The Story of Jake Tuesday – 5

The Story of Jake Tuesday page 5


With the firefighters out and the rain starting again during the first firehouse dance, they skip the song and the usual jaunt to Pliny Park, returning to the pub to sing other songs.

Singer: “Although I’m not rich and although I’m not poor / I’m as happy as those that’s got thousands or more.”
Group: “Thousands or more / Thousands or more / Thousands or more / I’m as happy as those that’s got thousands or more.”

Geoff Rogers says, “I like these events that mark the passing of the year … We used to have the planting season and they knew when the solstice was coming … when the shortest day was going to happen…”

“And even what that meant!” Jake adds.

“I think nowadays people are so far away from that – so isolated, ” says Geoff.

The evening nears its end as 10:00 PM passes. A departing guest wishes Jake a “Happy You Tuesday!”

Jake says, “Thanks! … I’m always glad to share it with you.”

Six months after his heart attack Jake – for whom math had always come naturally – was unable to do a sixth-grade long division problem.

“I’m a science teacher … I can do [long division] now, so it’s been neat to see the recovery, and there are a bunch of things that have helped me get better – Jake Tuesday being one of them.”

Bonus: watch a video from the very same Jake Tuesday celebration covered in this comic (courtesy of Adroyt)!

Update 2014-06-12: I should’ve mentioned earlier, you can get your own print copy of this comic in Square Dance #6 (a collection of my short comics) and The Cartoon Picayune #4 (an anthology of graphic journalism). You can also peek at my process behind the scenes in The Cartoon Picayune‘s interview with me.

The Story of Jake Tuesday – 4

The Story of Jake Tuesday page 4


Jake brought the dawn tradition to the Putney Morris Men (though they start when it’s light). He no longer dances because of a permanent ankle injury, but he comes to McNeill’s Pub on Jake Tuesday, when Juggler Meadow visits to celebrate his return from death. The eighth Tuesday after Easter, it’s named after their annual “Drake Tuesday”, which is named after and commemorates the long-closed bar they frequented after dance practice in their early days.

Jake says, “There’s a funny awkward element to it, because a lot of the new people on the team I don’t really know – ‘Oh – you’re Jake!’ … But it’s a neat tradition … For me it’s a great chance to see some people I love dearly.”

The tradition now spans generations. Geoff Rogers’ son Angus is here dancing, and Oriel Strong has recently taken her father’s former role as musician. “I’ve been coming to these events since I was in utero,” she says.

“We always go across the street and do a dance or two for the firemen, and we always sing this song for them called ‘The Old Dun Cow’,” says Geoff Rogers. It’s about a pub that catches fire and the patrons who rush to the cellar to drink all the booze. “[The firefighters] all join in the chorus – it’s fun.” (Bystanders: “They’re at a fire.” “No, there’s flooding.”)

The Story of Jake Tuesday – 3

The Story of Jake Tuesday page 3


On June 5, after Jake had come home, Juggler Meadow and the Putney Morris Men came to dance for him. He was still in “pretty bad” physical shape – able to go outside, but not to retain his own memory of the event. “It was definitely a low point in my life, so for me it’s very special to think that these guys all came over and breather a kind of life in me that was different from … CPR.”

Jake’s friend Geoff Rogers dragged him to his first morris practice in the early 1980s. Jake says, “It’s an easy community to like – really nice people, and the dancing is really fun, and building a sense of community.

“The big tradition is dancing in the dawn on May Day. We would go to Juggler Meadow and camp out, and start dancing while it was still dark – and for me that’s where I felt something extraordinary. It was just the sense that I was doing something with other people that other people had been doing for a long time, and I felt like it was really important.

“I’m not a big believer in things that can’t be explained; I really like science … but I definitely had the sense that there was something I couldn’t explain, that it was special and that it was important. It could be as simple as the relationships between people, which I think is really, really important.”

The Story of Jake Tuesday – 2

The Story of Jake Tuesday page 2


Mark Summers found Jake and assumed he’d crashed, realizing when closer that he was dead. He debated going for help, but decided to use the CPR training he’d received years ago. Another driver came, and went for help. The town had just purchased a portable defibrillator, which they put to use on Jake. An ambulance and helicopter ride later Jake was under doctors’ care, but he’d gone so long without oxygen that they expected him to die again. When he seemed to be stabilizing, they said that if he survived he would do so without his memory.

Jake says, “For me it’s a haunting story, that my wife had to sit my little girls down – they were third and fifth grade – and say that Pop might live, but he’s not going to remember you.

“But I just … lucked out … I had enough brain left so that even though there was a lot of damage, I’ve gotten a lot of stuff back.”

He still doesn’t remember the heart attack or the month that followed; he has to rely on his wife Eve’s memories for that. “I think I was feeling pretty isolated, and like my life had changed a lot. My brain didn’t work very well. I’d been very athletic, and it was clear I was never going to be able to do any of that stuff again.”

The Story of Jake Tuesday – 1

The Story of Jake Tuesday page 1


If you passed the fire station in Brattleboro, Vermont the night of May 29, you may have seen an unusual sight – The outfits with bells on the legs mark this as a morris dance, a type of English ritual folk dance that predates Shakespeare and has spread to the U.S. – but why is it here on this Tuesday night?

Geoff Rogers: “We’re called the Juggler Meadow Morris Men; we’re based in Amherst [Massachusetts].” Juggler Meadow is here with local morris team Windham and others for Jake Tuesday, an annual event in honor of former member Jake McDermott, who moved to Putney and in April 2001 had a heart attack. “We have an evening of beer and song and dancing – celebrating life in general and Jake in particular.”

“Jake was not the kind of guy you would ever expect to have something like that happen to him … really an iron man; really, really fantastic shape.” But during an easy bike ride on Kurn Hattin Road in Westminster, he died of a heart attack.

This story marks my return to the pages of The Commons – with a full-length article in comics format! You can pick up a free print copy today through next Tuesday at numerous locations in Brattleboro and the rest of Windham County, VT, or download the paper as a PDF (44 MB) read it at The Commons website. The version in The Commons is laid out differently and in color (provided by The Commons). Here are photos of it in the paper (click to enlarge):

(That’s right – I got a jump page!)

I’m really excited about this one; I’ve been wanting to do stuff like this for a while, and I’m happy with how it came out – and having it in a newspaper makes it even better! Thanks to Commons editor Jeff Potter for devoting space to graphic journalism.

(PS: Sorry for the occasionally jaggy image quality – I’ve started drawing smaller and haven’t yet got the hang of reproducing the thinnest lines at screen resolution.)

Update 2014-06-12: I should’ve mentioned earlier, you can get your own print copy of this comic in Square Dance #6 (a collection of my short comics) and The Cartoon Picayune #4 (an anthology of graphic journalism). You can also peek at my process behind the scenes in The Cartoon Picayune‘s interview with me.