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  • On this day, back about 1988, I was out on Frenchboro, a lovely island seven miles or so off the southern end of Mt. Desert Island. I was spending a lot of time there in those days and had gotten to know and count as friends many of the islanders.

    Frenchboro, back then, was an island in a fight for its life as a year-round community. At one point the school was down to a single student, and in the years before that, islanders had had to resort to taking in foster children from the mainland, as well as other tactics, just to keep the school open.

    In year-round island communities, like small, remote communities anywhere, the school is pretty much the heart of the community. If the school is forced to close, that’s pretty much it for the community. Once a school closes, the wives and school-age kids are typically forced to move ashore…and it’s usually not long after that that the men follow.

    That’s been the scenario on so many of the former year-round island communities off Maine’s coast; once there were over 300… there are only 15.

    In any event, Frenchboro’s innovative and hard-working leaders developed a program designed to attract people who were variously described by a fascinated regional and national press as “homesteaders, pioneers, settlers, etc.,” but were referred to on-island as “young breeders.”

    To make a very long story short, it worked and I was privileged to play a very small part in the effort, in the course of which I got to know and admire many in the community, especially the dominant Lunt family.

    On this day the family patriarch, Dick Lunt, had been tending to various wharf chores while his great-grandson, Nate, wandered around with a small cod that he had muckled right onto. Nate simply would not let go of that fish and carried it around with him for a couple of days. Anyway, I simply asked Dick and Nate if I could make a picture of them and that was it.

    I found myself wondering if Nate and his generational peers were going to be able to hold onto their way of life as successfully as he was hanging onto that cod, despite spirited maternal efforts to get rid of it (the cod).

    While sad to report that Dick has since gone to his greater reward, I’m pleased to report that today Nate is fishing up a storm, has several children, and that the Frenchboro school is full of kids.

    But, inevitably, tides and storms and winds continue to buffet the island...and the community.
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