Thursday, December 31, 2009

A Sugarloaf Poem with NO TITLE

It’s New Year’s Eve, and it’s snowing in Lexington Township. It has snowed many times throughout the fall and winter, but we have yet to receive a snowfall that is noteworthy. The weathermen have made several idle threats, but Mother Nature delights in keeping the upper hand, and to date we’ve only received storms that have dumped between one and six inches of the white stuff.

Perhaps this year-end event will be the doozie we’ve all been waiting for. And, perhaps it won’t. One meteorologist forecasted that these mountains where I make my home will be blanketed with up to three feet of snow before the current systems which are chugging my way have exhausted themselves three days hence. I’ve also heard that this first storm will only drop about three inches of frozen precipitation, and the one to follow it will affect mainly Down East Maine, leaving the ski country with little more than a half-foot of new snow.

It’s anyone’s guess, but only the weather forecasters get paid to make them!

I was raised in the foothills of these Appalachians. Sugarloaf Mountain, the ski resort which towers over my back yard, is a critical part of this region’s economy and culture. It’s a well known fact that a ski resort needs snow, and so whatever we receive from these two piggy-backed storms will be welcome.

On Sunday I had the pleasure of being a guest on ‘Watch and Win’, a program on Sugarloaf’s cable television station, WSKI-TV17. It was a first in a year of many firsts for me, and I enjoyed every minute of it. For Grumbles and Grins' final posting of the year 2009, I thought I would share the poem which I wrote for the occasion and read on live TV, and which was also broadcast live on the World Wide Web. If you are a local reader, you will recognize many of the places and names and events in the poem. If you aren't, I hope you will enjoy it, anyway!

Here we go!

I grew up in the shadow of a monolith in Maine.
Second to Katahdin, it’s called Sugarloaf, by name.
The mountain had a history: What once was wooded slope
Became a destination far beyond its founders’ hope.

A group of friends led by a guy named Stub, and one called Amos,
Transformed that virgin landscape to a ski resort, now famous!
They cut a trail, and then some more. They added tows of rope.
To ease the hike to summit was well within their scope.

Soon other lifts were added; a T-bar here and there…
It was the dream of skiers, though, to sit upon a chair.
And so, the Mighty Gondola (a word that’s hard to rhyme)
Was built from base to hilltop, eliminating climb.

More trails were cut, a base lodge built, and chairs with funny names
Like ‘Sawduster’ and ‘King Pine’, and ‘Whiffletree’ soon came.
A Village South, a Village East, a Village called ‘The West’
Were moved up from the Valley and their shops were soon the best.

And as the mountain grew in fame–as folks drove up to ski–
They realized that Sugarloaf was where they longed to be.
These skiers, they decided, no longer would they roam!
Instead they’d build some condos and have a second home.

I grew up as the mountain did. I watched it change and grow
From simple, modest mountain; to making its own snow!
And since I was a local--since Sugarloaf was here--
It was expected of this girl, that I would be a skier.

But just because a trail is cut, and just because it’s there
That doesn’t mean each Kingfield girl should ride the Bucksaw Chair!
My old friend, Amos Winter, he said that I could learn.
He told me all I needed was skill to stop and turn.

He laced up my old ski boots, he measured me for skis.
He pushed me towards the teacher, and said, ‘It is a breeze!’
He donned his skis, he grabbed his poles, and went to run a race.
And left me with some strangers; this girl who had no grace!

We started with a ‘snow plow’. They said, ‘It’s trouble-free!’
But holy smokes! These people had never met a ME!
My legs were not designed like that! I couldn’t make them plow!
I wanted to get out of there! Not later, I meant NOW!

My tutor wouldn’t baby me. But I was only SIX!
I had no urge to learn about those skiers’ little tricks!
He wanted me to ride the ‘T’…but that was going UP!
He said I must go higher to ever win a cup!

But racing cup, I didn’t want. Nor trophy set with skis.
I wanted to get down from there. I asked him with a ‘please’.
Instead, he tucked the T-bar high underneath my thigh
And when it started pulling me, this girl began to cry.

How high up would it take me? How would I get back down?
I couldn’t do the snow plow from high atop the crown!
My chicken-livered nature combined with lack of grace
Made me drop the T-bar and land upon my face.

I thought I would be rescued, and carried down the slope.
But my instructor told me that I must learn to cope.
I told him I could cope quite well by riding in a sled!
I could tell the ski patrol that I had bumped my head!

He shook his head, displeased with me. His mouth turned into frown.
He said, ‘You must be braver! What goes up must come down.
‘I’ll meet you at the base lodge, down by the Schuss Café.
‘You’ll make it there quite safely! Now, please, don’t take all day!’

He picked one ski up in the air--a stylish little move--
And pivoted to face downhill! Right there, my point he proved!
He didn’t make a snowplow! He schussed and slid away.
He wasn’t making pigeon toes, like I had done all day!

I knew there had been trickery! T’was lies that he had spoke!
No-one else was trying that! This snowplow was a joke!
I tried to get down bottom, but each time I tried to stand…
My skis, they started sliding! Back on my butt I’d land.

And then, I had epiphany! I’d slide down on my rump!
Gravity was on my side! I had that teacher trumped!
But woolen pants are not the best for sliding through the snow.
It took a half an hour, for eighty feet to go!

At last, I was successful! The slope, it leveled out!
I’d made it down the mountain! I’d never had a doubt!
I stood up without sliding! I wanted then to cheer!
(But first, I had to pick five dozen snowballs from my rear.)

At sunset, Amos found me. He seemed a little glum.
I’m sure he’d had great visions of the skier I’d become.
But after my adventure on the crags of Sugarloaf
I think my Mr. Winter was thinking me an oaf.

And even though I never skied, that man remained my pal.
I often sat upon his porch and chatted with his gal.
In fact, t’was Alice who proposed that Amos teach me tennis!
He flinched at her suggestion… like I would be a menace!

But surely, nothing could go wrong! By now, I was a teen!
And Amos wouldn’t tell me ‘no’! I’d never seen him mean!
I showed up bright and early, new racket in my hand.
I’d show my buddy Amos! At tennis, I’d be grand!

There was one little problem. My racquet loosely gripped
Became a swift projectile when from my grasp it slipped.
The Winters, they forgave me. They said it was all right.
They said they’d fix the window ‘fore the bugs came out at night.

Old Amos put his arm round me. That founder of the ‘Loaf
Said, ‘Karen, stick to writing! You really are an oaf!’

Old Amos certainly tried his best to teach me to play tennis. I enjoyed those summer lessons at his camp by Tufts Pond much more than I relished my brief foray into the sport of downhill skiing. But that old friend and sage was often brought to the verge of despair. Apparently, teaching me skill in any sport was more of a challenge than even Amos bargained for. I remember asking him one morning what, exactly, it was that I was doing wrong. He twirled his raquet expertly between his hands, looked me straight in the collarbone, and said, "Child, you're just too tall. Teaching you to play tennis is like trying to teach a moose to dance the minuet."

