Farmer Cabochon lived in a small shack back of the Sand Dune of St. Mary. As he was between the dune and the lake, he perhaps thought he lived in front of the dune. I say in back of because no one other than him could or would ever go between the Dune and the lake where his small farm had been cut out between stands of beech, birch and elm. With a swamp to one side, thick trees to the other, the Dune behind and a mostly inhospitable shore Farmer Cabochon had cleared himself out a small self-sustaining fortress. He had a wood burner stove, grape vines for wine making, and all the fish, squirrels and rabbits he could catch – and of course homegrown tobacco, vegetables and berries.
Farmer Cabochon left everything else to us – the grown over grape vines of some other farmer long passed, the acre of wannebe Christmas tree patch, Fern Hill, the crick and the empty acre alongside west of the boat club road. He technically owned all that land, it turned out, but he never paid any mind to us being there. Rumour had by good word you’d get salted buck shot blast in your behind if you went back of the Dune near his small shack. I’d sit on top of the Dune in the cold fall afternoon, under orange and red leaves of the scrub oak and persistent maple on the edge near a strand of pines. You always knew where you were by the trees, the ferns, milk-weeds or grass.
Farmer Cabochon’s smoke stack emitted blue, black and gray. The smell of lake, smoke, pine, wet dune sand and our youth is strong – almost to touch, more real than visual memory. Thick young breath, the old farmer younger then than I am now, not that I feel that old as he seemed back. The white grapes were sweeter, the concord grapes unforgettable and endless, almost. His grapes were unattainable and no doubt better, tended and watered and vines trained to the sun at the right times of the season. As I sat quietly, I saw him more than once moving about, weeding, gathering wood or just inspecting his work and what was his. Maybe he was marveling at the nature surround and likely he knew I was there sitting, or that some kid was.