Tag Archives: winter in vermont

Oh Say Can You See?

Tomorrow is Thursday and time for another Carding Chronicle.

This week, we’re continuing the the town’s odyssey from New Year to Town Meeting. Most folks were expecting this year’s annual voting, discussing, and potluck get-together to be a yawn festival. After all, the budget is flat-lined from last year, and there aren’t any huge capital expenses on the ballot.

But then G.G. Dieppe, who lives in the biggest house up on Mount Merino and committed the unforgivable sin of coming “from away,” decided to run for the open seat on the select board.

And she’s one of those people who just seem to go out of their way to rile everyone around them.

Here’s a sample of what’s in store.


So How Cold Is It?

Coping with the way-below-zero temperatures common in New England this month is taxing. Even Amos Handy has made some concessions to the plunge in the thermometer.

But not much stops the town curmudgeon when he spots a likely target for his tongue.

Here’s a sample of tomorrow’s Carding Chronicle.

Please stay warm, everyone. This will end and before you know it, we’ll be complaining about the heat and humidity.

I hope.



365-71The Carding Chronicles are stories about the little town no one can find on a map of Vermont. When you subscribe to the Chronicles, a new story is delivered to your inbox every Friday. If you’re enjoying the Carding Chronicles, please share them with your friends!

And one additional note, the next Carding novel, The Dazzling Uncertainty of Life, which will debut in this space on April 7. Twelve weekly installments delivered right to your inbox. Tell your friends to subscribe so they can enjoy it too!

It’s that time of year again, Agnes Findley reflected as she joined the stop-and-go line of traffic heading out of Montpelier. You can’t tell what color the cars are because they’re all coated in the same gray dirt, and the roads buck and weave 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.

She 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 why she’d fled the eternal car crawl of Boston. In Vermont, her commute from Montpelier consisted of two turns, two sets of lights, and then a nonstop ride all the way home.

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 road looks like a strip of fried bacon this time of year. I wonder how they keep the boxes on the shelves inside those trucks.

As soon as the bottom edge of the sun touched the hilltops, Agnes felt the temperature drop. As the light shifted from bright to gray, Agnes geared down for the turn to Carding, on the 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 it, mended it, repaired it. 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 same 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 the car. “You’re just in time.”

She hustled to claim a spot at the guardrails next to the love-of-her-life, Charlie Cooper. “What’s the report from upstream?” she asked as she turned up her coat’s collar. The air hung chill and damp by the river.

“The ice is broken in Royalton,” old Henry Wood said. “My cousin Nellie says she can hear the big chunks knocking against one another.” He looked down at the Corvus where a ribbon of gray water flowed over the white of the last month’s snow deposits. 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. Won’t be much of a runoff.”

The sun finally slid behind the hills to the southwest, and 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 at a bend in the river. They felt the rumble through 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, and the water level rose rapidly—one foot, two feet, three. The roaring runoff spilled over a low spot in the land just before the park-and-ride, shedding car-sized chunks of ice in its rush. In the span of a single heartbeat, the serene scene of pristine snow below the watchers disappeared in a wild rush of pale blue ice, pewter-colored water, and gray slush.

Agnes felt the guard rail shudder in her hands. Henry had been right. They were only six to eight inches thick but the display of power was still impressive.

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

Anxiety zipped through the crowd, and everyone drew back from the guard rails at the same time, suddenly aware of how flimsy the metal rails were in the face of such fury.

“Lived here all my life,” Charlie yelled over the roar, “and that never fails to amaze me. Why?”

“I can’t answer for anyone else,” Agnes said, “but I like seeing 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, not as bad as I feared. I’m afraid it was all very human.”

The next Carding Chronicle will be published on February 26. If you are enjoying these stories (they’re a great break from politics, eh?) please encourage your friends to subscribe.

Candidates Forum

365-54The Carding Chronicles are stories about the little town no one can find on a map of Vermont. When you subscribe to the Chronicles, a new story is delivered to your inbox every Friday. If you’re enjoying the Carding Chronicles, please share them with your friends!

This particular story, Candidates Forum, is an excerpt from the next Carding novel, The Dazzling Uncertainty of Life, which will debut in this space on April 7. Stay tuned for details.