For a split second, I felt like crying. I almost did. And then he raised his twinkling eyes to mine and said, "Shall we dance?" And I busted a gut laughing, instead.

Amos was a good man, and I gave up on my abilities long before he did. He and his wife Alice were wonderful mentors to, and friends of, this girl who grew up in the shadow of a monolith in Maine. A monolith that Amos had a large hand in transforming into one of the leading ski resorts in the north-eastern United States.

How lucky was I?

Happy New Year! May 2010 be filled with love, health and prosperity, and may you be fortunate enough to have friendships like those I have been blessed with!
This poem is lacking a title! If you'd like to enter to win a 'Sugarloaf' t-shirt, please submit your entry in the 'comments' section of this blog posting, or email me at The winning title will be chosen on January 9, 2009. I will have a friend make the choice, so feel free to enter if you are a friend or family member--no worries about nepotism!

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Kazza, The Notorious Spud Smuggler

Christmas is over, and I am taking a break from packing away the decorations to post a quick poem to GAG. This is not a holiday poem, but it was a gift, of sorts.

I have a very good friend who lives in New South Wales, Australia. Ali g is currently visiting family in Africa with his lovely wife, and even though I haven't spoken to him for a couple of weeks, he's been on my mind, nonetheless.

Last summer it came to my attention that this man only ate potatoes which were frozen and came from a bag. Well, that revelation was astounding to this girl who began her life in northern Maine, a place famous for its logging industry and its potato-based agriculture. I couldn't believe that my friend had never experienced the epicurean delights of a potato that had been mashed, baked or stuffed straight from its glorious, raw form! It was my duty, as his favorite gal from Maine, to make Ali g a connoisseur of les pommes de terre!

So, I sent him some.

Alas, there are party poopers the world over. Apparently, it is taboo to mail the products of a farming woman's labor and love across international borders. For, instead of potatoes, my friend received a notice from Australian Customs. Instead of a nice side dish of Maine taters, Ali g got a letter telling him that his carton of potatoes had been confiscated and destroyed!

Exactly how does one 'destroy' a potato? I've simply GOT to know what Customs did to my pertetters! Surely, the act of peeling, boiling, mashing and then EATING a potato would ensure the complete eradication of a tuber! Would't it? Just imagine all the tax dollars that could have been saved if Australian Customs had allowed nature (and a simple country girl) to handle the issue!

I was worried that my impulsive act had embarrassed my friend, and I wrote him the following ditty by way of apology. But Ali g is far tougher than I gave him credit for, and he has a marvelous sense of humor, besides. What did he do upon receiving my poem?

He promptly forwarded it to the Customs Office in Sydney! If those good folks didn't recognize my name before, they've got it memorized now! Thanks, Ali g. I believe this makes us 'even'.

Never let it be said that I don't learn from my mistakes. No posting taters Down Under! Got it!

I miss you, my friend. And never fear; I'll find a way to provide you with an authentic Maine experience. What are your thoughts on fiddleheads? Sauteed in butter and garlic? Hmmm? Keep an eye out for a package once you return home, won't you?


Kazza, The Notorious Spud Smuggler

There once was a farm girl from Maine
Who danced in the nude to make rain.
When needing some sun,
Then naked she’d run
(Nude dancing and running were pains.)

But she was a maiden devoted.
Her spuds, while with dirt they were coated,
Still needed attention--
And that’s why I mention
Just what all her nudeness denoted.

And then came the wonderful day
When this Kazza turned over the clay
And pulled from the ground
Potatoes so round…
They’d been incubating since May!

The goddess then took four young spuds
And washed from their skin-- dirt and mud.
In paper she wrapped…
T’was newsprint she’d scrapped…
And packed them to mail to her bud.

See, Ali's a funny old geezer…
Eats taters he pulls from the freezer.
They’re already sliced,
Or shredded or diced
He swears they’re an appetite pleaser.

But Kazza, that girl from the hills
Knows frozen spuds can’t give you thrills.
She did her utmost
To mail through the post
Potatoes, quite whole, with no frills.

But the Customs man checking Down Under
Did heft Kazza’s parcel and wonder
If it held cocaine
That was grown up in Maine…
(Do you grow it? Or is that a blunder?)

Well, anyway, Customs had cause
To check that box shipped into Oz.
Potatoes they found…
Who knew they were round?
And dimpled and brown? Were they flaws?

This girl who did farming while naked
Promoted potatoes whole bak-ed.
Not pulled from a sack
Piled on pan, slid on rack…
She wanted that concept forsak-ed!

But Aussies don’t grow their potatoes…
At best, they can raise some tomatoes.
They’d rather eat fries
Or ‘chips’, I surmise…
To eat with their pasta al fredo.

The Customs man sent him a letter.
He said, ‘I must keep your pertetter.
It is contraband
I’m slapping your hand!
These veggies are doomed for the shredder.’

The SWAT team was thusly deployed
And Kazza’s potato-- destroyed.
When assumed it had died,
That spud-- it was fried
And Customs, those chips they enjoyed.

Now Ali's distressed, it would seem.
His whole life it had been his dream…
Potato skins crisp
Were now will o’ the wisp…
As were bacon, and chives…sour cream.

But Kazza will not let him down!
Those customs guys gave her a frown
They dared confiscate
Food meant for his plate,
And caused her to look like a clown!

She knew that her heart--it held purity!
What nerve—to make her feel dir-ity!
So spuds she did pack
In her carry-on sack…
She’d chance it with Homeland Security!

They patted her down in the lobby.
It seemed an unwarranted jobby!
Her bra could not hold
Potatoes so bold!
Perhaps it was more of a hobby!

The x-ray guard then let her through
She sat down to put on her shoe.
They called out her flight--
The timing was tight!
To make it—through airport she flew!

She was the last one on the plane.
Getting frisked was a heck of a pain!
As the plane reached the skies
She—dismayed-- realized
Her potatoes were still back in Maine.

So Kazza, now quite empty-handed
In Australia much later she landed.
She promptly was cuffed,
In a prison bus stuffed…
For leaving her carry-on stranded.


Oh, and Ali g? I've sent you another amazing gift while you've been traveling. I know you'll like it! It's called 'rain', and I danced my butt off to deliver it to your home. Phew! I'm exhausted. And COLD!


You're very welcome.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas Down Under (by Kazza for MPJ)

It's Christmas Eve, here on the 45th Northern latitude. On the 27th South, where my pal Jack lives in Australia, it is already Christmas Day. So I thought it was appropriate to post 'Christmas Down Under', a silly little poem I wrote for this member of my extended family, who is Christmasing in the heat of an Aussie summer. I am accustomed to a holiday season with snow and cold temperatures, but I also know this fact: Christmas comes from your heart. It is a willingness to give. A desire to help. A passion for putting others before self. Not many people really and truly 'get it'. But there are a few who do, and I am honored to know this one.

To my friends 10,000 miles away, I wish you the merriest of Christmases. And stay out of the hot sun, won't you?

