Now here was a Mom for the great outdoors

JOHN HARRIGAN May 10. 2014 9:56PM

I wish I had a mother to spoil, on this, her day of the year. "A picnic," she said near the end of her life, and on Mother's Day we did.

I wish I had my Mom to thank for such affable shifting of gears. "No problem," she'd say, slimy fish in the sink, "we'll eat them tonight," and we did.

She stood up to Dad at supper one night, when my first trip Far North was at stake. "We'll find fifty dollars, Fred," she said, and off to the Far North I went.

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I guess the above would be doggerel, and I could keep at it until the wee hours, savoring the flow of thoughts and words from cranium down to keyboard. True poets would throw up.

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What a mother we had, defying convention at every turn. On a warm, rainy morning in May, she'd throw us out - rain slickers, boots and all - with the command, "Go play in the mud."

Neighboring children watched from inside, their noses pressed to the glass. Somehow, we survived until supper.

Mom defied Dad whenever the occasion demanded. They most always kept their disagreements private, perhaps a quiet conversation in the late evening, we three kids abed, perhaps out in the barn, having at it hammer and tong.

But the reaction to my proposed trip to the Far North was a classic. In between other supper conversation, I let slip that Arthur Hughes, a local post office worker and master fly tyer, a man who taught me the finer points of tying on hackle and wings, told me that a grandson had to bail on a fishing trip, and Arthur had invited me in his stead. It was not exactly a trip to the Far North, but about halfway, to Les Escoumins, far up along the St. Lawrence River's north shore. It was a dream trip, pretty heady stuff for a brook-fishing kid.

"How much?" asked Dad, a lawyer who always got straight to the point.

"Fifty dollars," I replied, quite a sum for the times.

"No way," said Dad, or something loftier that meant the same thing.

A quiet settled over the table, and then Mom voiced her soft sentence that could not be defied, and off to the Far North I went.

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This was a mother who helped me shellac my great-grandmother's snowshoes so I could hunt rabbits in the swamp, snowshoes that now hang on my wall. This was a mother who helped my brother, Pete, and me get ready for a mid-winter cookout far up on Hicks Hill, our stove consisting of a strip of cardboard coiled in paraffin in a tin can. Kids alone, in the woods, with a fire? Clap hand to forehead, and faint.

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Mrs. Wiswell, our seventh-grade teacher, gave us an art assignment, the theme being wildlife.

I have somewhat of an art talent that I've never developed, but an earlier drawing, of a redwing blackbird atop a cattail, had come out fairly well, I thought, so I begged a big sheet of newsprint from the News and Sentinel and set to work on a rendition of a spotted fawn asleep in the woods, lady's slippers and all.

Stepping back, I didn't think it looked so hot, and showed it to Mom and said so, and she said, "It'll do."

Mrs. Wiswell gave it an A, and it then disappeared in the back of some closet at home.

Years and years later, when I was a supposed grand lord pooh-bah in the newspaper business, there occurred a bare space on a wall in the News and Sentinel's front office, and there suddenly appeared, as if overnight, and it probably was, my beautifully framed drawing of the fawn and the flowers, a gift from my Mom to me.

John Harrigan's address is Box 39, Colebrook 03576; his email is

John Harrigan

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