Jo Lindsay said that the first time she met me, I told her that she had to take off all her clothes.

You do know that I recently celebrated my 81st-and-a-half birthday, don’t you? More than a handful of friends gathered at the St. George Grange Hall on July 18 for this highly publicized and not-to-be-repeated event, and, because I needed something to fill this space today, I asked each guest to stand up and say a few words about the first time we met.

As they spoke, I diligently scribbled in my little notebook. You will forgive me if I misquote because my cousin Truman Hilt, who was sitting behind me, kept whispering aphorisms in my ear. Let me give you an example and get that out of the way. Don’t bother to look it up and correct him: “Opera is where a guy gets stabbed and instead of dying, he sings.”

Cousin Truman makes me laugh. He’s got a shop full of good old things, and has a standard answer for anyone who asks him if he buys antiques: “I’ve got to. I can’t steal enough to stay in business.”

Psychologist Gar Roper was among the first to speak. He told of a hippie wedding he attended years ago at a friend’s summer camp in the back woods of Maine, and described in detail how the flower-decked bridal party paraded down a grassy green moraine to where bride and groom were joined in blissful matrimony. Gar said that when they asked the assemblage for comments, one unassuming stoop-shouldered man slowly raised his hand. The bride obviously knew him because she grimaced. The man said, “When I was invited to this wedding, I figured I’d probably be the only person here wearing a tie. I didn’t realize that I’d also be the only one wearing shoes.”

Peg Gagnon from up Palmyra way stood and said, “His short-term memory is nonexistent. But he can tell you who he is related to back to 1609.”

For several years Denise, who, with her husband, George, has spent the second Friday in July in our bed-and-breakfast, said she found our webpage on Google. “And there I saw a picture of Marsha on her knees washing the kitchen floor. I said to myself, ‘How can this be a B&B?’ I shut off my computer and said, ‘I’ve got to start over again.’ And this time I turn up a man. And he’s drinking his oatmeal out of a tin pan.”

Cousin Truman said, “I went to humble’s wedding. He got married at 12. At 1 he started auctioning off the wedding presents.”

If you were at our wedding, you know that there is not a word of truth in that statement. We didn’t send out personal invitations to our wedding, but I did pay to have a blanket wedding invitation printed in several newspapers, hoping that a few people with a morbid sense of humor would show up with food. I mentioned that presents were not wanted, and, because we were merging two households into one, after the ceremony guests were expected to buy something at the auction in which unwanted furnishings from an 1811 Maine farmhouse attic would be sold.

The ad drew dealers from all over Maine and warranted a two-page illustrated spread in Sam Pennington’s Antique Digest. We raked in enough from the auction to pay for the newspaper ads, and because the widow Marsha recycled the minister she used at a similar event, our wedding cost us nothing. We also had enough food left over to eat for a week. It is my understanding that some people lay out two or three hundred dollars to get married, and why more people don’t do it the way we did is beyond me.

Some things are best left unsaid. When I asked my younger brother, Jim, if he’d say a few words, he politely declined. He told me later that I should thank him.

Marsha had to work in Tenants Harbor that day and so couldn’t attend the birthday party. She has been a wonderful wife, but likes to keep her life separate from the mad social whirl that surrounds mine. When we first met, she would rather scrape paint off the front of a house than make marketing calls for my speaking business, which is why I advertised for help.

Jo Lindsay said that when she showed up to work in my office, I was so allergic to the cat hair on her clothes that she had to throw them in a pile and change into something Marsha had just washed before I’d let her in.

The humble Farmer can be heard Friday nights at 7 on WHPW (97.3 FM) and visited at his website:

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