Many years ago, the great John Gould wrote that Maine folklore was so plentiful that a Maine writer who understood the system could gather it in whole handfuls at a time — as easily as scarfing blueberries from a heavily laden bush.
This is true. The hardest part of collecting stories in Maine is trying to get up from your old neighbor’s kitchen table and go home when he is just getting started.
Even when your hand is on the doorknob your friend might say, “You don’t remember Tauno — worked in the boatyard? One day a little cross-eyed fellow came in and said, ‘You’re two months behind on your car payments. I’m here to take your car.’
“And Tauno says, ‘That’s all good and well, but before you go I’m going to straighten out your eyes.’ The fellow allowed as how they might work out some arrangement.”
And then there is Bill, who runs around in a car with a red light on the roof, helping people who get their toes caught in tight cracks.
Someone sent me a poster that says, “Good moms let you lick the beaters. Great moms turn them off first.” In New York, that might make someone smile, but in Maine, it will bring to mind a story.
When Bill saw it, he said, “I once went to a call where two newlyweds were making a cake. She let him lick the beater, but accidentally hit the switch. His tongue was so enmeshed in the beater that it had to be cut apart with a bolt cutter.”
If you have ever taught school you know that story is true, because you have probably had the pleasure of seeing children from several similar couples in some of your classes.
Then Bill said, “I wonder if they are still married,” which was all the encouragement I needed to tell a story of my own.
When Curt Stager, who has written a book on global warming, sent me an article that recently turned up in the literature, I posted it on my Facebook page with: “This from Curt Stager.”
A woman friend who read the article quickly snapped back, “I don’t see Stager’s name.”
Well, did I say he wrote it? And why would anyone think that Curt Stager, a paleoclimatologist, had to write every article on the topic of global warming to be in my possession?
I realized that my woman friend is much like my wife in that they both hastily come to incorrect conclusions without thinking logically about what they hear or read.
Perhaps my male friends will tell me if I’m wrong.
When you make a simple statement to your wife, does she always question its veracity or misconstrue it or want to know more?
I have found that when I speak to my wife, Marsha, The Almost Perfect Woman, I can save a lot of time if I talk like this: “My brother has gone to South Hiram. That is the only information I have on this matter.”
And even then she wants to know why I didn’t ask him why he was going or how long he planned to be gone and were his shoes shined and a dozen more important things that I should have found out when I had the chance.
If he thought it imperative that I have his itinerary, he would have given it to me, but because he didn’t, I think it is in my best interest to know as little as possible about his affairs. I also think it is in my best interest to know as little as possible about the affairs of not only my brother but of anyone.
If I had simply said, “My brother has gone to South Hiram,” my wife would have asked about his reason for going, his mode of transportation, the potential for cultural enrichment while there, why he went, who he was planning to see, how long he planned to stay and when he was coming back — for starters.
And simply answering, “I don’t know” to the first dozen or so questions would not slack her off. “I don’t know” only whets her appetite to find out exactly what, if anything, it is I do know, and increases the intensity of the interrogation.
So, in the interest of saving time, whenever I make a report I have chosen to end every statement with a robotic: “I have no other information on this matter.”
One might argue that my philosophy is not sound when it comes to sustaining a healthy marriage. For when a man knows little or nothing about his friends and relatives, he leaves himself open to his wife’s charge, “We have absolutely nothing to talk about.”
The humble Farmer can be seen on Community Television in and near Portland, heard on WMPG Community Radio and visited at his website: