Buddy Cushman Art

engaging stories of hope and joy


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Back In My Little Town

 

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Once upon a time, far away and long ago, I grew up in a small town in Massachusetts named Wareham. Hard by the Buzzards Bay inlet of the Atlantic Ocean, and no doubt a clone of sorts from Wareham, England, itself hard by Poole Harbour and its larger Atlantic mother. The “Gateway to Cape Cod”, that’s what it was called at times, that’s what the sign said out on Route 28 by the Chamber of Commerce. Situated just before the Bourne Bridge crossing over to The Cape, at the confluence of the Cape Cod Canal and Buzzards Bay.

I was lucky to have grown up there, for many reasons. It was a gentle place, mostly, dotted with beach communities and summer homes and summer days, Cape Verdean enclaves and culture, pine forests, and luscious ponds carved out by retreating ice-age glaciers. In the winter we skated those ponds, pushed against the sparkling frosty air, sometimes with a stick and a puck at our feet. In the spring, summers, and fall we fished, especially me and Donnie Sisson, usually Mill Pond – both sides of 28 – but others as well – Tihonet, the horseshoe mill, in West Wareham. Donnie had a hand-made net contraption thing, and we would wet it and rub damp Sunbeam white bread into the bottom and throw it in the Wareham River in back of Franconia Oil, just over the railroad tracks, and come back an hour later and haul it up, usually loaded with chubs and shiners, and these we would put in buckets of water and on our bikes create amazing acts of balance with buckets and fishing poles and tackle boxes and cruise to the spot of the day. In fact the Wareham River is, to this day, never far away for me, though I’m away 3000 and more miles as the red-winged blackbird flies. The River remains always in my mind and heart, I bet it’s in the blood that pumps and gravities through my body. Yes. I painted my feeling about it a few years ago. That green and gray thing up there.

Little Harbor Beach was another place of childhood summer days, with the folks and sisters and picnic lunch, blanket on the hot sand, and horse shoe crabs in the endless low tide wading and splashes, later on as a place to drink beer and park at night as the sun went down. With summer girls if we were lucky. I painted that too, actually a view away from the harbor and its Buzzards Bay supplier. This.

Little Harbor Lookaway

I write about my hometown today because yesterday on Facebook were links to a Wareham story of death threats against children and a militarized response and endless hours of parent and child anguish. Simon and Garfunkle sang about My Little Town. They also sang of a Mother and Child reunion. Here’s a link to a story about it all from a local news site.

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Reading the words, looking at the pictures, here in the Pacific Northwest, tears fell from my eyes. I couldn’t help it. They just fell. More water, like the Wareham River, like Little Harbor, like Buzzards Bay. More water, like my childhood.

Mary Hopkins sang a song back in my growing up time – “Those were the days my friend, we thought they’d never end.” The Kinks sang a song then too – “We had our good times pal, we thought they’d last forever. But nothing lasts forever.”

When I crawled into bed last night my wife Susan, still awake, asked me, because of the way I am these days, if I had lost all my hope for the planet. My answer was “Most of it.”

Forget all the miles. It’s a long way from flying down Lincoln Hill on our bikes, hanging at Jay’s and Minnicks, dreaming of summer girls on Parkwood Beach, working at the record store, growing up with friends – it’s a long way from there to here. Today. For me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Oh, to look through those childhood eyes again.

 

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Private Business, Fewest Obstacles

I recently returned from a Killeen, Texas visit to my son Cameron, daughter-in-law Alison, and grandchildren Logan, Savannah, and – brand new addition – Carson. His new-ness Carson – six days old upon my arrival at the Killeen/Fort Hood Regional Airport – was the get-me-moving motivator for the journey, made possible in part by General Electric, The Andrew Drum-Man Ianniello Foundation, and a loan for the plane ticket purchase from my wife Susan (Actually, I made up all that stuff, except the loan.)

I arrived on a Thursday night. The next morning, after Cameron dropped Logan at pre-school, we took a 25 mi20150327_094545nute drive off base and east on Highway 190 for the small Texas town of Belton, a lovely throw-back “My Town” kind of place — jangled up with old architecture, small entrepreneurial shops, fire stations and churches and plaster governments buildings, and a river running through it. Actually a creek — Nolan Creek. And it was the water to where my son drove. The day was pristine, Texas spring warm and blue-skyed, the creek flowing slowly along from a small dipping falls just off to our right, and another close by on our left.