“Well, well, well,” Andy Cooper said as he unfolded the sample ballot for town meeting. “Will you look at who’s running for school board this year.”

Amos Handy stretched his neck out of his perpetual red scarf to peek over Andy’s shoulder. “Oh gawd, not him again,” Amos muttered. “I thought for sure the Good Dentist would never run for school board this year. He only won by four votes last time. What makes him think he’ll make it this time?”

Andy pointed at the thick paper. “He’s unopposed.”

“But I thought that what’s her face, Pat Evans, was going to run this time,” Ruth Goodwin said, crowding in to look at the candidates’ list.

“She is,” Andy said, pointing again. “See? Right here. Unopposed.”

“Unopposed?” Stephen Bennett said, pushing into the growing crowd. “Who else is on that list?”

“Well, Greta Rutherford doesn’t have to run this year, of course,” Andy said as he stapled the sample ballot to the community bulletin board just inside the door of the Coop. “Her term’s not up until next year.”

“Hey,” Stephen said, pointing. “Do any of you know who this Dick Monroe is?”

“Isn’t that the new president of the country club board?” Edie Wolfe asked as she sauntered up. “I heard he bought that godawful big spec house, the one that’s way up on the hill behind the seventh hole of the golf course.”

“Yeah? When did he do that?” Amos asked, reeling his neck back into his scarf, and securing his jacket’s top button.

Andy shook his head. “It has to be pretty recent,” he said. “I don’t think I’ve seen him in the store more than once or twice.”

“And he’s running for school board?” Stephen said. “What’s he know about Carding or our kids?”

“Well, he’s supposed to know a lot about money,” Charlie Cooper said as he strolled up to stand behind his brother. “I understand he’s originally a Vermont boy who made good in Chicago, and now he’s back.”

“But that doesn’t make him qualified to be on our school board,” Edie said.

Charlie turned his mouth down in thought. “Well, it doesn’t make him disqualified, either. Many folks think the most important thing the board does is watch how our money is spent.”

“I know what you mean, Charlie,” Stephen said. “But where you put the money can either do a lot of good or a lot of harm.” He shook his head. “It’s been so busy at the bakery, I didn’t realize that the deadline had come and gone for collecting signatures to get on the ballot.”

“Would you have run?” Andy asked.

“I was thinking about it, especially since I figured that the Good Dentist would be gone after this year,” Stephen shook his head. “I’ve never liked that guy. Don’t trust him either.”

Ruth nodded. “I always thought you were a sensible man, Stephen.” Everyone grinned. Ruth was Maxwell Goodwin’s first wife, the one who got the biggest alimony payment, as she liked to say.

“Oh no,” Edie said. She had leaned over to see all the way down to the bottom of the ballot. “Look!”

The crowd, now numbering a dozen, bent over as a single unit to read the two words that had shocked Edie.

“Harry Brown!” Andy said. “Since when does Harry Brown care about our schools?”

“Is there anyone running against him?” Charlie asked.

“Nope,” a new voice added. “Dad was the last person to get on the ballot, just minutes under the deadline. He told Mom that the Good Dentist asked him to run, and it was folks up at the country club who signed his nomination papers.”

Several stunned faces turned in Gideon Brown’s direction. His father, Harry, had put a lot of effort into making himself disliked in Carding, and he had succeeded.

“He got all 50 signatures up at the country club?” Edie asked, her voice rising in pitch as she reached the end of her question. “I didn’t think there were 50 residents of Carding living up there. Most of the condo owners are from away.”

Gideon shook his head. “You forget how many locals work in the club and on the course and on the slopes,” he said. “There’s a lot of folks who rely on paychecks from Mount Merino to buy their groceries.”

A thick blanket of silence rolled over the gathering, and Gideon fidgeted, uncertain how much more to say. He wasn’t crazy about his father either.

“Great,” Amos muttered. “We’ve got a dicey dentist, a woman named Pat that no one knows, a stinking rich finance guy who’s new in town, and—excuse me, Gideon—probably the most hated man in Carding running for school board.”

