HAILING YOU FROM MAINE, and that’s all the Maine there is. In the morning I’m headed south to Little Rhody. I’ve done the task assigned by the bride: Drove up here to fetch her mom, took her to Rhode Island for a few days, took her back up here, now it’s time to go home and get back to work.
On this second stay in Maine I moved my camp off the east bank of the Stillwater and set up on an island in the river.
Much more private on the island, I find.
I snowshoed over, had a look around, decided to stay. This is the far side where everything’s starting to thaw. Pretty soon it won’t be possible to walk on water until the winter of 2015-16.
I’m goofing off, but the emails know where to find me. This morning I heard from “JH,” an overseas reader of Lee Falk’s Phantom, the comic strip I write for King Features Syndicate in New York. This fellow hails me once or twice a year, with criticism he’s thought about, so I give it due consideration. He’s not one of these clubby internet trolls who takes cheap shots at you every morning, playing the class clown to impress his fellows.
JH wants to know when Kit and Heloise Walker, the Phantom’s twins born in 1978, are finally going to start looking like teenagers instead of 12-year-olds. (Ah, that comics universe time warp!) I smiled to see JH’s comments hit the inbox today, out of the blue, because the daily artist, the editor and I had this very discussion only recently. Big changes are coming for Kit and Heloise over the next several years, and not just in how old they appear. JH must have picked up on the vibe in the ether.
He gave us his confidence on the current yarn, which has the Phantom out of his head with fever, alone in the jungle, dying (it seems) from a puff adder bite. Only Devil, his faithful mountain wolf, witnesses the masked man’s apparent demise. Legend has it the Phantom’s an immortal but in reality (say what?) the role has passed from father to son since 1536. It’s great fun writing these yarns, and to be only the second hand at work on it. The great Lee Falk wrote it from 1936 until his death in 1999.
In this current story of mine, the Phantom hallucinates that his son is there in the jungle with him, and it’s time to pass on the mantle. The Phantom drops his rings in the sand, thinking he’s handing them to Kit. These are the six key days that follow: (Notice how Devil never looks at Kit! Because he’s not really there. Nice work, Paul Ryan.)
I’m an oaf, let the record show. Got back up here to Maine on Sunday and realized that the pics that were the very point of my previous post—my reason for driving 1,200 miles to begin with—they were still in my camera! So here they are now.
The point was to get a four-generations photo, three moms & a baby. As you can see, Daughter #1 of Daughter #1 is thoroughly unamused by our quest.
She’s not impressed by anyone’s attentions, not even her great-grandmother’s.
Her mom rebuffed, the bride turns to the bottle, so to speak.
Do you think this will work? Nope. Do you? Nope…
Freshly fueled, D1D1 attempts to make a break for it. Tries a judo move but grabs her own thumb instead of the bride’s. Eye-hand coordination isn’t fully developed at 10 weeks, goes without saying.
Baby tries Kung Fu next. No result.
Wore herself out with escape attempts, then fell asleep in Aunt D3’s arms.
Paul Bunyan dropped by, little girl missed it.
Really zonked! And before we knew it, it was time for her to head north to Massachusetts with D1 and SO1, where she had other family to meet.
And it was time for me to bring Margene back to Maine.
So, 300 miles later, I resume the opportunity to goof off at the river house. Put on the snowshoes and go walking on water, have a look around the island. With telephoto lens, I stalked a nesting pair of bald eagles over there, to no avail. Wily birds, I’ll leave it at that.
My camp nestled among the cedars. Nobody else around now or all winter, I would guess. I snowshoed most of the island, no tracks to be seen, so that automatically inducts me into the Royal Order of Craftiest Sumbitch on the Island.
I bed down to the sound of wind and river roar. It is good to be a free man on the earth. Got a little reading done before lights out. Dispatches, by Michael Herr. Had a reserve book hanging up there in the net on the ceiling. Gotta get that iron piggy running, don’t I?
Awoke to fog this morning. You can see where the ice is starting to soften up this side of the open water. That’s another island over there on the left.
As the Mainers say, Cant get theah from heah.
Here’s a tree thinking about falling into the river when the thaw comes.
Breakfast this morning. I scoop out a little cook pit on the ice and pile snow around it for a wind break.
Hearty oatmeal. I throw in a handful of walnuts, dried cranberries and, just for luck, my last Fig Newton.
Eat, wash the pot, leave my gear on the island for another night, walk back across the Stillwater to the river house. This channel I’m crossing is the one local kayakers call “the typewriter.” It has a standing wave when the river floods in the spring. Novices come here to practice and build confidence while floating atop the roller in one spot. Then they venture out into the main channel. When University of Maine students come down here to learn kayaking, Julie in the woods serves hot chocolate and bath towels. Anyone with chattering teeth is welcome to come indoors and stand by the wood stove.
Maybe not “everyone”…
The river house is quiet when I get here. Impersonating comfort-loving Modern Man, I make coffee in the kitchen instead of out on the ice.
Tony DePaul, March 11, 2015, Stillwater, Old Town, Maine.