Potter spins yarn of magic in trilogy debut


cheryl potter bookReviewed by Joseph Gresser

Fantasy novels generally fall into the pattern set for the genre by J.R.R. Tolkien in his Lord of The Rings trilogy.  A group of men with swords, axes, clubs and other whacking and hacking implements go off to set a wrong to rights.

Barton author Cheryl Potter sends her heroines out on their perilous mission armed with knitting needles, needles used for their intended purpose, not for stabbing or even poking.

She has conjured up a world where a group of past-their-prime women must find a way to use their style of domestic magic to save the world.

That world is on the verge of dying either by fire or by ice in accordance with a prophecy.

Their world is not necessarily the one in which we live.  Its history includes an earlier calamity that resulted in its original inhabitants being buried under a glacier.

Now, a renegade member of the Potluck Twelve, a group of women devoted to the magic of the dye pot, leads the forces of the south in an attempt to melt the glacier, for unknown but disturbing reasons.

Among the members of the long scattered twelve are Sierra Blue, a knitter whose work is not only beautiful, but is also imbued with magical properties that can enhance the wearer’s natural abilities.

She, her daughter, Skye, and her two sons Warren and Garth, are at the center of the first volume of the Potluck Yarn Trilogy.  They are required to brave the perils of a journey to the Northlands in answer to the summons of Aubergine, the leader of the knitting witches.

Most of the remaining members of the circle also feel Aubergine’s call and are irresistibly drawn to their former home where their leader hopes the group’s former magic can be revived.

Ms. Potter creates a lively community of women, talented but flawed.  Their journey to Bordertown is fraught with peril, but the women meet the dangers with cleverness rather than force.

That is exactly the point of the book, Ms. Potter said in a telephone interview Tuesday.  Ms. Potter, who lives in Barton where she runs Cherry Tree Hill Yarn, spoke from Arizona where she was on a book tour.

Most fantasy adventures, she said, “are about men who like to hurt each other and are full of blood and guts.  I want to empower girls.”

For this reason, Ms. Potter said she centered the first of her projected trilogy around the magic of women.  As a fiber artist herself, Ms. Potter said she feels close to the witches conjured up by her imagination.

Those involved in the spinning community speak of the magic of the dye pot.  Yarn, she explained, reacts to dyes in unpredictable ways, but the fibers are forgiving.  If a batch turns out unsatisfactorily it can always be returned to the pot for another try.

Ms. Potter makes the connection between knitting yarn and a yarn as a long tale explicit in her book.  The witches’ power comes not only from the mystic crystals they use to color the fleeces they will spin.

It also grows from the tales they tell as they do their work.  Sierra Blue, one of the most powerful of the sisterhood, is also the one entrusted with the keeping of almost all the group’s stories.

Telling the story of The Broken Circle is a new endeavor for Ms. Potter who has achieved success in her business life and who has previously published six books of knitting patterns as well as several short stories.

She said she is most of the way through the second volume of the trilogy and, judging by the hints and spoilers she let drop during her interview, has a clear idea of where the twists and turns of the yarn will eventually lead.

Ms. Potter was willing to say that the second volume would investigate the lives of Sierra’s sons, who as boys are excluded from the magic circle.

She said the first three chapters and a picture of the second volume, Secrets of the Lost Caves, will soon be released on her website, potluckyarn.com.

The site also contains other materials that Ms. Potter hopes will make her books useful to teachers and home-schoolers.  The student workbook, which is available as a free download, includes vocabulary lists, discussion questions and questions devised to prompt analytical reasoning, Ms. Potter said.

She also created a separate book of patterns inspired by the magical garments featured throughout the book.  The pattern book is available for sale in a paperback edition or as an e-book, Ms. Potter said.

Ms. Potter said the novel can be appreciated without knitting any of the patterns and said it was intended to enhance some readers’ experience.

She said that she decided to publish the book herself because she wanted to create materials such as the pattern book and the student workbook, which she said commercial publishers would consider a waste of money.

Self-publishing, Ms. Potter added, allowed her to decide to devote resources to making the book attractive.  No other publisher, she said, would have been willing to hire the artist Frank Riccio to do the cover painting and the drawings that appear throughout the book.

