A continuing tale of life in the boonies
Barry Finn is front row left, Wild Bill front center.
A Mad Dash!
Farmington Hay Day, the fifth in a continuing series, was marked down as a success by all and sundry...quite remarkable in a community noted for the divergent viewpoints of its citizenry. More people visited more concession booths, more dogs encountered the same old gymkhana cat, more Young Hucks shot shy glances at more Li'l Miss Hay Days. A record number of horseshoe slingers tussled for the Henry Wilson Trophy and an unforeseen number of competitors, including four Englishmen, tossed sheaves over a bar. (These foreigners, incidentally, crumbled before the strength and skill of local lads.)
But, you ask, did the Long John Silver Agon live up to the hype? Yessirree Bob, it did!
The early part of the day was punctuated with distant explosions, which people knew to be Ellsworth Hancock test-firing his cannon out back of his apartment. Eyes would scan the sky to see if Ellsworth was sailing towards the ballpark, as several soothsayers had predicted. Kristie's bar experienced brisk trade from a small knot of Silvers fortifying themselves for the epic. Barratts 5 & 10 encountered a mid-morning rush on plumber's plungers, which all fashion-conscious peg-legs are wearing these days, along with those abominable Hawaiian shirts. At 11:30 a.m., with half an hour before the off, confusion reigned in the Community Center, as a score of diverse competitors, united by a sublime sense of the ridiculous, strapped on parrots, stuck down beards, tied up legs and vied for the best crutches. Then, armed to the teeth with machetes, pistols, cudgels and muskets, they hirpled up Main Street to the starting line for the world's first (and last?) Long John Silver Agon.
Sadly missing from the line-up of piratical mad-caps was Brownie. The previous evening, lashed to a five-foot high parrot, he had stumped around his living room to the alarm of Mrs. Brown, and had fallen over, sustaining a minor injury.
At five minutes to noon, Mr. Lefty Lee of Lefty Lee and the Drifters, was expected to perform a hornpipe on the mouthorgan, but he too was absent. Speculation grew that Lefty had stayed away, fearing that Alterations by Doris may have placed spies among the throng of onlookers. As a musical substitutiuon, Barry Finn struck up a traditional sea-chantey, carefully avoiding the disreputable verses, and his stirring chorus was echoed by all around. As the strains of singing died away, Mr. Ellsworth Hancock, looking like the re-incarnation of Daniel Boone, stepped forward and ignited his cannon with the glowing tip of a cheroot. Kaabooom! The massed ranks of Long Johns leapt up instead of forward, with a great shivering of timbers.
Everyone was taken aback by the speed of the event. The pirates swung madly for the planks over the water, with Marshall Colwell (dog officer), a puppy instead of a parrot on his shoulder, just ahead of Wild Bill Vachon and Jose Casado. The crowd laughed as Long John Mike Lee broke a plank and plunged water-wards. The Marshall, too, went into a tail-spin when his peg-leg hooked in a grating, and first to reach the coconuts were Wild Bill and Barry. As they grabbed at the nuts, suspended from an overhead rope, 18 others flicked high in the air to come crashing down, spilling milk and confusion. Wild Bill was joined in the lead by Kip Spear, but the latter was a brief candle snuffed out by the rigging. Wild Bill blasted through and onwards towards the obligatory rum in Kristies, hotly pursued, once more by Barry Finn, with other pirates pouring through the ship's rigging and close on their heels.
During Agon post-mortums, many have reflected that if Wild Bill Vachon had not lingered for three rums, things might have been different. As it was, Barry Finn was first to roll the cannon ball between the skeleton's legs. drink, with puckered face, the switchel, and swing down on a rope to pick up a treasure map and a shovel.
Not all over, though, by any means. Breathing down his neck were Long John Kurt Olson and others with the smell of loot growing stronger in their nostrils. A complicated series of paces, involving cunning changes in direction, threw some off the track to mark time against trees or stone walls, but most were drawn to a large bush under which frantic activity was occurring. Perhaps if Kurt had dug more than he laughed...perhaps if Wild Bill had started his open-cast mine further to the north ... each have their hard luck story. The only way to be sure of money was to sell pirate hats and eye patches.
Anyhow, Barry Finn drove his spade right through the chest and gave a whoop! New England Cablevision captured the moment for posterity. The crowd wiped away tears of merriment and felt good about living in Farmington. After all, where else could a dream as crazy as this come true.
Sincere thanks to the following Long Johns: Kim Cardinal, Jose Casado, Marshall Colwell, Dan Conway, Janice Cowan, Barry Finn, Nick Jolles, Mike Lee, Colin McArdle, Bernie Nason, Freddy Olson, Kurt Olson, Kip Spear, Wild Bill Vachon, Linda Webber, Tim Woodward and Anonymous Ladies 1 & 2, and to all the kind folks who contributed in so many ways.
Sept. 2, 1986
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