Big O, Little O, And the Big Uh-Oh

Young Owen, whom we called Omicron, was the son of Big Owen who taught Greek and Latin after college until he went to sawing maple square bars for the heel-stock people. It is not necessary to remember any of this. It was Omicron's wedding that we meant to attend, as Big Owen and I had adjacent seats in the classics classroom through college. I'm speaking of the day we went to the wrong wedding.

It was nearly a forenoon's drive, and we arrived at the church exactly on the dot. Everybody else had gone in, and while we were by no means late, we were anything but early. And as any husband will understand, I was deftly advised numerous times that if I didn't step on the gas we'd miss the opening exercises.

It was, however, an even squeak. As we came in, we could see through the vestibule into the main church. The bridegroom and his groomsmen were looking our way, and we were there amid the bride, her flustered father, and the lovely young ladies attendant on the bride. I could see that we hadn't, in fact, missed a thing by being on time. But looking at us askance, as if we had wrought a big social boo-boo, an usher stepped up to us after the processional was under way. With something of a snotty attitude he said to my wife of, then, 49 years, "Bride?"

In this way, he would find out on which side of the church to seat us, and my wife said, "Oh, dear me! No, not today!"

Having been seated, I now discovered that we were at the wrong wedding. "We're at the wrong wedding!" I whispered. She whispered back, "She certainly is!" In this way I learned that the bride was lovely.

Then I whispered, "That's not Little O!"

She whispered, "Sh-h-h-h-h," which is not easy to whisper, if you care to try it, so I whispered, "We're at the wrong church!"

She said "Sh-h-h" again and added, "Everybody's looking at you!" And so they were. The bride's mother, for one, was standing up and had us in a fixed gaze. How did we get in?

This dilly-dallying made us about 15 minutes late for the nuptials of Omicron, which we found in another church on another street. As we went in the front door, we met the bride and groom coming out in a full state of wedded bliss. We were the first to offer congratulations and best wishes.

During the summer before this wedding, Omicron was involved in an interesting situation. His father and mother had a summer cottage, or camp, at Bullhorse Pond. As there was no roadway to the camp, they had come and gone by boat, their own, from the landing at Allen's Mills. It was a chore to put things, and people, into the boat at one end and unload everything at the other, so arrangements were made to build a road, perhaps a mile long, the cost and the road to be shared with some other camp owners.

In prosecuting this design, some dynamite was secured to blow the top off a ledge that outcropped. Afterward, several sticks of dynamite were left over, and Big Owen put them in a tin pail and hung them on a nail driven into a roof timber of his camp shed. They were out of hand there and would not be molested by innocent bystanders.

Then, the summer preceding the wedding we missed, Little Owen said to his father, Big Owen, "What's that pail hanging in the shed?" Big Owen had forgotten all about the dynamite, out of sight, out of mind. "Jerusalem-Jericho!" Big Owen remarked in recollection. Well-educated in all directions, Big Owen knew what happens when sticks of dynamite are left overlong in a tin pail under a hot roof. Namely, the nitroglycerine separates from the absorbent, and the pail becomes a booby-trap of infinite capacity. The least jolt could remove Bullhorse Pond forever.

I cannot speak sufficiently about Big Owen's fearless approach to his problem. He told everybody to drop everything and run as fast as possible to the other side of the hill. Then he gently raised a ladder so he could reach his pail. Next, he went up the ladder. With extreme gentility and massive care, he took the pail from its nail and with slow, even, measured movements he came down the ladder.

Smooth as silk, without a jerk, he carried the pail some 200 yards to a large flat rock rising from the water in a cove of Bullhorse Pond down the shore from habitation. He waded out, placed the pail with feather-touch on the rock, turned, and ran like a gazelle in all directions. So far, so good.

BIG OWEN had selected this rock because it stuck up and could be seen from quite a distance, and this was preface to his plans for detonation. He had decided blowing off the pail was the swiftest way to end the adventure, and as a simple jolt would do the trick, he'd decided to render such from a distant place. He went inside his camp and appeared again with his woodsman's .32 Special Winchester. Big Owen was well aware that it could hit a pail from downtown.

Having checked again that nobody was within a mile of the scene, Big Owen took careful aim at the pail from far down the beach, and having shouted the warning Maine word "T-I-M-B-E-R!" he pulled the trigger.

That end of Franklin County came apart. The pail was never found. For half a mile trees were defoliated. Down at Allen's Mills the storekeeper had cans knocked off the shelf. No casualties were reported, however, and the incident was entirely successful. Except that the matter comes to mind whenever I hear of a wedding.

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