Longtime Maine Sunday Telegram readers will remember Dick Goodie. An avid runner, he organized Maine road races in the 1960s. He’s a tireless supporter of Maine World War II veteran events, and a freelance writer who — 31 years ago — landed a story in this newspaper’s sports section that earned the Maine Press Association’s Best Sports Feature award for 1979.
Now 86, the Westbrook resident and Maine native continues his decades-long writing career. His 1984 essay collection, “The Maine Quality of Running,” was well received. So was his 1997 World War II novel, “A Bracelet for Lily.” Goodie’s most recent book, published this year, may be best of the three.
“Raindrops on a Nail Keg” is a summing-up collection of essays that touch on three areas that define the author’s life: boyhood on a Maine farm run by his grandmother, life in a World War II infantry battalion, and the pleasure of running and racing as an over-50 sport fanatic.
Goodie’s new book also includes a short story set in the Civil War, and a chapter in praise of Maine’s north woods titled “Baxter Park: The Backpack to Heaven.”
In sum, Goodie’s “Raindrops on a Nail Keg” is a mellow retrospective of a life well lived. His essays are full of sentiment. Most are fascinating, among them a World War II piece titled “The Women’s De-Nazification Compound.”
At the end of the war — after fighting with the U.S. Infantry from the beaches at Normandy to the heart of Germany — Goodie received a cushy, though strange, military assignment. He and 100 other GIs were assigned to an all-female prisoner of war camp near Stuttgart, Germany. Its purpose was to “de-Nazify eight hundred German women” brought there from all over Europe.
The interred women ranged in age from 20 to over 70. All had worked for the Nazi bureaucracy during the war — some as telephone operators, others as high-ranking party officials.
At the start of the assignment, Goodie describes an Army captain’s no-nonsense warning to the GIs under his command.
“One thing I want clearly understood,” Goodie quotes the officer as saying, “you are to stay out of their living quarters… any soldier caught in their quarters without my permission will be court marshaled and can expect a sentence of no less than ten years at Levenworth Prison.”
According to Goodie, the 100 war-weary GIs followed his instructions. But they naturally took interest in their “prisoners” who, according to the author, were well-treated as they cleaned and did other chores in the compound.
The soldiers took note of beautiful Clara from Paris. There was Margaret “who carried the militaristic deportment of a field general” and Jo Hanna.
Friendly and fluent in English, Jo Hanna stole the heart of a soldier from Aroostook County. So smitten was the GI that he asked Jo Hanna to marry him and move to Maine once the de-Nazification camp closed. I won’t give away the unexpected end of the romance.
As a former distance runner, I found Goodie’s essays about running in Maine 40 years ago insightful. Among other things, they show a remarkable change in the way society views runners today compared with yesteryear.
“Back in the 1960s,” writes the author, “there were perhaps only four or five runners training on the streets of Portland.”
“What’s worse,” he writes, “all were viewed with genuine suspicion by the general population, like the occasional moose that wanders across the city limits and is thought to be disoriented by parasites.”
Goodie praises “Maine’s two pioneer female runners,” Robin Emery and Diane Fournier. Fournier was one of the first women to run the Boston Marathon — successfully avoiding race officials who attempted to keep women out of the race as late as 1970.
There are other essay gems in Goodie’s book, including a first chapter tribute to his grandmother, who expertly ran a farm in Orono after her husband’s early death. Goodie, born in Bangor, spent much of the 1920s and 1930s on the farm with his father and uncles, including his agricultural expert uncle, Edmund.
“I adapted easily to farm life,” Goodie recalls, “… I could bring the cows in for milking when I was seven, work the hay rake behind a horse when ten, and drive Edmund’s pickup in the fields when eleven.”
Goodie’s book engagingly describes happenings most of us are too young to remember. His admirable zest for life makes its way into practically every paragraph. “Raindrops on a Nail Keg” is a book worth owning.
Lloyd Ferriss is a freelance writer and photographer who lives in Richmond.