1940s Archive

Coast Calendar

Originally Published April 1947

Begins with Mayairs. The adder casts his skin and leaves it like a curl of spring sky on the hot ledge; and the farmer sloughs off his thick flannels. But the old man feels the cold still in his narrow bones, and he sticks to his “longones.” The south slopes of the hills scent the south winds with Mayflowers. The first few flies bumble about in the kitchen. It turns sharp in a night, and the ducks waddle sad on a hard and waterless world. Grandma dreams of white roses, and there will be a death in the family within the year. The sun comes out hot. Brooks run like wildfire. Carkins shake out their gilt tassels on the popple trees. Comes a freeze, and the loud little brooks fall quiet. It snows deep. The sun comes out strong. All the snow melts. The ducks are wild on many sudden waters.

The cosset lamb grows into a burden and is turned out of the kitchen to fend for himself where the green blades of grass are pricking through the world.

It rains, and it clears. It rains, and it shines.

The feast of the season is alewives. For the fattest of the herring have returned, and the land near all the brooks is frosted with their scales. The Abenaki fish steams in all kitchens, and the rich aroma of its baking and roasting and frying and broiling and boiling and sousing in vinegar goes out over the whole coast. The woman of the house fries it in butter, and the man and the children let it melt in their mouths and blow out the myriads of bones. The woman boils it with pork, and the family pushes out the lacework of bones on their tongues. The woman bakes it in the family bean pot with vinegar, strips of salt pork, cloves, and cinnamon added, and there are no bones to blow out at all.

Frog spawns string miles of jet-andcrystal beads through the marsh pond. The small boy is up to his busy butt in watery business, and his new rubber boots come home full of water. He gets it laid on to his breeches in the woodshed for his third set of wet feet in a morning; and the heat of his father's broad hand wards off the fever and snuffles. The horse sled is greased and put up, the crosscut saw is oiled and hung on the rafter. The children are greased deep with goose grease, and it will be a sharp cold that gets through it. In the swamp the treestumps bleed a honey that attracts the gilt flies. Now the farmer looks to his plow, his whiffletrees and his axles, there is great mending of cart wheels and jingling of chains and harness; gear is made ready against the minute the frost is all out of the ground.

Suddenly, one clear twilight, under the first dewdrop star, the peepers begin, their silvery notes spread out thick as the stars are over the meadows. Ways grow foul, carts go hub-deep in yellow mud. A fortnight passes with no getting to town. The woman of the house scrapes the bottom of the flour barrel, but she cuts her coat to suit her cloth and makes out with a big pan of johnnycake. And there is hot lobster stew, pink with coral, for supper. The big boy digs his three bushels of clams a tide and puts his silver coins in the stocking towards the new twenty-two rifle.

Subscribe to Gourmet