When I’d go into the local store 75 years ago, there would be old men sitting on two high stools, an ancient, creaky wooden step stool used to reach things on high shelves and one man simply leaning on the ice cream freezer. Although I didn’t know it at the time, Ardie, Henry, Lou and Cy were my relatives. They grew up in an age when boys would go to sea at the age of 12 and be masters of a vessel by the time they were 19. They had stories to tell and generations of readers took it for granted that the setting for any coastal Maine tale would usually be in a country store that was also the post office and barber shop.

These venues are long gone and anyone hoping to collect or swap stories with friends now too often sits down in front of a computer screen. It might lack the romance of a 1940s country store filled with cigar smoke, but within minutes you can tap into wit as far away as Machias.

Here’s an example of how it now works.

Someone in Warren will post a picture of Steve Bannon along with a little news clip about his being subpoenaed by Congress. And Pegg in Palmyra will post beneath it: “They must have put the fear of God into Bannon. Look at him. He’s combed his hair.”

Perhaps it’s just as well that these conversations take place in front of screens and not in a rural store around a woodstove. More people can now relate to the screens and few have ever seen a rural store or the stove that heated it.

“Did you know that Barbara got her master’s at Berkeley in 1967?”

“Was it nice at Berkeley?”

“Oh, she said it was very nice at Berkeley except for the tear gas.”

People without cats or dogs or culinary skills write of their travels: “There are no roads on the islands in Venice (the old city). Today I came upon a green grocer barge … and a garbage skiff as well as boats loaded with bricks and other materials usually delivered by truck. It is quite a task after offloading supplies to move them by hand to their destinations. Trash is collected in large wagons pulled by men.”

I asked, “What makes it different from Monhegan?”

Jay replied, “On Monhegan supplies are usually moved by women with wheelbarrows.”

Besides reading the pages of others, I write things like this on Facebook just to solicit comments:

I knew that Rousseau composed operas and that they were good ones, but it was only recently that I learned that the tune to “Tell Aunt Rhody” was in one of them.

The other night I asked my wife, Marsha, The Almost Perfect Woman, if I could sing her to sleep, and when she said I could, I sang “Tell Aunt Rhody.”

My father sang “Tell Aunt Rhody” to me in 1936.

He had a very pleasant singing voice – the kind of soft mellow voice that is ideal to sing a small child in arms to sleep.

You know the melody. As I recall, the words my father sang were something like this.

“Tell Aunt Rhody, Tell Aunt Rhody,”

“Tell Aunt Rhody, the old cat’s dead.”

“Now he is dead and rotting in the ground.”

“Now he is molding in his grave.”

I remember being told that when Father came to “grave” that I would eagerly shout it out as “gave.” “Grave” might well be the first word I ever said. “Tell Aunt Rhody” was certainly the first song I ever learned. How nice to finally learn that Rousseau wrote it.

I also posted that I have seen my wife tear a bed apart and remake it if the edge of the bedspread was not exactly 11 inches from the floor. She does not suffer a crooked bedspread lightly. This morning she accused me of blanket hoggery – which caused the bedspread to be lower on my side. It is not nice to be called a blanket hoggest by the one you love, but no marriage is perfect.

Pete was inspired to reply: “We all have a cross to bear. My wife is a blanket winder. She takes hold and rolls over wrapping herself in blanket, like the key you’d turn to open a can of sardines. I tug and she comes back like a yoyo.”

Nostalgia is a thing of the past.

The humble Farmer can be heard Friday nights at 7 on WHPW (97.3 FM) and visited at:
www.thehumblefarmer.com/MainePrivateRadio.html


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