A natural leader, he caught for the Chichester town baseball team, as he had for his high school nine. Reg was slighter in build and was several inches shorter. He was combative and, if wronged, quick to pick a fight. He pitched for the Chichester team. Over the years he had perfected a hard- breaking curve, which he could and frequently did use to brush aggressive hitters back from the plate or knock them down. Like my grandfather
Mosher, my father had a romantic outlook on life, which I have inherited. Reg, for his part, was a realist, with an ironical turn of mind and a dry sense of humor that I loved.
Reg loved to argue. My father did not. Sooner or later, though, Dad would be drawn into a debate, amicable enough at first, often over the relative merits of their two favorite players.
Dad, a true- blue Yankee fan, was a Joe DiMaggio man. Reg was a devotee of Ted Williams. As the evening wore on and the game became heated - as Yankee - Red Sox games are wont to do - the baseball arguments between my father and uncle intensified.
Soon they'd both get mad, stop addressing each other directly, and begin arguing by proxy, through me.
"Howard Frank," my uncle said - as a boy, I was often addressed by both names to distinguish me from my father, Howard Hudson - "Howard Frank, I am here to tell you that Ted Williams is the greatest pure hitter in the history of the game."
"Maybe so, Howard Frank," my father shot back. "But you have my permission to inform your uncle that Joe DiMaggio is the most complete all-around player in the history of the game."
I usually said nothing. For one thing, I was only four. Also, though I already had a keen appreciation for my relatives' many eccentricities, I didn't like arguments any more than Dad did.
Fortunately, about the time full darkness settled in, we would lose the radio broadcast altogether. Then I would ask my uncle to tell me a story.
"Tell me a story" was my mantra, and Reg knew scores of good ones. Stories of the old bear hunters, ginseng gatherers, mountain guides, hermits, witches, and pioneer families who had settled Chichester. Like the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont when Phillis and I first arrived in the mid-1960s, Chichester in the '40s and '50s was a gold mine of stories. My feisty uncle was its Homer, as well as my first storytelling mentor. Reg was working on an anecdotal history of Chichester, and sometimes he would read aloud to me from the manuscript.
Of all Reg's stories, my favorite was the one that hadn't yet happened. That was his description of the road trip he and I would take the summer I turned twenty-one. We'd start out in Robert Frost's New England, then head for New York City, where my uncle's favorite New Yorker writer, Joseph Mitchell, had chronicled the lives of his beloved gypsies, street preachers, and fish vendors. We'd visit the New York Public Library on Fifth Avenue and Forty-first Street, with its two stone lions guarding the main entrance. Next we'd strike out for the Great Smokies, Thomas Wolfe country - my uncle loved You Can't Go Home Again and Look Homeward, Angel. We'd drop by Oxford, Mississippi, and have a gander at Faulkner's home, slope down to Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings's (The Yearling) Florida. Then we'd head for the American West - Reg, a huge fan of Zane Grey, would read me Grey's Westerns by the hour. We'd walk the streets of Raymond Chandler's LA and Dashiell Hammett's San Francisco, check out James T. Farrell's Chicago (with a side visit to the Windy City's great bookstore, Brentano's,) take a look at Hemingway's upper Michigan and Aldo Leopold's Wisconsin. We'd eat at greasy spoons and roadside custard stands, stay at motor courts and tourist cabins. Throw our fly rods and baseball gloves in the backseat and see a ball game in every town that had a team.
Excerpted from The Great Northern Express by Howard F Mosher. Copyright © 2012 by Howard F Mosher. Excerpted by permission of Crown. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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