A YouTube film clip of June Carter Cash performing Storms Are On The Ocean one of Prescott Breslin’s favorite boyhood tunes.
Wildwood Flower, June Carter Cash, produced by John Carter Cash, Dualtone Music, 2003
Scene: Brought to mind by the song Storms Are On The Ocean performed by June Carter Cash on her Wildwood Flower album.
Prescott Breslin was beside himself on that snowy December day just before the Christmas of 1953. He had just heard, no more than heard, he had been told directly by Mr. John MacAdams, the owner’s son, that the James MacAdams & Son Textile Mill was closing its Maine operations in Olde Saco and moving to Lansing, North Carolina right across the border from his old boyhood hometown down in Harlan, Harlan, Kentucky, bloody Harlan of labor legend, song, and story right after the first of the new year. And the reason that the usually steady Prescott was beside himself at hearing that news was that he knew that Lansing back country, knew that the matter of a state border meant little down there as far as backwater ways went, knew it deep in his bones, and knew that come hell or high-water that he could not go back, not to that kind of defeat.
Prescott (not Pres, Scottie, or any such nickname, by the way, just dignified Prescott, one of his few vanities), left the mill at the closing of his shift, went across the street to Millie’s Diner, sat at the stooled-counter for singles, ordered a cup of coffee and a piece of Millie’s homemade pumpkin pie, and put a nickel in the counter jukebox, selecting the Carter Family’s Storms Are On The Ocean that Millie had ordered the jukebox man to insert just for Prescott and the other country boys (and occasionally girls), mainly boys, or rather men who worked the mills in town and sometimes needed a reminder of home, or something with their coffee and pie.
Hearing the sounds of southern home brought a semi-tear to Prescott's eye until he realized that he was in public, was at hang-out Millie’s where he had friends, and that Millie, thirty-something, but motherly-kind Millie was looking directly at him and he held it back with might and main. In a flash he thought, tear turning to grim smirk, how he had told his second son, Kendrick, just last year when he asked about the Marine Corps uniform hanging in a back closet in the two by four apartment that they still rented from the Olde Saco Housing Authority and naively asked him why he went to war. He had answered that he preferred, much preferred, taking his chances in some forsaken battlefield that finish his young life out in the hard-bitten coal mines of eastern Kentucky. And then, as the last words of Storms echoed in the half-empty diner, he thought, thought hard against the day that he could not turn back, never.
And just then came creeping in that one second of self-doubt, that flash of why the hell had he fallen for, and married, a Northern mill town girl (the sweet, reliable Delores, nee LeBlanc, met at the Starlight Ballroom over in Old Orchard Beach when he had been short-time stationed at the Portsmouth Naval Base down in New Hampshire), stayed up North after the war when he knew the mills were only a shade bit better that the mines, faced every kind of insult for being southern from the insular Mainiacs (they actually call themselves that with pride, the hicks, and it wasn’t really because he was from the south although that made him an easy target but because he was not born in Maine and could never be a Mainiac even if he lived there one hundred years), and had had three growing, incredibly fast growing boys, with Delores. He reached, suddenly, into his pocket, found a stray nickel, put it in the counter jukebox, and played the flip side of Storms, Anchored In Love. Yes, times will be tough since the MacAdams Mill was one of the few mills still around as they all headed south for cheaper labor, didn’t he know all about that from the mine struggles, jesus, but Delores, the three boys, and he would eke it out somehow. There was no going back, no way.