Ms. Potter also said that large commercial publishers might not be as willing to provide books to small independent bookstores in quantities they can afford.

She said that she is committed to encouraging young people to read and is eager to speak to groups whenever and wherever it is possible to do so.

In the meanwhile, Ms. Potter said she is hunkered down in a cabin putting the finishing touches on Secrets of the Lost Caves and creating new tangles for the yarns of the knitting witches.

contact Joseph Gresser at joseph@bartonchronicle.com

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Barton golf tournament benefits Jones Memorial Library


Pictured, from left to right, are:  Eben Alexander, Nick Ouellette, Aric Steen, and Bill Binney.  Photo courtesy of Martha Kinsley

Pictured, from left to right, are: Eben Alexander, Nick Ouellette, Aric Steen, and Bill Binney. Photo courtesy of Martha Kinsley

The Friends of the Jones Memorial Library in Orleans held its fourth annual benefit golf tournament at the Barton Golf Club on August 24.

The first place winners of the four-person scramble were River Garden Cafe’s team of Nick Ouellette, Aric Steen, Bill Binney, and Eben Alexander, with a score of 60.

The second place team was Jamie Barron, Annie Barron, Alexis Harper, and Bruce Reed with a score of 61.  The third place team was Mark Tinker, Judy Tinker, Judy Martel, and Lyle Noyes with a score of 62.

Brent Kinsley won the putting contest in a putt out with Paulette Rogers.  Bob Hoyt won longest drive for men.  Annie Barron won longest drive for women.  Bruce Reed won closest to the pin at 12 inches.  Of special interest, Eben Alexander nailed a hole-in-one on number 8.  There are six par 3s at the Barton Golf Club and four of the six had special prizes offered by Hayes Ford including a car.  Unfortunately, number 8 was not one of the prize holes.

All proceeds from the event help to support library services and programs.  — submitted by Martha Kinsley.

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In Barton: Shooting strikes the heart of two communities


Carlton Bickford of Glover pled innocent to first-degree murder in the shooting death on Friday of Rachel Coburn of Barton.  Photo by Joseph Gresser

Carlton Bickford of Glover pled innocent to first-degree murder in the shooting death on Friday of Rachel Coburn of Barton. Photo by Joseph Gresser

by Tena Starr

NEWPORT — Carlton Bickford, 76, a retired electrician and well-liked longtime Glover resident, shambled into court in shackles Monday and pled innocent to first-degree murder in the shooting death on Friday of 72-year-old Rachel Coburn of Barton, who Mr. Bickford told police was his “girlfriend.”

Mr. Bickford, who has health and hearing problems, could not initially hear the court proceedings, and arrangements were made for a hearing device before the arraignment continued.

He will be held without bail, although public defender Jill Jourdan argued that he has a wife at home, children in the community, no prior criminal record and should be released on strict conditions and a $100,000 bond with $10,000 down.

The evidence of guilt is great, Judge Howard VanBenthuysen said as he ordered Mr. Bickford to return to prison in St. Johnsbury, where he will be held pending resolution of a case that has flatly shocked all those who know the accused and the victim.

What Mr. Bickford told police about what happened on Friday, the day of the shooting, is sometimes confused.  More than once he allegedly said he was worried that Ms. Coburn wanted to end their relationship, and if he couldn’t have her no one would.  He also said he feared Ms. Coburn would turn him in to police for threatening her, or for attempted murder, although he did not explain why she would accuse him of the latter.

He said there had never been violence between the two until that day.

Ms. Coburn, 72, worked in the cafeteria at Lake Region Union High School for about ten years.  Before that, she and her late husband, Lewis, owned Barton Cleaners until 2002 when it closed.  She’s described as a happy, hard-working, young-at-heart person.

“She was a really warm and friendly woman,” said Nicole Libby, Lake Region’s food service manager.  “She always had that smile on her face.  She was looking to try to make people happy.  She was a very thorough worker, and she had a wonderful, close relationship with a lot of the students.  A lot of the kids are really devastated by this.  She had a way of connecting with kids.

“Everybody is just floored,” Ms. Libby said.  “I had a great time working with her.  It just isn’t real.  She was one of those happy people; she just wanted to live life.”

