October 2014 Posts

Chapter 7: The Man Who Hung My Axe

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chopping wood

Woman’s Work

Dot is an outspoken, honest, hard -working, and caring woman. She’s had her share of disappointments in life, yet she lives life with humor, courage and dignity. She has a lot to share, including the people she calls friends. I value her friendship, and theirs, beyond measure.

This morning when I let the dogs out the door it felt like a perfect fall day, crisp, with just enough chill in the air to remind me winter is on its way. I think about the cord of wood delivered earlier this week, sitting next to the woodshed, waiting to be split, and decide today is as good a time as any to start. I get the axe out of the garage and go to the stump used for splitting wood. I set the first piece of wood on it, g and on the first blow the axe handle  breaks right where it goes into the head. It seems as if I need a new axe. I decide to head into to town to get another axe thinking I’ll stop first at Dot’s for morning coffee and conversation.


Once in the kitchen, waiting for the kettle to boil I tell Dot about my axe handle and ask can it be repaired or do I just buy a whole new axe?

“Get over to Bump’s, he hangs axes”, Dot says, mentioning Ralph Bump, the man I recently met in her living room where she was trimming his hair and sizeable goatee. Hang an axe?I say, What does that mean?

Dot replies,” it jess means putting a new wood handle on the tool. Bumps famous forhanging axes, hammers, shovels, anything that needs a new wooden handle. Makes them himself. You’re in for a treat when you go down there. He lives off Perch Pond Road. When you see the little covered bridge, that’s Bump Bridge. Cross over and go on down till you see his place a little way down on the right.”

Next morning, the axe head beside me, I set off for Bump’s. When I see a miniature covered bridge I follow the road over the bridge to a small house covered in weathered grey shingles. An old washing machine with a manual ringer leans against the side of the house. Chickens, ducks, and goats wander in and out of the open front door. Bump is nowhere in sight.

In the distance I hear a tractor and walk in the direction of the noise,  waving my arms to catch the driver’s eyes.

tractor man

Working the land

The tractor heads in my direction, and it is Mr. Bump. Broke the handle on my axe and Dot says you can fix it.

Bump says, “Yup” and walks in the direction of the house shooing the chickens and ducks out of the walkway,  coaxing the goats from the doorway allowing us to enter the house.

Light from the windows in this one room house filters through a lifetime of dirt and dust.  A scarred wooden table with two  chairs sits under one window. A single bed with only a crumpled blanket is pushed against a wall. The third wall holds a pitted white enamel sink over flowing with dirty dinnerware sharing the wall with a small, low slung, black iron stove, its pipe out through the roof.

Cast Iron

Stove for a Short-Legged Woman

Circling the ceiling are hooks holding wooden handles of various lengths and shapes. Bump  points at them saying, “I make them to hang axes, shovels, anything that needs a new handle. Set your axe on the table and come back in a few days, it’ll be as good as new.”


I go over to get my axe, a few days later, and notice Bump has been freshly barbered. Bump, seeing my look of approval, says, “Went to Dot’s to get barbered before my trip over to Vermont”.  What’s up in Vermont, I ask.

Bump’s eyes dance with mischief as he points to his short-legged stove and says with a big smile ,”I’m fixing to drive over to Vermont to get me a short-legged woman before the snow flies!
















Chapter 6: A Hot Kiss on a Cold Night

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me n him

A Hot Kiss


In the late sixties we haul a newly purchased house trailer up from Hanscomb Air Force base to Abend’s Trailer Park on Lost River Road in North Woodstock, NH. Abend’s has fourteen trailers, all owned by friends, who, like us, spend winter weekends skiing at Loon Mountain, three miles down the road. We ski together, eat together, often the kids on one trailer and the adult in another. After dinner, when all the kids are tucked in, we make our way to one of the local joints where live bands provide the energy for us to drink and dance the night away, extending the exhilaration of being on the slopes all day. On these nights we become fast friends with many of the “locals” who work at the mountain, including Peter and his wife. Peter is head of Ski Patrol at Loon.

