Years ago I worked for a weekly newspaper Down East, and around this time of year the population of the small towns I covered would more than double, with out-of-staters flooding into the state. The increased traffic would always result in increased accidents.

I still recall one particular traffic accident that resulted in a lawsuit and involved several big-city lawyers who stirred things up quite a bit before it was all over. The accident, involved our town’s second selectman, Henry Pinkham, and a well-to-do tourist from Massachusetts. We didn’t know anything about the tourist, of course, and I can’t even recall his name at this point.

Anyway, this tourist came flying through town in his fancy, foreign car one afternoon and managed to slam into Henry’s pickup, knocking it clear off the road and into the puckerbrush along the river. When the trooper arrived on the scene, the tourist said he hadn’t even seen the “slow ahead” sign just outside town line and had no idea he was going 70 in a 35 mph zone. To no one’s surprise, there was a lawsuit filed on behalf of Second Selectman Pinkham.

After quite a delay, the case finally did arrive at the halls of justice before Judge Elmer Wyman. The well-to-do tourist, acting like he owned the place, strutted into the courtroom with several high-powered lawyers in tow.

They had rented the whole second floor of the Chickadee Motel in town, so they’d have a nice place to relax while the trial was going on. Of course, there’s only three rooms on the hotel’s second floor, but folks in town were impressed all the same that this rich tourist from Massachusetts was able to rent all three of them at once.

When Judge Wyman finally called the court to order and asked the lead attorney to proceed, he boomed out, “Your Honor, I would like to call Henry Pinkham to the stand.”

Henry walked to the front of the court, was sworn in and took his seat. The lawyer started grilling Henry up one side, down the other and back again twice.

At one point he said, “Just after the accident you told the trooper at the scene that you were ‘all right’ – and I quote those words from the official accident report. Now, almost 18 months later you’re claiming in your lawsuit that you were injured? Is that so?”

The lawyer continued, “I’d like to know and I’m sure the judge would like to know and the jury, too. We’d all like to know when it was you went from being ‘all right’ to being injured?”

Henry came to life and said,” When your client came flying through town he slammed into my pickup and knocked it clear off the road, down over the embankment and almost clear into the river. I had a cow in the back of that truck – best cow I ever owned – and she went sailing into the puckerbrush.

“A trooper arrives on the scene, hears my cow in the bushes, moaning and groaning and says, ‘That cow is in misery.’ He then pulls out his service revolver and shoots the cow dead.

“Then, with my ears ringing from the shot and his gun still smoking, he leans over to me and says, ‘Now, are you all right?’”

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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