Pud and Ginger Leland bought the lot next to Union Carbide and built a modern prefab ranch house, the first of its kind in Morrisville. Later, the most popular model came to be known as the Flanders Wonder Home. One could erect it on a lot in a matter of a few days and it came complete with interiors and appliances. The formal front door with its shiny brass finish hardware hung in the street-facing façade three feet above the ground and next to the “pitcher winda” as Pud called it. The door was largely decorative as Pud and Ginger didn’t pay extra for the precast concrete steps with filigree wrought iron rail that led up to it. Fifty feet of perfectly manicured lawn separated the house from the LaPorte Road leading south to Stowe.
The newly erected home was modest, yet fulfilled all Pud and Ginger’s residential dreams in one compact package. Ginger herself painted it a pale blue to match the interior of the half-buried upright bathtub that would eventually enshrine the Virgin Mary they planned to buy at the church supply store on their next trip to Burlington. Under the “pitcher winda” lay two halves of a former kerosene tank that Pud cut in half lengthwise with a welding torch and painted silver. This innovative planter was to hold a profusion of purple and white petunias that Ginger had started from seed in trays on the rear sundeck.
Pud was neat. He liked order. The purview of his job as town constable had expanded by his own initiative to include “keepin’ the taown lookin’ smart.” His civic drive, however, was not always matched by his aesthetic sense and his beautification projects sometimes set tongues wagging. In the dead of winter, he planted in Morrisville’s early-eighteenth-century horse-watering trough, cut from Vermont granite, a large array of badly faded silk flowers he’d salvaged from Lyle’s dump. Pud’s cheery intent looked bleak to some and to others like a dismal prank.
The town constable’s job was generally to help out wherever he could, resolve domestic or neighbor disputes, remove roadkill, help with traffic control during the town dances at the firehouse, train the school safety patrols, organize the Fourth of July parade, and assist with other miscellaneous tasks to maintain order. Much to Pud’s disappointment, however, the town steadfastly failed to provide him with a uniform. He had made the point a couple of times in town meeting only to elicit hoots of laughter.
“Get Pud a uniform and nex’ ting ya know, Lyle’ll be wannin’ a dumpkeeper’s uniform, the firesmen be wannin’ ep’lettes,” railed his nemesis, Whitey, who took it as his job to heckle earnest petitioners at town meeting.
Pud gave up, but with considerable resentment, resolving not to let the lack of a proper uniform compromise his performance.
One day early in spring, Ginger, in a halter, pedal pushers, and green boots, was bent over positioning the new Virgin Mary within the upright bathtub. Pud had just finished removing the tub’s clawfoot legs with a crescent wrench when they were both startled by a loud wolf whistle followed by the nearby roar of Pete firing up his Gravely mower.