And now, back to our regularly scheduled lobsters
`THE special show scheduled for this time segment has been preempted by our usual program.'' The television industry has successfully thwarted all opportunities to learn the English language, so I was not astonied (arch.) to hear the forecited foreword forthrightly stated, and I put my feet up to watch the program I meant to watch anyway. Everything worked out fine, and the experience proves that television can, if it wants to, do something right once in a while, even if by mistake.
Why, I shyly ask, does a Maine television station bring us in vivid excitement a football game between two colleges in Nebraska that nobody in the State of Maine ever heard of? Why not the brutal clash, on that same day, between Deering High and Portland High - an annual grudge game of local interest? Or, for that matter, a couple of cribbage games from the fire station?
The best Christmas show we got the past season had two horses twitching home a Christmas tree. Background music was, naturally, ``Jingle Bells,'' the country's favorite yuletide carol. Why a horse? Why two horses?
Anyway, I fell to recollecting the New Year's Eve when the lobsters of Jules Gauvin were preempted, and we all turned to and helped him dispose of his regularly scheduled shipment. Jules ran a fish market in Sherbrooke, Quebec, and a good part of the folks in that bustling inland community depended on him for seafood.
Over the years Jules had established his supply, and he carried about anything that swims. For fresh lobsters he depended on a buyer and shipper in Montague, Prince Edward Island, and for years all had gone well in spite of a complicated arrangement.
The shipper would put an iced crate of live lobsters on the island train early Wednesday morning, and at Charlottetown the crate would be transferred to the ferry train that would cross the Northumberland Straits to Sackville, New Brunswick. At Sackville, connection would be made with the crack Trans-Canada express from Halifax to Vancouver, and now the lobsters were well on their way to Jules. This train leaves McAdam Junction, New Brunswick, and plunges into the long corridor of the Maine wilderness to emerge at daybreak in Lac M'egantic, Quebec.
This trip across Maine spares the Canadian Pacific the long haul up around the hump of Maine, a matter of a day or more. The train arrives at Sherbrooke at 8 a.m., where Jules's lobsters are set off and the lounge car is opened to serve breakfast. Montreal is 90 miles ahead.
For holidays, Jules had a standing arrangement with the shipper to double his order, so on the morning of that last day of the year Jules expected two crates of lobsters - each crate weighs 100 pounds. By this time it got to be 8:30 and the expressman hadn't brought his lobsters, so Jules telephoned the CP station and was told that no lobsters had arrived. They must have been preempted.
All day long Jules had to explain to his disappointed customers that there would be no homards for the holiday - no lobsters. His chagrin at failing his customers was exceeded only by the sorrow over the profit he didn't make. And then, just as Jules was locking up for the evening to go home and join his family for the customary and traditional New Year's festivities, comes the Canadian Pacific expressman with two crates of lobsters. They had been carried by that morning, and were just now back from Montreal on the ``down'' train.
Jules said he didn't want them. The store was closed. The hour was late. They wouldn't keep over the holiday. The expressman agreed that the railroad had goofed, and explained that Jules was not obligated. The railroad would pay, but what was he to do with 200 pounds of lobsters? Inspiration is a magnificent asset, and Jules was inspired. Why not take the 200 pounds of lobsters and stage a big New Year's feast, sponsored willy-nilly by the Canadian Pacific?
Why not, indeed?
We chanced to be visiting that New Year's with relatives of Madame Gauvin, and when she telephoned her invitation was readily accepted. When 200 pounds of lobsters are heaped all red and hot on a table, they make a formidable sight and a New Year's to be remembered. The feast began as the old year waned. Now I must tell about the tourti`ere.
If the word is known in France, it means something else, but in French-Canada a tourti`ere is a pork pie consumed with gusto and in great numbers at Christmas and New Year's. It looks like a good mincemeat pie as it comes hot to table, but it is not sweet. A Quebec New Year never begins until everybody has had his tourti`ere.
Except that year. By the time the assemblage had finished with those lobsters, the tourti`eres had cooled in desuetude.
Pronounce Jules ``zheel.''