From the time their folks died, Roscoe and Harold Cushman lived quietly in a camp on the family woodlot about 12 miles of town on the Kansas Road. The Cushman brothers were two of the hardest working boys you’d ever want to meet, but one was as numb as a pounded thumb and the other was a dumb as a haddock. You could say one didn’t come with a full set of rafters and the other had a room upstairs that wasn’t “finished.” But both, as I said, were awful hard workers.
I remember being uptown at Hap Wilson’s store early one morning when the Cushman brothers arrived to do their monthly shopping. They were going up one aisle and down the other getting the supplies they needed. After a while, Harold started moving the loaded boxes out to their pickup. On his way back inside, he stopped to look at the store’s fancy window display. There, in the center of the window, was a beautiful, shiny pair of shoes priced at $250. ”That can’t be,” thought Harold. “Two hundred and fifty dollars for a pair of shoes?” Harold, of course, had never paid more than $10 for a pair of shoes in his life and that was for a special pair he found recently at Marden’s. Even the nice Bean shoes he’d owned over the years he always bought at Goodwill outlets.
Once back inside, he said to Hap, “There must be some mistake about those shoes in the window. They can’t really cost $250!” ”No mistake,” said Hap. “I made that tag out myself. They’re alligator shoes.” Harrold was dumbfounded. “Alligator shoes! What will they think of next?”
He dragged his brother outside to see these magnificent alligator shoes, and this simple event became what they call a “life-changer.” Right then and there, in front of Hap Wilson’s store, the brothers decided they would sell their woodlot and all their equipment and get themselves into this newly discovered alligator shoe business.
Now, I told you the Cushman brothers were half-bubble off plumb. The first thing they learned about the alligator shoe business was that you couldn’t raise alligators in Maine. But that was OK with them. They made one of their first “executive decisions.” They decided if the alligators wouldn’t come to Maine, they’d gladly go to the alligators. Before long they had sold everything they owned and went off to Boston, where they boarded a jet for Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The Cushman brothers were through with Down East Maine’s Narraguagus and were determined to start a whole new life on the mighty Amazon, the world’s largest river that must just be teeming with alligators. Everyone in town seemed a little amused, and all figured they’d seen the last of the poor Cushman brothers.
Then, about six months after their departure for Brazil, there was a death in the close-knit Cushman family. They might have been a numb family, but they were all awful close. So, a cousin was dispatched to fetch the two brothers home for a memorial service. The cousin rented a canoe in Rio and started paddling up the mighty Amazon. After searching for the brothers on the river for three or four days with no success, he was about to declare the whole trip a failure. Then, on the fifth day, he suddenly figured he must be on their trail, because he started seeing alligators stacked up like cordwood along the river. No one could stack things – whether cordwood or alligators – like Roscoe and Harold Cushman.
Shortly, the cousin came around a wide bend in the river and what he saw almost knocked him right out of his rented canoe. There on the bank he could see Harold stacking up more alligators, And out in the middle of the mighty Amazon River he saw Roscoe hand-wrassling a 21-foot alligator. It was a sight to behold. He saw that the tail on that alligator was thrashing around, and he saw the jaw was snapping away. But Roscoe, a pretty big fella in pretty good shape, was keeping on top of the situation.
The cousin arrived just in time to see Roscoe bring his big arm, snap that alligator’s jaw shut, then cup his hand to his mouth and yell to his brother on shore: “I can tell you one thing Harold; if this alligator ain’t wearing shoes, we’re going home.”