Rye, working a beaver hide
Five years after my last story, I was back on the Vineyard, this time in winter. A couple of the same friends I’d lived with that summer had an apartment, and it was cheap, and there was lots of good-paying work. Trevor and I were working for the same builder, restoring a massive old Victorian that overlooked the Atlantic. Place must’ve been worth… damn, I have no idea. Whatever number I throw out would probably be naively low, anyway. A lot of money, for sure.
This was a big step up from working for Ken. I was still the low man on the ladder, so to speak, but the ladder was a whole lot taller, if that makes any sense. I was responsible for most of the grunt work, but because there wasn’t a whole lot of grunt work, I got to partake of the finish work, and leveling the floors, and replacing clapboards and exterior trim, and so on. I no longer had the stupid-fast motorcycle, but I think I had another, or maybe I was between motorcycles. But I know I had a bicycle and I know I rode that a lot. A whole lot. Trevor and I would start work at 6:00 in the morning, work until our paid coffee break at 10:00, stuff our faces, and leave the job at 2:00 with a full eight-hour day behind us. I think I was up to $20/hr, which at that point in my life (and remember, this would’ve been the early 90’s), felt like a whole lot of money. Anyway, after work I’d climb on my bike and pedal all over the island.Yeah, it was winter, but winter on the Vineyard is pretty half-ass. I had me a Sony Walkman, one of those yellow ones that was supposed to be water and shock resistant, and I listened to that a lot. Appetite For Destruction had been out a few years, but I’d only just caught wind of it. That, and lots of Rush. Not sure what else, but probably something pretty awful.
So one morning Trevor and I are on the job, and it’s early – 6:30 or so – and this woman shows up to dig a ditch for the sprinkler system. It’s barely light out. It was February, and pretty chilly, maybe 40-degrees, and raining a bit, and generally just a shitshow. The ocean all gray and foreboding. The woman was riding a bicycle. She had a shovel and a mattock strapped to the frame of the bicycle. I didn’t have a girlfriend at the time, I actually don’t think I was even looking or cared much; I was into making money, riding my bicycle, and hanging out with my friends. Sure, I noticed attractive women; no doubt I made occasionally fumbling attempts to make myself seem attractive to them, but at that point in my life, it just wasn’t a focal point for me. Which in hindsight seems a little odd for a 21-year-old guy, but that’s just the way it was.
But this was something different for sure. I mean, this woman had ridden her bike a dozen miles in the rain, in the near-dark of early morning, in February, with a goddamned shovel and mattock, to dig a trench so some fool with more money than sense would be assured a green-enough lawn come the dry days of August. I was mighty intrigued, I was.
I flirted a bit, at least to the best of my ability, which wasn’t much. I remember being up on some scaffolding on the exterior of the house and there was some gloppy snow – maybe accumulated on the porch roof, or maybe on the scaffold planks themselves – and I remember throwing snowballs at her while she dug. Grade-school stuff. Real smooth operator.
I don’t recall much else from the job site; I think she finished the trench, went off to some other job, probably rode her bike to that one, too, lugging whatever tools were required. But I remember running into her in the book store in town – I used to go there quite a bit – and I asked if she wanted to go to my bosses wedding with me, which was coming right up. And she looked at me, and said: “Sure.”
And then she said: “What’s your name again?”
And a half-dozen years later, we got married ourselves.
18 thoughts on “More to the Story”
What a great story and image of your now-wife with the shovel on a bike in the rain. Beautiful peaks at the early days of the journey to this life you’ve built – and of course, the foundation is such a love!
Ha–saw that coming!
Thank God for snowballs and your refusal to grow beyond the desire to play. Penny is a prize, and your rooftop “mischief” has made all the difference! Thanks for sharing this insightful and heartwarming saga. (I think I’ll pepper a few snowballs at Geof this weekend.)
Wonderful story, Ben. Makes me smile.
Omg, you threw snowballs in order to flirt? You dork! Cute story:}
Did you take out your bright-laughing, trench-digging lady for a snowball fight this morning? 🙂
Finding your life mate seems to be a hit or miss thing and often seems to happen in the most unusual/unlikely places.
I thought that everybody dug their lawn irrigation trenches with a “Ditch Witch”.
Did none of us get the smooth-operator “jeans”? ( Likely Rye.) God helps us anyways.
Great story, Ben! I have found the best men are the ones who really don’t flirt well and are just themselves. It’s far more attractive – as Penny probably will attest to!
Sent from my happy mobile world to yours!
Can just barely picture you careening down State Road to the tune of Welcome to the Jungle..
So sweet. Genuine. As it should be.
You’ve written about your meeting Penny before but I appreciate that each time, it’s a little different. Great writing allows for the same basic story to be recounted in numerous ways with each retelling revealing something new. I love that she agreed to go to the wedding without remembering your name at first. That says a lot right there!
Loved it. Thank you.
Regards, Carl Wick
A star St Sears address