Guest contributor: Crash Barry
categories: Cocktail Hour
Ever since the first white settler, Ebenezer Hall, a notorious thief and scoundrel, got scalped in 1757 by the local Indians who owned Matinicus, a mist of violence has loomed like low hanging fog, enshrouding the island in a bad reputation. Mostly because of a few loud, bad apples. Stabbings. Arson. Fisticuffs. Sucker punches. Cold-cockings. Ass-kickings. Home invasions and destruction. Murderous threats and name-calling. Guns aimed. Shots fired. People wounded. All part of island history and lore.
No cops were ever stationed on Matinicus, where the only law officer was the constable – elected anew each year – an island resident without training whose only role was to occasionally deal with the mainland cops who came out to make a drug bust or issue a summons. There was no cop, that is, until Jerold Day offered his services to the Knox County Sheriff’s Department.
Jerold Day moved to the island the year before I did. His only link to Matinicus was his brother, a lobsterman, who had married an island girl. Jerold Day had zero experience in law enforcement. A fundamentalist, teetotaling Christian who believed the schoolteacher was in league with the devil, his resume stretched through several states and industries, reeking of a loser who couldn’t keep a job.
None of that mattered to the macho sheriff in Rockland who was desperate to tame Matinicus and wanted to prove to the rest of mid-coast Maine that his law was stronger than the island’s anarchy. At the beginning of March, the sheriff gave Jerold Day a badge, gun and a blessing. And Jerold Day was transformed from a dubbah to a deputy.
Four drunk sternmen, pissed that a cop was suddenly messing with their paradise, decided to fuck with the deputy. Sternmen, by nature, are rugged and beefy. A team of four are almost all-powerful. Under the cover of darkness, they walked to the deputy’s house and easily flipped his truck onto its side.
The sternmen didn’t know the deputy was waiting in the shadows. They also weren’t aware of the motion-sensitive spotlight he installed on his house. (The first on the island.) When the truck tipped over, the light got triggered and the deputy saw them all: Billy, Bobby, Buddy and Alex.
The deputy drew his gun and fired a shot in the air.
The three Bs scattered and escaped. Alex wasn’t so lucky. Startled by the shot, he froze for a split second, which gave the deputy just enough time to pistol-whip him from behind. He brought his gun down hard on Alex’s head. Knocked him out and split his skull open. Then the deputy cuffed and dragged the unconscious man across the yard, opened the bulkhead, lugged him down the stairs and handcuffed him to a pole in the center of the cellar.
Meanwhile, the other fellas had regrouped in a harborside fishhouse, wondering what happened to Alex. Probably a good thing they didn’t know he was captive in the deputy’s basement and that mainland cops were en route to the island aboard a 41-footer from the Coast Guard station, ‘cuz that could have started an all-out shooting war and raid of the deputy’s house to save their pal. Instead, they got drunk and high on their bottle of rum and good bag of weed, thinking Alex went home to bed.
An hour and a half later, it was nearly low tide and they saw the Coast Guard boat slowly creeping around the breakwater. The sternmen wondered why the Coasties were coming to Matinicus. Was someone sick?
“Jeezum crow,” one of the fellas said, “those guys are gonna hit the Indian Ledge if they ain’t careful.”
The three sternmen jumped into a skiff and raced out to the Coast Guard vessel, leading them around the ledge and up to the Steamboat Wharf. Unbeknownst to the sternmen, the deputy had borrowed his brother’s truck and was on his way to the wharf with Alex, bloody and hogtied, in the back. The deputy arrived just as the cops disembarked and climbed the ladder.
Pandemonium erupted as the sternmen realized what was going down. The deputy told the other cops to arrest the three Bs. The island foursome, at gunpoint, were ordered onto the Coast Guard boat, where they were cuffed, read their rights, then brought ashore to spend the night in the Knox County Jail.
“Gonna get that asshole,” Alex said on a stormy night two weeks later, his head wound still sporting a bandage. We were playing cards, smoking herb and drinking whiskey in his shack. “Gonna get him good.”
“How?” I asked.
“You’ll see,” he said, picking up the axe leaning against the wall. “You’ll see,” he repeated, then opened the door and headed into the screeching wind.
The next morning, at dawn, Donald and I were aboard The Dotted Eye, getting ready for a long day of hauling traps, when he spotted the deputy’s 20-foot lobster boat aground on a nearby ledge, sitting high and dry with a hole in her hull.
I imagined Alex in a skiff, cutting the mooring, maybe giving the boat a little push towards shore. Whacking at it, once or twice, with the axe, knowing there was no chance he’d get caught. No evidence to be left behind. No witnesses. And since nearly everyone on Matinicus hated the deputy, the list of suspects would be long. This was the start of the concerted effort to get rid of the deputy.
Turns out there was always law on Matinicus, just not the sort that wore a badge.
Next week: Jerold Day gets run off the island
Despite writing about the seamy side of Maine life for more than 20 years, Crash Barry has yet to be arrested by a local cop. He now lives near a marijuana grove in the foothills of western Maine. His column One Maniac’s Meat appears monthly in The Bollard, and details his exploits as a young sailor in the U.S. Coast Guard. His rollicking novel Sex, Drugs and Blueberries and the complete version of Tough Island are available at Maine bookstores and libraries or via crashbarry.com or on Amazon. His latest book Marijuana Valley, Maine: A True Story will be published this fall. To learn about auditions for the film version of S, D & B, visit sexdrugsandblueberries.com.