Down East 2013 ©
Eric called from Burlington wondering how things were going on the island. One always wonders how to begin. “Well,” I began, “we just got done with the bomb squad…”
Lots of interesting things have been happening this week. A friend of ours found a beautifully-preserved projectile point a couple of days ago, and there were EMS calls, and we had “Oil Boat Day” while the Sunbeam was in at the wharf and we very nearly had the Marine Patrol in on top of it all, but they were busy with some real work somewhere. I was sort of looking forward to the theatrics and the rumors which could start around when the Marine Patrol showed up with two big State Police bomb squad guys and it’s Suzanne and Lana from the Historical Society and maybe me from the Rubbish Department who go down there to meet them, but in the end, they came out on the airplane. Maybe we could get the word starting around that these women were being arrested for most dangerous acts of piracy. Half the island usually congregates on the wharf when the oil boat is in, as the only way to get truck gas or kerosene is to loiter around in line, so anything else that takes place in the harbor that day becomes a public spectacle.
It does help when we oil customers can sidle over to the Sunbeam for a cookie.
People get hurt in little clusters somehow, in the same way that well pumps fail in threes and fours, which they do. We EMTs were attending to one emergency this week, a bad fall, while our home phones were ringing for another of this town who had fallen (although thankfully that injury was far less dramatic). One got a plane ride in the dark and the South Thomaston ambulance; the other got a plane ride in the daylight to a few X-rays on Vinalhaven. While we were all in the back of the pickup truck with the seriously injured guy I looked up to hear one of the neighborhood volunteers who was assisting say to me “Oh by the way, my hand feels a lot better, that cut healed up just fine.” I hadn’t even recognized my patient from the week before in the dark. The next day, word came from a fourth person who’d had occasion to borrow the “loaner crutches;” her ankle was still pretty sore. I hope this little flurry of painful activity is over soon.
Both Tom and Marty called the same day, asking if Paul could recollect what kind of well pump they each had, because both water pumps had died. Neither of them phrased it that way.
The spear point and the bomb squad had a couple of things in common, one being the Historical Society, and another being our somewhat circumspect and tight-lipped attitude. The guys aboard the Sunbeam — Mike the captain and Storey the engineer and Rob the minister — all got to hear the whole of both stories, but they may have been the only ones (I think we all go aboard the ‘Beam to just talk sometimes, and say things we can’t say in most company in this tiny community). We were hanging out down on the ‘Beam like we do, eating Pat’s apple pie and discussing how the rock we always called Kineo flint is really rhyolite. (Readers might take note: this oafish computer disputes the linguistic validity of both “Kineo” and “rhyolite.”) The Sunbeam nurse was going out to make rounds, and folks asked about the injured neighbor who’d made the quick round trip to Vinalhaven and back. This being health care, she couldn’t say much.
The finder of the native artifact was fairly sure that Suzanne, our Town Historian, would have eyes for the piece and long for it to be added to our new society’s growing collection. After all, Suzanne had just that day been forced to sacrifice a prize piece of the display when the State Police bomb squad came out here and blew up the can of 1950’s Civil Defense medical ether down on the ledges at the south beach.
It was a shock-sensitive explosion hazard.
That’s what I learned at Dump School this year. At the Maine Resource Recovery Administration’s annual conference, I attended some workshops on hazardous material handling (“…for garbage men…”) and there, got a bit of a chemistry lesson. Ether that has been sitting around for many decades can form unstable organic peroxide crystals which can explode violently if dropped or jostled; violently enough, I was told, to burn down the town office. Although I have felt from time to time rather like a sort of a “tea party activist” with regard to our own local authorities, even I wouldn’t want to burn down the town office.
The finder of the arrowhead or whatever it was on Matinicus didn’t want to give it up, and I didn’t want the whole island volunteering to shoot the can of ether. We were keeping secrets.
The next day, less than twenty-four hours after the bomb squad guys left, I heard that somebody on another Maine island was walking in the marsh and happened across an object labeled “Danger-Explosive-if found call police” or something to that effect.
I guess having the bomb squad guys over, like having your well pump fail or having reason to call the EMTs, sort of happens in clusters, too.
Eva Murray of Matinicus Island unscrewed the old “DONUT” plate from a few years ago and put the two legal license plates, both the same, back on her car before meeting the State Police guys. She doubts they bothered to notice.