The Last Hooraw of the Season

THE last hooraw of the Maine summer season is the Friendship Harbor Chowder Race, and they held it this time while I was digging potatoes. I missed it on purpose. For years I have been the official starter, but this honor depends on my ownership of the only available saluting cannon. This year I told them to come and borrow my cannon and shoot it themselves.

I told them I could think of several things I'd rather do than sit out on the harbor in the committee boat for two hours while they ascertained that one yacht can sail faster than another.

So I stayed home and took no part in this end-of-the-summer frolic, and when they brought my cannon back I cleaned and oiled it and put it on the shop shelf. Perhaps another time. I was happy to find I could restrain myself from participating in this seasonal delight. So many turn out for the fun, and some come from a distance. I found I didn't miss it. I dug potatoes instead.

Meantime, I have another invitation, this one from one Rebecca Kelly, whom I do not know. Other than an RFD address in Laconia, New Hampshire, she is vague about an origin but desires me to call her at her 800 vicinity. She wants me to come and enjoy a romantic getaway at her resort at no charge to me whatever. For two days and one night I can hang on the nose bag and she will waive the usual fee of $90 a day. This includes all facilities and amenities, and she will give me $25 cash besides to help with travel. The card says, ``R.S.V.P.''

I think I'll be able to restrain myself in this matter, too. Rebecca says hers is a beautiful four-season resort, and that during my romantic getaway from Friendship I can relax in the perusal of lovely Lake Winnipesaukee, a privilege extended only to ``discerning families'' like mine. ``When was the last time you thought `We just need to get away'?'' Rebecca asks.

I do not recall that I ever thought that, but Rebecca's presumption deserves thought. Why would anybody who lives by the flowing tide, in a town named Friendship, want to ``get away'' to New Hampshire and look at Lake Winniwhateveritis? Rebecca is wasting sweet words on somebody who just passed up the Chowder Race. I can stand on tippy-toe and enjoy the relaxation of looking at Spain, which is beautiful this morning.

We don't tell everybody, but I can tell Rebecca that after the Chowder Race, when everybody has gone back to Delaware and Connecticut, we get the best days of the year.

We get days like cut glass and the sea and sky are like gentians. Fact is, we get gentians, too. There is nothing bluer than sea and sky and gentians in Maine after the summer folks go home. You have my word for it.

As for a ``four-season'' resort, I suppose Rebecca is including the snowball season. Friendship has some seasons New Hampshire wouldn't know about. I count six or seven extras. We do have our glorious summer, usually on the sixth and seventh of July, and then we go right into winter. Mud season comes in March, which breaks up winter somewhat, and in the fall we have hunting season.

The day hunting season opens, all mills and factories and most offices and stores close, and Maine's industrial absenteeism is the highest in the world. Then we have the shedder season, when lobsters molt and grow new shells. A lot of people don't know that shedders are sweeter.

When the lobster dealer asks the tourist, ``You want soft-shell or hard-shell?'' nine times out of eight the tourist, who can't even pronounce tomalley, will say, ``Oh, hard-shell!'' If that happens to you, Rebecca, take the shedder and inside his soft shell you'll find something a lot gooder. Finest kind! So the seasons run along here, some of them coming twice on the same day, and sometimes we can't tell one from the other.

Come to think of it, Doug Lash did go over to New Hampshire one time, and he saw Lake Winnipesaukee. I think he was headed for Cape Cod with a truckload of souvenir lobster-pot buoys for a gift shoppie, but Doug likes to putt-around and look things over.

Doug is one of the Lash family of boatbuilders who turned out so many Friendship sloops in the old days, and when he went through Meredith he was surprised to see one of the Lash sloops on mooring in the lake. It belonged to a chap named Montana, and he told Doug that of late he'd been getting water by the garboard.

Doug said if he'd haul the sloop up on the beach he'd look things over, and before he got through he'd chinsed things out and stopped the leak. Doug is obliging like that. The next year, Montana put his sloop on a truck and brought her over here to Friendship, where she raced in the annual homecoming regatta. Other than that, I guess, Friendship has had little to do with romantic getaways by lovely Winnipesaukee.

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