A bag of toes and noses

By Marion Tucker-Honeycutt | Oct 07, 2019

My big brother passed away last year. He was two years older than I and always watched out for me, especially after we were taken off the farm and away from Grampa Roy.

All the years, all the decades, all the places we lived around the country, Maine to Massachusetts to Florida to California, in between and finally, back home t’Maine, he always watched out for "Little Sis."

I moved back home t’Maine, leaving California, near Christmas of ’79, and he in ’95, after retirement from the space industry. He was an engineering specialist in radar, sonar and optics.

He had contemplated retiring back in Florida or perhaps in the West Indies (in Antigua), where he had lived for some time in line with his work. He had a catamaran there and sailed the azure seas around the islands. He loved the sea, having started after high school with a job on the Sequin tugboat out of Belfast, under Capt. John Holmes.

But he ended up retiring back here, buying a house less than a mile down the road from me. (Prayers do get answered.) From then until he left us last year, he had three sailboats and spent as much time as he could out on the bay and up and down the coast.

I never acquired the love of the sea. I like ponds, streams and small lakes, like the ones I grew up on with Grampa Roy, a Maine guide, and Uncle Milo, a Maine warden. My heart has always been attached to the farm years.

My brother got his first gun, a Red Ryder BB gun, in the early '40s. A couple of years later, he got a sweet little Remington .22 long rifle. His job was taking care of the "varmints" around the farm, like woodchucks (groundhogs) and porcupines.

I didn’t mind hunting woodchucks with him but I wanted nothing to do with porcupines. They were thick around the farm, after the apple trees and gnawing on the outbuildings, like Grampa’s workshop, not too far from the window over my bed. I would go to sleep to the sound of them chewing on the shingles and then have nightmares of them after me.

At that time, because of their destructiveness, there was a bounty on porcupines of 50 cents apiece. That was a good piece of pocket change for a young boy then. But, to avoid people cheating, you had to bring in four feet and a nose to qualify for each one. I wanted nothing to do, money or not, with cutting off toes and noses of any animal or paper bags full of bloody toes and noses. I’m not against hunting or bounties when necessary. I’m just too squeamish to do it.

After we left the farm, we were moved around a lot and often not together. I managed to hang onto the Remington and Red Ryder for some years but, after a time, the Remington got away from me. But I hung onto the BB gun, with his initials he carved into the stock so many decades ago, and after my brother settled into his house down the road, I took it over to him with a bottle of BBs. He was delighted. He had no idea I had hung onto it all those years.

Now the gun lies on a bureau with his photo taken on the farm the day he got it.

What a lot of years, places and experiences we had from then to when he left us last year.

What a wonderful brother he was. And he is missed each and every day.

Marion Tucker-Honeycutt, an award-winning columnist, a Maine native and graduate of Belfast schools, now lives in Morrill. Her columns appear in this paper every other week.

 

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