it’s all test to see if we really want spring to come.

Up on Belmont Hill, Little Freddie Tennyson loves all of it. Of course, Little Freddie loves everything.

But most especially mud.

Welcome to Carding, Vermont.

————————————————–

In smallish towns like Carding, Vermont, there are certain people who seem to capture everyone’s attention. There are eccentrics such as Amos Handy with his ubiquitous Bermuda shorts and wild Hawaiian shirts, worn in all but the very coldest weather. There are folks such as Diana and Stephen Bennett who own the Crow Town Bakery, Andy Cooper over at the general store, postmaster Ted Owens, and Stan the town-truck man who have earned renown from their well-run businesses. And there’s Edie Wolfe who is remembered by older folks as the daughter of Senator Danielson Wolfe and by younger folks as the executive director of the Carding Academy of Traditional Arts.

But these are all adults, people who have had time to etch their personas into the town’s collective unconscious. It’s unusual for that to be the case with a child.

But then I’ll bet you’ve never met five-year old Alfred Tennyson or, as everyone calls him, “Little Freddie.”

His parents, Lee and Christina Tennyson, certainly never have. “I sometimes wonder if he was sent here from an alien culture to observe us,” Lee once muttered to his wife.

“I still wouldn’t change any part of him,” she whispered back.

“That’s for sure. Life wouldn’t be half so fun.”

To start with, there’s Little Freddie’s physique. In general, the Tennysons are considered a rather sylphlike family. The men are lean and the women graceful. On Christina’s side (she was born a Ballard) of the genetic equation, the women are curvy. In fact, Lee has been caught making eyes at his own wife on more than one occasion, as if he is still trying to commit all her peaks and valleys to memory.

Little Freddie, on the other hand, is built like a football tackle. There’s not an extra ounce of fat anywhere on the child. It’s just that you’d never mistake him for a gazelle.

But that’s not what gets folks smiling whenever he’s around. You see, Freddie is a boy full of glee. Everything delights him—milkweed fluff, kittens, icicles, falling leaves, Houdini the Tennysons’ obstreperous goat, blueberry muffins, books from the library, sleeping, waking—it all makes Freddie squeal with joy.

On one hand, his energy sparks up every corner of the Tennyson household. On the other hand, his parents are often exhausted and sometimes they worry that Freddie’s many loves will make it hard for him to focus long enough to learn how to read or count or master the skills he’ll need in the future.

His pre-school teacher has been ringing that alarm bell for a while now. “All he wants to do is play in the sandbox,” she said. “He needs to learn how to focus.”

But Lee and Christina aren’t willing to put their son in a box. It will all come together when Freddie’s ready, they tell one another.

Now today is the first full day of spring, a time that’s marketed with pictures of daffodils and nesting birds. But while flowers and feathered creatures may be happening in some places, here in Vermont, spring is announced by the “scree” of  returning redwing blackbirds and the tire-sucking mud of thawing dirt roads.

Still and all, today is a beautiful day, full of cobalt skies and the gurgle of water from the melting snow. Freddie, of course, loves it all and couldn’t wait to clamber into his mother’s pickup truck when he was released from school.

“Water. Sap buckets,” he said over and over again as they picked their way up Belmont hill. The ditches on both sides of the road barely contained the runoff and the brook licked the underside of the bridge that connected Hooke Road to Belmont Hill.

He stretched himself as tall as possible in his seat when his mother geared down to tackle the slope of their driveway, praying she’d make it to their back door without getting cross-threaded in the the ruts that reappeared every mud season. Freddie loved the challenge not so much Christina if the tight grip she has on the truck’s steering wheel is any indication.

With a deep breath, she started to trundle up the hill, the steering wheel jerking in her hands every so often. She skirted one soft and muddy spot only to hit a pothole hidden in the bottom of a puddle and so on and so on. Finally, with a judder of the truck’s front end, she pulled into the barn attached to the Tennyson home. With a deep sigh, she set the brake and leaned over to undo Freddie’s seat belt.

But the little guy was already out of his harness and marching across the barnyard to stand at the top of the driveway.

“Mom, what makes all the holes and mud so bad?” he asked.

Christina waved her arms in a circle. “It’s been really cold for a very long time,” she said, “but now all of the snow and ice is melting. You know how the ground gets hard around Thanksgiving time when it freezes?”

“It wrinkles when it does that,” Freddie said.

“Yes, wrinkles,” Christina agreed. “Well, all that cold is coming out of the ground now but only a little at a time.” She grabbed a stick from the edge of the yard and jabbed it into the soil. It didn’t sink in more than an inch. “See, only the top is soft while everything underneath is still frozen so when the snow melts, it can’t soak into the ground. But the water’s got to go somewhere so it runs down the road.” They took a few careful steps to the top of the driveway. “As it travels down hill, it takes some of the dirt with it. Eventually, you get holes and when we drive over the road, our tires sink into some places but not into others so we get ruts.”

