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Meeting J.D. Salinger
Delivering furniture to a house in Cornish, N.H., the author meets a famous writer and learns an unexpected lesson.

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It was the early summer of 1972 and I had just finished my junior year at UNH. Since the job market in the Claremont region was not good, I was forced to take various odd jobs between my interviews at the woolen mills and factories in the area. My father, Wilbur Hodgman, was an interior decorator at Bourdon's, a small family-owned mattress and furniture business in Claremont. One Saturday morning, as we sat in the family kitchen, he asked me in his sixth-generation New Hampshire accent, "Do ya wanna help me deliver some furniture up in Conish [Cornish]?"

I say "interior decorator," but it wasn't quite that glamorous a job. His Depression roots had taught him the ability to handle any number of tasks in this firm beyond his main job of dealing with customers—upholstering furniture, making draperies, constructing mattresses and often delivering furniture and goods on Saturdays. While working at the firm as a boy, I was always amazed at how easily he shifted from meeting customers in the showroom of the modest clapboard-sided factory, to dealing with fellow workers, to skillfully creating the various products of the firm. He had a down-home way with people no matter what their station. He was Yankee to the core.

"OK," I said hoping for a little extra pocket money, hurriedly running upstairs to throw on some work clothes. We drove down to the shop where we loaded up the old International truck and headed along South Main Street to Route 12A and north towards Cornish. As we were bouncing along in the old truck, I looked out at the sky on this warm summer day and casually asked, "I wonder if it's gonna rain later on?"

My father looked over at me with a slight upturn of the corner of his mouth and then looked straight ahead and replied, "Well, we'll have to ask J.D."



"J.D. who?"

"J.D. Salinger...you're studyin' English at college and you don't know who J.D. Salinger is?"

"What are you talkin' about?"

"We're deliverin' this stuff to J.D. Salinger's."

"You're kidding!"

At this point in the conversation the truck had turned off 12A onto a road leading up from the Connecticut River Valley. "What the hell would J.D. Salinger want with stuff from Bourdon's? He's famous."

"Well, even your famous people gotta have furniture and curtains," he said in his level Yankee tone.

The truck slowed to make a turn up a dirt driveway, and then the Swiss chalet style dark-stained house came into view. It had a wrap-around deck on two sides overlooking the valley. The garage was a poured concrete bunker-like construction at the end of the drive. As the truck rolled to a stop and a salt-and-pepper-haired man emerged from the house. I saw my father transformed from a Lempster farm boy whose education had ended with the sixth grade into someone who knew J.D. Salinger.

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