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Paper Trail 

Around the State in Seven Days

A piece of land south of Montgomery Center has sprouted a school bus, a teepee, trailers and a couple of automobiles, and this temporary village is the home to five hopeful, chilly people who want to create a self-sufficient farm on the property.

“We are living in buses because there is no house on the property,” says the owner, Tammy Welch, whose optimism has apparently not interfered with her grasp of the obvious. Still, the encampment is in violation of local zoning regulations and the group was recently warned that they must bring it into compliance.

Bob Boucher, the Montgomery zoning administrator, says, “I have nothing against them, except I don’t want them to hurt themselves. I want them to comply with the rules, but our rules don’t protect against people from doing stupid things.”

Vented propane heaters have recently been installed in the bus, and there’s a communal kitchen. “At the first of the winter it was really cold,” said one of the campers, “but it’s been better lately.”

— Franklin County Courier, January 11

Cabin Fever With the cold heart of winter comes a kind of distracted anxiety — some of us start collecting rubber bands and some of us go down into the basement and visit the meat. And some write headlines: “What’s Going on with My Dog?” one wonders. “Yes!” says another, “You Do Live in a Very Cloudy Place!” Also spotted: “Dowsers to Meet on Eye Care,” “Students Find Doughnuts Have Consequences,” and the weirdly evocative “Clark Road Turns Another Corner.”

— The Killington Mountain Times, January 18, Franklin County Courier, January 18, St. Albans Messenger, January 23, Addison Independent, January 18, Bradford Journal Opinion, January 24>

Slow Closure In August of 1998, Joshua Nault effectively ended more than 20 years of Bread and Puppet pageantry in Glover by throwing a punch that killed Michael Sarazin at a campground during “Our Domestic Resurrection Circus.” After much delay — much of it caused by Nault jumping bail, going to France, and flirting with joining the French Foreign Legion — the wheels of justice appear to be grinding toward closure.

But not without more alarms and excursions: At issue now is whether the jury should hear about Nault’s training as a boxer and how he was warned by his coach, repeatedly, not to use his fists outside the ring. Nault’s coach is prepared to testify that his student was a “head hunter, always looking for that one knock-out punch.” The defense has countered that this kind of testimony should be excluded because it is intended to show Nault is a “bad person,” and by saying that the victim was a “bellicose drunk,” and thus a bad person, too.

The pre-trial motions continue; with luck, the trial itself begins on February 5.

— The Barton Chronicle, January 17

The Thin Blue Life Police protect and serve, but they also put up with a lot, especially recently. Not long ago a Middlebury woman petitioned for help in disposing of some feminine hygiene products that arrived as free samples in the mail. The woman told the officers she believed the samples harbored an airborne virus that had supposedly already killed seven people. Officers played along and took the samples away, but report they “do not believe there is any danger.”

Meanwhile, police and rescue personnel in Vergennes responded to a mishap involving two local youths who were fooling around with a set of handcuffs. During the horseplay, one of the boys got stuck in the cuffs and the key simply wasn’t working. Apparently they were using the wrong key. The right key was found, the boy was set free, and the rescue squad examined his wrists for bruising.

And in Windsor, after a day already filled with lost tourists, loud pedestrians, trespassing snowmobiles, pellet guns going off unexpectedly, and people chasing cars down the street, dusk finally fell and triggered a report of a “strange light coming from the woods.” Police investigated but have no comment; strangeness, after all, is in the eye of the beholder.

— Addison Independent, January 11, Windsor Chronicle, January 11

Fries With That? Charges of bribery have enlivened the discussion of whether a talking sign at a Manchester McDonald’s can be moved to a more convenient, but potentially noisier, location. Resident James Sparkman, opposed to the change, apparently offered $50 to an abutting tenant to come to a hearing and testify that the sign was already making too much noise. This to the exasperation of the tenant’s landlord, who has no problem with the sign at all, either in the old location or the new one.

“You didn’t call me,” said landlord Donna Parker to Sparkman. “You walked your counsel to my house. I didn’t give you permission, you told my tenant the town offered a witness fee, you gave him a check for $50 and called him repeatedly at his place of work. I just don’t like your tactics.”

Sparkman explained that the money was not a bribe, but was to cover the tenant’s costs for babysitting, which are apparently very high. Also high are the trees Sparkman claims must be planted to screen the new sign adequately — 100 feet, he estimates, and he brought pictures to prove it. The zoning board recessed without making a decision, opting for more “study and thought,” perhaps in a more serene setting.

— Manchester Journal, January 19

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