The Codman Place
We took the loads across town to “the barn” and this was a considerably shorter drive except when we had to “swing around by” the “gas & go” on the way back. At the barn my mother and grandmother made us unload at the front this time and they’d start sorting right there and dividing the stuff up into the barn and their cars. These were parked out front. They didn’t sort the way that they did across the river. Here they pretty much took everything out of the trunks and boxes and took all of that except a few things back into the barn. Those few things went in the cars. The empty trunks and boxes were piled off to one side outside the barn door… except for certain selected trunks and boxes that they said were “too good”. I got pretty good at knowing a “too good” one for not only did it look the “real old” when we carried it out of the attic but most of the time my grandmother would say “put that one over here” when we unloaded it. “Over here” was back inside the barn door by a little room she kept locked. It was open most of the day but it was locked when we left that night.
And night it was. Ant never said a word about it but it was getting dark before we locked up the house and …finished taking all the boxes and trunks outside the barn over to the barn across the river like my grandmother told us to. Ant always seemed to know what we were doing and when we left the barn for the last load across the river he said he’d bring me back and “It was a good day: Went real well” and how it was good to “get that behind us”. My grandmother told him we’d “work it out tomorrow” and… that was that for when we finished the last load he just dropped me off without “stepping in” like he usually did. It was dark then and the lights were on in my grandmother’s dining room.
She made me get undressed in the shed as usual and made me “YOUR SO DIRTY” take a shower right away. When I went through the dining room I saw they had the table all covered with old papers that I guessed they’d fetched out of the trunks. My mother and grandmother were looking at ‘em; piling them up and trying to read different parts of them. Both of them had their glasses on and were stooped in-under the light above the dining table, holding the old papers. There was no problem knowing they were real old papers; anyone could see that.
The next morning was where it really came true to me (and it has been true to me ever since over all these years) about how… when one “breaks up an estate” one sort of “lives” “the family” for a while. Once they had all those papers… which were from the Bateman family just like they’d figured, my mother and grandmother pretty much didn’t shut up about that family for the next three months. Everything was “Bateman” this or that. And all the other names too like “Pricilla”, “Anna”, “Comfort” or “Willie”, “Enoch” or… “Briney”. The last “drowned at sea” they always said. On and on they’d go about who was that, whose that was, why this was and then is that, who that this was why and the “this should be” “therefore”. It was just a little strange then but NOW it is such a normal thing that I really relish it. What happens is you have so much of a “family” in an “intact estate” that their whole timeline eloquence just spills out on to everything. This is furthered by there being no regulation or guide lines about the “processing” or examination of the estate; it’s the “let’er rip” method. This makes professional archivist cringe but HELL I never see them in no “house” “clean ‘en out”. And that’s the gap I’ve yet to see… rectified.
But my grandmother and mother knew how to rectify an “old place”. They just rolled in it. I now know that any dealer worth a salt shaker rolls in it… to the best of their abilities too. Pretty much “anything” that “is” part of what ever is determined to be the “core” of the estate is “squirreled off” to be “looked at” “later”. And this “later” can be, for example, twenty years. What’s left is the “dog barf” with a few “select additions”. The core contents then is “worked on” VERY carefully for …decades… for…. by “piecing it out” “slowly” one can “live off of it” “for years”. Also… and going back to those papers on the dining room table that night… there is a certain internalized voyeurism explored by many dealers when “handling” “an estate” that takes years to “finish researching”. This is especially true if the estate has “something going on” as for example here when there is a “clutch” of “Revolutionary War” “stuff”. But in these days that was all “new” to me. And Ant; he didn’t ever really “get it” but, ah… he always said how he “didn’t school” “much” and how, when he worked with my grandmother she’d always “prove him” how much it “cost him”. Then he’d tell me about how to stay in school and how he remembered how my uncle “went to college” and “how smart” “your mother is”. And all.
Now… that day in the attic… I, right off, took the house shaped box with the War of 1812 woodcuts pasted to it and …demanded to keep it. My grandmother didn’t fight that but… she did look through all the papers inside the box and… only took a few out … but said “not to loose any” of the rest she left. I didn’t. I’d take those out one by one for years and…well; stare at them and then… carefully put them back. The were mostly mid and second half of the 19th century color lithographed advertising cards and pamphlets, some almanacs and a bunch of little tiny cards with people’s names on them.
