By Bill Romey
As Thanksgiving approached on Mill Pond a few years ago we were intrigued to see wild turkeys parading through our yard. Having previously become extinct on the Cape, they were re-introduced to the Cape in 1972 when a couple of dozen birds were brought in from New York State, perhaps from the flocks we had seen near our New York house on the edge of the Adirondacks. Since the hunting season for wild turkeys in Massachusetts is limited to four weeks beginning in late April, you can’t get one for a Thanksgiving dinner. That being the case we decided to get a big lobster instead.
Lucretia thought it would be fun to paint a watercolor of our lobster before we cooked it. So, off I went to the Nauset Lobster Pool. I looked into the tank and had to reject several lobsters because they lacked a feeler, antenna, or some other critical part. As I bent over to peer deeper into the tank the nearest lobster would back off and spread his claws wide apart in the defensive (or attack?) posture. As I pointed into the tank, one lobster which had only a single claw (a “cull” as they are disparagingly known) kept reaching clear out of the water to grab at me. Fortunate that he, like his mates, had his claw held shut with a rubber band. I avoided becoming part of a lobster’s meal and continued searching the tank. I found a nice intact four-pound lobster, brought it home and Lucretia took it out into the garage to serve as her model.
To improve the realism, she cuts the rubber bands off its claws so that the animal can close and open them freely. As I watch, I wonder what he’d do if she put a paint brush in there? Anyway, she has him posed in a position where he can’t sneak up from behind and give her the pinch she must surely deserve. From time to time, when he gets dry looking, she dunks him in the bucket of seawater from Mill Pond. A chickadee lights on the edge of the bucket, tries a drink, spits out the salt water, and flies away disgusted. Lucky for him that the lobster, lurking in the bucket at that moment, doesn’t grab him and make a meal of him! He could have been the first black-capped chickadee to be eaten by a lobster. The lobster is a gorgeous beast, with joints of cerulean blue, a greenish-gray back, and bright red and orange points sticking out from his spiny shell. When you hold him up, the pink flippers on his underside thrash about to propel him through the nonexistent water. He makes a wonderful subject for Lucretia’s painting!
The best thing about this kind of model, although it might at first seem an act of ingratitude, is that after Lucretia has drawn his picture he’ll be steamed for twenty-two minutes and quartered so that we can eat him together with steamers dug from just in front of our own house and corn on the cob (all dipped in more butter), potato salad, squash, cranberries, and even a little turkey sausage (in honor of the Thanksgiving tradition). For dessert we will eat berry pie made with our own blueberries, blackberries, and raspberries. As we dine we are celebrating and glorifying the lobster and clams and our own local vegetables.
By late afternoon, as the time approaches for our dinner, the sun sinks over the west end of Mill Pond. The afterglow from the sunset fades in the cloudless sky. Lucretia turns on the floodlights outside our big dining room window. She puts out aluminum pie plates full of dog kibbles and peelings from the vegetables that will also grace our table, as a repast for the animals which provide the show for our private dinner theater.
As we sit down, a troupe of performing rabbits appears on stage for the Lever du Rideau. As the stage lights up, with the surrounding darkness increasing, a large skunk waddles in with tail held high and begins to work on the vegetables. A second skunk joins him. After a brief scuffle and biting match the newcomer retreats. For the next act, the clowns come tumbling in: four young raccoons bump, jostle, push, jump, roll, and rollick across the lawn. Each grabs a handful of kibbles, and they sit in a row facing us, eating. Although they butt and push, there is never an angry gesture. The skunk wanders off the stage disdainfully. Meanwhile, we are sitting at our dining table enjoying our lobster and trimmings, separated from the show only by the thickness of the pane of glass.After dinner we put the lobster shells out with some more dog food and vegetable peelings to serve as a late night snack for the menagerie. By the next morning the lobster shells have been licked clean. It seems that everyone was thankful for the lobster who became our Thanksgiving dinner!
-Bill Romey is a long term resident of Orleans. He is a former professor of geology and geography at St. Lawrence University.