Cameron removed two fly rods and reels from the back of the SUV. He handed one to me. I cannot remember if in the previous 66 plus years I have ever held a fly rod in my hand. I must have, how could I not have, but I just can’t remember. Which may have something to do with brain cell evaporation during that three score plus six time. We walked over a recently hydro-seeded and now lushly growing grassy area, down to the embankment of the creek. It was there Cameron showed me how to hold the rod (I have a tendency to hold fishing poles upside down, reel up), strip line from the reel – more than I was comfortable with – and flip the nearly nine-foot pole backwards and forwards, the line predictably lengthening with each back and forth, ultimately aiming out toward the water and letting fly. I have to say I only began to feel comfortable,and relatively successful with the process, the following Friday, the day before my departure back to Oregon.

But I did it. I fished with a fly rod and a fly reel and a fly, stripped the line back in, then did it again. Over and over. I stopped and took a picture with my phone of Cameron doing it the right way. At some point I rolled up my shorts and put on a pair of his too large sneakers, and we waded down through the creek, crossing back and forth in assess-able spots, eventually making our way under Interstate 35 (which runs from the Mexican border all the way to just north of Minneapolis, MN.) and beyond.

I never caught anything that day, but did on a return trip with the whole family a few days later. A sunfish so small it could accurately be described in pixels. But I do remember myself saying “fish on”. Because I could. A day or so later Cameron and I dropped Logan at school and made our daybreak way to an on-base pond where I caught four fish — all on the fly rig — including two bass, one you could even measure in inches.

That’s the travel story, the grandfather story, the US Army family leave story. On the first day, while I was trying to flip the floating line out there into Nolan Creek, Cameron took a picture of me and posted it right then on Facebook, a caption reading that 25 years before I had taught him to fish, and now he was having the chance to teach his Dad to fly fish.

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Back in Portland, drinking very early morning coffee in the recliner, I read a quote from Thoreau in the book “A Fly-Fishing Life” by William Tapply – why Thoreau went to Walden Pond:  “To transact some private business with the fewest obstacles.”  I get that. It felt like that fly fishing. With my son. We went all over the area between Fort Hood and Austin, between Nolan Creek and the Lampasas River, and fished a bunch of it. It was breathtakingly beautiful in so many spots, and my heretofore prior to investigation thinking about Texas was changed entirely. And it was always very simple. Two guys, the same blood running through their veins, within the auditory symphony of early morning birds and gurgling water and, yes, just a little interstate traffic, stripping line, swinging a long pole back and forth, laying the line out on the drifting water; egrets, herons, long-tailed grackles on hand to offer approval. Or in my case, perhaps a chuckle.

I have long hung out with folks who have a mantra — keep it simple. In Massachusetts, from where I hail, we like to add a “Stupid”, and turn it into a loving kiss — keep it simple stupid. A couple of weeks ago my son taught me the art of fly fishing. Another sweet and blessed opportunity to transact private business with the fewest obstacles. To keep Screenshot_2015-04-01-11-37-03it simple.

Can you say, “lucky me”.


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Taffy – My Hometown, My Friend, My Dog, And Changes

There are eight million artist stories in the city. This one is mine. This is called “Taffy”.

A few days agoI wonder if everyone can say that their home town has changed a lot? Or really a lot? Not to the point where it is unrecognizable, because how could that be. They can’t change the shape of the river as it curls under Main Street and heads north toward the old nail factory. They can’t change the fact that Route 6 runs smack through the middle of town, on it’s merry way from Provincetown, MA to Long Beach, CA. Or that there are beaches all over: Little Harbor; Briarwood; Pinehurst; Indian Mound; Onset; Parkwood; Swifts. They can change a lot of the houses – more bigs ones, less cottages – and remove the old corner neighborhood stores and put up more “private” signs and make streets one way and charge more for parking. And they can say goodbye to old bowling alleys and movie houses and say hello to another bank and another bank and another bank. But they can’t change the way the river swoops into the harbor from the bay, and kisses three or four different beach communties along it’s way under Route 6 and off toward Oakdale and Mayflower Ridge and, if it could climb the steps, up into Mill Pond and beyond.

