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Buckie's chowder

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All but one thing had been packed when Bill Dornbusch arrived punctually from winter quarters in Bennington and we were ready to head into the Maine woods on the 20th annual Grandfathers' Retreat - an occasion calling for a considerable wangan, as we refer to the ample supplies that will sustain us for a week. The one thing not in the boxes and bags in the pickup truck gives me a chance to tell about Buckie.

Lester Buck was a registered Maine guide at Kennebago Lake for years, a fixture who had his regular list of sports. Buckie knew where the trout and salmon were, and at nooning he would row his double-ender into one of the many lunchgrounds around the lake and prepare the usual trout chowder.

Buckie didn't just make a chowder, because anybody in that region could make a chowder. Buckie made a Buckie chowder, and although he was faithful about placing the boat over feeding fish, the chowder had much to do with the repeats - some of his sports had been guided by Buckie until they came again bringing grandsons who, in turn, sang the praises of Buckie's chowders.

Buckie had no family that I ever knew about, and when the angling season came to an end each fall and the hunting season opened, Buckie ceased guiding for the year and moved downstate for the winter. Buckie had a soft spot for the deer, and didn't want to be around when the shooting started.

For one thing, he had started taming deer years before, and amused a great many paying guests with his uncanny ability to call them from the woods. Some people have a knack with animals, and Buckie had one with deer. Before the first anglers came in the spring he would ride down the lake to the lunchground at the Big Sag and crumble some saltines on a stump. Then he would sit quietly by and now and then make a little sigh, something like the way a doe talks to her fawn. Being Buckie, he soon had a deer peeking out, and as deer are fond of salt, the crumbled crackers enticed. Two or three visits and Buckie had a tamed deer that would come charging out to get crackers whenever Buckie called, ''Here, deer, come-come!'' Then, when his first sports arrived and guiding began, Buckie had the stage set.


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