how I got there, why, and what happened then….
I’d been livin’ over to Puckahbrush Gore for ten, maybe twelve years, when I finally gave up on tryin’ to be a successful latter-day hippie. Besides, most of my friends in Puckahbrush had moved on and I’d been thinkin’ about lookin’ for a new place to call home, ennaway.
Located upcountry along the Munqueedung River, not too many miles inland from Mud Clam Cove, and just the other side of the ridge from Puckahbrush Gore, was Fannyflame village. Mostly farmers. Some of my old friends and acquaintances from down to Mud Clam Cove had landed there when they gave up on fishin’ and wanted to try somethin’ else for a change. So, that’s where I went, too.
That’s not as big a leap as one might think. Changin’ hats on a workin’ waterfront isn’t like changin’ hats in the big city where they marry up with some corporation to kiss someone’s butt for 40 years in exchange for a pension and a heart attack. A fisherman might kiss the ladies, mind you, but when it comes to butts, it’s just kickin‘ that gets done, and a fair amount of that, I’ll tell ya. I’ve got stories, but they’ll just have to wait.
There’s some that’ll say folks down to Mud Clam Cove may not have both oars in the water, y’know. I couldn’t say, and I wouldn’t if I could, but I can tell ya they sure do tend to have a bunch of lines out lookin’ for that next dollar.
I never met a fisherman or a clam digger who didn’t have a beef critter and a couple of cows at the homestead, along with chickens, some pigs, and maybe a few other things. Farmin’ and fishin’ kind of go together, unless you shoot for sites on one of them big off shore seiners and make more on one out than the inshore fellows make in a season.
I remember workin’ stern for a lobsterman Named Harley Fenstermacher backalong when I was still in school. He raised Thanksgiving turkeys for folks around the village; delivered ‘em all plucked, gutted, and good to go. He usually had a beef critter or two out back. I was helping him haul hay one time and one of ‘em come up behind me in the barn when I had a bale on my head, hooked one of his horns where it had no business being, and flung me up against the side of a stall. Harley’d liked to wet himself laughin’. I got the last word though, because it wasn’t too many months later he had me over for burgers and some fresh picked sweet corn.
When March came around he’d call me over to help him with the sugar shed. I’d run the buckets and he’d keep an eye on things in the shed where he boiled it all down to syrup. He took orders for his pancake syrup just like he did for the turkeys, and Samantha, his live-in lady friend, had a little baking business she ran out of the house.
So, changing course wasn’t all that unusual for Cove folks, but they just usually didn’t move upcountry to the other side of the Ridge in order to do so. Most of ’em eventually went back, though, so I hear.
When Harley Fenstermacher decided to quit lobster fishing and move upcountry to take up dairy farming with his second cousin Clive Meader, over to Fannyflame, I drove up to visit him a few times. Harley and Clive didn’t last long, of course, so by ‘n by Harley moved down the road a piece and set up his own farm. It hadn’t taken long for him to figure out he’d been captain of his own ship too long to put up with Clive’s shenanigans.
Some things had changed for me since I’d first set up at Puckahbrush Gore a number of years before. First of all, a stray cat wandered in on me one day and stuck around. That critter’s a whole story all by himself, but I’m not going to get into it right now. When I moved up to Fannyflame on the other side of the ridge, I brought my feline sidekick with me.
Another thing was, not too long before “TC” (aka: Attila the Cat) and me headed over the ridge, I got married to a real nice woman from down by the city. Young widow with a boy in tow. There’s a story there too, but I’ll have to spin that one another time as well.
I’d had the great good fortune to make a handsome profit on my land over to Puckahbrush Gore, which gave me the opportunity to work a deal on a little place down on the Munqueedung River by the edge of Fannyflame village. The house wasn’t much to brag on, but that yard was waterfront perfect, and the barn, once a blacksmith’s shop, made for a dandy woodworking shop for me. It could get a bit dicey come spring when the ice went out on the river, especially if the snowpack upcountry was real deep and we’d had a warm spell with heavy rain. Of course, that’s why I was able to buy the place real cheap in the first place, but we never did get water in the living room like the previous owner had. There were a couple of times when I could open a window and spit in the river, though. My furnace drowned the first time that happened, and I was lucky the fuel oil tank didn’t spring a leak floating around down there in the cellar makin’ this eerie “bong” noise whenever it would find a wall. It was a couple of weeks before I could get somebody over to suck out the oil and remove the tank. That’s when I went back to wood heat like I’d done for years over to Puckahbrush. I’d found a nice stove at a g’rage sale, stuck it right there in the front room, and never had another worry about it.
Yup. So me and the Missus and that cat set up camp right there on the shore of the Munqueedung, and just about every morning me and “TC” the cat greeted the sun sittin’ down by the water, with a hot mug o’ fresh coffee for me and sometimes a can o’ sardines for my sidekick.
Beautiful downtown Fannyflame matched up with us all pretty good, and after a time I even got a real job for the first time in years. Most days, besides sittin’ down by the river with TC, I managed to spend some time at the local diner, where I renewed my longtime friendship with Harley Fenstermacher and got to know Clive Meader, Fern Wincapaw, and others.
I guess I had a habit of telling my new friends at the Dingleberry Bog Diner somewhat embellished tales about Puckahbrush Gore and Mud Clam Cove, and writin’ yarns to my old friends down t’ Selma Fedgley’s Bait Shed about what strange birds the Fannyflame natives were.
The Diner was the place to be in Fannyflame, if you wanted to keep up on what was goin’ on anywhere in the county, and most times you’d get a pretty colorful take on the state of the rest of the world as well.
The food wasn’t half bad either.
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