Unless I haven’t been paying attention, Charlie Wing’s latest book is “Salt in Their Veins.” Although it contains stories about everyday Maine people, it could not be called “Quirky Characters” because Steve Bither and Tim Sample had already used up that title.
You’ve read books by Charlie Wing. Folks say that he taught physics at Bowdoin for years. The way I heard it, someone suggested that it would be fun to see what would happen if Bowdoin professors were to teach one course in something that they knew absolutely nothing about. Professor Wing claimed to know nothing when it came to repairing things in the home, so, being a genius blessed with an insatiable appetite to educate, his research enabled him not only to teach a course on how things work but also to write enough books on the topic to sink a dory.
“Salt in Their Veins” is different, however, and Charlie didn’t actually write it any more than I write newspaper columns. He just knocked about southern Maine and wrote down what people said. Perhaps the greatest difficulty in writing a book about Maine is in finding 40 natives who will admit that they have nothing better to do than peel back the cap on a cold one, and talk.
How can you improve on ordinary everyday Maine coast conversation? When Charlie asked Carroll “Bud” Dowling how he was able to go out in his barn and make a submarine that would go down 1,400 feet, Mr. Dowling said, “Common sense.”
Tim Sample, who has lived more lives than a tomcat, told about the time he worked on a lobster boat and why things had to be done in a certain way: “The bottom line was that if you didn’t do it that way bad things might happen, like somebody might die.”
I can’t remember how I happen to be on a first-name basis with Professor Wing, but when I was setting up my solar radiant heated cellar/office, he was one of several heating gurus who came by and told me how to insulate it. And here’s an important thing you should know about Charlie Wing. Instead of telling you how to “calculate the R-value of a multilayered installation,” he comes right out and says, “Nail the board to the wall.”
Charlie told me he was going to interview some Maine people and put their stories into a book. He asked me to suggest several friends who would be willing to talk with him. Other than myself, the only other St. George characters to make it to the printer were the colorful Port Clyde artist, Wilder Oakes, and my late friend, the witty Timmy “Peeler Boy” Holmes.
If you have ever had your words recorded for a book or newspaper article, you know it isn’t long before you wonder if you should have said this or that. And, even worse, your mind suddenly overflows with countless bits of insightful wisdom that you wish had come to mind when you were waxing eloquent.
For example, here was my chance to see immortalized in “Salt in Their Veins” the fact that young people cannot possibly know that if you are madly in love with someone who won’t even give you the time of day, you should not get religion or slash your wrists in despair. There is a very good chance that in 40 or 50 years, whatever remains of your dearly beloved will turn up on your doorstep. And if you peep out from behind your curtain, you will see nothing that will inspire you to open the door.
Why didn’t I tell the world that I can swallow my six morning pills at one time? This is more than a remarkable achievement when you consider that one of my newest medications is a fish-oil pill about the size of an Austrian sausage. When pill swallowing becomes a regular event in the Senior Olympics, I will stand proud when it comes time to represent my country.
A stickler for accuracy, Charlie was kind enough to let me fact-check the chapter he wrote about me. This is a courtesy I did not afford him with the present piece. So if I said something here that is not true – or in some way offended your cousin or Great-Uncle Alvah – please remember that this isn’t a book. Anything printed in a newspaper or said at a news conference is off the record.
The humble Farmer can be heard Friday nights at 7 on WHPW (97.3 FM) and visited at his website: