August is a strange month in northeastern Vermont, one day it’s on the sunnyside of 90 and the next you’re pulling out the turtlenecks. If you happen to be in West Burville you might consider a slice of Linda Mae’s Pecan Festival Fantasy Pie washed down with a steaming mug of Bunchy’s Coffee Bean Caravan over at the Double Axle Diner, open under new management…
The languid days of an unusually hot dry summer had crisped up the lawns in front of the picture perfect white houses of West Burville. Drought that had devastated the American heartland had ignored the hilly region of Piney Woods County in this remote corner of the Green Mountain State. Still it was hot as a bejeezus and the interior of the Double Axle Diner steamed in the afternoon sun as the sluggish ceiling fans stirred the heavy air.
Hooter was perturbed.
It had been three months since Judge Herbert “Jolly” Overshot had ruled in favor of The State in the case of The State of Vermont v. The Counter Dwellers et al. Memories die hard in remote Piney Woods County, VT, where a good story and bad behavior are intertwined in a cocktail of redneck justice and law-abiding citizens stirred around with the occasional flatlander. The tale of what happened opening day of last fall’s deer season had spread like hot chicken manure on a compost pile and caused a standing room only crowd at the Piney Woods County Courthouse in early May as Hooter and the other Counter Dwellers were sentenced to a hundred hours of community service each.
Despite pleas that there just wasn’t “nowhere hereabouts” to serve that amount of time and it would interfere with folks ability to get a good hot meal and Ludovico had to get back to his logging truck, Sheriff Les Good had assured the Judge he could fill up the time and the deed was done. After a month of painting fences, sprucing up the flower beds in front of the Sheriff’s Department, crocheting with the Ladies Aid Society, and chaperoning the lawless Pluette kids to their summer school sessions, the Counter Dwellers wanted out. With thirty-seven hours to go they’d run out of patience and ways to embarrass themselves.
Hooter had an idea. What if they invited the Sheriff and his boys to a big old-fashioned upcountry bar-b-que and had a few burgers and some backslapping and a couple of beers and that would be that? As the reasoning went, no one could resist a summer afternoon of pitching horseshoes and shooting the breeze on county time. If they could make the run up and the event take thirty-seven hours they’d be home free and clear. The fly in the ointment was the failure to inform the Sheriff of their plan.
“I got the perfect idea,” Hooter opened. “Suppose we come up with a way to get rid of them last thirty-seven hours in one swoop?”
Bunchy, Dayrel, Flock, and Lambert all nodded their heads like those little kewpie dolls with the springs on their necks. Old Mel chewed his gums and waited to hear the rest.
“And what if said idea involved the Sheriff and food?”
The heads nodded faster.
“One thing them boys like to do is eat. Let’s cook ’em up a bar-b-que that’d do Linda Mae proud.”
“We got just one issue. It’s got to be a secret. We’ll get everything ready then lure ’em over here and set upon ’em with good times!”
Flock wasn’t so sure about the “luring” part. “You sure we shouldn’t tell those boys first? They can get real mean, Hooter.”
“It ain’t “luring”, Flock, it’s more like a “surprise party”.”
The head nodding resumed.
Over the next week, Hooter and the other Counter Dwellers tackled their community service with an enthusiasm that put Sheriff Les Good in a dark mood. “What are they up to?” he growled.
Sitting behind his scarred oak desk decorated with twenty years of coffee rings and a year’s worth of reports, the Sheriff was becoming increasingly agitated. Heaving his belly over his belt buckle and planting his Enforcers on the linoleum he stalked to the door. Yanking it open, and nearly off its ancient hinges, he yelled toward the cavernous office and the petite woman sitting at the desk, the long-suffering Prudence Fecteau of the Fecteau law enforcing clan and the Sheriff’s personal secretary, “Get me Pernell on the horn. And if he ain’t around get me Ardent. I got a job for the two of ’em.”
Spinning as best he could on his non-skid soles he headed back into his office and slammed the door hard enough to make the frosted glass quiver. He had some thinking to do. Settling his bulk behind the desk Sheriff Les Good waited for the knock on the door.
To be continued…