morning sweep

Pete on Ski Patrol

As I am an early riser, I drive to the mountain to purchase ski tickets, easily sold out before nine, thus allowing my family to enjoy a leisurely start to their day. On these mornings I have a cup of coffee with Peter and the ski patrol, who come in to warm up after morning sweep of the mountain. Lately Peter lingers a bit after the rest of the Patrol goes back up the mountain

I learn Peter is of Canadian and Native American stock. Born in this small New Hampshire town, where generations of families worked in the paper mill, he left school after the ninth grade to work alongside his father. He tells me his family hunts deer and wild duck to stock the family larders for the winter season. His mother tends a garden of vegetables and fruit she cans for winter, keeps chickens for eggs, and a hog to butcher before the first snowfall. He says the family has been self-sustaining for generations. When money is short his mother bakes bread to sell out of the house along with eggs and preserves.

I tell him of my recent return to Northeastern University, my burgeoning awareness of my intellect, my hunger to learn, and my dream of applying to law school. He tells me not to let anything get in the way of my dreams.

He speaks proudly of recently purchasing a tennis court construction company. I am struck how much he reminds me of another self-made man, my grandfather.  Over time I find, despite his lack of a formal education, he is surprisingly well read. We become friends. He is a good listener. Our conversations never challenge the boundaries of our respective lives.

Whenever I spot Peter on the slopes I note how skillful and graceful a skier he is and think him beautiful as he carves turns down the mountainside. He is a small muscular man with a crop of dark curly hair, an angular face, upward slanted yellow-green eyes, a small hooknose, full mouth, and a square jaw with a cleft in the chin. Off hours a pipe is his constant companion

slippery roads

Blizzard in the Notch

One snow filled night just before Christmas, we are invited to Peter’s house in Franconia to celebrate the first birthday of his adopted son. It is a stormy night and the ride through the Notch is harrowing, the Mercedes often sliding sideways before correcting itself forward. Arriving in Franconia Village we find the house ablaze with Christmas lights, the windows glowing. We park, and after shaking off snow that has amazingly accumulated, from the car to mud room, we remove our coats and boots and make our way towards the sounds of the party, through a door and into the kitchen opening into a large living room, each with blazing fireplaces warming the air. The house and tree are beautifully decorated,  Victorian style, with large garlands and velvet bows  festooned on windowsills, bannisters and mantles. Flickering candles are everywhere, filling the place with a warm glow. I enter into the throng of guests, many our skiing friends, looking for the bar. With a Scotch in hand I survey the room and see Peter talking with mutual friends. I wander over and join the conversation.

As the group disbands Peter leans into me and asks if I am still looking for an old trunk to make into a coffee table, something I had mentioned awhile back. He has a few he is refinishing in his barn workshop, and asks, would I like to take a look?

We slip out through the kitchen door leading into the shed connecting the house to the barn. Peter flicks on a light and walks over to his workbench area where a variety of trunks sit in varying states of refurbishment. I examine them and say, Yes, one of these would be perfect, let me know when they are ready. Turning to leave the barn Peter turns off the light and we bump into each other in the dark, laugh at our clumsiness, and then, kiss, at first tentatively, then hungrily. Without so much as a word exchanged between us we return to the party, our absence unnoticed, knowing our relationship has forever changed. We quickly blend into the other guests singing Happy Birthday to his year old son.

On the drive home I look out the window at the snow packed road lit by a silvery moon, then turn for a moment to the man next to me, my handsome, successful husband. I think about our three beautiful healthy children, and our life, filled with the best money can buy,looking for all the world as the perfect couple. What no one knows is our marriage is increasingly devoid of passion and intimacy. I think about my secret affair with food, and the confusing, insatiable hunger that fuels it. I catch my breath as I remember the sweet smell of pipe tobacco on Peter’s breath, the feel of his body, taut and strong, pressed into mine, and feel more alive than I have in a long time. A thought crosses my mind. Perhaps what I am starving for is Love.