I miss the good old days, back when the everyday conversations with my elders were peppered with colorful phrases and not the foul language and curses that seem all too common in today’s society.

Growing up on a fourth-generation family farm in rural Maine, I could always count on my uncle, grandparents and other relatives to enlighten my young mind with a vast array of country sayings — some a bit salty — that seem to be becoming a thing of the past.

For example, my grandmother, when she was particularly busy with cooking or cleaning, would say she was as “busy as a parched pea in a hot skillet,” while my grandfather would be “busier then a one-armed paper hanger.”

My uncle, a veritable fountain of colorful Yankee sayings, would himself be “as busy as the button on an outhouse door.”

Of course, this was the same uncle that was usually “so nervous he could fly,” or on a really bad day was as “nervous as a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs.”

Since farming is in our blood, it was only natural that several of the sayings featured animals.


In the winter, the roads would likely be “slipperier then a greased cat’s behind,” or if you had to go outside in the bitter cold, you might look as “humped up as a bird sitting on a briar.”

In the summer, it was either “hotter then the hinges of Hell” or “hotter then blue blazes.”

If you were not particularly smart, chances are you were “number then a pounded thumb” or “number than a hake,” or perhaps you “didn’t know as much as Larrabee’s calf, and he stuck his butt in the brook to drink.”

However, that was still probably better then being as “useless as teats on a bull.”

Unfortunate folks were known to be as “poor as church mice,” and if someone did something really dumb in public, it was said to have “gone over like breaking wind in church.”

Slow drivers were known to drive as “slow as molasses running uphill in January,” and those people we knew who thought an awful lot of themselves were said to be “Big as Billy B Damned.”


A cute kitten or new baby chick was as “bright as a dollar,” a bad kitchen knife was said to be as “dull as a hoe” and someone who missed a buck during hunting season was said to be “unable to hit the broadside of a barn.”

I was notoriously clumsy as a child and my uncle would always say I was as “graceful as a bull in a china shop.”

My children are the fifth generation of our family to live in our old farmhouse.

So, we hope to keep passing it on, so that future generations of our family will always have a “pot to pee in and a window to throw it out of.”


– Special to the Telegram


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