A hot tooth, a skinning knife and sharp sailors

October 11, 2013
Tucker Thompson, left, on the commentating set for television coverage of the 2013 America's Cup. SOURCE SUBMITTED

A hot tooth brought me together with Dr. Bruce Wright last week. While the Novocaine was doing its magic, Bruce told me he has a dilemma this fall.

“My wife is Italian. She likes to cook. Every fall I head out into the dunes and gather beach plums for her to make jelly. But this year I can’t find any. It’s crazy. I’ve gone to my favorite spots, particularly the dunes south of Indian River Inlet which are always productive, and nothing. What’s going on?”

I was still thinking about that while I was probing my gums with my tongue.  Wanted to make sure there would be the same amount of feeling when he went to work on me as the number of beach plums he was finding: none.

That’s when he told me about Milt Cooper’s trips to his office. Milt died a while back after more than nine decades of life in Sussex County - most of them outdoors. A hunter, trapper, lifesaving station commander and general bright light, Milt had a lot in common with Bruce who enjoys many of the same pursuits. They had a lot to talk about when he came in for visits. But Milt made it clear he wanted enough Novocaine to cover whatever procedures Bruce planned that day.

“He would walk in and before he even sat down in the chair he would reach in his pocket, pull out his skinning knife, open it up and lay it on the instrument tray. That knife was sharp as a razor,” said Bruce.

“While he was laying it down he would say: ‘Now listen Doc, we’re not going to hurt each other are we?’”

Bruce laughed, but I could tell he knew Milt was serious.

But, back to the beach plums. I told Bruce I would look into the situation so later on I called JuneRose Futcher on Lewes Beach. JuneRose and her daughter, also JuneRose, make beach plum jelly each fall as a cottage industry. (JuneRose Jr. is also a photographer and will be displaying maritime impressionistic images in an exhibit at The Buttery Restaurant.  The exhibit will start with a reception open to the public from 4 to 6 p.m., Sunday, Oct. 20.)

JuneRose told me her daughter was finding very few beach plums this year. “Every few years there’s a down year and this appears to be one of them,” she said. “She even went out to Beach Plum Island this year and found little.”

I dug further on the internet. It turns out the extraordinary amount of rain we had this summer - that made the corn crop so bountiful - may have done a number on the beach plum crop. An article on the Cornell University site says beach plums depend on bees and other insects to pollinate the white blossoms that give our dunes so much joy in the late spring. Heavy rains, however, can interfere with the bees’ ability to pollinate. That may be the reason why this year’s crop is so far off from normal years.

I’d be more affirmative with my assessment, but Milt’s spirit may be unfolding his skinning knife and saying: “Make sure you’re right, boy.”

High mileage or stupidity?

I turned onto Second Street one evening last weekend and came to a stop behind a car stopped in the middle of the street. Nothing unusual. People often stop to load and unload passengers. A tanned man with a cane unfolded himself from the back seat and walked by my door.

“I’d be moving more quickly, but I’m pretty beat up from football,” he told me.

“Who did you play for?” I asked.

“University of Maryland and then the Baltimore Colts,” he said.

“Then I’d say you’re a high mileage human being,” I said as he limped past.

“I don’t know about that, he said. High stupidity is more like it.”

He said his name was Vinnie Scott.

You never know who you will find on the streets of Delaware Cape Region’s towns.

America’s Cup announcer

Tucker Thompson, who cut his sailing teeth on the Rehoboth Bay and won the Junior North American Sunfish World Championships one year, recently became a national celebrity as a television commentator for the America’s Cup races off the shores of San Francisco. Tucker had the pleasure of watching and explaining the intricacies of one of the greatest comeback victories in the history of sports. The U.S. team ultimately won this year’s competition nine races to eight after having been down 8-1 to the New Zealand team.

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