Saturday, July 4, 2015

Matinicus 4th of July and Bygone America

The Fourth celebration started a day early for us. Stretching my back and seized joints, I looked upside down out the door into neon green foliage and the starkest of blue summer skies- the perfect day to break the barrier I put up after last August's little scare on the water. It was time to make a crossing from Rockland to Matinicus. The financial incentive was strong as well where we had a half ton of supplies, a new lawnmower, shingles, soap and sound gear.

Megan and I loaded 2 station wagon loads of stuff onto Close Enough at the municipal fish pier and tossed the tie-up lines at 10:38 a.m..

Penobscot Bay had only inches of chop, gentle off shore swells and perfect visibility. We arrived in the harbor at high tide, making for an easy off-load at the dock.

Morgan hosted a large contingent of family friends at the south end for a weekend of island adventures, seafood and music. Most Fourth of July weekend parties do NOT start this way: shooting a raccoon, hanging and skinning her from the apple tree in the Wyeth-worthy seaside front yard.

My real focus, though, is the piece of America I saw a few days earlier on the mainland. I met a client at his home off a sleepy side road in the interior of Lincoln County.

Chatting in the kitchen of his farm house, I noted that all of the appliances and fixtures appeared to be about my age. Worn and a little filmed over, but impeccably neat. So it was with his outbuildings and machinery which included haying equipment, tractors and a 1967 dodge pickup still in operation. His wife passed away years ago and he has cared for his place and carved out houselots for his 4 children from the many acres of rolling woodland and fields of timothy grass.

I'll call him Bob. Bob bought the place in 1955 and never had a mortgage on it. He's added barns and storage buildings and raised black angus cattle until fairly recently.

Bob had only a high school education, but a lot of mechanical skill and the archetypal New England work ethic. He maintained and overhauled all of his machinery himself. Bob made things a little better every year by the way it looked to me.

Bob was a career employee at GTE in Waldoboro. I think Sylvania closed the place in the late 1980's. Before that, the plant actually made things in Waldoboro. Not buckboards or harnesses for oxen, but relatively modern items like lighting components.

What that company also provided was a way for working individuals to make a living, buy and improve a home and raise a family. Hard work and dedication were rewarded with a decent wage and some security.

Bob's accent is a very localized dialect from a different age. His life as well seems a well preserved and isolated remnant of that different age. Even though I recognize Bob's world from my own past, my own is very different.

I cannot even count the number of part and full time jobs I've had. It feels to me like the world now requires constant hustling, tap-dancing, being available by electronic media 24 by 7 and jumping from ice berg to ice berg trying not to slip into the cold river.

It was piercingly nostalgic for me to walk through a barn with the smells of hay mow and cows still hanging. I spent every summer and more than a few school year weekends and afternoons in just this sort of environment.

I'm able to write and share this story because of the same technology that I would not miss if I lived in Bob's world. It was a nice couple of hours.