Mr. Bickford turned himself in to the Lyndonville Police Department Friday afternoon, allegedly saying he had just killed his girlfriend with a shotgun following an argument.  He said he had then tried to kill himself, but only managed to graze his shoulder.  He allegedly told police they would find Ms. Coburn’s body in her house, along with two bullet holes in the ceiling from his unsuccessful attempt to shoot himself.

Both the accused and the victim have an extensive network of friends and family that is intertwined, and that has contributed to the grief and bafflement that follows the tragedy.

“It’s totally unbelievable,” said Butch Currier of Glover, who has been friends with Mr. Bickford since the 1960s.  “I’m just dumfounded.  I don’t know why, and everybody else is wracking their brain trying to think of some reason why.  I even woke up the next morning and wondered if I’d had a bad dream.  I didn’t believe it.”

Mr. Currier said he has sugared with Mr. Bickford for 20 years.  “He did all my boiling for me.  We’ve done a lot together, fished, rabbit hunted, owned property together.  I just can’t say anything bad about him.  He was always funny, always doing something to make you laugh.”

The killing was doubly painful for Mr. Currier.  Rachel Coburn was his aunt.

“Again, you can’t get anybody to say anything bad about Rachel,” Mr. Currier said.  “She was happy go lucky.  She had four kids, loved her kids, her grandkids.”

State Police Detective Sergeant David Petersen’s affidavit describes a confused and distraught man who had been crying when he showed up at the Lyndonville Police Department Friday afternoon.  It also describes an extramarital relationship that started about four years ago when Mr. Bickford was doing some electrical work for Ms. Coburn.

The relationship, which Mr. Bickford said was nonsexual and “the least of what he wanted” when it started, was apparently on the rocks and went very wrong earlier on Friday.

Shortly after Mr. Bickford showed up at the Lyndonville Police Department, Officer Brandon Thrailkill notified State Police.  Mr. Bickford allegedly told Detective Petersen that he would find Ms. Coburn’s body in her West Street home in the hallway near the cellar stairs.

“…he started to tear up and said it was the dumbest thing he had ever done in his life,” the detective’s affidavit says.

Mr. Bickford said he’d had an argument Friday morning with Ms. Coburn, with whom he’d had a romantic relationship that his wife and son were aware of.  He said the two mostly drank coffee and played cribbage.  His wife had talked to Ms. Coburn about the trouble the relationship was causing.

Rachel Coburn.

Rachel Coburn.

He’d gone to Ms. Coburn’s about 8:30 Friday morning with his usual coffee and newspaper.  An argument had ensued, but he said he thought he could work things out.  A couple of hours later he left, thinking he could “think it over and keep things clear in his mind,” court records say.

When police asked if the argument was about ending the relationship, Mr. Bickford was initially vague, saying he did not think so, but perhaps Ms. Coburn had.  Later, he indicated that his distress was due, in part, to her wish to stop seeing him, the affidavit says.

He returned later that morning with a 12 gauge double barreled shotgun, which he told police he’d taken from his son’s house so his wife would not see him taking a gun from their own house.  When police interviewed Mr. Bickford’s wife, Mary Jane, she said that the guns at their house were locked up, and she had hidden the key.

Mr. Bickford apparently made no bones about the threat of violence when he returned to Ms. Coburn’s house that morning.  He said he loaded the gun in the driveway and put it on the stove while the two continued to talk.

“When asked if he made any threats to use the gun, C. Bickford remarked something to the effect of ‘I don’t know; I probably did to the point of if I couldn’t have her nobody’s ever,’” Detective Petersen’s affidavit says.

Mr. Bickford also told police he believed Ms. Coburn was going to turn him in for attempted murder and suggested he had no alternative but to kill her, Detective Petersen’s affidavit says.

In the midst of the couple’s second conversation that morning, the phone rang.  Mr. Bickford told Ms. Coburn not to answer, but when she made a dash for it, “that’s when I shot her,” he allegedly told police.

He did not want Ms. Coburn to answer the phone because “she was going to seek help,” court records say.

“She tried to get by me once to get out the door and I wouldn’t let her and then when the phone rung I just told her don’t answer the phone,” Mr. Bickford allegedly told police.  “Visit with me.  And she made one wild dash to go to the phone.  I guess that was it.”