T’was the night before Christmas, and at Kindra Drive
The Ramsays were drinking—T’was well after five!

Their stockings were hung for to dry by the fan
Sock-free you could see the dark line of their tan.

The kookies were quiet, the flock had been fed.
Rosellas and galahs were tucked into bed.

And Monty, the Python—(unusual name)
Was waiting for Santa, and so acted tame.

He’d sent out his list to that jolly old elf…
He’d asked for a possum to eat by himself.

He knew that his chances for getting his treat
Depended, in part, on how Santa liked heat.

The rosy cheeked elf was accustomed to cold,
But down here in Oz there were hot temps untold!

And Monty was sure that this Santa Claus dude
Might possibly let all this heat spoil his mood.

This snake, he had studied the man of the house,
Saw that when he got hot, he could act like a louse!

Jack didn’t mind heat, but he didn’t like muggy.
When dry, that old Ramsay was kissy and huggy.

He smiled all the time and he ironed his clothes.
He pounded on concrete and watered with hose.

When cool, he wrote novels—the best there could be!
As soon all those silly old agents would see!

But when hot combined with the wet in the air
That Ramsay was like an old grizzle-lee bear.

His brogue, it got heavy! His words became foul.
He stomped around wiping his sweat with a towel.

He muttered and cursed and he sprawled by the fan.
He did nowt but bitch as he sat on his can.

So Monty, who knew not of humanly sorts
Judged Santy by how Mr. Ramsay comports

Himself when he’s sticky and sweaty and muggy.
(Jack griped all the more when the day was quite buggy!)

The python lay sprawled in a sweet-smelling gum…
And waited, so patient, for Santa to come.

A possum would make him a happy constrictor…
And getting a fat one would make him the victor.

He’d hung out a stocking--he didn’t have tootsies.
He’d swiped one of Jack’s while the couple played footsies…

Their fridge he had raided for cookies and milk.
(This Claus seemed a pansy, and not of his ilk!)

But that seemed the way to get on his good side…
He’d studied tradition; it seemed true and tried!

Now all that was left for this cousin of asp
Was to wait for that possum to land in his grasp.

The darkness, it fell, and he stayed wide awake.
He wanted to see if this elf was a fake.

With sunset, the temps, they just didn’t abate.
T’was a night like the ones that Jack Ramsay did hate.

Inside Ramsay’s house, young Alibal waited
For Santa to come—and her breath, it was baited.

She’d asked for a cooker in which to make stew,
And hoped Mr. Kringle would make dreams come true.

She’d written a letter and posted from Oz,
To be sure t’was delivered way up North to Claus.

But Jack wrote no letter. He didn’t believe
That elves made a sleigh run on each Christmas Eve.

He’d rolled eyes at Ali when letter she mailed…
Why couldn’t she see just what was entailed?

No gent from the North could possibly ride
From Nome down to Brisbane, to homes far and wide!

T’was foolishness to get one’s hopes up too high!
This gift-bringing gnome was a helluva lie!

As dark settled in ‘round Jack Ramsay and spouse
They laid ‘cross their bed in their hot, humid house.

The snake and the humans, each one waited there
For possum and cooker and cool breath of air.

Despite good intentions, the python did snooze,
As did Jack and Ali (they’d drunk lots of booze).

And before they did know it, it was Christmas day.
Had gifts been delivered by fat man in sleigh?

Ms. Ramsay went into the lounge for a look…
And there by the couch was a ‘Mainer’ cook book!

And tucked in beside it…some spoons and some cups
To measure like Yankees when making their sups.

Another big box--wrapped real sweet—t’was a looker!
When opened, revealed the most fabulous cooker!

“Aha! Lookee here! You doubting old Thomas!
Santa Claus brought me my gift, like he promised!

“He said if I’d only be good all year through
He’d have all his ‘Cook Elves’ see what they could do!

“And here is the proof! That old man DOES exist!
It’s too bad YOU didn’t send Santy your list!”

Jack’s eyes, they did roll! What nonsense, her talking!
And then his gaze settled on his Christmas stocking.

It looked like it moved! He went over to peek…
And when he did lift it, it gave a small squeak!

Tucked into the heel of his best cotton Dickey
Was a gift that was left there by old Mr. Nicky.

A wee little possum, curled into a ball…
It wasn’t much bigger than a baby doll!

“What’s this?” said Jack Ramsay, not mildly perplexed…
The note pinned to stocking begged him to read text.

“Young Jack, I’ve neglected you down through the years.
You’ve never behaved, and you drink many beers.

“You’ve never had faith in the magic of things…
And so, I decided, no presents to bring.

“But what to my wondering eyes did appear,
A wish list from Ramsay, the Scrooge of the Year!

“You’ve come to your senses! You say you’ll be good!
You made me a promise, you’ve knocked on some wood.

“You gift isn’t standard. I most often find
Adults would like dishes or tools of some kind.

“But your letter touched me. You’ve softened up some
If you can lounge draping yourself in a gum!

“Your manners are better, you ended with ‘please’…
You want a wee possum to hug and to squeeze!

“I thought you were harder…a grouchy old Scot!
But you want a pet, so this possum, you’ve got!

“Keep up what you’re doing! T’was cute how you said
You’d tightly squeeze possum and nibble his head!

“Not often does Santa hear cuddling words
From men who have made me believe they are turds!

“But you’ve changed a bit, and I’m happy to say
This possum is yours for the rest of your days.

“So love her and snuggle and do all you said…
Just nibble her gently when up round her head!

“I’ll see you next Christmas! I’ll be keeping watch
To make sure, her upbringing you do not botch!”

The note was signed neatly. It said ‘Santa Claus’.
And Jack was the most baffled man down in Oz.

But grouchy or grumpy or sticky and hot…
What man could resist, when a possum he got?

He’d been proven wrong! Now, at last, he did know
There really were elves living North in the snow!

He took his wee possum right out of the stocking…
And sat down to give her her first little rocking.

And while the man bonded with pet soft and furry
Old Monty, the python, experienced curry.

He’d pulled from his stocking a furry round ball
Excited, he swallowed it--head, feet and all!

Too late, he’d discovered, the possum desired
Was nothing but fake fur well coated with fire!

The gnome, he had tricked him! He’d covered the fur
With peppers and curries that pricked like a burr!

As Monty looked ‘round for relief from his plight,
He saw Santa’s letter he’d left in the night.

“Did you really think that this jolly old elf
Would give you a possum to eat by yourself?

“I’m old and I’m wise, and you never will beat
This elf who’s resistant to Down Under heat!

“Now learn from this lesson! All day you’ll be sick…
But that is the price-tag you pay for your trick!

“The possum is Ramsay’s; she’ll soften that coot!
And Monty, I hanker for new snakeskin boots!

“So if you desire to keep all your hide
You’ll start eating berries, with nuts on the side.

“No more will you squeeze and no more will you squish
The Down Under critters for your supper dish.

“Next year, I’ll be back, and it is my belief
That Monty the Python turns over new leaf!”

