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

Only In Marblehead

Can one find a sign that reads "ANTIQUES MADE TO ORDER UP TO 300 YEARS OLD."

A coin dealer whose weekly newspaper advertisement informs all thieves and would-be thieves that he never keeps any valuable coins in his home!

A Board of Selectmen that willingly grants Great Britain's renowned Oxford University Press the right to reproduce the town's famous painting, "The Spirit of '76," in a songbook on one condition: That the book contain the Reverend Marcia Selman's stirring anthem, "Marblehead Forever!"

A storekeeper considered by his customers to be "as straight as a hoop."

A spinner of yarns whose tales are so far-fetched that it is generally agreed that he would someday be drummed out of hell for lying!

A bachelor who annually offers a Thanksgiving dinner for two, after they prove that they are poorer than he!

Entering a local diner, a visitor asked: "Do you serve crabs here?"
"We serve anyone! So grab yourself a table," came the reply.

"How does one get to Beverly?" a visitor asked.
" 'Tis easy," the Barnegatter answered. "But let me tell you this: when you get there, you'll wish you was somewhere else."

* * *

How well I remember the day my grandfather came to share our Sunday dinner, a nice fat roaster fit for a king.

"It's scrumptuous," he exclaimed. "Where'd you get it?"

"In Salem," my father replied.

"In that case," my grandfather snapped, rising from the table. "I say to hell I pitch it. For I'll be damned if I'll eat any bird that has wings and is too dumb to show Salem its tail feathers!"

* * *

Benjamin "Poppy" Stevens and his aged father, "Fifer" Stevens, trapped for fish to the rear of Cat Island. Poppy, a portly Barnegatter, was a salty character, a tobacco-chewing, sweater-clad hail-fellow-well-met. He was also a gifted teller of tall tales, a brazen-faced prevaricator and hornswoggler.

On one occasion, a young boy, overcome with curiosity, asked him a loaded question: "Sir, how come you lost the end of your finger? Was it when you was in the navy... and got it caught in a block or something?"

"No-o-o," drawled Poppy. 'Tweren't nothin' like that. 'Twas worser, much worser. It happened the day my wife sweet-talked me into goin' to church.

"When we got home after church let out, she hollered, sayin' she couldn't get our dinner 'cause there weren't no kindlin' to start a fire in the stove.

"So, I went out to the woodshed and picked up my axe and began to slice a sliver or two off a chunk of driftwood," Poppy explained. "But somehow or t'other, the axe hit a knot and WHAMMO, it sheared off my finger-nail and all."

"Golly-gee," quavered the boy, taken aback by Poppy's ill-fortune.

"That's okay, boy," replied Poppy. "It happened long ago, and it weren't too bad...for it taught me a lesson.

"I never ag'in let the missis talk me into goin' to church ...

"And I've never ag'in lost me another finger!"

* * *

There are some people who favor the Unitarian Church and its articles of faith:
1. The Fellowship of God
2. The Brotherhood of Man
3. The Peerless Virtues of Marblehead
Certain Old Timers, however, insist that no native-born Marbleheader would ever accept that creed UNLESS THE ORDER WAS REVERSED!

* * *

"Sounds a bit off-key, don't it?" the owner of a stinkpot observed, struggling to tune an engine which spasmodically emitted a series of coughs, muffled clunks and burps.

The Barnegatter cocked an ear.

"It sure does," he said. "Worse'n two skeletons making love on a tin roof."

* * *

Several generations before air pollution, contaminated soil and other noxious evils frightened Marblehead's concerned public out of its wits, the caretaker at the town dump wisely posted:


This road is long and dusty
So for your sake and my sake
And for Christ's sake
Please drive slowly!

* * *

He was a lobsterman by trade, a ruddy-faced, clean-shaven, six-foot, seven-inch-tall Barnegatter. Although outwardly gruff and irascible, he was actually a good-natured, friendly soul. His boots, which he aimed at our rearends when we committed one of our boyish pranks, always missed their target. His blistering scoldings, which accompanied them, were also delivered tongue-in-cheek.

In our eyes, this lobsterman was the salt of the earth. He had taught us how to row, how to "feather" our oars, how to tie knots, how to coil a rope, how to scull and how never to "catch a crab." To one and all, each man and boy, this tall, lean, gangly 'Gatter was our friend "Mutcho."

He had enlisted in the army shortly after the outbreak of the Spanish-American War and was shipped to Cuba after a brief training period. One day, he and a tent-mate visited a nearby village and encountered a diminutive Cuban field hand along the way. To their surprise and bewilderment, the field hand stopped and stared wide-eyed at the lean and lanky figure of the 'Gatter.

"Mucho alto!" he exclaimed, overawed by the American soldier's height. "Mucho alto! Mucho alto!"

Turning to his companion, the astonished Barnegat lobsterman blurted: "Well, I'll be damned! Who'd a thought they'd knowed me way down here!"

* * *

She was vastly old -- a tiny, withered, wrinkled grandmother whose mind, as clear as crystal, was a veritable fount of cherished memories. Widowed in mid-life, and subsequently plagued by hardship and want, she had somehow managed to raise, feed and clothe six mischievous children.

Those years were trying years, she said, marred only on two occasions by untoward circumstances.

... the weekend she had spent in Boston as a bride.

... the three weeks she had been bedridden in Salem Hospital! "God!" she moaned. "Them furrin' places...they ain't fit to live reek o' no'theasters cold as a witch's tit... no tasty dishes of boiled hagdon and codfish Whistlebelly nothin'. Just a bit o' pap...a leaf o' lettuce...a teeny-weeny helpin' of spoon victuals...and a lot of highfalutin' talk!"

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