“No, I didn’t intend to kill her,” he said, according to the affidavit.  “But when she started threatening me with having me arrested and all of that, I don’t know, I didn’t have much choice.”

He told police that when he returned with the gun, “I didn’t know just what was going to happen, but I wanted to be in control.”

He allegedly told Detective Petersen that he had “nothing to gain from shooting Coburn and should have walked away from the whole setup.”

Mr. Bickford said he believed he shot Ms. Coburn in the abdomen and chest area from a distance of ten or 15 feet, and he did not check on her after shooting her because he knew she was dead, Detective Petersen’s affidavit says.

A babysitter at a neighbor’s house that day told police she heard two loud bangs, but did not see anything or anyone.  She said it sounded like someone was moving furniture.

Mr. Bickford told police that, at first, he had no intention of using the shotgun, but said that Ms. Coburn “ran her mouth about me using her the way I had been using her, and she was probably correct.”  He said he believed Ms. Coburn would find a way to “put him away for threatening her.”

“The lady’s dead.  I shot her and I’m guilty as hell,” he told Detective Petersen, according to the affidavit.

In a later interview that evening, Mr. Bickford told police Ms. Coburn had told him he could “get out.”

“He further noted, upon returning to Coburn’s house he told Coburn if I couldn’t have her nobody was going to,” Detective Petersen’s affidavit says.

“I was 100 percent wrong,” he told police.

Mr. Bickford frequently expressed remorse as he talked to police.  At one point, he said he would do anything to bring Ms. Coburn back, “but it was too late.”

“C. Bickford remarked he had more problems now than he did before,” Detective Petersen’s affidavit says.  It goes on to say that Mr. Bickford said he “wished he could go back and change the past.”

After the shooting, Mr. Bickford told police, he drove around Orleans and Caledonia counties for a while then went to the village office in Lyndonville, which he believed was the police station.  There he was given directions to the police station, where he turned himself in.

The murder has pretty much consumed the thoughts of many who knew the two.

“When I saw it on Facebook, I thought it was a hoax,” said Sue Squires of Glover.  “My mouth started getting wide open.  I’ve known Carlton all my life.  I don’t understand it.  He’d help you out in any way he could.”

“When you think of Carlton, you think of Carlton as a joker and with a smile on his face,” said Sharon Bickford.  “It’s such a tragedy.  You just sit here in a whirlwind trying to make something of it.

“I’ve known Rachel all my life,” Mrs. Bickford said.  “She was a nice lady, very friendly, cordial, always had a smile on her face, very personable.  She just loved life.  For everybody that knew both of them it’s an awful shock, for the whole community.”

Family and friends are simply trying to process the tragedy, Mrs. Bickford said.  “Never in a dog’s age, never, that’s not him,” she said about the charge against Mr. Bickford.

“What to hell happened?” Mr. Currier said.  “Chances are I’ll never see Carlton again.  Without a doubt I won’t.”

He said he wonders if the multiple medications Mr. Bickford took for a variety of health problems may have affected him.

Conviction on a first-degree murder charge carries a sentence of 35 years to life.

Mr. Bickford was denied the services of a public defender.  Judge VanBenthuysen said that because of his assets and income, he would have to retain an attorney himself.

contact Tena Starr at tenas@bartonchronicle.com

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Hartford wins Cal Ripken baseball championship

Hartford’s Cal Ripken All-Stars won the state championship in baseball for players age 12 and under at Barton Sunday, according to an account from Coach Jethro Hayman of the Lake Region All-Stars.

Mr. Hayman said the Lake Region team gave the Hartford team a great challenge, but it was an uphill battle as the Hartford team was big and intimidating and had a pitcher who could pitch 70 miles an hour.  He said the Hartford team has a good chance to win at the New England level.

“We earned their respect,” Coach Hayman said.  He said the other team’s coaches told the local team they were extremely impressed with the level of play from the challengers.

The final score of the championship game was 9-2.  Mr. Hayman said some of the other teams were not able to score against the Hartford team.  Some games were called off after the stronger team got ten runs ahead, through what is known as a mercy rule.  Not so with Lake Region’s team, which Mr. Hayman said never gave up.

