Sunday, May 28, 2017

Raise High The Bumpers, Boys

  My brother's wooden bumper came to our place in the summer of 1978.  Bill had driven his 1966 VW out to Minnesota to visit us. He was living on an island in Maine, renting an old one room schoolhouse and making his living digging clams. He kept his car on the pier in the town of Stonington. The car had electrical problems. Sometimes it wouldn't start. If he could get it rolling he could jump start it. Once running, it would not stop till he turned off the key. He told of having to recruit bystanders to help get the car moving in the morning. He always tried to park on a hill.
  When Bill bought the car it lacked a front bumper. He found a nice piece of oak, cut a small heart out of the center and bolted it in place,
  Bill stayed with us for a couple of weeks and headed back to Maine on a cool. cloudy weekday morning. A couple of hours after he left, I got a call from a UPS driver. He had come across Bill, broken down near the south edge of the Red Lake Indian Reservation. He had blown a cylinder. I strapped our one year old son into his car seat and headed south. Bill was in fairly good spirits when I found him. After all, this could have happened in Ohio. I towed Bill back to Wannaska with a long length of rope. There were no VW mechanics in Roseau so Bill bought an old Ford sedan. We took the engine out of VW and put it his trunk. The plan was for him to get the engine repaired back east then reinstall it in his VW and start for home again.
  Well he never did get the engine repaired and so the VW sat in the backyard to be mowed around for several years. He said I could do whatever I wanted with the car, but asked me to save the oak bumper. The church in Wannaska held fund raising auctions for a few years. People donated stuff they didn't want. I submitted an index card with information about Bill's VW declaring the lack of an engine. I was surprised when someone bid a dollar for the car. Oh, the car also lacked front axles. I had let a friend cut them off for a log splitter. I was gratified when the new owner arrived with a trailer to haul Bill's car away. Off course I had already unbolted the bumper and stored it in the garage.
  We visited the family out east every year but our car was too small to accommodate the bumper. Bill finally visited again two years ago. I showed him the bumper. He had flown out and did not want to pay to check the bumper.  We drove to Boston last year. I asked Bill if I should bring the bumper. "No," he said. "You can keep it. We recently built a fence around our garden. The deer have been getting bad. We found the perfect place for Bill's bumper. He approved.

The sky is lovely, dark and deep

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

England Forever

  In high school I read an essay by an American living in England. He wrote of the Brit's cockeyed view of America. He was smug about his own knowledge of British geography so he challenged a friend to draw a map of the U.S. The result was ludicrous. Texas was up in Canada. Chicago was a state of its own.
  Now that I'm going to England myself, I realize I don't know Jack about where things are over there. I've read many English novels and never have known exactly where Oxford was, or Cambridge. I recently started reading a history of Great Britain. First the Celts pushed out a people we don't know much about. The Angles, Saxons, and Jutes pushed the Celts over to Wales and Ireland and up to Scotland. They still don't get along. The Vikings came down and plundered for a few centuries then went back. The French came next, or Normans, call them what you will. England's a bloody mess, no doubt about it. Oh, I forgot the Romans. They came for a few centuries too, then went away and left ruins.
  The Romans called the whole place Britannia. In later years the country was divided into places like Northumbria, East Anglia, York, Wessex, the Land of the Five Boroughs, etc., etc.  I haven't gotten to the part about how the present day counties or shires got their names. No matter. When I'm sitting in an English pub this fall and one of the locals says to me "So you voted for that fat bleeder did you." I'll say, "No, I did not." "Prove it," he'll say. "Give me a blank map of the English counties or shires or whatever you call them." He'll call to the publican and in a few minutes I'll have my blank outline map. I'll fill in the blanks, slowly, as his jaw drops.  I'll make a couple of mistakes, put Oxford where Cambridge goes, just so he can feel slightly superior.
  And that's how Anglo-American relations will muddle through.

Counties with attitude