The Edge of the Wood

by John Messeder, Nemophilist & Ecological Storyteller

Carly came with the wine

The waitress recommended a wine, then brought the bottle.I’m pretty good at remembering who people are. I’m not worth a flip at remembering names – at least until I’ve sat down and chatted several times with a person, and then written about them.

We had stopped at our favorite winery in North East, Pa, one to be lauded for its Port – a good Port being sometimes difficult to find, in a vineyard or a storm. After chatting a few minutes with the clerk – an Australian lass whose husband had brought her back to Pennsylvania – we headed for a restaurant at which we had dined on our previous trip.

It also was an establishment of which we could not remember the name. A few miles into our unsuccessful search, a light came on in my gray matter. The restaurant, I recalled, had been on the left, and we sat in a window seat looking out at Lake Erie. The way we were headed, the lake was on the right. We turned around.

About a half-mile past the aforementioned Place of Good Port, there it was. The CrayZ Parrot. As soon as I glimpsed the sign, I knew it was the place – like when someone mentions a name and you know immediately who they are talking about, though five minutes earlier you’d been chatting with the person and drawn a complete blank.

You might have thought a couple of Parrot Heads would have remembered that one, though.

Carly came with the wine. She’s a Junior in college, and wants to be a state trooper. She graduated high school in a class of 36 students, and wants to see more of the state. I could understand that.

For me, seeing the world meant leaving a small town in Maine, two hours drive north from the coast, and 12 miles north of the county seat, the latter being – then – home to a couple of banks, several churches, a college campus, and the county’s sole traffic light, at the intersection of Broadway and Main. It was like North East, except the main produce was milk and corn where I graduated high school; Carly lives among thousands of acres of grapes.

The college, now a campus of the University of Maine, had started life in 1864 as the nation’s second “normal school”  (the first being in Kansas), an institution for the training of teachers, and placed in Farmington because the town was sufficiently distant from anything that might “distract the young ladies from their studies.”

By 1965, it hadn’t changed much, so, upon graduation from high school, I “Joined the Navy to See the World” and headed off to another small town near Waukegan, Ill., where I learned to walk in step with a couple hundred other guys, make my bed, do everything – including that! – on command. When I was declared a sailor, I went to Memphis, Tenn., Norfolk, Va., and a small place in Maryland called Patuxent River, where the Striped Bass fishing was great.

And when it was time to pick where I wanted to be stationed the next few years, I surprised everyone who knew I would choose Brunswick, Maine, when I headed south to Jacksonville, Fla.

See the world? Yes I did – Japan, Germany, France, among others nations.

‘Tis the season when many young Carlys are thinking about the rest of their lives. For some, post-secondary will mean joining Dad or the Army or a nearby manufacturing plant. Others will be off to college, running up the bills and hoping it leads to that higher income the studies claim will be the result.

One of those Carlys is named Morgan, the first of my son’s offspring to enter the world of “Dad, I can do this.”

But that’s a whole ‘nuther column.


  1. Great segue from wineries to granddaughter’s dreams. Beautiful story.

    • Thanks, Sharon. In the next episode, Dad begins withdrawal as his daughter graduates high school. =)

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