The runs were earned by Parker Perron and Asom Hayman-Jones, on a bunt by Josh Royer.  Mr. Hayman said the other team was not expecting a bunt, and it was well executed and it worked.

He also was proud of his team for throwing against the Hartford runners each time they tried to steal.  He said they did not let them get away with anything without an effort, catching them twice in attempted steals.

“They never quit,” he said.

Mr. Hayman said the game on Saturday night between Lake Region and North Country was the best game of the series, in his opinion.  There were eight lead changes in the game, and Lake Region won it finally, eight to seven.  The game didn’t end until after 10 p.m., which means the Lake Region players were up late both nights before their state championship game on Sunday.

“It was a great event.”

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Cal Ripken tournament: Celebrating America’s pastime between weather delays


Lake Region All-Star Dylan Gagnon sets for the play as Lake Region takes on Central Valley under the lights at the Barton Recreational Field on Friday night.  Photo by Richard Creaser

Lake Region All-Star Dylan Gagnon sets for the play as Lake Region takes on Central Valley under the lights at the Barton Recreational Field on Friday night. Photo by Richard Creaser

by Richard Creaser

BARTON —  By any objective measure, the greater the number of delays, the harder it is for pitchers to stay warmed up.  Friday night, opening night of the Vermont U12 Cal Ripken Baseball tournament, was just such a night.  Fans and players alike sought what shelter they could find as the umpires cleared the playing field behind the Pierce Block in Barton Village.  Overhead menacing skies threatened, but so far, had failed to surrender anything more than loud noises.

Twice the game would be called for thunder delay, a mandatory period of 20 minutes to allow any danger of lightning strikes to pass.  Given the fact that tall light poles and chain link dugouts constituted the bulk of structures closest to the field, the precautions seemed justified.

No sooner had the second thunder delay come to an end when a light rain began to fall.  The players, coaches and umpires gamely took to the field, playing half an inning before the intensity of the rain increased and even the most die-hard of parents and fans scrambled to their cars, under the trees or, through forethought and good planning, popped open their umbrellas.  Game one of the tournament was off to a rather poor start.

Coming out of the third delay in as many innings, the field now given a good drenching, the quality of play suffered somewhat.  Pitchers struggled to control sopping wet baseballs from atop a greasy mound.  The ring of aluminum bat on plastic cleats became a familiar sound as the players took breaks to remove the accumulated muck from their spikes.

“I got a lot of dirt stuck in my cleats,” Hartford reliever Chris Nulty acknowledged.  “I was having a hard time staying on the mound.  I would throw and then start to slip.”

Nulty was the second pitcher to take the mound for Hartford, Hunter Perkins having been pulled after an accumulated hour-long delay.  Though Nulty struggled, loading the bases and allowing North Country to tie up the game, he was far from defeated.  Nulty went on to record a three-run inside the park home run to begin Hartford’s rally from a long, painful inning.

North Country All-Star Aiden Gariepy takes to the mound against the Hartford All-Stars as second baseman Derrick Breault looks on.  A series of thunder and rain delays extended the opening round of the tournament on Friday night.  Photo by Richard Creaser

North Country All-Star Aiden Gariepy takes to the mound against the Hartford All-Stars as second baseman Derrick Breault looks on. A series of thunder and rain delays extended the opening round of the tournament on Friday night. Photo by Richard Creaser

North Country’s Aiden Gariepy, though subjected to the same routine dashing delays as his Hartford counterpart, would likewise struggle to recover his form.  Fastballs adopted unexpected movement, jinking and juking like knuckleballs, rising or dropping unexpectedly.  The role of the catcher became one less of calling pitches and catching strikes than one of simply arresting the ball’s forward momentum and hoping to keep it out in front.

Hartford moved on to the winner’s bracket, ousting North Country 15-5 in five innings.  Despite the ten-run mercy-ruled game, an hour of delays pushed back the start of game two.

The slick conditions persisted into the evening portion of the tournament as the Lake Region All-Stars took on Central Valley.  The lights, coupled with a persistent haze, gave the outfield a rather Field of Dreams quality.  However, what came out of the shrubbery on this night was not Shoeless Joe Jackson but, rather, a determined and ravenous horde of mosquitoes.