So Christmas at Kindra was full of surprise.
A pet for a man; for a snake—watered eyes!

As Jack cuddled possum, as Monty’s eyes flowed,
A miracle happened…at Kindra, it snowed!

These amazing Autralian photos were taken (and are copyrighted) by my pal, Jack Ramsay. Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The Rapo-genus Christmas Ball

Today I am posting The Rapo-genus Christmas Ball, a Christmas Poem written by my uncle, George Bessey. The symbolism of this poem is amazing. The river drives on the Kennebec, Piscataquis and other Maine waterways were legendary, and an integral part of Maine's logging history. The men who worked these drives were brave and hardworking, and when they had cause to relax and socialize, they were still 'men's men', as evidenced in this classic poem.

My grandfather, Arthur Bessey, was memorialized in John Gould's 'Maine Lingo' as a 'picker of the rear', a boss man whose crew often cleaned stray logs from the eddies and logans (small coves of still water, derived from the Scottish 'lochan') after the main drive had passed downstream. I clearly remember the last river drive on the Kennebec. The drives were halted in order to protect the ecosystems of our rivers. The down side of that decision is that all lumber from that day forward has been conveyed from forest to mill via log trucks or railway. I understand the decision to change the mode of transport from our rivers to our roadways, but I feel a sadness at the ending of such an amazing tradition, nonetheless. Here, in humorous and colorful poetry, is an excellent analogy of those long-gone drives, performed by some of the men who were real participants. Real men.

Back in the 'good old days'


There had been no social doings since the drive had passed the flume,
And the section from Seboomook to the Chutes was rather blue;
So the folks at Rapo-genus, where there’s rum enough and room,
Arranged a Christmas function and invited Murphy’s crew.
The folks at Rap-genus hired Ezra Hawson’s hall.
And posted up the notice for “Our Yearly Christmas Ball.”
Now Murphy’s crew was willing and they walked the fifteen miles,
And arrived at Rapo-genus wearing most benignant smiles.
The genial floor director waited near the outer door,
And pleasantly suggested they remove the boots they wore.
He said that Rapo-genus wished to make of this affair
An elegant occasion, “reshershay and debonair;”
So it seemed the town’s opinion, after many long disputes,
That ‘twas time to change the custom and exclude the spike-toed boots.
He owned ‘twas rather drastic and would cause a social jar
‘Twixt Upper Ambejejus and the Twin Depsconnequah,
“But, ‘tis settled,” so he told them, “that nary lady likes
To do these fancy dances with a gent what’s wearin’ spikes.
So I asks ye very kindly, but I asks ye one and all,
To leave your brogan calkers on the outside of this hall.”
“This ‘ere is sort o’ sudden,” said the boss of Murphy’s crew,
“Jest excuse us for a minute, but we don’t know what to do.
We’ve attended social functions at the Upper Churchill Chutes,
An’ the smartest set they had there was a-wearing spike-sole boots.
Excuse us for the mention, but we feel compelled to say,
‘Tisn’t fair to shift a fashion all of a sudden, this ‘ere way;
An’ the local delegation, when it came with the invite,
Omitted partunt leathers in its mention of tonight.
So I guess ye’ll have to take us with these spikes upon our soles,
We can’t appear in stockin’s, cause the most of us have holes.”
But the genial floor director guarded still the outer door
And declared that “gents with spikers weren’t allowed upon the floor.”
He said ‘twas very awkward that special guests should thus
Be kept in outer darkness, and he didn’t want a fuss.
But as long as Rapo-genusites had issued their decree
He hadn’t any option, “as a gent with sense would see.”
So he passed his ultimatum, “Ye must shed them spike-soled boots!
For we hain’t the sort of humstrums that ye’ll find at Churchill Chutes.”
Then up spoke Smoky Finnegan, the boss of Murphy’s crew,
Said he, “The push at Churchill sha’nt be slurred by such as you.
We’re gents that’s very gentle an’ we never make a fuss,
But in slurrin’ folks at Churchill ye are also slurrin’ us.
We have interduced the fashions up at Churchill quite a while,
An’ no Rapo-genus half-breeds have the right to trig our style.
If ye’ve dropped the vogue of spikers at the present Christmas ball
We will start the fashion over, good and solid, that is all!
So, mister, please excuse us, but ye’ll open up your sluice,
Or God have mercy on ye if I turn these gents here loose!”
Then the genial floor director shouted back within the room,
“Ho, men of Rapo-genus, here is trouble at the boom!”

But even as he shouted, with a rush and crush and roar,
Like a bursting jam of timber Murphy’s angels stormed the door.
Then against them rose the sawyers of the Rapo-genus mill,
Who rallied for the conflict with a most intrepid will,
But by new decree of fashion they were wearing boughten suits
And even all the boomsmen had put off their spike-sole boots.
So that gallant crew of Murphy’s simply trod upon their feet,
And backward, howling, cursing, they compelled them to retreat.
The air was full of slivers as the spikes chewed the floor,
And the man whose feet were punctured didn’t battle anymore.
“Now, fellers, boom the outfit,” shouted Finnegan, the boss,
His choppers formed a cordon and they swept the room across;
The people who were standing at the walls in double ranks,
Were pulled and thrown to center at the order, “Clear the banks!”
Then they herded Rapo-genus in the middle of the room,
And slung themselves around it like a human pocket boom.
All the matrons and the maidens were as frightened as could be
When Finnegan commanded, “Now collect the boomage fee!”
At a corner of the cordon they arranged a sorting-gap
And one by one the women were escorted from the trap,
And without a word of protest, as they drifted slowly through,
They paid their toll in kisses to the men of Murphy’s crew.
And at last when all the women had been sorted from the crowd,
The men were “second raters,” so the boss of Murphy’s vowed.
“We will raft them down as pulp-stuff!” and he yelled to close about,
“Now, my hearties, start the wind-lass,” ordered he, “We’ll warp ‘em out!”
Through the doorway, down the stairway, grim and struggling thronged the press,
--All the brawn of Rapo-genus fighting hard without success,
They were herded down the middle of the Rapo-genus street,
--If they tried to buck the center they were bradded on the feet;
They were yarded at the river; Murphy’s peavies smashed the ice,
Though the men of Rapo-genus couldn’t smash that human vise
That held them, jammed them, forced them! When the water touched their toes,
Then at last they fought like demons for to save their boughten clothes.
But as fierce as Murphy’s hearties, and their spikers helped them win,
For they kicked and spurred their victims and they dragged them shrieking in.
Then with water to their shoulders there they kept them in the wet
While they gave them points on breeding and the rules of etiquette.
And at midnight ‘twas decided by a universal vote
That the strict demands of fashion do not call or vests or coat;
That ‘twixt Upper Ambejejus and the Twin Depsconnequah
Shirts of red and checkered flannel are the smartest form, by far.
And that gents may chew tobacco was declared in all ways fit
If they only used discretion as to when and where they spit.
And above all future cavil, sneer or jeer or vain disputes,
High was set this social edict: “Gents may wear their spike-sole boots.”
Then the men of Rapo-genus and the men of Murphy’s crew
They dissolved their joint convention--they were near dissolving, too!
And to counteract the action of the water on the skin
They applied some balmy lotion to the proper parts within.
Then they danced till ruddy morning, and their drying garments steamed,
And awful was the shrinkage of those seven dollar suits!
And the feet of Murphy’s woodsmen gashed and slashed and clashed and seamed,
Till a steady rain of slivers rained behind those bradded boots.
--And all disputes of etiquette were buried once for all,
At that Christmas social function, the Rapo-genus Ball.

