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Sally’s "Turns"
by [?]

“Spin me a yarn, Uncle Eph. I’m fairly played out. We’ve been on the go from daylight and I’m too tired to write up the day’s work.”

“A yarn, Doctor. I’m no hand at yarns,” said the master of the spick-and-span little cottage at which I and my dogs had brought up for the night. But the generously served supper, with the tin of milk and the pot of berry jam, kept in case some one might come along, and the genial features of my hospitable host, slowly puffing at his pipe on the other side of the fireplace, made me boldly insistent.

“Oh, not anything special, Uncle Eph, just some yarn of an adventure with your dogs in the old days.”

Uncle Eph ruminated for quite a while, but I saw by the solid puffs he was taking at his pipe that his mind was working. Then a big smile, broader than ever, lit up his face, and he said slowly:

“Well, if you’re so minded, I’ll tell you a yarn about a fellow called ‘Sally’ who lived down our way in my early days.”

At this I just settled down comfortably to listen.

Of course Sally was only a nickname, but on our coast nicknames last a man all his life. Thus my last patient, a woman of forty-odd years, trying to-day to identify herself, explained, “Why, you must know my father, Doctor. He be called ‘Powder’–‘Mr. Powder,’ because of his red hair and whiskers.”

Sally’s proper nickname was apparently “Chief,” which the boys had given him because he had been a regular “Huck Finn” among the others. But in young manhood–some said it was because “Marjorie Sweetapple went and took Johnnie Barton instead o’ he”–somehow or other “Chief” took a sudden “turn.” This expression on our coast usually means a religious “turn,” or a turn such as people take when “they sees something and be going to die”; it may be a ghost or sign. But this turn was neither. It was just a plain common “turn.”

It had manifested itself in “Chief” by his no longer going about with the other boys, by his habits becoming solitary, and by his neglecting his personal appearance, especially in letting his very abundant hair grow longer than fashion dictates for the young manhood of the coast. That was the reason some wag one day dubbed him “Absalom,” which the rest caught up and soon shortened to “Sally.” In the proper order of things it should have been “Abe.” Wasn’t Absalom Sims always called “Abe”? There was obviously an intentional tinge of satire in this unusual abbreviation.

Whether it was due to the “turn” or not, the fact remained that at the advanced age of four and twenty Sally was still unmarried. He lived and fished and hunted mostly alone. No one, therefore, had much to say of him, good or bad. In its kindly way the coast just left him alone, seeing that was what he wished.

As the years went by it happened that hard tunes with a scarcity of food struck “Frying-Pan Tickle,” the hospitable name of the cove where Sally was reared. Fish were scarce, capelin never struck in, fur could not be got. This particular season every kind of fur had been scarce. A forest fire had driven the deer into the country out of reach. The young bachelor seals, called “bedlamers,” that precede the breeding herd on their annual southern whelping excursion, and normally afford us a much-needed proteid supply, had evidently skipped their visit to the bay; while continuous onshore winds made it impossible in small boats to intercept the mighty rafts, or flocks, of ducks which pass south every fall. As a rule the ducks “take a spell” feeding off the shoals and islands as they go on their way, but the northeaster had robbed our larders of this other supply of meat, which we are in the habit of freezing up for spring use.