The freight situation on the island got completely out of hand for a time awhile ago, but fortunately fate stepped in and prevented a possible lynching. Bung Ward has run the freight business for a long time, probably forever. The business consists of him meeting the mail boat with his 1968 Chevy pickup which got here on a barge in 1976 because it couldn’t pass inspection on the mainland, a condition which seems to be fairly chronic around here making for some pretty inexpensive vehicles. Off-season freight on the mail boat usually consists of a few grocery orders in banana boxes from Stop & Shop, stock supplies for the store and maybe a load of two by fours or plywood, and there’s always the possibility of the freak tourist who thinks he’s on the ferry to Nantucket and has a big surprise coming when he sobers up.
Bung charges a buck a bag for groceries and $20 a load for the lumber and whatever other building materials come over. The problem started when Bung’s tires started looking really bald, I mean so bald that even the sidewalls were smooth from not keeping enough air in them for fear of blowing them up. A full $20 load of plywood used to mean about 15 or 20 sheets or 60 two by fours, but toward the end there a load might be three sheets or 10 two by fours, tops. Still $20. Some of us started carrying our own stuff on the tops of our golf carts just on principle, but we couldn’t fit much more and it took all afternoon. You can’t drive a golf cart without a beer between your legs (it’s an unwritten rule) and hold lumber down on the roof at the same time. It just isn’t done. Bung was going to run those trips for $20 down to a single sheet or three two by fours. Like it or not.
Resolution came in January after a light snow, maybe three inches, just enough to make it greasy. Dickie Becham was watching from Pendergast’s roof where he’d been waiting for the lone bundle of shingles that Bung was willing to freight up for $20, so we know this is the truth. Dickie loves working alone as it’s the only time he’s allowed to smoke on the job. Jackie Borges once lured Dickie onto his crew by letting him drink on the job as well as smoke, but that didn’t last long, he was usually passed out by ten in the morning.
Anyway, as Bung turned off of Broadway onto the lane to Pendergast’s he veered ever so slightly over to the edge of the embankment down into the yard, just a wee bit shy of the actual driveway. From there the balloons that were his tires took over and became saucers, and in slow motion and seemingly deliberately moved him down the hill, stopping with barely a nudge up against one of Alfred’s strategically-placed Norway pines which had been experiencing a fairly uneventful, runty life until now. Then all hell broke loose. First the windshield leaped out onto the hood and broke into a million tiny pieces, then the rear window did the same into Bung’s hair and beard and all over the cab. And finally, to add insult to injury, both headlights popped out and hung by their wires like in an old Mickey Mouse cartoon. Bung, also in slow motion, just got out of the truck and headed for home without a word, the sun sparkling through his hair like the queen of the prom which I am sure was not the way he felt. Dickie, of course, had to climb down and get his own damn shingles. Did I mention that the truck was a 20-year-old version of red? She was, let’s call it red rust.
A couple of months later the whole town was at the dock anxiously awaiting the arrival of the trash barge from New Bedford because on board was the latest, new (to us) and much-anticipated 1980 Chevy pickup that Bung had been shopping for a week off-island for a week. We could see the bright yellow object for miles as the barge made its way from the mainland. Dix Leeson up on his third floor looking through his telescope could see it coming through the hurricane barrier like it was just yards away. He ran down to the dock to tell us all that it had “new tires!” Anticipation turned to great relief.
When the barge finally landed we could see the new bright yellow paint job was probably hiding a hefty helping of bondo but we didn’t care, it did indeed have new tires. Bung backed her off and began loading her to the gills with the booze and lumber and everything else that came over on the barge including a porta potty for town meeting, just a few weeks away, because the town hall plumbing had burst during that cold spell when the pond was frozen and no one was paying attention.
Once loaded, Bung proudly jumped into the cab and started her up and proceeded to back up into town. He had bragged about the great deal he got and how they threw in the paint job for free. They had been honest about the fact that it probably would not pass inspection which was not a worry for Bung out here, and apparently they were also honest about the fact that the transmission was messed up and could only run in reverse. Just another day on easy street. I hope the store’s got a few tubes of Ben Gay for Bung’s neck or did they quit selling that, too? That’s how we lost the Ritz Crackers, you know, just too damned popular.
Will Monast and his wife Leslei live in West Tisbury. They washed ashore after spending 25 years on Cuttyhunk raising four children, but that’s another story.