Can you remember when even a red-hot salesman couldn’t sell a hydraulic pot hauler to a Maine lobsterman? Now hydraulic pot haulers are taken for granted, and you’re well along in years if you can remember when fishermen started using them and why.

The historian Snorri Sturluson, who relied on the tenacious memories of people who could remember things from long ago, admitted that although he didn’t know for sure if what he recorded was true, old and learned men considered it to be so.

The venerable Dr. Johnson said that he would rather shoot a highwayman who was in the act of robbing him than trust his memory and swear against him later at the Old Bailey because “I am surer in the one case than the other.”

You know that eyewitness testimony is no longer reliable evidence in a court of law. Four eyewitnesses to an accident or robbery will invariably differ in their accounts of any incident that happened only minutes before.

So can we trust the memory of an old Maine man who wants to take us back to the days of President Kennedy, when he sold the first Crowe pot hauler to a lobsterman in Boothbay Harbor? Do we have a choice, when the narrator has probably outlived anyone else who might have been there?

My initial dealings with Bernard Davis, for that is our super-salesman’s name, go back to the 1950s, when I was stationed on the Coast Guard Cutter Laurel in Rockland.

Bergendahl, the cook, rolled over in his 1946 Ford. I bought it, dragged it home and removed the crumpled body.

See in your mind, if you can, a frame, an engine, a steering wheel and two bucket seats that were resting on, but not attached to, the frame. The gas pedal had been removed with the body, but there was a throttle. With no weight on the back wheels, its ability to burn rubber made it a little boy’s dream.

Davis, five years my junior, was having his first ride on the death trap. We stopped by the spring at Wiley’s Corner, where I gave the young Davis some quick instruction and asked him if he could shift from low to second for me. You understand that I needed one hand on the wheel, another on the throttle and a third hand any time I wanted to shift gears. Otherwise, all rubber burning would have to be done in low gear.

We tore off with tires smoking. Davis missed second and jammed it up into reverse; I let out the clutch and stripped the gears. For the past 60 or so years, I have introduced Bernard Davis as the man who saved my life by destroying a dangerous machine on which I would have otherwise killed myself – and perhaps also the boy who would later sell the first hydraulic pot hauler in Maine.

It is human nature to be afraid of something new. In 1847, the Hungarian doctor Ignaz Semmelweis suggested that physicians wash their hands before delivering babies. Even though hand washing was proven to reduce mortality, his ideas conflicted with established medical opinions at the time. For his pains, Dr. Semmelweis ended his days in a mental institution.

Shocked by the appearance of horseless wagons on the road, in 1865 the English passed a law mandating a highway speed limit of 4 mph for horseless vehicles – which, some say, is the average speed of rush-hour traffic in Portland today. The only difference is that in 1865, a man carrying a red flag had to walk in front of the vehicles.

Although we are now the only industrialized country in the world where every citizen does not enjoy the advantages of single-payer health insurance, facts and figures alone will never convince many American voters that in the long run, single-payer will give them better care and cost them much less.

So it was with human nature stacked against him that a determined Davis went to work for Maine Hydraulic Engineering and set out to sell Bob Crowe’s hydraulic pot haulers to lobster catchers in Boothbay Harbor.

“Bob and I’d put a trap out in a field,” Davis said. “We had a hauler mounted on the back of a pickup truck, and we’d show fishermen how quickly and easily we could snap that trap in to the truck.

“But fishermen would say, ‘I’m hauling traps the same way my father hauled traps. Why would I want to change?’

“I could see I’d have to get someone to use one on a boat before I could do business.”

Davis said he asked around until he found the wildest lobsterman in town. “He’d go out of the harbor wide open, and he’d come back the same way.

“I told him he could use a hydraulic hauler for a month for free. If he didn’t like it, I’d take it back. At the end of the month, he bought it.”

Fishermen, being human, will let a lot of money slip through their fingers before trying something new. But they are far from being fools, and it wasn’t long before it was noticed that one boat hauled more traps quicker and brought in a bigger catch than anyone else.

Getting all hands on board with the new technology was simply a matter of getting one man to show the others that it worked.

And that’s how Bob Crowe’s pot haulers got to be standard equipment on lobster boats in Maine.

The humble Farmer can be seen on Community Television in and near Portland and visited at his website:

www.thehumblefarmer.com/MainePrivateRadio.html