The Truck Driver:
In my right shirt pocket is a blob of inch an a half roofing nails, I’m done working for today. Our 120 year old Maine Victorian farmhouse likes attention. The house sits above the village, you can get a glimpse of Mill Pond and also some of Northwest Harbor and of course the village. All even easier to see as the fall leaves have all blown away. I’ve been replacing some lost shingles from a windy storm we had last week.
Dormant skills. Roofing, plumbing, basic handyman stuff. I haven’t picked up a job yet. For now, the house is full time.
Walking down the drive towards the coffee, we stop and are met by one of our closest neighbors, the man of the house. Teri had met the couple already, I had not. We stopped and got acquainted he and I. Work was brought up and the question of whether I’d try fishing came up. Lobstermen always hurting for steady reliable sternman.
I’d heard that many times already, kinda thought at some point I’d try it out, my new neighbor mentioned going out and he’d really enjoyed it.
He explained what it was like, helping out a friend of his every now and then on his boat, how good it was, some days they’d bring in 600 lbs, some close to a thousand, the money, how good his friend was on the water, etc.
“Would you like me to ask him if he’d take you out being green?”
A couple days go by and I am given a phone number to call and a name.
I call, agree to meet at my house, this stranger and his girlfriend the sternman, coffee at the kitchen table. Seated around May and Budge’s old round oak table a long way from Stienhagen Road in Warrenton, we talked about lobstering and what I should expect.
We’d go out three days in a row, looked like good weather was gonna be around. Meet at the dock down by the Opera House, bring lunch, drink, protien rich, quick stuff you could grab and go, the boots, the blue vinyl gloves, dressed in layers, gonna be cold.
I see these guys driving all around the island, their home, I don’t really have a sense of the scene here, yet. There’s a prime time rush hour, starts about 4am, the traffic sounds, pickup trucks mostly running through our crossroads section of the island, they move quickly through the village, and past the stop sign, onto the dock they tie their skiff. Then again traffic’ll pick up again, maybe around 2pm, done fishing, going home or to that life with whatever they do when they’re not out, moving equipment, buying more rope. Cowboys of a sort, free in similar ways, rider in your saddle, your boat, it takes a gritty attitude for this grueling work.
A few months over four years over the road flatbedding I became part of a group of cowboys, I see similarities.
I’ve read articles about lobstering, blog pages, watched you tube videos, a bunch of content giving a good look at this work on the water and I find myself drawn into the imagined romanticism of a lifes work played out on the water.
It isn’t the same until you do it.
Lifes work? No, no… life’s work.
Thank you Google.
Opus vitea, now distracted by Latin.
Back to the driveway, “Yes, was my reply.”
I was serious. Without hesitation I was in. Excitement on, I’m going lobstering!
We have friends here that coulda got me on any one of a dozen different lobster boats for me to check it out for my taste. I’m not sure they would have encouraged me to go off shore in November working around 10 trap trawls.
Yes. I’d readily meet this stranger, recommended by a stranger and go where it was to take me. Yes, what’s the worst that could happen? Plenty, from what I now know.
Anyway, back to the pocket full of roof nails, I had to install 4 replacement shingles from a steep section of roof on this old farmhouse. The roof was damaged during the last high wind event here, that night I could hear the shingles leaving, saying goodbye with a few slaps and flaps, then silence as they flew away.
OK, stay with me, last night during a rain storm I went up to check see if my leak repair of an attic window was successfully made. Yes, it was good, but in another corner of the attic I see water dribbling all over the floor and down inside a wall above the bathroom.
Oh yeah, there are missing shingles, of course.
I go downstairs to get catch buckets and pans, place them all around as to collect as much of the drippings as possible. Coming down from the attic and into the bathroom at 4 different places the water flows, the wall growing increasingly larger and larger, balloons of water held by a new coat of wall paint. Shoot. I stuck each balloon with a sharp knife and the water precisely drained into the tub relieving the pressure and giving any new water a place to flow. Lucky.
That’s how it got started, me with a pocket full of nails. I bought the stuff needed to get up safely and I watched some videos on replacing damaged shingles, I’d done it before, years back, just needed a refresher course.
The local hardware had a bundle of the exact match to the shingles I’d needed.
I bought a bucket of monkey dung, roof adhesive and a pound of nails.
Up I go, done.
So very grateful for this life!
My Three Days as a Lobster mans’ Wife
He kissed me goodbye in the dark of the early morning and walk out the door. I’d whisper a prayer, please bring him home safely. Please keep him safe. He’s decided to be a lobster man in November. Winter is coming to Maine. The fisherman go far off the coast in the winter to the open ocean in the winter.
At the bank last week, a woman who looked to be about 30, told us she had 6 children. Her husband was a lobster man and he went out all winter. He’d been lost at sea once. She knows lots of men who have died doing this. The stuff of documentaries.
All day while Adam is gone, this story sits in the back of my mind.
These days are spectacularly beautiful. I’d look out towards the cove and see the water sparkling in the sunshine, blue skies, leaves on the trees yellow and gold and brown now.
These are also the first days I have been alone on my own in almost 2 months and I begin to feel myself coming back into myself. Time to think my own thoughts. Glorious time outside getting to know our house, our property…garden plans beginning to take their shape.
That first day I was so excited for him and his opportunity for this Maine experience. The day on the ocean doing something he has never done before. I am proud of his courage, his open willingness. He is a hard worker and if anyone can appreciate the experience, it will be him. About 3:30, from the garden, I see him pull in. Because he parked uphill, I walk rather than run to greet him and hear all about his day. Stinky is the first thing I notice but close behind that thought was that I’d never seen him look so tired. It was a very rough day on the seas. His story includes waves, pooping in a bucket, throwing up over the side and working harder than he has done trying to do that job. I made dinner and he was asleep in bed by 6:30. I clean up the dishes and think that this does not sound like a good day.
On the second day, when he woke up, I asked how he felt. Great! He kisses me goodbye and walked out the door with his water and his lunch. The day was another gorgeous one. About 2:30, again from the garden, I see him pull in. He seemed better but his face was very pale with exhaustion. He looked old all of a sudden…no boyish twinkle in his eye, no smile or spark. This is not the life I want for him. Not here, not in this beautiful place. Not even for the money…which is more than he can make anyplace on the island. I knew in that moment without any words that this was not for him.
The following morning he was in no hurry to get out of bed. He even said he wasn’t going…but he did. I hope he lives through the day. I am down near the garden when he pulls in. This time he stops where I am and we stand there chatting about his day. His was a good one. The water was calm, the day was beautiful. He found his sea legs. He felt strong and confident. His lunch stayed down. He wanted to do this again…not on this particular boat and maybe not until spring…but he liked it and wanted to have the experience again someday. There is color in his face, a pep in his step. He’s talkative, affectionate…himself and he smells like bait.
That last morning while he left the dock…he met a guy. This guy said he could put him in a truck. Divine timing?
It was a good day. My gardens on this hill looking over at the ocean. He is the bravest man I know.