‘What year did you graduate?” I asked him. “1964,” he lied.

We were dancing the circle dance during which the music stops and you switch partners. We were at a dance hall in Fairfield. I lived in Camden. I was working on my conversation opener and the crowd did not appear to be college graduates. I figured the high school query was safe.

My friend Mary, a newly divorced pharmacist, had just bought a pickup truck and asked me to go. I’d been once or twice with a couple of my friends.

He had on a short-sleeved plaid shirt. I have always found these irresistible. When he danced he had rhythm and could find the beat. Lots of the guys weren’t so great. He later told me his sister taught him to dance on the back of a hay wagon.

We danced around for a minute, moved on to the next person, and when it ended went to sit down – he with the farmers at the back table on the left, me with my pharmacist friend on the right. The farmers called us the “coastal women.” We did not know this at the time, of course.

“Here he comes!” said Mary. “Ask him to come and sit with us after this dance so we can talk to him.”


“What do you do?” I asked, dancing, using the only other starter I could think to use. “Do you drink milk?” he asked me. “Yes!” Coincidentally, my two young boys and I had just switched brands and I told him our new brand. He beamed. Big grin. “That’s what I make!” he said.

As instructed, I asked him to come sit with me and Mary on our side of the room. We hollered back and forth at each other over the music then, as one did, to be heard.

I’d been asked from another friend of mine, Betsy, to find somebody to go dancing the next night at Crystal Falls so we could double date. So before Mary and I left for home, I flat out asked him if he’d meet me at Crystal Falls the next night.

“Sure!” he said.

Another evening. Another plaid shirt. I drove up with Betsy and her boyfriend and we met him there. Afterwards, he went home to Skowhegan and I returned to Camden.

A few weekends later, Mr. Plaid Shirt, who never even went to high school, a fact he disclosed at an early opportune time, drove from Skowhegan to Camden to pick me up to go to another dance in Fairfield. He brought me a quart of his own maple syrup. After that evening he drove me back to Camden, only to have to turn around and drive back to Skowhegan himself. He had cows to milk in just a couple of hours.

I knew then that the education measure I’d used in the past to evaluate partner suitability fell far short when compared to plaid shirts, chivalry and maple syrup. The dairy farmer and I married in 1995. And started over again. Together.

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