I’m Gus Farnham, owner of a restaurant here in Busman’s Harbor, Maine. My restaurant is for local folks, a place where they can get away from playing the “old salt” routine for the terrorists. I mean the tourists.
I started the restaurant with my wife, Mrs. Gus, in 1962 and the menu hasn’t changed a jot since. Some wag in town has tacked paper signs to the restaurant walls. Here’s what two of them say:
GUS DOESN’T SERVE HORS D’OEUVRES. HE DOESN’T BELIEVE YOU NEED FOOD WHILE WAITING FOR FOOD.
YOU CAN ASK GUS FOR SALAD. YOU’LL NEVER GET IT, BUT YOU CAN ASK FOR IT.
People say the customer is always right. They never met some of the people who wander in here.
Lately, Julia Snowden’s been coming around asking me about the history of the harbor, and who Mr. Busman was and such. Julia was born here which makes her okay in my book, but then went off to school and worked in New York for almost a decade, so she has some funny notions. Now she’s back in town, working at her family’s business, the Snowden Family Clambake Company, while helping out on the Founder’s Day committee.
“Gus, tell me who our founder was?” she asked.
“Which time?” I answered.
“Which time what?” Julia said.
“The first founder of Busman’s Harbor was a Wabanaki Chief. The Wabanaki tribes called this land Ketakamigwa, ‘the big land on the seacoast.’ They came here seasonally and farmed, fished, lobstered and traded with other tribes, and eventually with the French.”
“And this founding chief’s name wasn’t, by any chance, Mr. Busman?” Julia asked, hoping, I could tell, for a shortcut.
“Alas, his name’s been lost to the misty dawns of time.” I poured her a cup of coffee. You can’t have people sitting around for hours yakking and not buying. “The first European settlers were fishermen,” I continued. “In those days for cod to be sent home to England, it had to be dried on wooden racks. There was fierce competition by the fishing crews for the best areas for drying operations, and it didn’t take long for captains to figure out that if they left a small group of men over the winter, they’d have a huge advantage come the spring.”
“When was this?”
“Before the Pilgrims?” Julia clarified.
“Definitely. Those Massachusetts-come-latelies are always claiming the credit.”
“These fishermen, was one of them was named Busman?” Julia prompted.
“Not too many auto-buses in the early seventeenth century,” I reminded her.
“Maybe he was French?” I could tell Julia was getting a little desperate. “Bisou man? Perhaps a bit of a kisser? I’m sure it got lonely staying all winter.”
“Ha, ha,” I said. “By the way your French is terrible.”
“Gus, seriously. I need to know for the Founder’s Day celebration.”
I looked at my wristwatch, the one my dad gave me when I got out of the Army. “Oh, will you look at the time. Mrs. Gus will be wondering what happened to me.”
“Gus! Who was Mr. Busman?”
“Sorry, Julia. Looks like you’re going to have come back another time to get the rest of the story.”
You can read more about Gus in Boiled Over, the second book in the “Maine Clambake” mystery series, published by Kensington. The first book in the series is Clammed Up. Books are available at retail and online booksellers.
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Meet the author
Barbara Ross is the author of the Maine Clambake Mystery series. Clammed Up (Kensington, Sept 2013) was nominated for an Agatha Award for Best Contemporary Novel as well as the RT Book Reviews, Reviewer’s Choice Best Book Award for Amateur Sleuth. Boiled Over was published on May 6, 2014.
Barbara is a co-editor/co-publisher at Level Best Books, which produces an award-winning anthology of crime and mystery stories by New England authors every November. “Bread Baby” in Best New England Crime Stories 2014: Stone Cold was nominated for an Agatha Award for Best Short Story.
Barbara and her husband Bill divide their time between Somerville, MA and Boothbay Harbor, ME.
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