Sean, a regular customer, was calling from Barry’s Transmission . Poor guy, I thought. This is no knock on the shop; given my own — let’s call it vehement — use of the accelerator pedal, I have found myself limping into Barry’s more times than I care to remember. They do great work, but it don’t come cheap.
Approaching the cab, cellphone at his ear, Sean pointed to the front seat. I nodded, and he climbed in. I can’t recall the last time he didn’t ride shotgun, so I’m sure he knew it’s fine with me. Still, I appreciated the courtesy of the request.
Clicking off his cell, he said, “Well, well, Jernigan — how you be?”
“I be fine,” I replied, shifting the vehicle into drive and oh so gently stepping on the gas. “How you be?” I inquired, reciprocating the playful pleasantry.
“Well, other than replacing the frickin’ transmission in one of my vans, I guess I’m just peachy. We’re gonna pick another van up on Joy Drive, in case I forgot to mention it.”
Sean, still in his thirties, operates a successful carpet business — cleaning, sales, installation, you name it — that he built from scratch. Hard work is mother’s milk to this guy who grew up with his many brothers on the family farm in Swanton. And that’s one of the reasons I enjoy his company: The man is a Vermonter, no ifs, ands or buts.
“Great foliage this year, dontcha think?” I asked as we angled across South Burlington, east to south.
“Yuh, it sure is. My brothers and I are out most every weekend in huntin’ season.”
“Oh, yeah — I forget. I’m such a city boy. And you do it all, right? Duck, bear, bow and arrow?”
“I’m not as fanatical as some of the guys, ya know. I have friends up in Franklin County who build their lives around the season, some of them taking the full two months off from work if they can swing it. I love my hunting, but I’m more of, like, a weekend warrior.”
“What’s Debbie think of all this?”
Sean laughed and said, “Funny you should mention it, because she’s been getting pissed at me. This weekend she was trying to get her girlfriends all pumped up for a night out in Burlington, but I guess nobody could make it.”
“Sean, how long have you and Deb been together now?”
“Jeez, I should know that, right? I guess it’ll be four years this Christmas.”
“All right — that’s what I thought. Didn’t she know this about you when you two hooked up? I mean, being out there in the Vermont woods with your buds — that’s your heart and soul, brother.”
“Yup, that’s true, I suppose. But, you know, Debbie is a great girl. She just gets lonesome, that’s all. Hey, I’m thankful she still wants to spend time with me.”
“I bet you are,” I said. “At least somebody does.”
Sean grinned, and I probably should have seen it coming. “Ayup,” he said, turning up the Vermont accent, “this weekend me and my brothers are goin’ out after henway. Very tough to track, but we’re hopeful.”
I smiled and nodded dumbly.
“Yup,” he continued, “it takes a lot of years in the woods to successfully hunt for henway, but the conditions this year look to be optimum. I think all the rain has probably helped. And, of course, we’ll get a real early start.”
“Sean,” I asked, taking the bait. “Did you say, ‘henway’?”
I was clueless.
“Sean, what the hell’s a ‘henway’?”
“Well, generally speakin’, about three to five pounds.”
As a recipient of the full henway routine, I felt as if I now understood Sean’s fishing prowess from the viewpoint of a lake trout. The finesse with which he had lured me, hooked me, reeled me in and netted me was derby-prizeworthy.
“Three to five pounds,” I said with a sigh as we turned onto Joy Drive.
“Ayup,” Sean affirmed, still in hilarious deadpan informational mode. “Generally speakin’.”