April 5, 2020

Cap’n Charlie’s Choppers

            Somerset Choice Station is often a gathering place for friends. Many stories are shared and this is one of the more unusual true stories.

            Tommy Northam came in on a Friday afternoon to visit and found a gift waiting for him. The gift was from Shop Guy Doug Akley. Out of the bag Tommy pulled a beautiful, glass Christmas ornament shaped like teeth. With feet. He laughed and thanked Doug for the most appropriate present.

             I didn’t get the joke.  I had missed the story Tommy had told Doug on a previous visit, so I asked him to tell it again. He was happy to share the much-repeated story about his father. He even gave permission to post the story on my website, using real names.

            Charles Thomas Northam, Sr., was a waterman who raised his family down Wenona. Cap’n Charlie, as he was known, had a habit of rinsing his false teeth over the side of his boat after lunch.

            One day, in the 1920’s or 1930’s, the teeth slipped from his fingers and swirled to the bottom of Holland Straits on the west side of Tangier Sound. There was no chance of retrieving them. He replaced them and that was that. Or so he thought.

            About twelve years later, Cap’n Charlie was in Horace Webster’s store down Wenona, when he heard fellow watermen Stanford White and Guilford Abbott talking about pulling up false teeth while crabbing one day about a year earlier. He told the men he’d lost teeth twelve years before, and told them where. Cap’n Charlie said he could identify his teeth because of a chip in one of them.

            Turns out, the men had kept the teeth. For a year, they’d been riding around with the teeth in the glove compartment of one of their trucks. They brought in the found teeth, and reunited them with their long-lost owner, to laughter all around.

            The story has become legend and Tommy has always enjoyed telling it. He says of the footed teeth Doug gave him, “They must have walked up out of Tangier Sound.”