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

Snuffy Joe

A century and a half ago, an incorrigible young Barnegatter nicknamed "Snuffy Joe" committed an unforgivable misdemeanor. So, seething with rage, his mother seized a birch broom and set out after him intending to serve the little scamp a liberal dose of birch oil.
Prudently taking to his heels, Snuffy Joe soon outdistanced his infuriated pursuer. Ere long, however, the gap between the two grew visibly shorter when the boy's mother-mad as a wet hen-got her second wind.

(The sight of a broad-beamed woman brandishing a broom hot on the heels of an obviously frightened brat, and puffing like a grampus, proved a sight to behold.)

Sensing an exciting climax, a group of bystanders gathered and with bated breath began to predict promptly who the winner would be. One, a landlubber, picked the boy figuring that his youth, fleetness of foot, stamina and staying power would give him the edge. The landlubber was convinced that the voluminous, many-tiered garments (each liberally festooned with row upon row of pleats, flounces and ruffles) draping Snuffy Joe's buxom parent would sap her strength, would cause her to lose ground and weaken her resolve to punish her son. However, an Old Salt-wise to the vagaries of the turbulent North Atlantic and its blustery winds-promptly placed a bet on the mother.

A seasoned mariner, he clearly realized that the boy was tiring and that the mother, though breathing hard, was being helped along by a brisk east wind. Each puff sent her reeling ahead, each zephyr filled every flounce and pleat, and each gust ballooned every ruffle as "wing-n-wing" she was driven by a following wind. Thus, when a sudden gust from astern gave her an added lift, the Old Salt was sure that he had won his wager.

Then, as he was mentally counting his winnings, an unknown passerby took the Old Salt's wind out of his sails:

"Try her on the wind, Joe!" the passerby bellowed. "Try her on the wind!"

* * *

A Barnegatter, seething with anger, once delivered a tongue-lashing that to this day has never been equalled, surpassed nor even challenged. His outburst was triggered by a publicity release issued by the city of Beverly. For reasons difficult to understand, that city-the self-proclaimed Garden City of Massachusetts-also insists that it is a seaport and the "Birthplace of the American Navy."

Understandably, the town of Marblehead-the home port of the first American warship-resented Beverly's exaggerated pretensions. On this occasion, the speaker, a hard-boiled bitter-ender, jumped at the chance to defend the Hannah's place in history.

What he said on that memorable day won the plaudits of all who were present; to one it was awesome; to another it was exhilarating. The speaker delivered a torrent of phrases peppered with searing oaths and ribald insults, literally tearing Beverly's specious claims to shreds. He also mocked and taunted the characters who continued to promote those claims.

Among those present, however, was a youngster who, failing to grasp why each sally was greeted with cheers, and why each searing thrust fathered a round of hoots, catcalls and scurrilous jibes, stood silently by, wide-eyed and puzzled ...

Were Beverlyites slavoring monsters, man-eating ogres or scary, loathsome denizens from the depths of the ocean? Were they evil spirits or could they be Old Dimond's everpresent kelpies from the Nether World?

Unable to contain his curiosity, the boy asked: "How can I tell a Beverlyite if I see one?"
"It's simple," the Barnegatter explained, "They're easy to spot. They look just like a Salemite who's had his brains knocked out."

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