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Two bad apples fall when our family tree is shaken

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Capt. Will Harding of Harding's Station, East Brunswick, Maine, was the last of a long and prosperous family of Hardings. I never knew what Captain Harding was captain of. It may well have been a full-rigged ship, but the only boat of his that I ever knew about was a 28-foot power boat such as lobstermen use. And while he started to build her, he never finished. It was his whimsy to invite folks to the launch on the Fourth of July, but he never stipulated any particular year.

I mention Captain Will because he was proud of an ancestor whose portrait hung on the kitchen wall of the very pretentious Harding Home at Harding's Station. Yes, the family had its own railroad station.

This portrait was a handsome thing. The ancestor was portrayed with something of a florid countenance, suggesting a hearty appetite and a happy laugh, and with a lace stock at the neck, embroidered vest, and green velvet jacket. The frame was teak. It was so placed that anybody coming into the house by the family door saw it immediately and wondered who that elegant gentleman might be.

Captain Harding had a bit of a memorized explanation for those who asked. He'd say, "Ancestor of mine. Signed the Declaration. Pirate, you know." If you doubted him, or asked for particulars, Captain Harding had a book he'd take down and show you.

There's no reason I know of that kept pirates from being ancestors, and in a culture where everybody is descended from proper people only, Captain Harding took joy over many years in bragging about the family pirate.

That every family had a black sheep is customarily denied by genealogy buffs, and in our family we had one who believed all scalawags with our name were upright people falsely accused by uncaring offspring. Any suggestion that somebody among us may have been naughty was reprimanded by "Certainly not in our family!"

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