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Tales of Summer To Beguile the Weather

RECALLING summertime pleasure beguiles the native during the lingering Maine winter, and I was just thinking about the time we proved that too many cooks needn't spoil the broth. We were six, that magnificent July day - Owen's birthday. With three canoes, we were toward the end of two weeks on the Allagash River. At Round Pond. We were, to point the spot, two days from takeout at the junction of the Allagash and St. John Rivers.

We six, including me, recognized ourselves as the six greatest culinary experts in the world, and every meal was an Olympic banquet. There are no convenience stores along the Allagash, and canoes have no refrigerators, but with good planning there can be better than adequate fare and by times superlative provender.

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There was one evening we concluded our lavish repast and as Louisa tilted back against a tree with her hands clasped behind her neck she said, ``How come no finger bowls? At the Poland Spring House we always got finger bowls!''

This particular evening at Round Pond we found a delightful campsite. There was a short sandy beach with a running spring handy, and a grove of spruces with open space for our tents. We had the pond to our eastward, but we expected a light west breeze would take care of bugs. Instead of watching the sunset, we would see the light from behind us make artists' dreams on the sky.

We were soon set up and had our supply boxes arranged to make larder, kitchen, pantry, and dining room. In no time Dorothy was fondling the cards and waiting for somebody to start the daily cribbage tournament. Flint was deft with the ax, and after he manufactured enough firewood for us and the next 10 parties behind us he joined her with, ``Cut for deal!'' ``Ain't that purty!'' I kept saying as I cut the ham, and Owen was arranging stones for our fireplace.

And it was purty. I shall not make to drool the readership at this time, but we dined as usual in leisure and pleasure. I had opened the tinned plumcake and steamed it tenderly, adding a maple-syrup sauce of my own invention, so things faded comfortably from the gusto of the feast to the relaxation of the post-prandial period, and we watched the crepuscular afterglow make poets' reveries across the water.

In the night a pair of amorous porcupines entertained us from down the pond, and we heard a moose splash along the marge. He who faces east no sunset sees, but east is east and up comes the sun at his appointed hour. The morning burst upon us and we splashed our ablutions where the moose had splashed.

It was our comical bent, along the Allagash, to take a vote every morning as to what kind of milk we'd like on our oatmeal. Milk is either tinned or powdered, and with this start you can homogenize any kind you want. That morning we voted on Holstein and I mixed it myself, so that's what we had. After breakfast we made ready to start to think about beginning to commence breaking camp, and Owen said, ``Hey! What's with the speedsters?''

On the far side of the lake, a canoe was passing downstream and cutting the water for fair. It was making a wake. The paddles flashed in the early sunlight, and the paddlers were putting their backs into it. Owen put the glasses on them and said it was a couple of boys. They were out of sight before we could react.

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So we broke camp and drifted along, planning to spend the next night at the Allagash Falls campsite, and several times that day we wondered back and forth about the two boys. We made soup at noon, and paused at likely spots to take our fish course at supper. When we got to Allagash Falls we found the two boys. They were playing hi-lo-jack on their upturned canoe. We settled in, and as it was Owen's birthday I was to make a cake - we had candles, too.

Before long I sidled to Flint to say, ``Big Chief! Paleface boys heap hungry!'' Flint asked them, and I was right. They had tackled the long corridor of the Maine wilderness unready and uninformed. Somebody had told them to take dried foods and pick berries. They'd had nothing to eat for three days, and one more day to the first store.

We six cooks fed 'em. Flint made hot biscuits. Dorothy opened the canned chicken. Louisa made gingerbread. Owen worked the vegetables. Red, Flint's wife, fixed the soup and fish. Owen got his birthday cake, and so did the boys.

My custards, with strawberry garnish, were made with Jersey milk - finest kind. Spoil the broth? Just before beddy-bye one of the boys wrapped Red in an embrace only his mother had felt before, and he said, ``Best supper I ever had!''

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