HAVE grandfathers lost their wallop, gone out of style?
Young Ethan from across the way came over last evening before supper to help me pick raspberries: He picks two baskets, and I get one of them. Because Ethan is going stern man with Grampie Lauriston this summer, my wife inquired about his prosperity with, "They crawlin'?"
Ethan said, "Some."
Thus Grampie Lauriston is ably inculcating the ancient precepts, and young Ethan may not truly realize until he is an old man how fortunate he is now to have a crusty grandfather to teach him to say "some" in the correct down-Maine manner. I willingly explain. Some years back the IRS tried to reform the Maine lobster catchers, and I think they lost that one. The IRS ruled that when two men fish together from one boat, one or the other must be boss. For tax purposes, you see, there had to be an employer a nd an employee. This was news to our coastal folks, for whom since groundfish days in dories, the custom has been to go "snacks" - share and share alike. With a second hand in the stern, one boat can handle more than twice as many traps as two men in two boats. Everybody knows that, but the IRS didn't know anything about snacks.
So Young Ethan is stern man for Grampie Lauriston, and he can already say "some" just as well as his grampie can. Ethan hasn't been to high school yet and will probably snack himself through college when the time comes.
"They crawlin?" Oceanic biologists will tell you in fancy language that lobsters swim. No doubt they do. But here in Friendship, and between Cape Cod and Cape North, lobsters crawl. When they start to crawl, they may or may not find a "funnyeye" into a lobster trap and thus enter the "bedroom," which is the route to the dealer's wharf.
Only when lobsters crawl do lobster catchers smile. And, as Ethan now knows, it is the lobster catcher's burden to maintain always a dedicated illusion about his trade - namely, that lobsters never crawl. No lobsterman has yet come right out to say that he's catching anything. The commonest answer to "They crawlin'?" is Ethan's pessimistic "some." It means not very. You understand, however, that the very day you ask, Ethan and his grampie might have come in early so they could go to the bank before it cl osed. Ethan and his Grampie will never tell you. They'll say, "Some."
Thinking on Ethan and his happy situation with a caring grampie, I fell back to my own similar boyhood when I would reach up to take my own grampie's snarled fingers, and we'd stroll up the pasture lane in the late afternoon to study all philosophies at random and bring home the cows.
My grampie was a farmer, and marching in the Civil War had made him long in his strides, and he'd laugh at me when I had to jump to catch up. "Hayfoot, strawfoot," he'd say; that was the story about the soldier who couldn't tell his feet apart, so they stuck a straw in the lacings of one boot and a bit of hay in the others. As Company I marched through the mud of Virginia, the boys kept chanting, "Hayfoot, Strawfoot...." As long as I kept cows, long after Grampie's old farm had become mine, I always went
hayfoot-strawfoot for old Mollie, our household bossie.
How very many times Grampie would commence, "Now, Johnnie Boy, here's suthin' you won't get learned in school!" Then he'd pick a mink frog from the spring by the lane, and I'd get a snatch of herpetology. Or he'd show me where a fox dug for a mouse, and once in the snow where a rabbit's tracks ceased and the wing tips of an owl had brushed the spot.
He showed me how to bring a rock from the wall to draw the sun and nurture a tomato plant - which would be the plant to bring off the first ripe tomato. And he advised me to bring a shaker of salt and keep it dry under a can so it would be handy when that tomato was ready to eat.
Go it, Ethan, kiddo! I think too many boys nowadays lack what you are fortunate to have!
Learn to reeve your warp and string your pogies, and listen to Grampie. He may seem a funny old man now, but he's wise beyond your suppose, and a lifetime hence it will make all the difference.
Far more than lobsters are crawlin' for you this summer!