After that attic clean out… there was not much to do… one would suppose… especially if you were twelve years old doing what other people told you to do. “LOOKS CLEAN TO ME!” was my assessment and… I stood by to “help Richard” and all TOO but …no one had seen him… AND
Was I ever wrong. Today, thirty plus years later I know how to WAIT for just this moment in an “S-state” (S-state) for back then I’d be just LIKE ANYONE would be: “IT’S EMPTY”.
AND IT AIN’T. Not even a long ways there to be an “empty” by my grandmother’s standards.
But she got “the keys”. That was because Richard and the …anyone else… decided by themselves TOO that …the Codman Place… “was empty” NOW. So… in his words, my grandmother… “could HAVE anything” “else” “she wanted”. That friggen bitch “wanted” TRUCK LOADS “out of there” “still”. And she got ‘em… for free.
There was one exception to this moment of conveyance of “the keys”. Richard DID appear after, evidently having been well aware all along what we’d been doing (I guess he’d “come in” after we left in the evening) and we ALL did a “walk through” the main house together and the …shed, the little building by the shed and the barn… . And… all stood around just inside the barn door pointing to the this and that’s and “off to the side” and… more pointing and NO ONE GOING a God damn STEP into that barn… and… “Huh.”. I said that to myself because the more I stood there saying nothing and listening the more I could “still see” “stuff” that “I knew” my grandmother was “gonna take”. So: “Huh.”
But that isn’t what happened right then because… . Well… WHEN we “walked through the basement of the house it was pretty damn empty to everyone’s eyes except that genuine World War II helmet of Richards… which he took down from it’s nail and carried along with him without making ANY comment and no else saying anything and the only person I seemed to think see all that was ME and since that was that then …that was that. Right?
While we were just inside the barn “talking” Richard would roll that helmet around in his hands just about in my face so… let’s just say I …knew where that helmet was and figured I knew where it was going. That shrine to his brother had all been moved out piecemeal I’d come to understand and … at the new house it hadn’t been “allowed” “inside”. Richard had stacked it all up in the trunks and boxes in about half of what was once a harness room inside the barn. Remember them friggen “harness rooms” when you stare at the outside of an old barn. This is the second time in just this story where one sees their current incarnation. The first time is that “room” that my grandmother locked up everyday at HER barn. If one combines the two uses one will note that… in most cases… those rooms, being sealed up, dry, modestly well lit by natural lighting and… “clean”… are …preferred treasure trove storage vessels by… many a Mainer who’s “GOT A BARN”, got “something good” and “needs a place to put it” “that’s safe”. Pay particular attention to ‘em if… they are “locked”. I figure the helmet was going to be the “hung up” “in there”.
Just about the last moment of this seemingly innocuous and idle chit-chat that included that “HAVE ANYTHING YOU WANT” enunciation that I now know how to wait for like a clenched clawed rapier of … hawk sitting in a tree top watching the chicken pen door at dawn… Richard turn his gawk suddenly down on me and handed UP the helmet on to the top of my head saying “HOW” I “SURE EARNED IT” and I “WAS A BETTER HOME FOR IT” then his head and it would “GIVE” me “SOMETHING TO REMEMBER THE HARD WORK WITH”.
Remember the hard work with? This was work? Ant was smiling. I was …blinded by the helmet being down over my eye’s. My mother was doing the “SAY THANK YOU” crap. AND…from then on it was my helmet and I had that steel bucket with it’s camouflaged covering and “liner” around for the next decade of my life… until…after the Vietnam War protests were over and all… and it became… obsolete to my life and…well…: I assume I “sold it” along the way then. AND I DON’T wish I had it back but at the time I was as happy as a… WHAT DO YOU CALL a twelve year old kid whose filled his room(S! for I got … “more space” out of ‘em for MY stuff too) full of “authentic” relics of one’s own DISTINGUISHED selection process that PROVED that “the stuff they keep” “ain’t” “as good” as “WHAT I KEEP”: “WANT TO SEE A REAL WORLD WAR II HELMET? I got it from a guy who drove a TANK!”. Got it?
So that aced me for the rest of that day and wasn’t until the next day …at dawn… when Ant and I were in the yard of the “Codman Place” with my grandmother that “we” found out just “HOW MUCH” “was left” “to go”. It was raining… real hard. “We’ll start in the barn.” said my grandmother.