Despite the weather and the little miseries that accompanied them — or perhaps because of an ample supply of popcorn and hot dogs provided by the Barton Academy and Graded School’s eighth grade class — the players returned to the field and the fans got up and stretched, tried to dry out a bit, and went back to the business of baseball.

It was a sentiment shared by the players.  The night game has a certain mystique about it, recalling the major leagues and all those golden heroes of the diamond.  Maybe it’s just a function of the background being lost behind the lights, but everyone seems to stand a little taller.  There are no network TV cameras, but the dim glow of shaky handy cams and  the luminescent sparkle of camera phone flashes fills the night.

“This is my second one,” Lake Region catcher Parker Perron says of night games.  “You don’t really do anything different.  You just don’t want to look right at the lights.”

Lake Region All-Star Parker Perron (right) takes a short lead as Central Valley All-Star first baseman Chris Frost and base umpire Mike Wise prepare for the next play during Friday night's action.  Photo by Richard Creaser

Lake Region All-Star Parker Perron (right) takes a short lead as Central Valley All-Star first baseman Chris Frost and base umpire Mike Wise prepare for the next play during Friday night’s action. Photo by Richard Creaser

Tracking pop-ups and running down baseballs in the outfield are probably the hardest parts of night baseball, he said.  The lights tend to be off to the sides and pose little problem for the catcher, he added.

The night game also holds the power to magically ward off bedtime, a fact not lost on the players.  Rian Hayman-Jones marveled at the hour when his walk-off three-run inside the park home run allowed the Lake Region team put away Central Valley 11-0.

“It’s pretty fun to be out playing baseball at 11 o’clock at night,” Hayman-Jones said afterward.

Adding to the fun was a strong sense of teamwork that enabled Lake Region to advance to the winners bracket.  A loss to North Country in the district playoffs spurred the Lake Region squad to do better, Hayman-Jones said.

“Losing that game made us work harder as a team,” Hayman-Jones said.  “We just had to work harder and play better.”

Despite being made up of players from Glover, Barton and Irasburg, the Lake Region All-Stars played as if they had spent the entire season together.  Indeed, this U12 team is largely composed of the same players who came within one out of being the U10 state champions two years earlier, Coach Jethro Hayman said.

North Country All-Star Briley Carter sheds water during a rain-delayed third inning on Friday night.  North Country would fall 15-5 in the opening round of the U12 Cal Ripken state tournament.  Photo by Richard Creaser

North Country All-Star Briley Carter sheds water during a rain-delayed third inning on Friday night. North Country would fall 15-5 in the opening round of the U12 Cal Ripken state tournament. Photo by Richard Creaser

“Some kids have gone and others come in, but this is basically the same team,” Mr. Hayman said.  “They’re very close.  They’re like brothers, and it shows.”

Like brothers, some of their dugout chatter spoke of their fellowship.  Parker Perron admired a bat and asked Parker Brown, the bat’s owner, if he could use it in his next at-bat.

“You don’t have to ask,” Brown replied.  “Unless you’re gonna use it to hit rocks or something.”

That good-natured rivalry and the spirit of fellowship that is the game of baseball would prevail.  Bernie Gonyaw, the state commissioner for Vermont Cal Ripken Baseball summed it up best.

“What better way to spend a Friday night than to spend it watching baseball under the lights?” Mr. Gonyaw mused.  “It’s the only place to be.”

contact Richard Creaser at nek_scribbler@hotmail.com

For an article on the tournament champions, click here.

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Anna Baker was a brilliant artist with a comic touch

copyright the Chronicle, August 8, 2012

World of Fantasy, The Life and Art of Anna P. Baker, by Beryl Hutchinson and Roz Hermant.  Self-published.  185 pages in paperback.  $59.95.

Reviewed by Chris Braithwaite

I need to begin this review by confessing my bias.  Anna P. Baker, the subject of this richly illustrated work, was both a close friend and an important contributor in the Chronicle’s early years, when it remained to be seen whether it would sink or swim as a community newspaper.

