Polka-Dot Buoys

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Patty’s children used to play on the bow of her lobster boat while the dog scampered back and forth to the stern where she scrubbed winter from the white painted decks. In the spring they played on the empty beach while she checked and stacked lobster traps weighing 50 lbs or more. Three to five of these traps are connected to form a stringer, then a buoy is tied onto the stringer before it is set in the water. Lobstermen paint their buoys in distinctive patterns and colors to identify them in the ocean. Patty’s buoys are light blue with pink polka-dots.

When a bad relationship left Patty a single mom with two young children, her family and friends welcomed them home, and the Island surrounded and protected them. Going back and forth from the mainland to the Island requires a boat ride — or an airplane flight which is even more noticeable. If privacy is what you are looking for this is not the place to live. The population is relatively small and stories and news travel from one end of the Island to the other faster than a high speed Internet connection.

I’ve walked down to the beach and stopped to say hello to Patty, watching while she picked up each trap and piled one on top of the other inspecting, repairing, and preparing them for the season. She had loaded those heavy plastic-covered wire traps on a truck, brought them to the beach, and eventually would move them onto a float and then onto her boat. After setting the stringers in the bay and hauling them all summer she would reverse this procedure in the fall. Her smile was pleasant. She kept a watchful eye on her children as she worked. She gave them snacks when they were hungry and settled occasional sibling disputes. Patty still lobsters from June through October and drives a fuel truck in the winter on the mainland. She cuts firewood to help heat their house. Over the years, Islanders have come to admire and respect her physical strength, survival skills, and sense of humor.

After several years Patty took on a new romantic relationship with a man on the Island and she seemed happier than she had been in years. Eventually, she and her friend bought a brand new king sized bed together and kept it at his house. All went well until Patty’s sharp sixth sense told her that he had another lady friend. When the truth was confirmed, she called and asked him if he would like to meet her for lunch on the mainland. As soon as she knew he was on the boat to meet her at the restaurant, she drove to his house, took her chain saw out of the trunk, and sawed the bed in half – and according to Cecil (Snippets – Oct. 2006) — “right through a clean pile of undies.”

Snippets are short stories involving Maine people, places, and things. They are written by Betsy Hanscom, owner of Maine Warmers, and are published in her monthy e-Newsletter, and may not be used without permission.