Stories reflect beauty, complexity of Vermont


WEB review vermont fictioncopyright the Chronicle January 21, 2015

Reviewed by Tena Starr

Contemporary Vermont Fiction, an Anthology. Edited by Robin MacArthur. Published by Green Writers Press. Paperback. 226 pages. $21.00.

Vermont has a lot of writers. In fact, I’ve heard, or read, that it has more writers, per capita, than any other state.

What editor Robin MacArthur has done with this anthology is collect some of the best work of some of the best of them. The book includes pieces by Howard Frank Mosher, Julia Alvarez, Castle Freeman Jr., Wallace Stegner, Annie Proulx, and Bill Schubart, as well as from at least a half dozen perhaps less familiar, but no less moving, writers.

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Medical pot users banned from guns


copyright the Chronicle January 21, 2015

by Tena Starr

A North Troy man suspects that the reason he was not allowed to buy a .38 revolver last year is that he uses marijuana for medical purposes.

He may be right. Although no state law prohibits a medical marijuana user from buying or owning a gun, federal law does.

Steve Merrill said he’s been collecting guns since he was a kid and had his own store in Pennsylvania at one time. He moved to Vermont in 2001 and had no trouble buying guns here either — at least until a year or two ago.

In 2009 he got a certificate saying he could use marijuana to treat a chronic illness and a crippled foot. Mr. Merrill says he’s never been a recreational drug user, he doesn’t even indulge in a beer very often.

But the regimen of pills he was given to treat perpetual pain didn’t set well.

“God help you if you ever get sick and you look at food and want to wretch,” he said. “A lot of people underestimate pain.”

He said he asked his own doctor “how do you know I’m not scamming you?” when he sought the certificate that would permit him to use pot medicinally. “I’m sure you get a few bad apples who buffalo their scrips.”

The marijuana works, Mr. Merrill said. It restores his appetite, and there’s relief from pain — common comments from those who use medicinal pot.

Trouble arrived, however, when he went to Derby and tried to buy a revolver from Mr. O’s and was asked to fill out the form required when buying a gun.

“I checked off that I didn’t use illegal drugs because I figured it was a health matter,” he said. “It’s between me and my doctor.”

And medicinal use of marijuana is legal in Vermont.

The gun seller told him he couldn’t buy the .38, that he’d been denied with no explanation.

“I thought it was weird. I have no felonies, no hunting or fishing violations,” Mr. Merrill said.

He thought it might be because of his politics. He has testified in favor of Vermont’s medical marijuana bill, and he has a weekly cable show that, as he puts it, “makes fun of local politicians and the CIA.”

After talking to a friend, however, he wondered if the certificate allowing him to use pot for pain might be the problem.

“There is no state law that would prohibit a person who is on the registry from purchasing a firearm,” said Vermont’s Deputy Commissioner of Public Safety Francis Aumand on Tuesday. “There is nothing that prohibits that based on state law.”

Federal law is another matter.

In 2011, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) wrote a letter to “all federal firearms licensees.”

It says that its purpose is to provide guidance since a number of states have passed legislation allowing the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes.

“As you know, federal law…prohibits any person who is an unlawful user of or addicted to any controlled substance (as defined in section 102 of the Controlled Substance Act)…from shipping, transporting, receiving or possessing firearms or ammunition,” the letter says. “Marijuana is listed in the Controlled Substances Act as a Schedule I controlled substance, and there are no exceptions in federal law for marijuana purportedly used for medicinal purposes, even if such use is sanctioned by state law.

“Therefore, any person who uses or is addicted to marijuana, regardless of whether his or her state has passed legislation authorizing marijuana use for medicinal purposes, is an unlawful user of or addicted to a controlled substance and is prohibited by federal law from possessing firearms or ammunition.”

Medical marijuana users should say yes to question 11 on Form 4473, the letter says.

Form 4473 is the document that must be filled out when a person wants to buy a gun. An untruthful answer to its questions is a crime. Question 11 asks about the person’s criminal history, drug use, citizenship, and more.

Although the letter is now four years old, Boston-based ATF spokesman Christopher Arone said that it’s still in effect.

There have been no changes in policy, he said on Tuesday.

However, he added, people who want to know why they weren’t allowed to buy a gun can, in writing, request an explanation from ATF. The explanation will not be given to the gun seller.

One thing that Mr. Merrill and others wonder is how ATF gets their information.

“I’m not sure how they would know, due to medical privacy,” Mr. Merrill said.

Bob DePino, field coordinator for Gun Owners of Vermont, said he’s long been aware that medical marijuana users are not permitted to buy guns, and he doesn’t approve of that rule. In fact, he doesn’t approve of background checks.

“Medical marijuana is illegal on the federal level,” he said.

Vermonters who are against guns are working at having all federal laws enforced in Vermont, he said. “They’re trying to get all the medical records. If you seek treatment, you are now on that list.”

contact Tena Starr at

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An easy read to fuel those spring dreams


WEB woodchuck gardeningcopyright the Chronicle December 23, 2014

The Woodchuck Returns to Gardening, by Ron Krupp. Published by Whetstone Books. Paperback. 247 pages. $18.

Reviewed by Tena Starr

Yes, it will be months before we see anything besides a Christmas tree that’s green, but it’s never too early to start thinking about spring gardening. Seed catalogues will start arriving in January, and gardeners will pore over them, planning for the coming summer harvest.

