Polka-Dot Buoys

Filed under: Snippets - Stories about Maine people — mainewarmers @ 8:06 am

Patty’s children used to play on the bow of her lobster boat while the dog scampered back and forth to the stern where she scrubbed winter from the white painted decks. In the spring they played on the empty beach while she checked and stacked lobster traps weighing 50 lbs or more. Three to five of these traps are connected to form a stringer, then a buoy is tied onto the stringer before it is set in the water. Lobstermen paint their buoys in distinctive patterns and colors to identify them in the ocean. Patty’s buoys are light blue with pink polka-dots.

When a bad relationship left Patty a single mom with two young children, her family and friends welcomed them home, and the Island surrounded and protected them. Going back and forth from the mainland to the Island requires a boat ride — or an airplane flight which is even more noticeable. If privacy is what you are looking for this is not the place to live. The population is relatively small and stories and news travel from one end of the Island to the other faster than a high speed Internet connection.

I’ve walked down to the beach and stopped to say hello to Patty, watching while she picked up each trap and piled one on top of the other inspecting, repairing, and preparing them for the season. She had loaded those heavy plastic-covered wire traps on a truck, brought them to the beach, and eventually would move them onto a float and then onto her boat. After setting the stringers in the bay and hauling them all summer she would reverse this procedure in the fall. Her smile was pleasant. She kept a watchful eye on her children as she worked. She gave them snacks when they were hungry and settled occasional sibling disputes. Patty still lobsters from June through October and drives a fuel truck in the winter on the mainland. She cuts firewood to help heat their house. Over the years, Islanders have come to admire and respect her physical strength, survival skills, and sense of humor.

After several years Patty took on a new romantic relationship with a man on the Island and she seemed happier than she had been in years. Eventually, she and her friend bought a brand new king sized bed together and kept it at his house. All went well until Patty’s sharp sixth sense told her that he had another lady friend. When the truth was confirmed, she called and asked him if he would like to meet her for lunch on the mainland. As soon as she knew he was on the boat to meet her at the restaurant, she drove to his house, took her chain saw out of the trunk, and sawed the bed in half – and according to Cecil (Snippets – Oct. 2006) — “right through a clean pile of undies.”

Snippets are short stories involving Maine people, places, and things. They are written by Betsy Hanscom, owner of Maine Warmers, and are published in her monthy e-Newsletter, and may not be used without permission.


— short vignettes involving Maine people, places, and things

Filed under: Snippets - Stories about Maine people — mainewarmers @ 10:31 am


September 2007

Filed under: Snippets - Stories about Maine people — mainewarmers @ 8:17 am

Jumping off the wharf — sometimes a distance of twenty feet when the tide is low — into the frigid Gulf of Maine water has become a rite of passage and a tradition on many Maine Islands. Little children and adults watch with amusement and amazement as the jumpers overcome their fear.

Knees shake and toes curl over the edge of the railing just before the leap. Time hangs in the air, then a scream, splash, a few seconds of silence as momentum propels the body under water. On the surface again – the swimmer lets out a whoop, half expressing shock at the water temperature and half responding to the thrill of victory! Onlookers cheer.

It usually takes about 45 minutes before a rookie will actually jump. The first few times are the most challenging. Our children’s friends had no idea what they were getting into when they came to visit. They look, watch others jump, and figure out how to get out of the water in the fastest possible way. It is one of the best examples of peer pressure I have ever observed. Often the first jump is from the slip – a ramp used by passengers to disembark from the ferry when the tide is low. It is often the first jump for the uninitiated. The drop to the water from the slip can be 0 to 4 feet but the water temperature is still frigid, and the swim to the ladder or float takes a few minutes.

On hot summer days experienced jumpers gather on the wharf to wait for the ferry boat and the captive audience of commuters and tourists. Onlookers watch the kids in bathing suits lining up to make a splash. One or two even climb to the top of the shed that provides shelter during inclement weather — increasing the distance of the jump and increasing the awe factor. The boat engine roars and the seasoned jumpers leap into the surge of water spewed from the stern of the ferry as it pulls away. The swimmers ride the wake. The whoops and hollers are almost drowned out by the engine noise of the boat as it continues to the next Island. The kids jump over and over again their skin turns red as a boiled lobster and lips blue as the water.

I think the jump prepares one to take calculated risks later in life. To overcome the fear one will observe, assess the situation, figure out a strategy, and make the decision to take action. The thrill of the ride accompanies the sense of accomplishment.

As the sun sets and we sit down to dinner, there is a lively discussion of the days’ activities, including a rehash of the jump – “Did you see so-and-so jump from the shed? The water temperature wasn’t that bad! It was awful! I never thought I could do it!”
Betsy Hanscom, owner of Maine Warmers, publishes a monthly e-newsletter with a special sale for subscribers only, announcement of monthly drawing winner of a free warmer, and Snippets — stories of Maine. She inlcudes photos and a monthly quote. This month’s special is a Bunny Bed Warmer. To sign up please go to Maine Warmers and follow the links to sign up through Constant Contact. She does not share your information and you may unsubscribe at any time.

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