In summer you can't get near the place

A couple of ancient and very gnarled apple trees had dripped on my renascence long enough, and I was converting them to firewood on a March morning marred only by a chill northwest wind that invaded my privacy keenly. At lunchtime she said, ''What do you plan for the afternoon?'' Apple trees can wait, but Maine March mornings, if they last into the afternoon, must be seized. Sufficiently windblown, I suggested a ride.

We Maine folks don't do much pleasure riding. In the winter there are better amusements, and once the summer folks begin to come we hardly dare. March is the good time, though, and off we went, circling the Pemaquid Peninsula. Bright sunshine, the Atlantic Ocean prominent, and the only traffic we found consisted of lobsterman pickup trucks - the drivers turning to stare after us in wonder. ''Who was that ?'' Pemaquid is but a few miles from our Friendship Harbor. By water, that is - it takes better than an hour to drive the roads. We came to Pemaquid Light (1827) which for years has been a mainstay of Eastman Kodak prosperity, and found the parking lot empty. In summer, you can't get near the place.

It's the onshore winds that kick up Pemaquid surf, so our northwest breeze wasn't ruffling the Atlantic much, and some fishing boats were dragging between us and Spain. Woodsmoke came from the lighthouse home. The art gallery was buttoned up. It was a lovely scene before us, and interesting to reflect that it almost became the site of America's principal city.

Pemaquid is one of the many villages and locations in the town of Bristol. The earliest visitors were from the British seaport, and the land running to the ocean between our Medomak and Damariscotta Rivers was the first selected for exploitation in England's early ambitions toward empire. Bristol was a kingdom, then a colony, and next the County of Cornwall. While the Pious Pilgrims were struggling at Plymouth, Pemaquid was a considerable settlement of 500 people, even larger than Quebec, and extremely prosperous. With its very favorable location and excellent harbor it should have been a winner, but the Indians laid it waste later in the century. Then the French had the garrison there in 1696, and it wasn't until 1717 that an English recolonization came about. Today Bristol holds its population at less than 2,000, but in the summertime, WHOOPS! On our little ride we saw numberless cottages buttoned up over winter, and many roadside stands marked ''Closed for the Season.''

Until just recently, lobstermen who give up fishing in the cold months used to leave their boats to winter on moorings in open water, or ''haul'' them onto a protected beach. Today, with heavy equipment, a boat is snatched onto a cradle and trailer and brought home - ever so many lobstermen winter their craft right on their front lawns.

And when we passed through Round Pond, another of Bristol's villages, we wondered how things had wintered on Loud's Island. Easterly, in Muscongus Bay, sits Loud's Island, fairly remote, muchly rugged, and a secluded paradise if you like that kind of vacation. Bristol claims Loud's Island, and certainly has a reason to under the 12-mile limit of the original Crown grant. But back in 1861 Loud's Island seceded from the Union, and up to a late hour there has been no record of forgiveness and reconciliation. The story goes that the men of Loud's Island, having all their interests seaward, paid no heed to the call to arms. When an Army draft squad came to the island to enforce compliance, the men had gone to The Bank and left no word about the date of their return. Finding only women and children, the soldiers retreated. Upon their return, the men considered, and decided they wanted no part of the civil disturbance. They seceded from the Union. Some say they are still seceded. Some others say it's just as well.

So we had a pleasant ride, scenery and history and all, and came home to find the apple trees awaiting another day.

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