I thought we’d “done the barn” pretty good. The “upstairs” was empty to my eye. The downstairs had all been the “gone through” and Richard had got all his “tools” “out”. There WAS this big terminal moraine of “trash” to be “thrown out” that my grandmother had made us make down one whole side of the center of the barn next to the stalls and… it WAS TRUE that here and there… in the harness rooms and stalls and the wood shed and the back pens and… well… all the “over there” too… there, after all… “is” “quite a bit”.
That was, again, uttered to myself because my grandmother had already told Ant to “take” “all that (trash)” “to the barn (across the river). All that? In the rain? We DID, all day long and … it’s true… that it probably DID look like we were taking it to “the dump” because THAT WAS the way one DID GO to go to the dump and… as it was …raining… we didn’t “see” “anyone” the whole day. Except for Evelyn at the Gas & Go who said “AREN’T YOU FINISHED YET” to Ant who said how my grandmother was “making sure” it was “clean”.
“Clean”: That… “S-state” was CLEAN like you’d be CLEAN if … my grandmother bare-assed you and … soaped you and… wire brushed you… and… tossed you’s the stark naked right out in YOUR OWN front yard. IT TOOK FIVE MORE DAYS to “get it” “clean”.
By the time… I’d finished carrying the… old floor boards, formerly THE floor of one of the first floor rooms during …the 1820’s…, down from the attic floor where… they’d been laid on top of the actual attic floor… and no one would have ever noticed ‘em except my grandmother… and out to the truck… to… “driv ’em cross the riv-ah”, stacked ‘em in that barn and…: Ant claimed he knew they “were there” but I see’d ‘im slid his foot on them dust covered boards when my grandmother first started to talk about their impending exodus and then… look off across the empty attic to denote just how far over they did go… . WE was PRETTY WELL DONE THEN. But that was the five days later. The first day was that rainy day with the “trash”. AND…as I recall…; the intention of this story was to relate as to how I found my first “rare book” that I knew was a rare book when I found it. SOME time it’s been since I mentioned that! THAT’S because I’s ah had to “background” you so’s you’s can appreciate HOW a little crap like me COULD find a rare book.
WE took that “trash” “out”. It then became an awareness to me that… considerably more than I’d… considered… “was left” “in the barn”. TRUCK LOAD after TRUCK load was left in there but one would ah never know’d it for… it was not only “dark” in there but I guess the word that is best deployed is that is was “compressed”. NOT TO BE SEEN in the now “open” interior of the “old barn” was, particularly on the first floor, THIRD FLOOR and the odd little fourth floor that was only across the “way back” of the barn… a startling amount of “stuff” “there”. My grandmother knew damn well it was there. She also knew that MOST of it came from that Bateman estate “from down to” Brooksville. “STUFF THERE” it were… WAY UP IN THE BACK… in boxes (19th century wooden boxes) that be the “full of” … the “old stuff” from, evidently THAT old house. These had been moved to the Codman Place… about… maybe… the 1920’s but… it became evident, had in most cases actually been “packed” in the MID 19th century and moved “here” “unopened”. But I was too stupid then to comprehend this and the merit of this. My grandmother was not.
ALL of this residue went directly to the cross-town barn and… the whirlwind of my mother and grandmother laid them boxes empty and stacked up JUST about as fast as we brought them in there. “AND EVERYTHING ELSE” too.
This last was “SHE’S NUTS” level removal. Ant said that. This is because she had him in under one of the stair cases in the barn with a crow bar ripping off a board to “get at” “the stuff” in-under that stair. He’d “never seen that” he admitted, particularly as it…; “the stuff”, was “obviously good” once exposed. Pieces, bits, scraps, sections and every damn stick, board end, metal scraps and… for a bibliognoste… “ALL PAPER” “was taken” “out” and … “saved”.
It was during this phase that I acquired my rare book. In general, the requirement was, once a space was perceived to be empty, to “go over it again” (and again) paying particular attention to the darkest, most “in-under” areas, loose boards, possible “space behind that” hiding places, dusty corners…, old little piles of hay and any …pile that could not be clearly answered as to “What’s under it?”, ALL the “old firewood” piles…, the stall and pen corners, floors, ceilings…., ALL beams and beam “tops”, “crotches”, ALL window frames… and… on & on & on until FINALLY my grandmother, HERSELF, stopped “finding” “more”.
