The first day of spring arrived on Swan’s Island about 14 hours after a blizzard arrived. I watched the snow blur outside my window, debating over the phone with Sue Wheaton about whether knitting group ought to be canceled. It was.

Spring seems to have sunk in at last, with a few rain showers driving away all but the worst hunks of snow.

Swan’s Island is a place where the seasons make themselves felt. You can live and work in an area where you do pretty much the same thing in March as you would in August. In a fishing community, weather determines livelihood. Even to a transplanted landlubber with a desk job (that’s me), the weather makes itself known. You can get stuck out here!

At this time of year you feel the rumblings leading up to the island’s busy season. Pretty soon the ferry runs will increase, the calendar will get packed with events and the buildings that stood empty and pipe-drained all winter will fill with vacationers. And of course, the fishermen get moving.

Richard Kent (1912-1993), whose boats are captured in ice in the accompanying photo, was a well-known Swan’s Island lobster dealer, oil deliveryman and probably a few other things besides. One afternoon last winter I met up with Sonny Sprague, Donnie Staples and David Joyce to talk about their memories of Richard and their younger fishing days.

Their stories brought forth a man with a whole mess of interesting traits. He had his moments, but “He gave you the shirt off his back,” as people say. Sonny worked for him as a kid in the summer, and recalled the time Richard got mad and threw a bucket of bait at someone.

“I can hear it now”¦ ‘Lord, dear,’ looking up at the 60 pounds of herring coming, pickle and all,” Sonny remembered.

Richard was known to keep equipment running until it gave out. David talked about Richard selling gas in the harbor:

“I came in one day and didn’t see any boat but it looked like Richard was standing on the water. Well the bow of the boat was out maybe about this far and he was holding the gas hose out for me and he said, ‘Well, we’re still in business, old thing.’ So I got my gasoline,” he said.

Sonny added, “When I worked there”¦ Jeez, he put Vern and I out on the oil truck, here we was, eighth graders. I remember backing up at Uncle Georgie’s, George Smith’s place. I wouldn’t do it now—I’d be scared to death on that old junk. I can hear it now [Sonny rasped out some engine noises]. He’d bought a new rototiller, Uncle Georgie had, and I flattened it. Backed over it. I put it right into the ground.”

The stories reminded me of spring, with their life and goodness and mess.

Part of Sonny’s job was to keep Richard’s boat clean, but it didn’t last long. After he cleared out the trash and coffee cups, “[Richard] could go down there—just like throwing a bunch of hens in.”

As my tires sink into the mud and green things start to pop, I’ll think of Richard—who made a pet of a pheasant that followed his oil truck around the island. He was devastated when he backed it over. In memory of Richard and his pheasant, we celebrate spring, and new life!