The 'Headers In Life & Legend
by Russell W. Knight

Leaf From an Old Diary

27 Feby 1783

Mild. Wind modrite ENE. Storm making up.

Downed som codfish heads & rum. Cleened henhous. Spred droppings on Sarys gardin patch. Shoveled manure frum barn. Midmorn saw Tarheel acomming. Sed he footed it up frum the Gatt - found the road bad and weather wuss. Sed he was looking forrid to the first sailing - alowed as how handlining on the banks in the cold & wet is better'n lisening to his wife Mattie - even if he has to eat Hagdon evry day. Says she kin rais a bigger squall in her kitchen than ever he seed on the banks sence he shipped as a cuttail back in the '40's. Sed I knowed all about it - thets why I was out in the barn shoveling hoss manure. - When I was thrue shoveling we headded for the shoar - thot we mite smoak a bit and do some scowbanking. We did - but didnt find nothing - and after a bit we set down in the loo of a rock and lookd over Salem way.

Tarheel says hows your sight Hossface? I says fine - Why? He says I thot mebbe twas failing - I hooted and said do you remember How I shot thet fat Hessian pikket in his right buttick - the nite we rowed the Gen' l across the river? Twas good then - and its jest as good now I says.-

He says kin you see the Crunsheel wharf in Salem? I says I kin - as plane as the nose on your face. - Kin you see the window in his counting hous he asks - I says sartin I kin. Kin you see the cleen one he says - the one with the reel cleen panes - the one whar he sets to count his money, See it says I - I kin see it - and I kin smell it - wharf and all - Kin you see the fly crawling on it he asks - I looks - for it was more'n a mile away. Kin you he says - kin you? I dunno I says - its a mite murky now - but I think I kin - says I peering hard. I betcha you cant he says. - How much'll you bet says I. - A shilling says he - thats all Mattie leav me have today. - Its a bet I says.

Well wats the fly doing he asks. - Walking I answers - walking - and headding to the southward by a pint or two. - Your guessing he yells - you cant see thet good. - The hell I cant I says. - Look Tarheel I says, - its walking now, - now its stopped - and now its walking agin -and now its flyed off - right?

Yes says Tarheel it has - but how'n jeest you knowed thet is more'n I kin figger, - you musta cheated somhow. -Never mind says I, - giv me the shilling you owes me, - wich he did but was he mad - maddern ever I seed him. - We headded home - but he clammed up - tite - a trying to figger out how I won the bet.

And I never told him how - didnt seem the time to let on I never seed the fly atall. - I jess heered it as it walked across the pane! Spent the rest of the day looking round the barn. - Et som codfish heads for supper. Drawed a pint of rum and drunk it. Finds it makes Sary look better'n better as the nite wairs on.


1. Barnegat - a section of Marblehead inhabited by fishermen and old salts.
2. Hagdon - a shearwater, a tough unappetizing seabird.
3. Cuttail - a boy serving his apprenticeship on the Grand Banks. To mark his catch, he "cut" off the "tail" of the fish.
4. Scowbanking - a colloquial expression: An aimless search of the beaches for flotsam and jetsam.
5. The attack on the Hessian picket occurred several hours before the Delaware Crossing. Carried out by a group of American soldiers bent on a bit of hell-raising, the unauthorized sortie nearly betrayed Washington's plans for attacking Trenton.
6. Crossing - Delaware Crossing, Christmas Night, 1776.
7. Crunsheel - Crowninshield. Salem's foremost family of merchants, traders and shipowners.

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