What happened was … that there really was “stuff” all over in the dust and dirt of the floors. And I was going along up there with the flashlight and there was this flat square that looked like a board. It was all covered with dust and had been stepped on and bent a little it looked like “nothing” but… “I was suppose to” “get it” so… I picked it up and even though completely dirty I saw is was “a book” right away and I opened it up and shined the flashlight on the first page and
SAW the date of “1795” with a printed “picture” of a United States eagle in a circle… and… I KNEW THIS was “good”. It was, to be precise, a small bound folio; bound in first half of the nineteenth century half calf and orange marbled paper covered boards with the “KENNEBECK (sic) INTELLIGENCER” on the spine in gilt…, retaining “a run” of this… the first newspaper published in Augusta, Maine… beginning with …the first (Nov. 14, 1795) issue and continuing through September 1800 when it “stopped”. It was dirty on the outside, clean on the inside, bent, bowed, big for a book, sort of thick and … “MINE”. The date and that eagle did it. The rest “was nothing” except of course it was an “OLD NEWSPAPER” (“DATED FROM THE EIGHTEEN HUNDREDS SEE!”).
I didn’t have any problem passing that through the “artifacts found today” inspection committee who looked at it in the cab of Ant’s truck where I put it. They said it was “nice”. And nothing else. Ever. So I had it. For years. In my room. And I KNEW it was good… all the way through high school. I’d occasionally look at it, show it to some kid and “try” “to read it”. I’ve never been able to “READ” an old newspaper; I’m too superficial to bother to understand what the people were writing about. BUT with that date and that eagle… IT WAS MINE. Then one day after I’d graduated from high school and was either “going” or “was going” “to college”… this… and I remember this clearly but only sort of spot clearly… this… MAN came to “the house”.
And this man…; he went on & on with everyone about everything and… in that on & on was “any old PRINTS?”. Well: I had an “old prints” that I’d “saved up” from “getting in” to places. And… one of them old prints of which this man singled out just like YOU pick the largest piece of CAKE for yourself… was of … a building in Portland that … I’d found and “kept” because it was a certificate for …making the best “Hooked Rug” at some “exhibition” there… in the 1830’s (?). So I showed it to him. And he followed me along with it to see the “ANYTHING MORE?” in one of my rooms. And… he, once in there, seen that folio and went all over it real calm like… along with the real calm too about that print. He was orally the on & on the whole time AND being “with” “a museum” “in “PHILADELPHIA” too… . Then he’d said the “like to buy those” and the “HOW MUCH” and I drew the old bow string WAY BACK in my mind of highest number possible and… he said “OK” right away, paid cash and was GONE… with them two selections from my stocks… forever.
 : I’m still “finding” “stuff” I “bought out” of “estates” a quarter of a century ago. That stuff “looks pretty good” too.
 : It was “still there” twenty years later when I “bought it” after he died but… I denoted… “some dealer” had “gone through it sometime” in the interim score of years.
 : You’s got the balls to be’en a dealer? Let’s just find out. Would YOU be the one… during a “clean out” to… “the THROW out” something “obviously good” knowing that YOU BE the one to actually THROW OUT the “throw out” by simply and eventually going to throw out that “throw out” WHERE YOU WANT IT… thrown out? HUH? TRY IT and see how you do: Take an “IT’S GOOD” and, along with a considerable more choice selections (like a big ole 19th century oil on canvas with a ship on it but having a slash hole the size of your forearm across that “in the original frame” canvas to it too) and… bury it… in the “throw out” “pile” and “wait” “until the end” and… do the “I threw it out”. My grandmother; she taught me that and it works… and… you’s just wading along in the clean out and them; “the principals”, off times will come up with the “something” they “found” and “want to know” if “it’s good” or should be the “thrown out”. YOU just the “throw it out” to ‘em know’en fool’s ass well it be “good” and… into and DEEP UNDER that pile it go until it’s “gonna throw that trash out today” TRUCK LOADS “don’t worry it’s all going to the dump” YOURS “for free”. Let’s just find out if you’s ah got them “the BALLS” to “be’en a dealer” with all them “fine & rare” “decorative arts” (and… “old books”).
 : If you’s practice “from down to” and the “include it” in your familiar utterances more frequently then you’s do now… (“Where YOU been?” “I’s from down to the bathroom”… “from down to the computer room”, “from down to the shed” or “from down to the… ATM machine”…), you’s be the “get along” to the understanding it’s meaning and correct use.
 : It “stopped” because Peter Edes, the editor & publisher, started a “new” newspaper; the “KENNEBEC GAZETTE”, “Vol. 1, No. 1”… then. I found a… “complete run”… thus …but I didn’t and… never did know this.