"Can" B. Worth
Feeding the Birds - Part Seven
The Large Inside
Curiosity Two - Part Two
“Well. It wasn’t a BOOK. The first that is. The very first. I didn’t know THEN but now I see that then I DID begin to change. Even THEN and even though. Well. It took me MANY YEARS. But I do NOW know WHAT was the FIRST.
“I’d bought this axe; hand axe, down at the old Expo flea market. It was an official Boy Scout hand axe with its original sheath, all marked and in absolutely PERFECT condition. It was what I wanted. I thought. You see: I HAD an axe just like that axe when I was in scouts. Just like that. So when I saw this one for sale I was reminded of my old axe. That one had disappeared YEARS ago. THIS ONE: It was for sale for several weeks and I’d look at it. It was expensive even then; eight-five dollars I think. I didn’t buy it but kept looking at it and handling it every week. It was just like my old axe I had as a kid. But PERFECT. The condition was really brand new perfect. Who ever had that axe hardly used it at all. Finally… one weekend after having thought about that axe for weeks… I bought it. Paid the price; cash, didn’t even TRY to barter.
“So there I was with the axe carrying it around at the flea market. And I knew Can then; we’d talked. About something I guess; have no idea what. Anyway: I knew him in that crowd there. So he comes along and sees that axe. He reaches right out and takes it. He stands there looking it over and says how he’d seen it for sale and how perfect it is. Yes I say and then tell him how I’d had one just like it when I was in scouts. He looks at me and says ‘yours was perfect like this one too?’. No I say mine was all rusted up and dull. I didn’t know how to sharpen it right and how I’d left it outside most of one summer in the sheath. The sheath was ruined and the axe was all rusted up. But how it was an axe just LIKE this perfect one.
“He looks at me and says ‘Your axe was NOT just like this perfect one. YOURS was all rusted and dull. This one is perfect. The kid who had this one never used it. He never did anything with this axe like you did with yours. YOURS you ruined yourself. This one is PERFECT. You would have HATED the kid that owned THIS axe’. Well: What do you say to THAT. Of course he was RIGHT but at the time I was so SHOCKED I couldn’t say anything. But after that: I NEVER could look at that axe without thinking about what he said. AND THAT HE WAS RIGHT: I would have hated that kid and I know that because I DID hate kids like that. I couldn’t get over that; what he said. After a few years I sold it. I took a loss on it; sold it for sixty-five.
“You want to know what’s worse: I’m STILL looking for an axe that IS like mine was. I can’t find one; a rusted up one. Really. I came close to one but the guy had CLEANED IT. I told him I wish you hadn’t done that; I want it rusted. He thought I was an idiot. That’s the problem with Can; he makes you into an idiot AND he’s right. Because of him I’m going to be looking for that axe for the rest of my life. I TOLD him that. You know what he said? He said he was glad to have given me a purpose in life. That’s what he said. ‘Give you something to do” he said.
“That all came around again with him. I knew him more and more and he’d poop on anything I bought but I did care; just ignored him. ‘THAT’S CAN’ we’d all say. The problem was that he was usually RIGHT. That was the problem with him. So anyway. I started to get interested in Maine Indians. You know; their stuff. Sort of started collecting it. There are these clubs they made from roots. Stuff like that; little birch bark things. Some baskets. I didn’t know what I was doing, I admit it. Just BUY what I liked if I saw it. And Can might see something I bought but he pretty much ignored it except: He’d, like, TOUCH IT and then look in my eyes. You know; look the THAT WAY look. But he didn’t say much ever. That was fine. I didn’t care.
So one summer at the flea market I buy this birch bark box. They’re carve decorated on the bark and have a lid. I know now they were all tourist items. Just like all that stuff; the clubs and all. Tourist stuff. Anyway I bought one. It was perfect; pretty much brand new. Can saw it. He handled it. Didn’t say anything. Just gave me the look. So, like, about a week later he comes up to me and asks if I like to see a piece of Indian birch bark. Of course he doesn’t say THAT; says it by its REAL NAME. Anyway. We go down to his car. He whips out this BEAT UP old broken birch bark box. DIRTY. BEAT UP. I’d never seen anything like it before. THIS, he tells me, is a REAL Maine Indian birch bark box. I didn’t know what to say. VERY RARE he says. Very old. Well I could tell it was old.
“Also, inside that box wrapped in newspaper, he had one of those little porcupine quill boxes too. I had those; I’d bought a bunch of those quill work things. THIS ONE, he says, is actually a real early one and he starts showing me the natural dyes and how it’s made. Its all beat to hell; broken, quills gone, no lid, just the quill work from the top. THAT he shows me how it’s pricked into the birch bark. On and on. So I don’t know what I’m looking at. I haven’t seen anything like these ever and what I have doesn’t look like either of these busted up pieces of crap. So I tell him that.
So HE whips out this BOOK. And even THAT’S beat up. And it’s the Fannie Hardy Eckstorm book. BUT I never seen THAT before. Or know who Hardy is. So he shows me the book, shows me the porcupine boxes and then shows me the birch bark boxes in the back. Tells me the BOOK is rare. THEN he tells me these are STUDY PIECES. That they are RARE to find AND that the beat up condition is good because you can STUDY them. I didn’t know what he was talking about I admit it.
I just went along yes, yes, yes and then got the Hell out of there. I never saw that stuff again and I’ve never found anything as good as those things he had that day. After a few years I learned how right he WAS that day. But. I don’t even have the book. I saw one on the internet for sixty-five. I didn’t buy it. He’d READ IT. I’m never gonna find any of that GOOD stuff. If I did I’d know it. I don’t need the book. I think he was trying to sell me that stuff but he never said so. That’s what I think he was doing.
“You know one OTHER time he DID have a good thing I think he was trying to sell me. He had; your not going to believe this. But I didn’t know THEN. NOW I’d be able to KNOW even if I didn’t BUY it. Anyway: He has this book he shows me; Nicolar’s “THE RED MAN” (Bangor, 1893). So I’d sort of heard of it. But not much. So I know its Maine Indian and suppose to be good. But then I did really care. So, I’m like ‘yeah, yeah’. Well then he shows me in the front this penciled name. It was Manley Hardy’s copy. Then he shows me all these pencil notes in the margins; where Hardy wrote something about the text. Right through the book. So I don’t know who Hardy is and say so. So he says what an idiot I am and how that’s Eckstrom’s father who he says MENTORED her. That its HIS copy with HIS notes. How that is as HIGH AS YOU CAN GO for Maine Indian. I didn’t know WHAT he was talking about. But I DO NOW. And I never saw THAT again. I think he was trying to sell that to me. His whole thing was pretty curious when I look back on it. But I got to like the guy.”