But I will tell you about one part of my old hometown that changed, changed from when I was a kid, 11 and 12 years old, back when I would ride my bike all over town, often with a fishing pole dangling behind, joking with my friend Donnie on our way to another day of few fish and priceless memory. The place that changed so much was in back of Donnie’s house, just off Gibbs Ave next to the Everett School, because that’s where the woods were, unending and unbroken, an old fire road a half mile in, scrub pines and taller pines and oaks crowding together, pine needles on the ground like a golden rusty blanket. There are houses now and streets and lots of activity and action. But back in the day, our day, it was just the woods. And it was just Donnie and me and my dog Taffy.

I believe that every small town has at least one haunted house. I can’t speak for cities, but that is my thought. At least one. In my hometown I was aware of two. One was on Fearing Hill Road, in West Wareham, just before it crossed County Road into the town of Rochester. Light grayish blue clapboards, windows that reflected the sun but never let you look in as we drove by on the way to the farm Royal Davis’s family owned in Rochester. And it seemed like we would be in a car with his parents driving by one way or the other and it was always twilight. That place was spooky. The other haunted house was different. This one was deep in the woods behind Donnie’s house, way past the fire road, following on a smaller, less traveled dirt and pine-needle road about as wide as one car. Maybe I shouldn’t call it a haunted house because people lived in it. Maybe a scary house. People that lived way back in the woods. Major creepiness for an 11 year old.

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Fishing

 

There are eight million artist stories in the city. This is mine. This one is called “Fishing”.Fishing 2

On a Friday night way back in 1987, I think it was November, I found myself sitting in the back of a meeting of people, at the end of the table, feeling pretty hopeless. That’s generally not my nature, and in fact the exact opposite of how I have felt for many, many years now. But I was feeling that way that night. All that afternoon, working as a landscaper at a condominium resort in Florida, I had been feeling sorry for myself and it got to the point where I actually began visualizing ending it all. So I am sitting at the table and just before the meeting began a large group of people walked in, loud and laughing, it turns out most of the people at this meeting just having come from a wedding rehearsal for one of the guys in the group. His sister was down from Rhode Island, she led the meeting, and one after another people talked about how good life was. With a few minutes to go, just before 11:30 p.m., the woman from Rhode Island asked if that guy at the end of the table would like to say anything. I opened my mouth and began sobbing. I sobbed and sobbed in front of everyone, and got out a few words about hopelessness. Then I was done and the mood swang back up to party level, and the meeting was over. As I was walking out a very large person walked in front of me, blocking my way. This guy, who always identified himself as “Todd C, a comode-hugging drunk from Kansas City”, looked at me and said: “Do you know what you need?” At that moment I honestly thought he was going to give me some magic words, let me in on some life secret I had never received, tell me a life-changing affirmation, a mantra, something. But when I said “No”, what Todd said was, “You need to go fishing.” That was it.

As Todd C from Kansas City was the best man in the aforementioned wedding he was not available the next day. But the following Saturday Todd pulled into my driveway right at noon with two fishing poles and assorted equipment, and after stopping for bait along the way, we sat down on two overturned empty five-gallon paint buckets and threw our lines into a tributary of the Indian River, the intercoastal waterway on the east coast. We sat behind a strip mall and talked and laughed and caught a few fish and then he brought me home. And almost every Saturday for the next four or five months Todd C showed up around noon in my driveway and took me fishing. And a little at a time I got outside myself and forgot about the poor me’s and started living my life again, and seeing the adventure – not the sentence – in it.

Magic words? Life-changing mantra? Secret password to bliss? Maybe. But, I guess I shouldn’t have been completely surprised. Back when I was six years old my Dad took me fishing one time, in a little creek in South Wareham, MA. A few years later I started hanging around with a kid named Donnie Sisson, and we started fishing, first in Mill Pond not far from his house, and then all over town, fishing poles and a bait bucket dangling off the backs of our bikes as we explored the Wareham waterways. I recall that we were never particularly successful in terms of catching large fish, or somedays any fish – we weren’t going to be featured on a show on the Fishing Channel (if there had been one) – but that was okay. I mean, what exactly is success? Summer day after summer day – before there were summer jobs for us and turning into good adults – we went to the Wareham River behind the A & P and caught minnows and then rode our bikes to Mill Pond or somewhere and sat on the bank and watched our red and white bobbers, mostly do very little except float along with any breeze passing by, and lived completely and gratefully that young boy’s life. Talk about bliss. Talk about magic. Talk about the affirmation of life. A life second to none. No, it shouldn’t have been such a surprise when the man from Missouri said he was going to save me by taking me fishing.

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