“Hmph, and Greta,” Ruth said. “Don’t forget Greta Rutherford.”

“That’s not saying much,” Amos said. “She’s loopier than I am.”

Everyone else’s mouth twitched as they bowed their heads to take in the man’s shorts and well-worn boots. Summer or winter, Amos Handy saw no reason to ever change his wardrobe. Amos was Carding’s self-selected eccentric.

“Can’t we do nominations from the floor to stop these folks?” Amos’s voice squeaked.

Charlie shook his head. “Not this year. We switched over to the Australian ballot, remember. So it’s just show up and vote.”

They all looked at one another in dismay. “Great,” Andy muttered. “And we’re hiring a new superintendent this year, too. We’re in great shape.”

“You can say that again,” a voice boomed. Everyone started. Gideon tried to hide from his father’s gaze but Harry had already seen his eldest son.

“There’s gonna be some changes made,” Harry continued. “Year after year, I look at those school budgets and all I see is salaries for teachers and aides and administration, and I ask myself: Where’s the education in our school budget?”

“But…” Charlie began but Edie shook her head. Being Harry’s ex-wife, she knew that opposing Harry with common sense was useless.

Harry’s grin grew wider. “See ya at the polls,” he said as he turned away.

The next Carding Chronicle will be published on February 19. If you are enjoying these stories (they’re a great break from politics, eh?) please encourage your friends to subscribe.

Joe’s Puddle

365-29The Carding Chronicles are stories about the little town no one can find on a map of Vermont. When you subscribe to the Chronicles, a new story is delivered to your inbox every Friday. If you’re enjoying the Carding Chronicles, please share them with your friends!

New post on Carding Chronicle blog: February 5

Joe’s Puddle Pool Cancelled

by Little Crow

Well folks, this is a first, and I’m not sure it’s one to be celebrated. We all know that puddly place in the marsh at the end of Half Moon Lake, the one the kids skate on and call Joe’s Puddle, right?

And we all look forward to the PTA fundraiser that takes place here every April when we throw money in a pot, and take guesses when the Joe’s Puddle clock sinks through the ice.

The winner gets bragging rights, and half of the collected cash.

The PTA’s been raising money for kid sports equipment this way for over 20 years, and this is the first time the event has had to be cancelled because of warm weather.

In Vermont.

In February.

Russ Tensen, this year’s PTA president, called us this morning to say that there’s no ice on Joe’s puddle to put a clock on so there’s nothing to bet on—at least at this point. But the PTA executive board is meeting this afternoon to see if they can come up with some sort of a substitute.

There’s talk of a grilled cheese cook-off which sounds pretty good to me. Christine Tennyson, our lady in goat cheese up on the Tennyson farm, has offered to supply some of the product to get that effort started.

Or maybe we can all take a guess at when the maple sap starts running and the sugaring season starts.

In other cancellation news—there will be no fishing derby on the lake this weekend, and Bob Scoda sends word that he could really use a hand trying to float his bobhouse back to shore. Bob’s always the first one out on the ice, and said he really took a chance when he pulled his little shanty out on the lake on New Year’s Day.

“First time I ever saw the ice sag under my truck,” Bob said.

If you want to see Bob’s bobhouse bob, the best view is from the town beach parking lot.

As for downhill skiing, the owners of the Mount Merino Resort are still trying to make snow at night, and hoping it will last through to the next night. The mountain looks like a big mound of mud with a few white stripes running down the sides.

In other, non-cancellation, news, the pickup hockey games have moved to the town beach parking lot because the ice in the rink on the green melted. The asphalt end of the parking lot’s been swept free of gravel, and the surface is pretty good. Bring your own roller blades.

And Reverend Lloyd reports that the extreme frisbee group plans to begin their practice sessions two months early in the Episcopal church parking lot.

Sneakers and shorts.

In February.

In Vermont.

As Andy Cooper’s been saying, “This is the non-winter winter.”

I’ll be looking for you over at the extreme frisbee practices. Call me if you see any snow.

Little Crow | February 5 | Categories: Local recreation

The next Carding Chronicle will be published on February 12. If you are enjoying these stories (they’re a great break from politics, eh?) please encourage your friends to subscribe.