It’s that time of year when things start to get lean here in Maine. Tourist businesses have laid off all their seasonal help, and by now most of the yard sale money has been spent on lottery tickets, casino games and even a few necessities.

My friend Kendall Morse tells stories about the two brothers – Sherman and Harold Boardman – who were always looking for ways to make money. They were two of the hardest working men you’d ever meet, but they were a little slow and often had trouble securing gainful employment.

I don’t know where I heard this one, but one time a neighbor told the brothers that someone in town was looking for some guys to do some painting. When the brothers showed up in the fella’s dooryard, he said he first wanted to see how good they were with a paintbrush. He told them to grab a nearby bucket of paint and some brushes and go around the back of the house and start painting his porch. He told them that he’d come check on them in a while.

So Harold grabbed the bucket of paint and Sherm grabbed the brushes, and off they went behind the house.

A few minutes later the fella was surprised to see them back. He said, “You can’t be finished painting the porch so soon.”

“We sure are,” said Sherm. “And just for your information that’s not a ‘porch’ you’ve got back there – it’s a Mercedes.”

“But we laid a nice thick coat of this house paint on her anyway,” said Harold.

Kendall tells of another time when the brothers heard from their neighbor that if you took a truckload of Christmas trees down to Boston and set yourself up in some parking lot, you’d end up selling every one of those trees, and you’d make yourself a tidy profit while you were at it.

So, early one Saturday morning in early December the two brothers – who, like I said, weren’t playing with full decks – went out to Earl Tucker’s woodlot on the ridge and bought a few hundred freshly cut trees for $5 each. The brothers then headed down the interstate to Boston and by midmorning they had located an ideal spot in a lot in Dedham, right off busy Route 128. Once safely parked, they began unloading their Christmas trees.

People began stopping right off and before Harold and Sherm had finished unloading, they had sold a few dozen trees. By that afternoon they had sold every one of their Christmas trees – for $5 each.

Heading back up the interstate, Sherman was at the wheel and Harold, who was a tad more clever than Sherman, began counting their money. After he had counted it several times Sherman looked over and said, “So, Harold, how did we do?”

“I can’t figure it out,” said Harold. “From what I can tell, we’re not going to make any money on this deal. I can’t figure out why. In fact, when we take out our expenses we’re going to lose money.”

“How can that be?” said Sherm “We sold every tree we brought with us.”

“I know,” said Harold, “but I’ve counted the money several times, and I can’t see how we’re going to make anything for all this work.”

“Well, there’s only one thing we can do,” said Sherman.

“What’s that?” said Harold.

Sherman said, “Next year we’ll just have to get us a bigger truck.”

John McDonald is the author of five books on Maine, including “John McDonald’s Maine Trivia: A User’s Guide to Useless Information.” Contact him at [email protected].

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