September Morn

THIS time September Morn came on the Labor Day Monday, and I didn't get to inspect things until the Tuesday. I had a letter I wanted to register, but I didn't feel it should languish in the postal hiatus over the long holiday weekend. Thus I arose early on Tuesday and sped to the post office, arriving just after Postmaster Robert had raised The Color out front and had opened the safe out back. He had the window up and had inked his stamp pads, so he was ready for the post-season difference. The sum-mercators had gone. Labor Day makes the difference. I think I was the first customer (patron, that is) but Peggy Simmons came in while Robert was doing my paperwork, and we badinaged pleasantly. I told her I wished I was just half so good looking, and she said I had made her day. I said my sincerity was sufficient to carry her almost into October, and Robert told me how much I owed him. Summer is ov-uh in these parts. Maine is for Mainers again.

I drove the loop around the hah-b'h and most of the ``summer mahogany'' was gone. Friendship is a working port, and some 300 lobster-fishing licenses in town account for the real Friendship fleet. That morning a good many of the boats had gone ``to haul,'' and skiffs had been left on the mooring. The harbor was millpond calm, but the tide was making so all the prows pointed toward the ocean. Later in the day a pleasant breeze would probably stir, and it did, but the yachting visitors wouldn't be here to enjoy the finest sailing day since last May.

One lobster boat was coming in, and I wondered why. Had the fisherman been out and was coming in early? He approached Wallace's Wharf. Or was he a late starter and was just now coming off his mooring to get fuel and bait for a day's work? Or, had he started out early and heard a ping in his motor that cautioned him to head back? I didn't go to find out an answer.

Along in the afternoon each lobster-man (we've got a lady lobsterman, too -- Debbie Bower) will bring the catch to sell at the wharves, refuel, take on tomorrow's bait, and exchange his or her boat for the skiff on mooring, so he or she can row ashore. Maine lobstermen, mostly, row ``Maltese fashion,'' which is standing up, facing forward, and which is also known as push-rowing. There is at least one instance on record where a Maine coastal boy got into the US Navy and brought disgrace to the fleet by push-rowing where people could see him. He was reprimanded and informed that in the US Navy one sits to row, facing astern. The reason for push-rowing is the easier sighting of lobster trap buoys, but our fishermen tell the folks they don't care where they've been -- they like to know where they're going.

At that time of the morning, it was fun to see the village's assorted cats sitting on doorsteps waiting to be let in. We have a leash law for dogs, but cats in Maine are customarily ``extinguished'' at bedtime to walk alone all night. Now each was eager on its stoop, looking up at the doorknob, alerted by footsteps coming from bedroom to kitchen, and each would soon be let in and fed. A good many of the cats thus braced for duty were our ``Maine coon cats,'' a breed or offshoot, or something, highly prized by many out-of-staters, but still in the give-away class along our coast. My guess is that in the old sailing days our sea captains picked up cats in foreign ports to rid their craft of rats, and in time Maine had every kind of housecat in the world, one of which came to be our ``coon cat.'' Books have been written about coon cats, but on this very September Morn I passed one house with a sign on the lawn, ``FREE KITTENS.'' The fat cat on the doorstep, studying the doorknob, was a coon cat. A beauty, if you like cats.

When I got home, I stepped into a household stench. The place reeked. Goodwife was at the sink shelf and the stove, and the pressure cooker was poised. ``What in the, . . .'' I started to say, and she anticipated me and said, ``Sauerkraut!'' Sauerkraut does have its own piquancy and is noisy until it gets bottled. ``September Morn!'' she said, and it is that time of the year. Summer's had it.

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