Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The Lake - 3

Well, it was quite a day in Lake Nuncansee. I had strolled out in the back yard and once again ended up standing on Fisherman's Warp. The weather remains almost, but not quite winter and sort of, but not really spring. The locals were thinking of inventing a new season to account for the weather but when, after three hours in a town meeting they could not decide on a name for the season, they gave up and went home to wait for the real spring which, they said, was just around the corner. They moved even quicker to go home when a heated argument broke out between two council members about exactly which corner they meant. The discussion promptly died for lack of any other participation.

A very interesting thing was going on.It was Ash Wednesday and all the residents gathered around a hole in the ground and looking very anxious and expectant as they peered at the hole.

I asked what was going on and was told that not only was it Ash Wednesday, it was also Hedgehog Day in Lake Nuncansee. Hedgehog Day always falls on Ash Wednesday here. I asked if this was anything like Groundhog Day and found out that, in some ways, it was, but since there were no groundhogs in Lake Nuncansee (or in all of Lawst County, for that matter) they had to make do with hedgehogs. And sure enough, about twenty minutes after I got there this little hedgehog poked his head out of the hole, looked around, came out and saw his shadow and immediately dove back into his hole. The crowd cheered madly and slowly broke up and drifted back to whatever they were doing before. And the whole town (being semi-religious) was very happy since the hedgehog seeing his shadow assured them of 40 more days of Lent.

The Sea Major Ice Melt contest was also officially started today when Mr. Henry brought his '48 Ford down to the shore and had it towed out about 40 yards offshore with a long chain tied around its rear axle. It is the car Mr. Henry was driving one warm March day a few years back when he hung a right at the dam and headed out to his ice house to check the lines, forgetting that he had pulled the ice house back in three weeks previously because the ice was melting. And now the ice was even thinner although covered with fresh snow. The car slowed down suddenly about a hundred yards out and when he gunned the motor she sank about a foot, as if all four tires had gone flat at once. He couldn't open the door so he climbed out of the window onto the roof and cried for help.

The cries brought out the proud men of the Nuncansee Volunteer Fire Brigade (They haven:t lost a foundation yet) who sent him a rope tied to his dog Petey and dragged them both back through the slush safely to shore. The car sank in eight feet of water about twenty minutes later. They got a chain on her that summer though, and pulled her out. Mr. Henry, who made some very extravagant promises to God while sitting there on the roof of his car, donated the car to the Education Society and so every year since the old Ford has repeated its sinking routine for charity. Contestants guess the day and hour she'll go down and the winner gets 4 free tickets to the Uconn basketball game of their choice. The chances are sold at $1.00 a guess. The profits go to the Commander Kodee Scholarship fund to send kids to college and make them smarter than Mr. Henry, who, like anyone who has ever done a dumb thing in a small town, was reminded of it ever afterward.

The first week of April is usually a pretty safe guess, though the car has sunk as early as late March and as late as the third week in April. Once it never did sink. The scholarship committee had inadvertently parked it over a sand bar. The Ford sat there in four inches of water like a frustrated buoy and the scholarship fund made a huge profit.

The Scholarship Fund, by the way, is named after the commander of the Lake Nuncansee Air Force Base. It is located up north of town just off the interstate.

So I went out to the Lake Nuncansee AFB to try and get more of a feel for the place. As I approached the base the statue of the Unknown Airman was standing in front of me and I took some time to look it over. The statue was sculpted by a major by the name of Sission. Major Dee Sission accomplished her artistry back in 1981. The Unknown Airman stands just to the left of the main gate entrance to the base. A proud figure, his back is erect, his feet are on the ground (not enough money left for a pedestal), and his eyes - well, his eyes are a matter of question.

Probably Major Sission intended him to exude a confidence in the base and its mission, but his eyes are set a little too deep so that dark shadows appear in the late afternoon and by sunset he looks worried. His confident smile turns into a forced grin. In the morning he is stepping forward, his right hand extended in greeting, but as the day wears on, he hesitates, and finally he appears about ready to turn back. The right hand seems to say, "Wait here, I think I forgot something". He seems, by days end, not to reflect at all the deep meaning expressed in the plaque at his feet. However, Major Sission has been contacted and has agreed to do some minor face lifting around the eyes so that confidant and proud look will last through the entire day. This will go very well with the bronze plaque that simply reads "Things Of Quality Have No Fear Of Time".

Next time I visit I'll spend more time out there and I'll let you know all about it. I did find out that they have an aerial demonstration team stationed there. They are called the Thunderchickens. They never actually fly an air show but the aircraft look really sharp sitting on the flight line in a nice orderly row. I signed out of the base and turned to look once more at the statue of the Unknown Airman. He was starting to look a little worried so I left him standing there worriedly awaiting his face-lift and started to make my way back to the yard.

But first I stopped into the local Droppin' Donut Shoppe. It used to be a Dunkin' Donut but the coffee was always so hot that any attempt to dunk a donut ended up in it being dropped into the coffee. A few tables away some of the locals were still debating which corner spring was just around. I quietly left the Shoppe and made my way back to the Warp.

And that is the news from Lake Nuncansee where all the foundations are safe, all the ice melts and where all the Lawst County Airmen call home.

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