The other day you might have seen a football player on TV who said that he was quitting the game while he could still walk. In seven years, the poor boy had broken or fractured or ruptured more body parts than a Port Clyde family of lobster catchers does in a lifetime. I seem to recall that he was 29 years old and that he had earned a hundred million dollars being pounded into the ground by big guys who knew what he earned and resented it. With consumer prices already shooting up because of the trade war with China, we can sympathize with him for not quitting months ago.

The humble Farmer entertains a full house at Bowdoin College’s Pickard Theater. Next month, he’ll be speaking at the Maine Organization of Storytelling Enthusiasts’ Portland meeting. Photo courtesy of Robert Skoglund

But the day finally came when enough was enough. And when he said he was tired of being smeared on the ground, his fans booed him off the field.

That gave me the shivers because, although I quit speaking on a regular basis years ago, I’ve agreed to say a few words at the September meeting of the Maine Organization of Storytelling Enthusiasts at the Portland Public Library. Why, I wondered, don’t more of us who perform quit before we are booed or carried off the field?

Do you ever agree to do something on the spur of the moment and only later consider the ramifications? Perhaps you’ve said you’d play a trumpet that you haven’t touched in years. Or throw away your crutches long enough to take on some rangy teenager on the tennis court. Roping steers at the rodeo was once second nature, but now it seems that all you remember are the early days when you were dragged about in the dust.

For years I spoke at hundreds of association meetings all over the United States. But there comes a day when just the thought of flying to Utah to deliver a few cheerful words to a conclave of undertakers is tiring. The presentation itself is easy and the compensation good, but flying across the country to sit in a hotel room and eat Subway sandwiches for breakfast, dinner and supper for two or three days while either waiting to perform or go home is too much. I thought I had phased out that kind of personal suffering.

Adding to my panic was the last-minute notice from MOOSE that I was scheduled to speak in the auditorium. If you’ve performed where people are expected to laugh at your remarks, you know that the venue is more important than your content or delivery.


Two things that are sure doom to a humorous after-dinner speaker are bottles of wine on the table or a half-filled room – no matter the size. Fifteen hundred people in an auditorium that seats 3,000 is the kiss of death. You get a better response from 60 people in a grange hall that seats only 50.

It had been so long since I’d spoken on a regular basis that it took me a couple of days to remember that it is possible to give a talk in an auditorium.

You take a roll of red plastic tape and tape off the two side sections. Then you use the tape to tape off the entire center section except for the two front rows.

People are generally willing to go along with seats that have been blocked off before they arrive at the venue, but once ensconced in the back row, they couldn’t be moved by a John Deere tractor – unless they are personally escorted down to the front where they can join the 20 or so hopeful people in the two front rows.

Thinking about the auditorium reminded me of a similar venue I encountered long ago.

The sides and the back were taped off. The faithful who had showed up dutifully seated themselves in the two front rows, center.


But one young woman was hovering way up back by the entrance.

As an experienced professional, I wanted that woman to know that she was a valued member of my audience. So I ran up back and invited her, face to face, to sit down front with the others.

No, she said she’d rather stand up back.

I insisted and, taking her by the arm, dragged her struggling and protesting to the front of the hall where I proudly seated her in one of the best seats in the house.

At the end of the show, she came up to me and said that she’d just had an operation way up high on the back part of her left leg.

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

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