Cemetery Maintenance Controversy, Recycled Missle Silos, and Other News Items

This installment of an ongoing short news items feature includes stories about a cementary maintenance controversy in Vermont and a proposal by a New York art gallery to recycle missile silos.

| August/September 1991

The following news items were drawn from multiple sources.

Cemetery Maintenance Controversy

Orwell, Vermont Town Manager Noel Smith had a problem one day last spring: How to keep the town's cemetery tidy while keeping within his budget. After receiving proposals from several landscaping companies (average tab for the summer would run $3,000 for the men and their machines), Smith hired his low bidder. For a mere $250, Jean Beck promised a 2 1/2" trim and ideal employees: They didn't mind working in the abundant poison ivy, never took coffee breaks, and not only bagged grass clippings, they ran on them. Knowing she sounded too good to be true, Beck sheepishly confessed that her employees were, well, sheep. Seventeen Dorset sheep to be exact. Saving the city a bundle, Beck agreed to shepherd the ovine groundskeepers between the town's two cemeteries, charging only $10 an hour for the commute. And as for the sheep, their only request was a barrel of water and the all-they-could-eat burdock buffet, making them quite a baaargin.

His problem solved, Smith went home happy. Enter in 43 Orwell residents. Seems some folks didn't fancy Smith's four-footed foliage fighters and deemed the Dorsets "disrespectful." A petition circulated, gathering over 136 signatures, and a town hall protest attracted 20 objectors.

Although Smith was taken aback by the protest, he didn't expect things to turn ugly: "First there was an incident where the fencing around the sheep got cut, allowing them to escape to the road." Then the threats began. Seems the more militant of the protestors ordered a hit on the sheep and Smith received anonymous calls telling him that, in no uncertain terms, a gunman was about to set his sights on the cemetery. The town selectmen called a special vote and fired the sheep before the sheep were fired upon.

By the time the dust settled, the tiny town and its Dorset denizens had attracted so much national attention that owner Beck commissioned T-shirts supporting her mowing mammals. The 100% cotton T-shirt shows a photo of the sheep grazing on the front; the back boasts the battle cry "Let the Sheep Eat in Peace." They are available in medium, large, extra large, and extra-extra large.

Who is mowing now that the plots have thickened and the sheep have been shorn from duty? "Some of the protestors have been told to take charge of clipping," reports Smith.

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