“And lotsa mud,” Freddie said in a very serious tone.

“Yes, lots of mud. Come on, I’ll make you a snack,” Christina started to say but Freddie was already marching toward the back of the barn.

“Not hungry Mom,” he called over his shoulder.

Christina’s face crinkled up in a question mark. Freddie was always hungry. “Okay, if you say so,” she said doubtfully.

Freddie was outside all afternoon. Every so often, Christina spotted him leaving the barn with a shovel or trowel in tow. She could see the full length of the Tennysons’ infamous driveway from the living room, and she checked on him often from there. Once she walked out to stand at the top of the road to remind her son to “keep an ear out for your father’s truck so you can get out of the way.”

Freddie nodded “yeah, yeah” but never looked up from his labors in the mud.

I sure hope he isn’t making the road worse, she said to herself as she walked toward the chicken coop to check for eggs. Though I’m not sure how it could get much worse.

It was twilight before Christina spotted the headlights of her husband’s truck. He’d been thinning a wood lot of dead trees and had picked up their older son, Scott, on his way home. She rushed outside to make sure Freddie was out of the way only to find him standing at the top of the driveway, tools abandoned in the snow off to one side, his arms crossed firmly over his chest, his eyes fixed on the truck coming up the hill.

Christina turned to watch with him, and noticed that Lee’s headlights weren’t zigging and zagging to avoid the potholes and washboard areas. She glanced down at Freddie. His face was rapt and instead of his usual freeform gaiety, he looked serious.

“Did you hire someone to work on the driveway?” Lee asked as he stepped out of his truck.

“No.” Christina looked down at Freddie. “That was your son’s doing. He’s been out here all afternoon.”

“Really?” Lee turned to look down the hill but it was too dark to make out any features. “What did you do, Freddie?”

“Fixed it,” he said, extending a pair of muddy gloves as evidence.

“How did you learn to do that?” Lee asked.

“Sandbox,” Freddie said. Then he started toward the house and the beckoning lights of the kitchen. “I’m hungry, Mom. Can we have cookies and ice cream for supper?”


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.

The Vernal Equinox Arrives

SH-A Boy Full of Glee

The Vernal Equinox arrives tomorrow at 11:50 p.m. That’s the exact moment when the sun’s rays hit the equator full on and those of us who live “up heyah” enter the warm time of year.

Officially, that is. Here in Vermont, there’s still a lot of lingering winter to get through.

And nothing reminds Vermonters of this lingering more than what we call Mud Season. It’s usually heralded by signs put up on the roads by the local crews proclaiming many of our byways off-limits to anything heavier than 25,000 pounds. That’s so the asphalt roads won’t collapse into bigger potholes.

And there’s the tire-sucking mud on our dirt roads. I guess it’s all test to see if we really want spring to come.

Up on Belmont Hill, Little Freddie Tennyson loves all of it. Of course, Little Freddie loves everything.

But most especially mud. Hope you can stop by tomorrow to find out 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.

If you haven’t already, don’t forget to subscribe to the Chronicle by clicking the link on this page. That way, you’ll never miss a story.

Enjoy!

 

Breaking Up in March: A Carding Chronicle

SH-Ice outMy family has lived on a river in Vermont for 25 years. It’s always interesting, always changing, different this afternoon than it was this morning.

Over the course of a winter, ice can form, melt, float away, and re-form several times. But generally, by this time of year, it’s pretty well settled, coagulated in thick slabs along the banks, sometimes all the way across.

It is very rare indeed that the ice just melts, not on a river. Most often, the water rises because of the snow melt or we get a sizable rainstorm. The ice breaks up and then, on some invisible signal, it decides to flow downstream all at the same time.

It’s ice out time on the Corvus River as it flows through Carding, Vermont and you’re invited to watch.

——————————-

Agnes Findley sighed as she joined the stop-and-go traffic heading out of Montpelier, Vermont’s capital city. You can’t tell what color car anyone is driving at this time of year because they’re all coated with the same gray dirt. And there’s no such thing as a good road either because they all buck and weave with frost heaves like the ocean in a heavy swell. One second, your car’s up in the air. The next second, it’s bottoming out in a dip.

Agnes sat through two red lights, her fingers drumming a slow-motion tattoo on her steering wheel, silently cursing the traffic. Then she laughed at herself, remembering the eternal car crawls of her former commute in Boston. Back then, a ten-mile journey could and did take an hour or more. In Vermont, her commute from Montpelier consisted of two turns, two sets of lights, and then a nonstop ride all the way home. The forty-seven miles took less than forty-five minutes.

“Piece of cake,” she murmured.