That it swam, I believe, was due in large measure to one of the most unlikely duos to ever put ink to paper.  Loudon Young was a dairy farmer all his life, and his role in my life as friend, neighbor and mentor in the ways of rural Vermont predated the first Chronicle by four years.  When I asked him if he thought a weekly newspaper in Barton would have a chance of survival he said he didn’t think so.  Given his preference for color in language, he more likely said that such an enterprise would have a snowball’s chance in hell.

So it was a considerable surprise when he volunteered a column for the first issue, and a greater surprise to discover that this highly accomplished talker could also write, and that his writing was very funny, indeed.  His back-page column immediately became a weekly feature in the paper.

We didn’t make Anna Baker’s acquaintance until we were moving the office from a farmhouse in East Albany to an old barbershop on Barton’s Upper Main Street, and she wandered in to find out what the devil her new next-door neighbors were up to.

She found us amusing.  But then Anna found most things in life amusing.  That knack, along with the most exquisite good manners I have encountered in another human being, were pretty much what got Anna through an otherwise challenging life.

Anna told us she was an artist.  But I don’t think she mentioned that she was also a cartoonist.  She was a good enough cartoonist that, as a 16-year-old art student at a London, Ontario, technical school, she was interviewed for a possible career in animation with the Disney Studios.

I didn’t know that last detail until I read this book.  At any rate, it wasn’t long before Anna brought in a cartoon she thought we might like to publish.  Her chosen subject?  None other than the above-mentioned Loudon Young.  Loudon’s profile — a sharp chin often decorated with a bit of a beard, a sharp and substantial nose — was a cartoonist’s dream.  But it was Loudon’s humor that captured Anna, because his ear for what was funny about the most ordinary, everyday situations so exactly matched her eye.

Both of them thought there was something fundamentally funny about the common cow.  Loudon wrote about them constantly.  In her book, Beryl Hutchinson reproduces the first Baker painting she acquired.  Called Pent House Farm, it was executed at that same technical school, which Anna attended in 1944-45.  It’s a whimsical, wonderfully busy urban landscape with people farming on the rooftops of a couple of apartment buildings.  Ms. Hutchinson is careful to point out that it includes, atop one roof, Anna Baker’s first cow, a Holstein.

Anna’s renderings of Loudon and his cows appeared in many Chronicles over the years that followed.  They accompanied the best of Loudon’s columns in the Chronicle’s first book, Off Main Street, West Glover, Vermont, and the dairyman and his Holsteins were featured in a series of calendars she drew for the paper.

A generous selection of these cartoons is included in World of Fantasy.  But there are also many of her “serious” works — whimsical, intensely detailed, richly colored paintings that will delight the fans who have an Anna Baker hanging on the living room wall, and surprise those who know her work only through the Chronicle.

As we grew to know Anna, it became obvious that we were in the presence of an artist of great talent and considerable reputation.  Her works caught the eye of critics and connoisseurs wherever they were displayed.  That her reputation didn’t reach further was to some degree her own fault.  She volunteered once that a friend, a sophisticate in the business of art, had told her she couldn’t find success as an artist if she insisted on living in a backwater like Barton, Vermont.  She needed to be in New York City.  Anna acknowledged the advice as sound, and chose not to take it.  Whatever glue held her to the Northeast Kingdom, we are all the richer for it.

Beryl Hutchinson enjoyed a friendship with Anna Baker that went back to high school.  Her book includes a photo of a schoolgirl softball team named the Eagles with Anna in the front row, Beryl in the back.

Thus Ms. Hutchinson was the ideal person to stitch together this fully illustrated biography of the artist.  She opens with a surprising revelation about Anna’s origins — a surprise best left to her readers — and takes us through the artist’s school days, her formal education at the Art Institute of Chicago, which she entered in 1951, and the early teaching career that led to her friendship with Bunny Hastings, daughter of a prominent Barton physician.  That friendship brought Anna to Barton, and lasted the rest of Bunny’s life.

Anna beat cancer once, but lost the second round and died in 1985, at just 56.

To all of those who still miss her kindness, her wit, and her great talent, this book will serve as long-awaited consolation.

To buy World of Fantasy, go to “contacts” at  www.annabaker.net, or see www.blurb.com/bookstore/detail/3334768.

contact Chris Braithwaite at chris@bartonchronicle.com

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