George Allen Bessey 1926-1976

Top photo courtesy of Frost Pond camps, and was taken at the Ripogenus Dam.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Sequel to 'Christmas at the Hill Place' a.k.a. 'No Time to Write a Poem'

On yesterday's GAG posting, I shared a poem I wrote two Christmases ago for my mother to read at her yearly holiday party at the Hill Place in Elliotsville Township. In case I didn't mention it, it was a party I was not invited to...

Last year, Mum asked for an encore. She still did not invite me to the celebration. But I am a generous and loving daughter. I always try to comply with my mother's wishes, and so I wrote another poem for her to recite to her favorite people. Her guests. The ones she'd invited to the party.

No Time To Write A Poem

Last year my mother asked me—
“Could you, a poem compose?
‘Cause all my Christmas party guests
Just love your lilting prose!”

And so, with trusty keyboard
I wrote a little ditty…
Something ‘bout a puzzling gift…
I thought it was quite witty!

I kinda made a little fun
Of all you aunts and uncles.
I picked on your infirmities—
Your deafness and carbuncles.

Your body parts that were worn out,
The ones that’d been replaced,
The fingers that were sawn off,
Your sense of sight and taste.

But last year was quite different.
I had some time to kill.
I had an hour or two to spare
To ‘wow’ you with my skill.

Back in Two-thousand-seven,
I was a common lass.
And comfortable I was--back then--
To tease you with my sass.

But now those days are over.
I’ve an image I must keep.
No more can I be frivolous—
My thoughts must now be deep.

For I’m a published author!
It’s true, I swear it is!
I am, like my pal Stephen King,
A big shot writing whiz!

I must now have decorum,
I must display finesse!
Like my friend J.K. Rowling
I must wear stylish dress.

I must e-nun-ci-ate my words.
With fans where e’er I go,
No cleavage can I now expose
With blouses cut real low.

No more can I write poems
Of sneeze, or burp or fart.
I must compose pure sonnets
That speak about the heart.

My penmanship must be precise,
For all those autographs.
And I must put a tinkling,
Not a belly, in my laugh.

Like my chum Johhny Grisham,
My words will sound so clever.
No more can I act like a hick.
(‘Twill be a huge endeavor!)

My mentor, ole Tom Clancy,
Said, “Karen, don’t be humble!
You’re sure to hit best sellers’ lists
With your new book called Grumble.”

“Your star, it is now on the rise…
And yes, the road is rough.
But you will touch the hearts of kids
With novel, Grumble Bluff.”

And so, as you can clearly see,
My time is not my own.
I have too many pressing tasks!
I’ve gotten too well-known.

I cannot write a poem for you,
For that, I’m much too grand!
I’ve got to concentrate on the
Endorsements I will land.

The signings and the lectures,
The engagements where I’ll speak,
It’s going to be quite difficult
To stay this sweet and meek.

And so I ask your pardon…
For not giving verse or rhyme.
My agent said, “No freebies!
They must pay you for your time!”

But while I have no poem for
Your merry Christmas bash.
I’ll hap-pi-ly sell you a book.
(I take both check and cash!)

Happy Holidays, Everyone!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Christmas at the Hill Place

I wrote this poem three years ago. My parents, Chuck and Jo Bessey, were hosting their yearly Christmas party in Elliotsville Township, the place of Dad's birth, and Mum asked if I would write a poem for the event. I wasn't invited to the party... but I was more than happy to mark the occasion for them in my own special way. Each of the decrepit, aging and feeble characters in this poem are real live people; my aunts and uncles and aints and carbuncles... the Besseys and our extended family, all of whom I love dearly.

Even if I'm not ever invited to their stinking Christmas parties...

It’s Christmas at the Hill Place, and friends have gathered near,
To eat good food and have some fun, and drink some Christmas cheer!

Chuck and Jo spiffed up the place-- Decked halls and strung some lights,
And sang some Christmas carols, while doing it... (Yeah, right!)

Their guest list was impressive-- The township’s fabled few!
Aristocrats and noblemen-- a majestic, royal crew.

Drinks were drunk and food was et; off-color jokes were told.
(They’d never do that publicly, with reputations to uphold!)

At last, with filled-up bellies, they leaned back in their chairs.
They’d help Jo clean her kitchen, but no-one really dares.

Such an esteemed gathering, surely warrants gifts!
Jo sent Chuck to go get them, out through the snowy drifts.

Several truck doors then were slammed-- too many to make sense...
Then Chuck came grinning sheepishly. “Guess mine’s the one with dents!”

He placed a pretty package beside them on the floor.
“The first one to guess what this is, will surely get some more!”

Even noble folks like these do love to get nice gifts.
This fierce new competition was sure to cause some rifts.

Bob, in a bright new muscle shirt of red and green and gold,
Said, “Do we get a hint or two-- If I might be so bold?”

Jo smiled quite beguilingly, “Of hints, there’s none, I fear.
“But you can use your senses-- of touch, and sight, and ear.”

Jim-- who hates to come in last-- thought he’d go shake the thing.
But when his bad knee held him back, said “Wife, I bid thee-- Bring!”

But Marilyn was tuckered out. “Jim, you’ll just have to wait.
“Once my meal has digested, then I’ll accommodate.”

Clowes stood up, approached it, and felt it up and down.
“I’m good at guessing packages... I cart them all ‘round town!”

“This one here is pretty.” He sniffed along the border.
“Reminds me of the whiskey our pastor likes to order.”

“’Course, I, your humble servant, would never tell a tale...
My job is confidential, when I deliver mail!”

With rosy cheeks, Clowes sat back down, and Patty slapped his knee.
“Your loose-lipped indiscretions will be the death of me!”

Fred was next to take a guess. He turned it round and round.
“It must be something awful soft-- for I can’t hear a sound!”

Prue said, “Your total deafness, I truly can’t abide!
“It clearly makes a little sound! At least, on my good side!”

At that, Dick hollered, “What was that? And Chuck, he queried, “What?”
And Jay said, “Boys, I think she said, she’s got a little butt!”

Mary Ann, and Rose, and Jo just rolled their eyes around.
This crowd would surely not divine the gift based on its sound!

Sisters Beve and Flora thought they would try their luck.
Between them, they had four new knees! In their chairs they weren’t stuck!

Together they approached the box, they looked it up and down.
Of dignity-- they had too much to sniff it like Clowes Brown.

