Welch Book Dump Starts Trouble

Norwich — Murder, She Wrote? Not quite, thanks to the Norwich listserv.

After learning that her husband had recycled four bags of books that his grad-school-bound stepdaughter was only intending to move to another room, Margaret Cheney last weekend asked readers of the town’s Internet bulletin board whether any of them had withdrawn several of the volumes — “including new paperback Agatha Christie mysteries (and) a hard-cover Da Vinci Code” — from the book shed at the Norwich transfer station.

Then a Norwich woman living on the same road as the transfer station called with the news that she had taken custody of some of the missing volumes. And almost within the hour, Vermont’s lone member of the U.S. House of Representatives was retrieving the mysteries — though not, alas, the Dan Brown best seller — from the mud room of the woman’s house.

“Sometimes you do bad when you’re trying to do good,” U.S. Rep. Peter Welch, D-Vt., said on Tuesday. “When I go to the dump, I like to fill up the car with as much as I can, and when I saw the bags, I thought we were going to recycle them, so I brought them for the book shed, which made me feel good. I was making room at home, and providing people with good books to read and keeping them out of the landfill. When I got home and announced what I’d done, I found out right away:

“I was in trouble.”

Trouble evolved into redemption — and a simultaneous celebration of digital communication and old-fashioned bibliophilia — once the news hit the listserv.

“It was great,” said Cheney, a member of the Vermont Public Service Board and a former state legislator. “You never know, with the listserv, how many people are reading it at a particular time. At 6:30 the next morning, this nice woman called, saying she may have picked up some of the books. She had the Agatha Christies and a few others. She said, ‘Come pick them up any time.’ It’s great we got any back at all.

“She had every right to the books. She was very gracious and understood the situation.”

Speaking of silver linings: “The books were only there for half an hour, maybe 40 minutes,” Cheney said. “Obviously, it’s a popular place. It’s great. People are still reading.”

And along with updating his list of resolutions for proper protocol in the home district during 2014, Peter Welch can’t help wondering.

“If only I could do something like this in Washington,” he concluded. “These could be good tactics in Washington.”

David Corriveau can be reached at dacorriveau@gmail.com and 603-727-3304