Chief Doe-Wah-Jack’s pride and joy

Comedians Bob and Ray had a regular schtick involving a radio advertisement for Monongahela steel ingots as home décor. You know, “Hey, ladies, are yours getting rusty,” sort of spiel. Usually, it was sitting in the living room.

Having lived in the Rust Belt not far from the Monongahela River, I knew about the massive pig-iron ingots riding flatbed trailers from one part of town to another. Who knows how much they weighed – the trucks carried no more than two at a time – the beasts looked deadly foreboding.

Our equivalent was in the kitchen, though better dressed and somewhat smaller.

The Classic Round Oak Chief was a top-of-the-line cooking stove that ran on firewood, coal, or kerosene. After 1898, they were manufactured by the “estate of P.D. Beckwith” of Dowagiac, Michigan, and featured a popular mascot, fictional Native American Chief Doe-Wah-Jack – a sly way of teaching the pronunciation of the town. They’re highly collectible in restored condition, but that means getting to a buyer in some other part of the country.

I’ve used wood cooking stoves, back in the ashram, but I wasn’t so sure about this one. I didn’t like the way the stovepipe ran somewhat downhill – smoke rises, after all – or the way it vented into the same chimney the furnace uses, something that’s against building code today.

Besides, the weight of this one was definitely stressing the house structure.

Worse yet, it occupied the center of the small kitchen, and in our life focus, we need more space there – as well as a working oven, year-‘round.

Quite simply, it had to go. And it did.

We’re happy it found a new home – one being built, as it turned out – as well as a crew that knew expertly how to get it apart and out the door.

As for wood heat, which we truly enjoy, we’re planning on a Jotul in the front parlor and a new chimney or pipe to vent it.

Greek Revival touches add some grace

The dour severity of the Eastport’s four-window-fronted Cape-style house soon softened as its popularity spread and each builder added some new touches.


Some are sited, Greek Revival style, with the gable and entry door facing the street, creating variety on the block. And then there are individual touches, like a bay window.
As well as a mudroom, which helps keep the heat in when people come and go.
Modest ornamentation often serves a function, too.

Take a sneak peek at my next book’s cover

For several months now, you’ve been getting tastes of my upcoming book, but I have kept much of project under wraps, including the title.

The curtain goes up on that right now.

So roll the drums, please, and take a deep breath of anticipation. Here’s what I’m rolling out:

Do the title and image intrigue you? Pique your curiosity? Hold you for more than a split-second?

As I’ve discussed in previous posts, book covers – and magazines, too – are a specialized design challenge.

The ebook version has to work as a postage stamp, sizewise.

Print editions often get cluttered with pitches of all sorts, just in case one hooks a reader.

An effective title, of course, is a huge consideration, but not the only one.


Creating a compelling image that matches the content has been especially difficult in this case. The book spans more than 400 years, and I couldn’t find anything that quite reflected the place or its people, now or then, or that extended an appropriate emotional appeal.

A seismograph didn’t do it, though several geometric zig-zag patterns looked cool.

One design that excited me featured a portrait of John Greenleaf Whittier’s mother, but others saw her as forbidding. What I saw calm and collected they viewed as sorrowful and inhibited. Oh, well.

But then, while going through my own photos, I came across a late-autumn photo of the Cochecho River, scene of much of the action. I loved its timeless mystery and beauty and the fact it didn’t look generic to just about anywhere else in the world.

One of my earlier posts pointed out that the cover should promise the reader something rather than mirror the story. It’s a matter of eliciting a gut-level attraction.

Somehow, I hope you feel this cover leads backward into time, with the drama of a storm on the way. Just what is around that bend, anyway?


Please stay tuned for the release details in the days ahead.

It’s a Cape, of sorts, but quite popular here

Maybe it’s a reflection of the town’s fishing village nature, but the most common house style seems to be Cape Cod.

The traditional Full Cape stands 1½ stories with a central door on the front, flanked by two windows on each side. Eastport has a fair number of those, including the one where I dwell.

But for whatever reasons, a distinctive variation proliferated here. Gone is the doorway from under the roofline, along with the central hall, staircase, and chimney. The result is a shorter front and an overall smaller house, commonly two rooms with two in the attic above, rather than the customary four-over-four.

The design does create a smaller frontage, which may have been a tax advantage, as well as allowing more homes to cluster closer to the harbor.

Here’s a sampling.

The front’s symmetric.
While the door has moved to the gable-roofed side.
Curtains add a personal touch.
This one, with shutters, plays to New England severity.
And some even have two chimneys.