Flora laid her ear on it-- With tongue, Beve took a taste.
“Reminds me, Patty, of school lunch, we made for kids to waste.”

The siblings gave up quietly. Was it food, or clothes, or toys?
Their brains were just too tired from raising all those boys.

Mickey gave Dick one quick jab, then Dick poked Roy and Bob.
“I guess it’s for us men-folk to tend to this-here job!”

Now all the women rolled their eyes, Geneva, she did knit,
While Mary Ann smoked quietly-- Dick really gave her fits.

These lusty men, they stroked the box. They tipped it to and fro.
They turned it up, they turned it down, they lifted high and lo.

“Mickey, what’s it look like?” Dick asked his friend to try.
“How the hell do I know? Like you, I’ve got one eye!”

Mary Ann said dryly, “Don’t bother to ask me!
I’ve got ‘em both, but out one side is all that I can see!”

Chuck said, “Hey there, Leroy! Take a guess and get your wish!”
Well, Leroy gave a mighty snuff and said, “It smells like fish!”

“Fish are best when smoked, you know... and that is what I do!
But fish is all I smell these days, so the rest is up to you!”

A light bulb flashed in Skeeter’s head, where mostly screws were loose.
“By gorry, chums, I’ve got it! It’s frozen cuts of moose!”

“Well if it is,” said Peter, “then Jo’s the one that killed!
“We know by now that Chuckie-Poo, surely ain’t that skilled!”

“I’ll have you know,” drawled Bessey, “in case you dopes can’t figger,
“I’ve recently misplaced the thing that used to pull the trigger!”

By this time all the Bessey’s guests-- the brave, the fine elite,
Had taken turns to figure out the gift there at their feet.

Not one of them came even close, none had the slightest notion.
No help forthwith from sight or sound, or taste, or smell or motion.

At last these valiant townsfolk, these Besseys and their kin,
Threw up their hands, surrendered, and asked what was within.

All eyes then turned to look at Jo, to find the answer sought.
She looked back at them blankly, and said, “Good God, I forgot!!”

Saturday, December 19, 2009

What a Night Before Christmas!

It's Christmas: A time for family, for giving and for tradition. And in this household, it is a time for writing poems!

A few years ago I wrote a poem to read at my family's Thanksgiving feast. It was a silly ditty that showcased each of the family members gathered at my parents' home that day. The poem was a big hit, and what started as a one-time occurence has snowballed into a tradition. A tradition that I once considered uniquely mine.

I have written at least one Christmas poem each year since 2,000. Sometimes I write one to commemorate a gathering of the Peases, and occasionally my Christmas poem features the Bessey side. These poems are not serious attempts at poetry. They are simple rhyming verses made up on the spur of the moment, designed to entertain my friends and my family members.

But what I once thought was my own stamp of originality on the Besseys' holiday season has been proven to be an older family tradition, instead. It is one that makes me proud. I have discovered that my uncle, George Bessey, and my grandfather, Arthur 'Bappa' Bessey, were writers of silly ditties, too. As many members of my family once did, George and Bappa worked for Great Northern Paper Company back in the 1950's and 1960's, and lived for weeks and months at a time in that company's woods camps. The winters in our northern forests were long and desolate, and these two men passed their leisure time composing poems to delight and entertain their fellow loggers, cooks and clerks. As you will soon see, their senses of humor were rather ribald. (Finally! I have an excuse! It's a genetic predisposition! Phew...) The town of Ste. Aurelie which is referenced in this poem is in Quebec, just over the border from Big Six Township. St. Zacharie is just south of that, west of Maine's T5 R20. Rumor has it that the delights beyond the boundary were irresistible, even for a jolly old elf.

Many of Uncle George's and Bappa's poems were published in the GNP's newsletter, the Pittston Farm Weekly. I invite you to visit Pittston Farm's website. The farm brims with history pertaining to Maine's once-great logging industry. That same history is the story of the Besseys. My family.

With Christmas less than a week away, I thought I would share one or two of those old poems with you. The river drives are over. The snow-bound logging camps in the woods are gone now, too, and so are Uncle George and Bappa. I miss those men every day. But I have their written words, and those words--those verses--make me smile.

Just like they used to.

Merry Christmas.

What a Night Before Christmas!
by George Bessey
circa 1960?

Twas the night after Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, except Santa’s spouse
Who, with shabby old house coat and curlers in hair,
Was making S.C. wish that he wasn’t there.
“So the children were nestled all snug in their beds!”
She shouted at him as she waved some blonde threads.
“Now, patience, my dear,” pleaded Santa with pain,
“If you’ll just let me speak, I’ll try to explain.

“I left here on time, albeit quite shivery,
Intending to make the Christmas delivery.
But before my first stop, it became crystal clear
That ahead of my sled were eight crazy reindeer!
They bypassed the houses where I planned to go
And finally dumped me right out in the snow
Where, what with my wondering eyes should I sight,
But a house full of girls—and a single red light!

“ ‘Hey, girls! Look who’s here!’ I heard one exclaim.
And there rose such a cheer I was glad that I came.
They dusted me off and invited me in,
And their boss introduced them to me with a grin:
‘Here’s Pat, Midge and Fran and a loser named Vixen.
She’s red-headed, drives a Rambler and voted for Nixon!
Here’s Connie and Cuddles and Bubbles and Joyce.
Now look them all over and then take your choice.’

“Now, my dearest, you know that I could not agree
To take one and not all of them…up on my knee.
So I said to their leader, ‘It would be a crime
If I didn’t give all of your girls equal time.’
She chuckled and said, ‘You’re a helluva gent!
And I lingered with them till my ear was quite bent,
Then before I departed, I gave them their toys:
Five sables, three bobcats, a beaver and a golden decoy.

“Despite what you think, there’s no reason to doubt
That I planned to continue my regular route.
But when for my list, I ventured to look,
What should I find but a little black book!
To hunt for my list I knew would take ages,
So I used in its place that little book’s pages.
And though (as you know) I’m quick to see,
The first address led to the Auberge at Ste Aurelie.

“Now, the names in that book included ‘Annette’,
‘Beatrice’, ‘Lilli’ and a yummy ‘Yvette’.
But just which was which? There was no guessing whom
Until they all took me to their dressing room.
And there I discovered Annette had a mole;
Bea really was blonde; and Yvette wore a scroll
Tattooed on her thigh that caused me to pause;
For on it was written ‘J’adore Santa Claus!’

“The evening rushed on in a dizzying whirl
As the little black book led to girl after girl
In Greenville and Jackman and St. George and St. Zacharie
And each of them had to eggnog and nutmeg me!
And I’m not to blame if their clothing was scanty
Or if they were all simply wild about Santy.
Thus it was that the sun rose over Maine
At the very same time I was leaving the I.P. Chain.

“After that, Sugarplum, your jolly old gnome
Hopped into his sleigh and headed for home.
Now I’ve told you my story with patience and care;
So I’m sure you’ll excuse that bit of blonde hair!”
“Indeed, I will not!” Mrs. Santa shot back.
Then without a word, she went straight to his pack
And dumped out a doll you’ll not find on a shelf!
Said Santa, quite weakly: “It’s just a new elf.”