A brown UPS truck turned south on Route 14 just ahead of Agnes, and she soon found herself fascinated by the sharp sway of its cargo box as it negotiated the curls and dips of the frost-heaved road. Charlie’s right, she thought, the roads look like strips of fried bacon this time of year. I wonder how they keep the boxes on the shelves inside those trucks.

She slowed to negotiate a tight S-curve and glanced to the west where the sun was making itself comfortable for the coming night.

“Come on,” she pleaded. “Just a few more minutes of light. You can do it.”

As the light shifted from light gray to something darker, Agnes geared down again for the turn to Carding, keeping a sharp lookout for the tire-eating pothole at the corner of the Route 37 bridge.

What was it about that particular spot in the road that made it so fragile? Every spring, the town road crew patched, mended, and repaired the same tire-eating spot to no avail. One year, they’d even hired an engineering firm to figure out how to reconfigure that whole stretch of road in order to overcome the infamous pothole.

But the chasm reappeared every year as the days grew longer.

Her pulse rose a notch when she spotted a knot of people coagulated in the small park-and-ride overlooking the river.

“Agnes,” someone called as she got out of her car. “You’re just in time.”

She hustled to claim a spot at the guardrails that kept the unwary and careless from sliding off the road into the Corvus River. The love-of-her-life, Charlie Cooper, reached out to draw her near.

“What’s the report from upstream?” she asked as she turned up her coat’s collar. The air always held a special chill by the river.

“The ice has just started to move in Royalton,” old Henry Wood said, his phone pressed to his ear. “My cousin Nellie says she can hear the big chunks knocking against one another.”

He looked down at the Corvus where rivulets of pewter-colored water flowed over the ice. He shook his head. “It hasn’t been that cold this year so my guess is that the ice is no more than a few inches thick. Probably won’t be much of a runoff.”

The sun gave the clutch of Carding-ites a final salute as it slid behind the hills to the west. Everyone glanced in its direction in silent salutation.

“Heh, think about it. Three months from now, we’ll be complaining about the heat,” Henry said, and the sun watchers laughed.

Just then, a low roar in the distance hushed the crowd. Every head turned to look upstream toward a bend in the river. The earth rumbled beneath their feet. The crowd tensed.

Wil Bennett leaned as far over the guard rails as he could, pointing his video camera upstream. The rumble moved up a decibel level. The dusk thickened. All eyes strained to see in the gloom.

“Here it comes!” Wil yelled.

Ice shards careened around the bend. The water level rose rapidly, covering the pastoral landscape of the winter river in the span of just a few heartbeats. The roaring runoff jumped the bank at a low spot in the land just before the park-and-ride, pushing car-sized chunks close to the road.

Agnes felt the guard rail shudder in her hands. Henry was right. The snow-topped chunks of ice were only six to eight inches thick but that did not diminish the river’s display of power.

“It’s hitting the falls,” Wil yelled, and they all heard the crash as the frozen slurry plummeted thirty feet into Half Moon Lake.

At that point, the thrill quickly turned into anxiety and everyone drew back at the same time, suddenly aware of how flimsy metal guardrails were in the face of such fury.

“I’ve lived here all my life,” Charlie yelled over the roar, “and this never fails to amaze me. Why is that?”

“I can’t answer for anyone else,” Agnes said, “but I like to see human beings humbled now and again. Ice outs, thunderstorms, blizzards, they remind us of our place in the world. And it’s not on the top of the food chain. That’s just a silly illusion.”

Charlie chuckled. “My, you are feeling philosophical today, my dear. How did things go in Montpelier?”

Agnes sighed. She volunteered her legal skills for a consortium of environmental nonprofits, lobbying on their behalf at the statehouse. She squeezed his hand. “Not as well as I hoped but not as bad as I feared. I’m afraid it was all very human. That’s another reason why I enjoy this.”

She gestured at the rampaging river. “It reminds me why it’s important to keep on fighting.”


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.

If you haven’t already, don’t forget to subscribe to the Chronicle by clicking the link on this page. That way, you’ll never miss a story.

Breaking Up in March

My family has lived on a river in Vermont for 25 years. It’s always interesting, always changing, different this afternoon than it was this morning.

Over the course of a winter, ice can form, melt, float away, and re-form several times. But generally, by this time of year, it’s pretty well settled, coagulated in thick slabs along the banks, sometimes all the way across.

It is very rare indeed that the ice just melts, not on a river. Most often, the water rises because of the snow melt or we get a sizable rainstorm. The ice breaks up and then, on some invisible signal, it decides to flow downstream all at the same time.

Tomorrow is ice out time on the Corvus River as it flows through Carding, Vermont and you’re invited to watch.

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.

If you haven’t already, don’t forget to subscribe to the Chronicle by clicking the link on this page. That way, you’ll never miss a story.

SH-Ice out