On our bike ride this a.m. R. took the image of post and beam timber-framing going on at the house we lived in, briefly, on moving to maine … after an even briefer season of needing a roof over head. It was a gift to live for a few months on this pond. Later we got to know the area enough to write a cycle of books, and a series, one fiction, one non. Here’s a fragment from the first, about a rural town in transition:
“It’s fiddleheads is what. I could eat the bagful.” He went to the wall and flicked on the light. “You gont fix’em or am I?”
“Well, I will, you spoiled kid.” Never mind that Balder was approaching his mid-thirties. She stood and went to stick her hand in the bag to feel the small plump wheels of furled fern shoots. “Look at’em all! Waya did you find ’em?” She brought out a handful for the pregnant deer and led her out the door. “Boggy Place?”
Shaking his head, Balder got out the cutting board and lay the fish on it in the sink. “Hiked into Birch River afta work. Blackflies’s starting.”
“So don’t I know it. Not biting yet, though.” Elda got out a skillet, began heating oil. “Was you down by old Mason’s Mills—across fum the old granite work, hidden like?” She put on a pot containing enough water to steam the coiled fiddleheads, sprinkled in some salt to remove bitterness.
“The same.” He was cutting the brown and silver fish under running water. “Wasn’t it you showed me it as a kid?”
“Cuss I did. Told you about the old grist mill. They had a carding and fulling mill. Prosperous, too, said Asa Bartlett.”
Balder said, “Cold in heah.” He went to the stove to lay kindling and blow on the embers. The door squealed as he shut it. “Kinda like the Bearces of theya day, guess.”
“Yuht. Owned all that land around theya on both sides of the stream. Maybe 100, 150 years ago. Think what things was like back then.”
“Blackflies like now. And no TV. Whad they do nights—visit?”
She nodded, breading pieces of fish. “Had socials, musicals and all. Dances, school plays. They read!” She grinned. Balder was back!
The fiddleheads were steaming and the fish laid sizzling in oil. She said, “What I don’t know was how they stacked that monstah granite. How’d they move stuff like that then?”
“Oxen or draft hosses, with block’n tackle. Pulleys.” He stood over the fiddleheads, picking through them with a fork. “Be surprised what you can do with’em. Look what you can do with a come-along—move a truck out of a mud hole with bare hands and that.”
“Whad you see down theya besides fiddleheads?”
“Skunk cabbage, wild ginger, wake-robin, bellwort.” He grinned.
“Good, ain’t it?” She returned a grin.