- by Carol Standish
Dean Lawrence Lunt was the only elementary school pupil on Outer Long Island in 1979 so school was held at his teacher's dining room table. (Heating the one room island school house for just two people was considered wasteful.) For the eighth grade he went to the mainland. From Mt Desert High School, he went on to Syracuse University and pursued a career in journalism. Today he is also an author. His first book, Hauling by Hand (Islandport Press, Inc, 479pp, $35) is the story of his island home, Long Island off Blue Hill Bay.
The first half of Lunt's book chronicles the struggles of the early settlers through the turn of the Twentieth Century. Long Island was first settled in 1820. Though extensively researched, details of the first 150 years of island life are sparse. Federal, state, even municipal records tend to be dry and statistical. However, Lunt also provides excerpts from the journals of one Amos Coffin Lunt, Sr. who recorded island life between 1839 and 1848. His clipped sentences are sere but eloquent. "Tuesday, March 19, 1839 -Thick of snow the forenoon. Clear'd off after dark with northerly wind, but moderate. Andrew tapt [repaired] Albeons & Stillmans boots. No work with oxen. Hannah was here all day. Priscilla finish'd a pair of trousers for Andrew, but too large & let Israel have them for Cyrus."
After 1900, more details are available from the memories of current residents and the character of the island life and people fleshes out. Lunt's own memories of his grandfather, for instance, provide the fuller picture the reader craves. Born in 1910, Gramp Dick "has defined a sun-up to sundown, seven-day-a-week, work as a way-of-life existence…the wharf, the boat, the traps, the land, the house and the town…he symbolizes a hardscrabble era and embodies the relentless tenacity required to rise from it…he was born poor and raised poor…the family rationed shoes and shared mittens…as a young man he fished to earn enough money to strike out on his own…he and his wife Vivian lived off the land, adhering to a meager budget…never incurred a debt."
The second half of the book offers glimpses of inspirational characters like Gramp Dick as well as a few island eccentrics-liminal characters whom the author considers provide the village with part of its soul. In an easy narrative style accompanied by vintage photographs, Lunt paints a rich picture of early Maine island life - just in time. Gramp Dick died in October of 1999 at the age of 89. More books like Hauling by Hand should be written soon.