Uppermost House: Heading south to Casco

PeterLewisTreehouseCMYKBy S. Peter Lewis

BN Columnist


I put on my winter coat one morning last week. First time since the middle of spring. It’s periwinkle, which is a weird color for a guy as tough as I am, but at least I get teased about it. Plus, it keeps me from getting goose ripples as my daughter used to call what everyone else calls goose bumps, which (if visible) would be even more embarrassing for a guy as tough as me than wearing a periwinkle coat.

No frost yet, as I write this on the 18th day of autumn, but I’m blowing the final whistle on anything resembling summer anyway. Sure, there will be more zucchini (isn’t there always), but let’s face facts — winter is like ear hair: you can deny it, but its encroachment and eventual drifting is inevitable.

I was walking to my office that nippy morning last week and as I crossed between two buildings I saw a coworker ahead of me on his way to the company kitchen and a hot cup of coffee. Hands in his coat pockets, head bowed, shuffling slowly and looking down as if searching for a hearing aid battery among the fallen leaves.

“Hey, Mury!” I shouted. He looked back at me forlornly.

“Vinter….” he said, and kicked at the ground. (He’s from Bosnia and spent many years in Germany; neither place apparently has any double yews).

And so the dreaded season is upon us.

Dreaded by most except those few who post pictures on social media of cars drifted up to their wiper blades and declare, “Bring it on!” Kooks. I wonder if they would be as excited about paying my oil bill.

At work recently, there was a pile of ice scrapers on the conference table, left as a sort of offering, the way a kind person might leave a box of donuts. I shoved one in my pocket, but with somewhat less enthusiasm than I would have shoved a chocolate glazed into my mouth.

And soon I will start hearing the seasonal cold yearnings from my wife, suggesting with more emphasis each passing year that perhaps we should move south during the hard months; to which I will reply, as I always have, “Sure! How about Casco?” This quick retort stimulates, rather predictably, The Look, and then I leave equally quickly, posing some excuse such as suddenly remembering that I may have dropped a pistachio nut between the seats of my car.

Ah, but I am surely rambling. Lack of daylight has that effect on me.

One day last January, I was driving through one of our quaint little villages and between the plowed banks saw two grubby men working on an old beater of a pickup truck at the end of a driveway. Hood up between the drifts, one guy standing idly by and handing the other guy wrenches and screwdrivers, his breath hanging in the steely air as he spoke. The other guy was standing on a milk crate, bent over at the waist, torso braced on the air filter cover, arms disappearing into the bowels of the straight-six, tinkering away. Jeans, hoodies, and sneakers, they both wore, but no coats, scarves or gloves. The bent-over guy’s beltless pants sagged low and showed quite a bit of bare hairy back and a bold swatch of plaid boxer.

It was about 15 degrees below zero and there was a breeze from the northwest.

Hard to believe that in a couple of short months this sort of thing will seem normal.

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