“A disgrace to your calling—that’s what you are!”
Mrs. Santa came on like an angry hussar,
“There’s only one way to undo what you’ve done—
Now don’t argue with me! I’m sending our son!
He’s the symbol of everything you ought to be:
Love of family, clean living—in short—decency!”
“My gawd!” muttered Santa to this revelation,
“That pantywaist kid will kill my reputation!”

But although Santa pleaded, his wife remained firm,
Shouting, “Take off that suit, you philandering worm!”
In a twinkling their son made ready to go;
Candelabrum in hand and dimples aglow!
“Now be careful, my precious, and be a good boy,”
Mrs. Santa said kissing her bundle of joy.
‘Twas then Santa shouted, his voice rather messy!
“Give that little black book back to bachelor George Bessey!

And so ends our story, as Santa said, rather meekly…
Happy Christmas to all—A la Pittston Farm Weekly.

Friday, December 18, 2009

More Wind from The F.A.R.M.

I am guilty of neglecting Grumbles and Grins in the last few days. Life has a way of inserting itself into my schedule with nary a phone call to warn me of its imminent arrival. Of a morning, I awake with a simple list of tasks which I’m sure, with prudent planning, I will be able to accomplish. Answer my morning emails. Send the kids off to school, go to work. Then, it’s home in the early afternoon for some housework; wash up the dishes, take out the trash, throw some clothes into the washing machine and sweep up the floor. After these chores I most often have an hour or so of quiet writing time, unless the afternoon’s emails require a great deal of my attention. The kids arrive home on the bus, snacks are doled out, supper is pondered and then prepared. And then, while the household quiets down as Mr. Grumbles and the teens busy themselves with their own chores or pleasures, I sit down here at my computer.

And I write.

Sometimes I compose a poem, or write an ‘Observations’ column. I occasionally write an op-ed piece, or a chatty letter. Sometimes I work on a novel or a short story or a commentary. Often, I write a blog entry for GAG.

This one will be short, as I’ve another in mind to post for tomorrow. After all, the Christmas season is upon us, and I want to celebrate it with you and share my virtual home with my friends. Therefore, this entry will be brief. That is my plan, anyway, and my hope. But you know me… I'm hopeless!

For those of you who are regular readers of my dribble here on GAG, you will already know that I am concerned with the looming threat of huge industrial wind turbine developments being built in the rural and unspoiled areas of this great state of Maine. You’ve already concluded, perhaps, that there are many questions regarding these wind ‘farms’ which have not been answered, and which need to be, before we citizens are comfortable with such a large-scale encroachment on our wild regions.

I am a free thinker. I don’t toe the line unless that line is clearly drawn and the destination at its end is one filled with promise and hope and good common sense. I want facts! Then–and ONLY then–will I use my right as an American and a Mainer to decide if these elementally transforming developments with their long-lasting consequences are worthy of my approval.

And I expect, in the future, to be ASKED, first.

Listed here are some informative links on the subject of wind turbine developments. As I obtain more, I may add to the list. I urge my readers and followers to make use of this information. I urge you to become educated, and to form an opinion, and to make your voices heard. If we do not begin to make our desires known, I fear it will soon be too late to do so. Say what you want to say, and what your heart and conscience tell you to. But please…

Say something! Citizens' Task Force on Wind Power Good clearinghouse of info on wind turbine news Very similar to the above This is a very good, comprehensive website inspired by numerous problems experienced in Canada with wind turbine siting. Website about farm animals dying due to wind turbine development
Information on the Stetson (Maine) project, as well as photgraphs. Extensive analysis of the problems of industrial wind turbines The negative impacts to forest habitat per megawatt can be greater with industril turbines than with conventional plants Information on the Highland Wind LLC proposed development for Somerset County, Maine atop the peaks of Burnt, Briggs, Witham, Stewart and Bald. This is a long article, but has valuable information on the findings of other countries' wind energy experiments, and more 'links inside the link', too.
This is a website similar to that of the Friends of the Highland Mountains. My good friend Jack, another contributor to GAG, is a Scotsman, and his homeland is facing similar challenges. This site will allow you to see what other community members on the other side of the Atlantic are doing about this same issue. This website gives data regarding wind turbine accidents in the UK

Monday, December 14, 2009

A Quiet Barn

Well, the barn is silent. The grain bins are empty. The lights are off, the hay chaff is swept up, and the stall and henhouse floors are scraped clean.

There are no farm animals at The F.A.R.M.

This is the first winter since 2000 that we won’t be slogging through snow to the barn, lugging buckets of water or toting sacks of feed. This is the first time that we haven’t had some type of farm animal needing our attentions and keeping us close to home. At one time or another, we’ve had goats, chickens, turkeys, pigs and steers.

But not anymore!

The Buff Orpington laying hens and their two escorts have moved to the home of a kindly neighbor. She’d heard they were destined for the chopping block and quietly asked to rescue them from their fate. What can you say to that?

You can say, ‘Certainly, Marilyn. Of course you can rescue our flock.’ Danged things probably would have been tough, anyway!

And the steers got sent down the road on Thursday. Willie and Blue, two Holsteins with a penchant for tossing me into the pucker-brush with their horns—albeit, lovingly—will be coming back home to The F.A.R.M. on Saturday.

Minus the horns.

Farming is a hard row to hoe. I love animals. We eat meat. Those two precepts seem to be in conflict with each other. How can a woman who loves animals then turn around and kill them? Even worse, how can she EAT them? How inhumane! How dastardly!

Yup. I agree. That’s how it seems. And yet…

How many of us think about the actual, living animal when we pick up a package of hamburger from the grocery store cooler? How many of us pause to imagine the chicken whose breasts we are about to bake? Or the pig who provided the bacon that is sizzling in the pan?

If I was to hazard a guess, I would say, ‘Very few.’

However, I am NOT guessing when I tell you that most of the meat we buy in the supermarket comes from farm animals which were raised in less than comfortable conditions. Very few of them enjoyed their lives. Many never ran across a field or a barn yard, few had the opportunity to cock-a-doodle-do from a tree branch, or roll in soft grass warmed by the sun. Hardly any of them got their daily jollies by chasing down a country girl and flicking her aside with devilish glee. Some never felt the touch of a gentle hand, never had their backs scratched or their feathers smoothed or their tummies rubbed.

We give our farm animals a good life. While they are enjoying our Fresh Air and Room to Move, they are happy. Happy enough to cavort and play.

And as we are treating them with fondness and good humor, we are also trying not to become attached to them. Because we are humane humans, and it takes a little piece out of us each time we kill an animal, or send it away to be killed. We don’t like doing this. But we DO care about how an animal is treated. We DO care about giving them a good life. We also care about what goes into our bodies, and we know that our animals have not been fed growth hormones or an excess of chemical additives.

