We’re winding up Carding’s town meeting saga today, announcing the winner of the three-way race for the open seat on the select board.
As with most local issues, it’s the individual voters and their choices that make the difference in how a town feels and how it moves.
G.G. Dieppe is a relative newcomer to Carding, and she sees a lot that she wants to change. Opposing her is an upstart write-in candidate named Amos Handy. He’s pretty much the eccentric about town.
One of the interesting threads in this story is the impact it has on another newcomer, Brenda Underwood. Her transition from a rather apathetic resident to an active one has a lot to do with how G.G. Dieppe made her feel at her first quilt guild meeting.
For that matter, G.G.’s decision to run for a local office started with her first encounter with Amos Handy. That and her lack of a sense of humor were the impetus here.
Carding’s town meeting saga was inspired by the many hours I spent observing local elected officials in towns around the Upper Valley when I was a reporter. That’s when I realized the power of the individual to make change and to appreciate all of the amazing folks who volunteer to work for their towns.
Glad you stopped by. Enjoy!
Now ordinarily, Oona Lovejoy’s birthday party is a small affair in Carding. Folks make “Love signs” and tape them to lamp posts and trees in and around the town green. Then they take pictures of one another hugging or kissing next to them.
It works sort of like mistletoe only the predominant color for Oona’s day is pink.
But this year…oh, this year is different because of the tensions surrounding the town’s upcoming elections.
When he reached the center of Carding with his father, Mark Underwood could not believe his eyes. The normally sleepy town green was filled with people—women wearing pink pussy hats, men wearing pink pussy hats, and teenagers leading cheers of “Han-dee, Han-dee.”
There were “Love signs” on every tree, pole, post, and bench. A couple dozen folks bearing sandwich boards asking voters to “Write in Handy” circled the green’s circumference, waving at all of the passing cars who honked their greetings in return.
“Daddy, can we go color with those kids?” little Claire asked, pointing at a group of children decorating the sidewalk with fist-sized pieces of chalk.
A woman tending to the kids looked up. “They’re more than welcome to join in if it’s okay with you,” she told Mark.
“Why don’t you hang out here while I go find your mother,” Mark’s father said, bustling of to find Brenda.
“Yeah. Sure Dad.”
Later, as they got ready for bed, Mark tried to describe the scene to his wife. “You know how people use the word ‘community’ so much that it feels like a useless word, almost plastic?”
“Well, I didn’t hear one person in Carding use that word all day and yet that’s exactly what was going on. All these people came out and visited with one another while keeping watch over the kids who were racing through the puddles having a great time.”
His wife smiled. “Yes, I saw the mud on your daughters’ clothes.”
“And people were talking—I mean really talking—about what they want to do in their town, and there were a lot of good ideas floating around,” Mark said. “It was pretty special.”
“So did you get to meet this Handy guy, the one who’s running as a write-in?”
“Yeah, I met him and the woman who’s the director of the Carding Academy—Mom’s going to start volunteering there—and this farmer named Lee Tennyson—his wife just had a baby—and the couple who own the town bakery, and Andy Cooper who owns the local grocery. Dad wants to work there a couple of days a week,” Mark said.
“Dad says he doesn’t care. He figures it’s a great way to get to know folks in town.” Mark sighed, contented.
“Which means you don’t have to feel guilty any more, right?” His wife smiled. “What about the woman who lives near your parents, the one whose name is on the ballot? Did you meet her?”
“Well, I wouldn’t call it a meeting, exactly. She showed up with a few of the other women who live in the condo development. Mom calls them the ‘Stepford Wives.’ It seems that someone plastered the bathrooms and locker rooms in the country club with ‘love signs,’ and they figured Mom had something to do with it,” Mark said. “They were pretty nasty but Mom held her own.”
“So did your Mom do it?”
Mark snuggled his beloved closer. “Are you kidding? She not only plastered the country club with those heart-shaped signs, she waited until G.G. left her house and then put one on her front lawn. You know Mom. When she gets riled, she doesn’t do anything by halves.”
“So do you think Amos Handy will win?”
He kissed her. “I sure hope so. It would be a shame if he didn’t.”
As weather events go, Vermont’s town meeting day was pretty typical—cold enough to wear a winter jacket and scarf in the morning, warm enough to roll down the car windows in the afternoon.
Folks pretty much agreed that G.G. was an impressive presence when the polls opened. Dressed in a deep red coat with a matching hat and shoes, she sported a large button that said “Vote Dieppe” and made an attempt to shake the hand of everyone strolling through the doors to mark their ballots in the high school gym.
Being polite and curious, most voters took her proffered hand. But they also noted the slight moue of distaste that occasionally flitted over G.G’s face if the Carding-ite whose flesh she was pressing didn’t measure up to her standards.
G.G. started the day with a large coterie fluttering around her. It consisted of a dozen women in dresses and heels, hardly the right clothes to wear on an early March day in Vermont. The polls opened at 8 a.m. and by 10:00, most of the over-dressed women could no longer feel their toes.
One by one, they disappeared. G.G. was never quite sure where. She’d turn around and find another one of them gone.
Amos Handy had a grand old time. Normally reclusive, he found the politicking stuff rather intimidating at first. But he gradually warmed to talking to all of the friends he’d made through his position as the book curator in the Swap Shed at the Carding recycling center.
“I always say, you meet the most interesting people at the dump,” he said rather loudly when he was in earshot of G.G.
Amos’s posse changed throughout the day as folks spelled one another. Everyone walking into the polls was greeted with a handshake that included a square piece of card stock with the words “Write in Handy” on it. By the time the polls closed, there were no more squares left.
G.G. was dogged, folks had to hand her that. But even she had to admit she’d been beaten by “that rube at the dump.” When last seen, she was rubbing her feet near a heating vent in the gym. After that, she disappeared.
So after all this, the question is: Who won this three-way race? Was it G.G. Dieppe with her Mount Merino cohort? Eugene Becker, a longtime stalwart of local government in Carding? Or the man wearing the Hawaiian shirt and shorts who held sway over the book exchange at the dump?
The supervisors of the checklist had to count the ballots twice because turnout was so heavy and there were so many write-ins, including a couple for Kim Kardashian and one for Jane Fonda.
There was always at least one for Jane Fonda.
But in the end, by a mere 31 votes, Amos Handy won the open seat on the Carding select board.
Here’s wishing him and the town of Carding the best of local governance in the coming year.
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, Light in Water, Dancing, will go on sale on June 15, 2018.
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