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June 29. 2013 10:59PM

John Harrigan's Woods, Water & Wildlife: The origins of old terms, and the warriors at camp


 

WE ARE HAVING longtime and new friends over for supper this weekend, just shy of the Fourth of July, my all-time favorite day of the year, everyone's birthday.

"Locavore" is a trendy term these days, although I prefer "localvore." But whatever the case, there's nothing much more local than jump-steak, a code-word for venison. That's what we'll have if I have any left, which only rummaging around in the freezer will tell - plus any locally raised vegetables we can find, though for us it's early in the season.

Supper - now there's a term almost gone into the great beyond. In our household on Park Street (actually Route 145, connecting Colebrook and Pittsburg, but in town it's Park Street), it was breakfast, dinner, supper, with maybe a lunch in between. When did the extended-pinky-finger term "dinner" come into small-town and rural use? (I can hear my kids now, rolling their eyes: "Dad, you're older than dirt").

This semantic was reinforced when I was working out east for Lyman Forbes, when milking 104 cows was a big deal (now a couple of thousand is considered nothing unusual), and Althea Forbes was putting on a huge noontime dinner before we resumed work in the afternoon.

To me, the origins of words are fascinating - "fetch," and "can't abide" and "hither and yon," not to mention "fetching," as an adjective (this not to go get something, but an allure. Call it that come-hither look. "Supper" goes way back, a combination of words, the sup-hour.

Old-timers at hunting and fishing camps I worked at in days of yore used "fetch," as in "Fetch me a boat," and of course I did that and more, being an teenager. But I worshiped the ground those older guys walked on, chief among them Rudy Shatney, who had fought together in World War II, from D-day to the end. They were a true band of brothers. They did not tell war stories because they were the real deal, and they stayed together ever after unto death. I'd have done anything for them. They trusted each other with their lives, as I did. It was a privilege to walk with them.

It was a simpler and somehow more innocent time back then in the late-'50s when I came along as an all-round helper at the camps. We spent long days in early winter finding deer, figuring out where they might go, getting a crack at them. As the supposed unlimited-energy teenager, I usually dragged what we shot unless it was too big for one guy. This is why my right arm is longer than my left.

At the end of a long day, we gave each other back-rubs on the couch in the main cabin, before and after supper. I'll never forget, every now and then, seeing a piece of shrapnel pop out of someone's shoulder or back, chiefly Rudy's, holder of the Silver Star and Purple Heart, and it might come across as odd now to say it, but it was an honor to rub his back.

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John Harrigan's address: Box 39, Colebrook, NH 03576, or hooligan@ncia.net


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