The Woodchuck Returns to Gardening is a follow-up to Ron Krupp’s The Woodchuck’s Guide to Gardening, and it has sound advice about seeds. Not surprisingly, Mr. Krupp heavily relies on many of the old standbys that have stood the test of time, such as Provider green beans.

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VEC will seek help from FEMA for storm damage


The heavy wet snow that stuck to trees in last week’s big snowstorm has caused power outages to continue throughout the week.   Photos by Tena Starr

The heavy wet snow that stuck to trees in last week’s big snowstorm has caused power outages to continue throughout the week. Photos by Tena Starr

copyright the Chronicle December 17, 2014 

by Tena Starr

Orleans County got off relatively lightly in last week’s big snowstorm. Several towns received a good foot of snow on the night of Tuesday, December 9. And they got it in a hurry.

But the county was not as affected by power outages as other places in Vermont.

By Monday afternoon, the Vermont Electric Cooperative (VEC) said that just 260 VEC members were without power. Line crews had repaired more than 35,000 outages since the storm, said spokesman Liz Gamache.

You could call last week’s storm the gift that kept on giving. After the initial mess was cleaned up, utilities warned that the heavy snow could continue to bring down trees and branches, causing more outages. And that’s just what happened.

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Debut novel draws page-turning journey


WEB mill horse reviewcopyright the Chronicle November 26, 2014

The Clever Mill Horse, by Jodi Lew-Smith. Paperback. 409 pages. Published by Caspian Press, Hardwick. $16.99

Reviewed by Tena Starr

Jodi Lew-Smith has written a rollicking story here, as unlikely as that seems, given that the plot revolves around securing a patent for a flax-milling machine. I would not, myself, have thought of patent rights as the most gripping subject for a young adult adventure novel.

But it works. The characters are well drawn, for the most part, and the plot has considerable twists and turns.

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Governor’s race: County lawmakers lean toward Milne


Scott Milne.  Photo by Joseph Gresser

Scott Milne. Photo by Joseph Gresser

copyright the Chronicle November 12, 2014

by Tena Starr

If Orleans County’s legislative delegation had its way, Scott Milne would be Vermont’s next governor.

That’s not a surprising decision for the Republicans who represent the county, but as of this week only one of the three Democrats was willing to unequivocally say that he’ll follow tradition and support the candidate who won the popular vote.

Representative Sam Young of Glover said he will vote for Governor Shumlin.

“I think it’s generally a bad precedent if the Legislature starts electing people who didn’t win,” Mr. Young said.

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Planet Aid drop boxes unlikely to clothe locals


At least one Planet Aid bin has already appeared in Orleans County.   This one is in Orleans near Village Pizza.  Photo by Tena Starr

At least one Planet Aid bin has already appeared in Orleans County. This one is in Orleans near Village Pizza. Photo by Tena Starr

copyright the Chronicle November 5, 2014 

by Natalie Hormilla

A convenient way to recycle clothing is making its way into Orleans and Essex counties — but it’s highly unlikely that any of those clothes will end up on the backs of needy people in the Northeast Kingdom, or even in the country.

Planet Aid is a nonprofit that puts out bins where anyone can deposit unwanted clothes, shoes, or bedding, no matter what condition they’re in. It moved into Vermont in 2009 or 2010, said Northern New England Operations Manager Patrick Holland in a telephone interview Friday from his office in Hudson, New Hampshire. But it’s just now moving north of St. Johnsbury.

Drop-off bins will be available in the next few weeks in Derby, Newport, Irasburg, Barton, Orleans, Norton, Canaan, Lyndonville, and Danville, at the recycling centers in Glover and Brighton, and at the Westmore transfer station.

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Conley is inducted into New England Pony Pullers Hall of Fame


Doug Conley of Glover with Dan and King, his winning free-for-all team.  Mr. Conley was recently inducted into the New England Pony Pullers Hall of Fame.   Photo by Tena Starr

Doug Conley of Glover with Dan and King, his winning free-for-all team. Mr. Conley was recently inducted into the New England Pony Pullers Hall of Fame. Photo by Tena Starr

copyright the Chronicle October 29, 2014

by Tena Starr

GLOVER — Doug Conley was at home in Glover, laid up with a bad back, when he got a call from his friend Jake Randall, who was at what’s called the world championships for pony pulling.

Mr. Randall said: “You’ve just been inducted into the New England Pony Pullers Hall of Fame.”

“I thought he was lying,” Mr. Conley said.

He wasn’t. Both Mr. Randall and Mr. Conley’s wife, Judy, knew he was about to be inducted and had hoped to get him down to Massachusetts for the ceremony.

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Safe Haven — a home for unwanted horses


WEB Safe havencopyright the Chronicle October 22, 2014

by Tena Starr

HOLLAND — Tara Girard has taken in 17 horses this year, all of them horses that someone else didn’t want anymore, or at least couldn’t afford. Of the ten harbored by Safe Haven Farm right now, she said that she only bought one, and he was a hard luck case, too.

The little Morgan had a concussion and a dislocated tail. She calls him “a bought rescue.”

She’s had a few of those.

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Editorial: Energy projects have a real and significant impact

copyright the Chronicle October 15, 2014

by Tena Starr

Vermont’s siting process for renewable energy projects so lacks planning that it may have the unintended effect of turning people off renewable energy, despite the fact that they support it in theory.

To date, there’s been this: The Nelson family has said that the noise from the Lowell wind towers has made them sick. In Sheffield, the Therriens say the noise from the wind turbines has made them sick and irreparably altered their lives.

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