The Wooden Nickel
Caution: words used in qoutes may prove offensive to some
readers. If you are spleeny when it comes to language this might not
be the review you want to read.
"...Now a V-8 engine is something to believe in, made by honest
American working stiffs with their own hands...Your wife may cheat on
you and your friends may forget you ever lived. Your own body starts
fucking you over the minute you're born, the heart lurks in your chest
like a land mine, the brain goes useless as a fistful of haddock
guts. But an internal combustion engine is another matter. Long as
you take care of the bastard, when there's nothing else on earth to
count on, it will get you home."
Even when I was a child Maine was stamping Vacationland on
tourist luring license plates. The hook remains the same. Be
pampered while you spend your money. One of the quintessential
pictures we are sold is that of the yuppie family sitting around a
restaurant table, attired in flimsy plastic bibs, about to chow down
on lobster. What we aren't supposed to ponder is how those
crustaceans got from ocean floor to cooking pot. Lucky Lunt, eloquent
but salty protagonist of William Carpenter's The Wooden Nickel quoted
above, shows us that the lives of those who go down to the sea in
ships often are those of precariousness rather than prosperity.
Lucky is a lobsterman who is following in his family tradition.
He has inherited his vocation and territory from his deceased father
who received them from his own dad. (His daughter is about to be the
first high school graduate in the family.) As the narrative begins
he's living in the house he was born with with his wife and two
children. An unexpected heart attack, in addition to leaving him tens
of thousands of dollars in medical debt he has no clue how he'll ever
pay, has made a physically demanding job out on the ocean not such a
good option. But it's all he knows how to do.
Things are changing at a head spinning rate. Lobsters are not
as plentiful as they were when Lucky was apprenticing with his old
man. He goes out not knowing if his day's work will cover bait and
fuel to run his boat, the Wooden Nickel. Government regulations limit
what he is able to do. And the spectre of turf war rears its ugly
head when he spots a zebra-striped buoy bobbing on his territory.
"There's lots of ways you can fuck around out here, but that
one's not allowed. A fisherman's territory is a matter or life and
death. Lucky has fished this ledge in summer for thirty years and his
old man Walter before that and old Merrill Lunt before him under a
Lucky's narrative is a captivating read, well worth getting your
hands on simply for that reason. However, it is also thought
provoking. Lucky is a 21st century blue collar Everyman. Think of
all the folks who have no clue how many hours they'll get to work in
an economy where secure jobs have been rapidly outsourced to third
world countries and a stretched thin security net has not been
strengthened to catch them.
On a personal note, I had a wonderful crafting day with my Amber and
her fiancée, Brian. That is what I request for my Christmas present
every year. Nothing they sell at the Bangor Mall could trump family
quality time. I rolled the yarn for and started knitting a scarf for
Brian. Amber created a beautiful little Christmas 2015 shadow box.
Brian made taco soup and toasted home made bread for lunch.
A great big shout out goes out to Brian and Amber.
Sent from my iPod