Friday, June 16, 2006

Character Sketch - Fred McDauber

Fred McDauber was not the type of man to go rushing into things. He was contemplative, and his decisions were a serious matter. Now, I don't mean he took a long time to pick out his clothes in the morning (he always wore Dickies and a dark shirt with a collar), but if you needed Fred's opinion in a hurry, well, you weren't going to get it.

Fred was born in a small town in Maine and he lived there all his life and all of his life he grew potatoes. Potatoes are a sensible thing to grow because you can eat them with most anything and they keep well (which is an important consideration when you're dealing with a short Maine growing season).

Fred's favorite brand of potato was called "Green Mountain" because they caramelized very well when you fried them in a cast iron skillet with a little butter and onion. Fred couldn't tolerate those greasy, reconstituted abominations known as "home fries" in many fast food restaurants. In fact he hated the very idea of fast food altogether, except for Lisa's pizza and pier fries served at Old Orchard Beach. He simply couldn't understand why so many folks (he called them idiots) would spend hard-earned money for a mess on a tray. Why didn't those folks (idiots) go to a nearby diner where they could at least eat off plates, instead of like some animal out of a feed bag or bucket? At a diner you could get a decent cup of coffee, a friendly smile, and top it off with a piece of pie.

Fred McDauber didn't spend too much of his time worrying about idiots, it's just that he found them curious. One time he happened across this fellow (idiot) at the A&P that was loading his SUV with all manner of provisions. It seems he was going hunting and must have been afraid he'd starve to death if he didn't bring enough food to tip an SUV. Why the whole idea of going hunting was to stock up on food and it made no sense to Fred at all the way some people acted.

Small town life was just what Fred liked. He knew everyone in town and everyone knew him. He didn't like 'em all, necessarily, but they were familiar to him and nothing is as comfortable as familiarity. Fred was as dependable as the seasons and every fall at harvest time he'd pick all of the potatoes in his garden and store them in his cellar in a wooden box filled with sand. He'd take in his firewood next and pile it into neat rows in his garage. Fred liked to burn wood and he loved to split it. He didn't care much for moving it (once to dry it, once to store it inside, and once to the wood-stove), but he dearly loved to yell "timber!" and watch a tree crash to the ground. Sometimes a tree (like a pop'lah) would come down so fast and hard it would shake the ground, and sometimes, too, he'd have to dance aside when a tree kicked or twisted.

Fred liked to smoke a pipe and he enjoyed it more than ever because it was so unfashionable. People would recoil in disgust (like they had stepped in a turd) when they saw him smoking. He loved the smell and taste of his rich, dark, fragrant pipe tobacco. If people wanted to be horrified over a simple thing like pipe smoke then he couldn't be bothered with them (were people like that capable of honest sex, he wondered).

The best part of smoking a pipe is the ceremony involved. First of all you are dealing with the craftsmanship of the pipe itself, gorgeous to the touch and elegantly curved. Next comes the cleaning of the stem, then the packing of the bowl which must be tamped tightly at the start then loosely afterwards to get good airflow and a long enough burn. Finally comes the wooden strike-anywhere matches which flare up and down as the first few puffs are taken.

Fred could form rings of smoke that would hang in the air and then dissipate slowly like a vision. So, smoking a pipe was a delight to Fred and somehow the protestations of a fussy, self-centered, delicate person (idiot) made the whole experience even better.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

interesting, looking forward to next installment

Foot Quotes

"Ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge"

Charles Darwin