ORLEANS — Tom Daley, the town's DPW director, calls Buddy Young a rascal. Then he tells you, “I admire his honesty and his caring for the town of Orleans.”
“I enjoy making trouble,” said Young, a familiar presence at selectmen's meetings and a member of the facility committee for the new DPW building. “I never could say what I wanted to. Now I don't care.”
He definitely cares about his town, where he was born 82 years ago on Great Oak Road in East Orleans. As a little boy, he rode his tricycle with high back wheels to Dave Bessom's store, accompanied on one side by his dog and his pet goat on the other.
He started school in the building that now houses town hall, and went to high school – until he didn't – at Orleans High, now part of the Nauset Regional Middle School building.
“My mind wasn't with school,” he recalled. “All of us kids had fun.” Once, as his carefully dressed teacher Mr. Shipps bent over to pick up some papers, Young “ripped my handkerchief, and he thought he'd ripped his pants.” A bit later, the 15-year-old jumped out of a school window. It was time to go to work.
Young's father had started his cesspool business in 1937, serving Yarmouth to Provincetown with a Model A truck carrying a 300-gallon tank and a hand pump. Many a garden was fertilized in the process of disposal.
Working for his father and driving a 1954 Dodge pumper truck, the teenaged Young saw a Registry of Motor Vehicles officer cut in front of him. “I put the brakes on,” he said, “and all the shit came out of the tank over his car.” Rather than being angry, the officer knew Young's quick response had saved him from a worse fate.
Young dug cesspools and did other construction projects into his 30s, when he decided to visit Florida with his wife Nancy. “I was supposed to go for six weeks,” he said, “and I stayed for 16 years.” When his first employer there said, “You work for me, I own you,” Young quit and bought his own construction equipment. He built 19 orange groves in Vero Beach and Fort Pierce, a thoroughbred track for Yankees owner George Steinbrenner, and an 18-hole golf course where he met Ted Williams.
At age 52, Young realized he missed Cape Cod. He and his family moved back, and he went to work at Brewster Sand and Gravel and then Robert B. Our when the latter was capping the Orleans landfill. The foreman marked one of the two cement bridges over a culvert with the words “Buddy's Memorial;” last year, when the area was dug up, Tom Daley told the contractors to keep an eye out for the honorable mention, and, 19 years later, the honoree posed with his concrete tribute once again.
There's something tough as, probably tougher than, concrete about Buddy Young. He's survived five heart attacks and says he's “died twice.” It probably helps that he lives almost directly across the street from the fire station, whose rescue squad “is worth their weight in gold.”
But there's another kind of gold that worries Young.
“People with money are running the town now,” he said. “It ain't right. It ain't Orleans anymore. There's us people and there's the rich people. Where do the kids go when they get out of school? A lot move away.”
With 11 grandchildren and 13 great-grandchildren, Young would like to see his family share his experience of Orleans. He recalled a recent day when he had a great grandson sitting nearby in a boat while the boy's father was farther out on the water fishing and Young was scratching for quahogs on the shore. A woman called out from her house, “You're the best babysitters I've ever seen!”
“I like clammin' and quahoggin',” Young said. “I guess I'm just a regular old Cape Codder.”