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  • The glacier didn’t know it was carving a grand divide but that is the way of it, something begun from one process creates an entirely different set of circumstances down the line. Mount Desert Island is cut almost in half by one of the only fjords in North America, Somes Sound. The Sound is a 30 fathom groove carved into the granite bedrock. Deep enough for three and four-masted schooners back in the day when the Hall’s Quarry was working, navigable all the way up to Somesville at the head of the Sound. Once lined with farms and fish wharves and the ways and slips of ship builders now lined with million dollar jetties and floats set like jeweled and polished nails at the end of long manicured fingers of lawn. The mountains on either side of the Sound break the prevailing sou’wester so the east half of the island is protected. Nature didn’t set about making a niche for the wealthy and privileged but the divide could not be starker. The east side of the island is Bar Harbor and Northeast Harbor and Seal Harbor. There cottages of 30 rooms and more line the shores. Invisible from the road, hidden at the end of long gravel drives, they present their full figures to the sea standing bold as lighthouses. These are the rustic family homes of America’s senior class. Generations of power and influence come to get away from it all.

    The West side bears the brunt of smoky sou’westers in summer and nor’westers in the winter. The towns are three orders of magnitude down on the chic scale. The towns on the west side had the quarries and the fish packing factories. On the east side of the island law and order was regularly patrolled but on the Back-side, justice had a more rugged, rough and ready stance. The warden or the state police came when they were called but for the most part we took care of ourselves.

    “You getting anything around Black Island, Benjy?” Mickey shut down his engine, wrung out his gloves, wiped his hands on the ass of his pants and shook out a Marlboro from the pack on the bulkhead.

    “Naw, just changing the water today.”

    “I was getting a few in close until them two showed up.” He spit toward an outboard hauling gear along the west side of the Little Island.



    I’d seen the new gear go in a few weeks ago. Everywhere Mick and I fished there were their orange and yellow striped buoys. Ronnie and Young Mo.

    The first time they hauled the same stretch as me they pulled alongside close enough to see what I had for lobsters so far. I had a couple of trash cans covered with kelp, only one had any lobsters but that was for me to know.

    “Railin’ ‘em ain’t you,” said Ronnie.

    “A few here and there,” I answered only looking up after I tied in a new baitbag and cinched the trap door shut.

    “You using frozen for bait? Expensive ain’t it? We just got old salt bait. Smell oughta toll em in, hah?”

    “Yeah I could smell you coming,” I said.

    “Hah, hear that Ronnie, he could smell us coming.” Young Mo was the excitable type.


    “You said that,” Mick exclaimed. “Sure as hell you could smell ‘em coming. Couple of goddamned skunks. We oughta be getting a few along here by now and there ain’t a fuckin’ thing. Not since those two come around.”

    We watched them haul along the Little Island and then head east, full throttle, for Long Ledge.

    “One year there was all kind of trouble around Plasench,” Mick squinted after the outboard’s spreading wake. “The Old Man set up on the North Point, just back in the trees there, had his thirty-ought-six. Morris asked him did he have any luck hunting when he come back. The Old Man just asked if anyone’d hauled out. Morris said Jimmy Crow’d come in a bit of a bother and hurry a while back. The Old Man laughed and said he’d imagined Jimmy musta had his knife out whittling plugs. There wasn’t any trouble after that.”

    We both listened to the long pull of the waves along the shore and watched the kelp fronds reach and swirl below us.

    “Know what Morris called him, after that? Two Plug Jimbo. Didn’t the Old Man laugh.”


    Bank loans were 25% for commercial fishermen. The price of lobsters was less than $2.00 a pound. Gas had gone above a dollar a gallon for the first time. No one was laughing in 1980.

    Johnny V went past me without waving the next week.

    Mick said Little Georgie had run right by him wide open.

    I saw shadows shift in among the trees on the northern side of Black Island. When I told Mick about it I was even sure I had seen the sun glint off something back in there.

    “You fishing over there to Black Island Benjoy?” asked Morris.

    “Trying to,” I said wondering where the conversation was going.

    Old Morris nodded, “Some fellas, some fellas get riled up easy. When there’s plenty of lobsters, no one bothers, but,” he shrugged.

    “Yeah,” I said. “Ain’t that the truth.”

    The storm didn’t have a name. By the time it turned north-east it was well past the metro regions of the East Coast. It didn’t make the news. First I knew of it was the boom of heavy surf making along the southern shores when I woke in the night. By morning the wind was up and there was no chance to shift any gear. Nothing to do but wait it out.

    The first day out after the blow trap after trap came up filled with weed where I was lucky to find them. Others came up mangled, bows shattered and laths crushed. In some sections the gear had been swirled together into huge snarls of rope that would take days to pick through. Traps that had been on the east side of the island ended up on the west side. Traps on the southern shores were just gone.

    Boats spent the next week or two getting gear back in order. The heavy sea had stirred up the bottom and the lobsters moved off to deeper water. The fall lobstering was finished.

    That winter Young Mo and Ronnie took to running their mouths and the General Lee like they were the stars of Dukes of Hazard North. They put the shit to a guy from down to Deer Isle and didn’t figure when to shut the fuck up. The fella went back for his shotgun and when Ronnie pulled up next to him down at the Seawall parking lot and started in again the fella pulled out the shotgun. A load of buckshot from a twelve-gauge makes a impact.

    There’s justice and there’s rough justice and then there’s nature.
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