We aren’t vegetarians. Perhaps, some day, we will be. But until that day arrives, we are trying to do the responsible thing. The RIGHT thing. We are raising, loving, and then slaughtering the animals that feed this family.

At the very least, I am caring about the animals’ quality of life while they are on this earth. I won’t apologize.

But I will feel guilty, and I will feel sad.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

So Help Me, God!

Years ago I wrote an ‘Observations’ column about my first foray into small claims court. I was attempting to collect a rather large debt resulting from a ‘bounced’ check. Innocent as to the procedural aspects of the courtroom, I made several blunders; the least of which was that I took a bottle of water into the room with me. I had a cold, you see…and I didn’t want to enter into a spastic round of coughing in such a solemn setting. I was doing the judge, the lawyers, and the protection officers a FAVOR! Or so I thought.

But at the very first sip--and much to my dismay--the bailiff ejected me and my Aquafina from the courtroom.

How embarrassing! How humiliating! How unnecessary, really! I mean, couldn’t she have simply asked me to hand the offending elixir to her? Was there any reason why she had to make me climb over the legs and across the laps of seven good men and women in my rush for the door? Did she not comprehend that it was HOT—stifling, in fact--and that my skirt was sticking to my butt? And that everyone else behind me in the room therefore KNEW I’d neglected to wear panty hose?

I wanted to tell her not to get her knickers in a twist (like mine were)…I really did! But…I was in awe of her uniform, her scowl…her very presence. And so, I skulked from the courtroom and went to the lavatory to dump the offending bottle of NOTHING BUT PURE WATER!


I was allowed back inside, and I won my case by default. However, the defendants declared bankruptcy just days later, and I never recouped my loss. It’s one of those lumps you take when you own a business, I suppose…and most times, I never even think about it.

But I DO remember the humiliation of being treated like a criminal for doing nothing more than entering a courtroom with a simple bottle of water in my pocketbook.

I’ve been back in those hallowed halls a time or two since then. And today I had occasion to go, again. I wasn’t on the docket, this time. I was simply accompanying a friend; lending a shoulder, a smile…and a bit of dental floss. (A word to the wise: It is never a good idea to eat a breakfast sandwich directly prior to appearing before a judge. Unless, of course, the stuff stuck in your teeth is color-coordinated with your courtroom duds.)

Anyway…my friend, her mother, and I waited on the hard wooden benches directly outside the courtroom door. As the hallway filled up with others who were listed on the eight-thirty docket, the portal opened. There, in all her glory, was the same bailiff who had thrown me so callously from the courtroom all those years before! I recognized her in an instant!

Because she was wearing a uniform, you see…

Seriously…she was easily identifiable, despite the fact that she was older, plumper, and a bit ruddier of complexion. It was the eyes…those stern, glaring, don’t-mess-with-me-you-WATER-DRINKER-you! eyes. I admit it; a chill ran up my spine.

Which was a good thing…for I didn’t relish the idea of another adventure into the realm of ‘sweaty-butt-wedgie’...

Yes, my old nemesis stepped into the hallway. The masses turned eagerly in her direction, anxious to have their day in court. As folks pressed in around her, she spoke. Loudly and clearly.

‘Turn all cell phones off before entering the courtroom! No food or liquids of any kind are allowed beyond this door!’

Oh, sure! Now she tells me! If only she had had the foresight to make that announcement back in 2002! I could have saved myself a world of humiliation!

I wondered if I had been the catalyst for this new policy. If the sight of my skirt molded around my bum all those years ago had prompted an emergency session regarding the announcements that should be made prior to letting the general public into Courtroom #1 in the Franklin County District Courthouse.

It pleases me to think so.

My friends and I joined the throng as it pushed its way into the room. I was determined not to make the same mistake twice, and so I planted myself close to the aisle. It worked for about twelve seconds. I was asked to ‘move down’ to make room for the rest of the occupants of the room.

Another note: Next time, be the LAST to enter the chamber, rather than the first…

Attendance was taken, cases were called, cases were dismissed, and judgments were entered. At last, it was my friend’s turn to speak with Her Honor. She walked to the front of the courtroom. She raised her hand and was sworn in. I noticed that the ‘so help me God’ was omitted from the swearing…like He’s been omitted from so many other things in this country, lately. My friend took a seat, and began answering the judge’s kind but pointed questions. At the very moment the judgment was entered in her favor, her mother leaned against me in relief. She began to talk excitedly. I began to respond in the same manner. And the bailiff?

Aw! The bailiff told us to ‘BE QUIET!

That woman! That harridan! That purveyor of proper decorum! She’d had it in for me for years, I could tell! She’d spotted me in the lobby, and she’d bided her time…waiting for the perfect excuse—ANY excuse—to flay me with her tongue! To disgrace me in front of two dozen strangers, my friends, and a district judge! It wasn’t enough that I’d been forced to the wall, hemmed in by strangers…this claustrophobic woman who has a tendency to forget vital undergarments! It wasn’t enough that I’d arrived in her domain water-free, arid, lacking in any liquid refreshment. I hadn’t even BROUGHT my cell phone into the building, for crying out loud! Couldn’t she give me an ‘A’ for effort, and LET ME BE?!

My friend’s mother looked at me in horror. Like it was MY fault she’d just been publicly reprimanded by a fierce-looking woman in an official uniform! Like I had been the one to start the overloud and enthusiastic conversation! As if I would be the one to blame if the judge then decided to throw my friend’s case out of court due to the irrepressible nature of her ‘support system’! But it wasn’t MY fault. I wasn’t trying to be rude. I have respect for the protocol one must adhere to when taking part in the judicial system of this country, and this state of Maine! I do!

I swear!

So help me, God.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Editers Are Invaluable!

Man Kills Self Before Shooting Wife and Daughter.

Such banners splashed across newsprint are never, ever funny. And yet…


If you have been a reader of mine for very long, you know that I have a warped sense of humor. I can’t help it. I’ve tried to curb my natural tendency to snort at inappropriate times…I truly have! But it’s a losing battle. So, while I am horrified by the implication of the headline, I admit to chuckling at the actual wording of this declaration. If I’m not mistaken, someone should have had a proof reader!

As a writer, I can attest to the value of an editor. No matter how competent an author might be, it is almost impossible to compose without making a mistake, once in a while. Remember, too: we writers already know what we’ve written; therefore we have a propensity for skimming right over what might be a glaring mistake to a pair of fresh pair of eyes.

My pal Jack is an exceptional proof reader. He’s a pathetic speller, but luckily, we have computer programs that eliminate the need for proof readers who can spell above a fourth grade level. Thank goodness!

In all other aspects of editing, however, Jack knows his stuff. He has definately saved my sorry hide countless times. (And I know without a doubt I’m going to pay for that crack about his orthographical ineptitude…)

That’s o.r.t.h.o.g.r.a.p.h.i.c.a.l., Jack. Shall I use it in a sentence? Or give you the definition, first?

I wish I’d had this fellow a few years ago, before I submitted the following advertisement to my local paper. I most particularly wish I’d had Jack around to read it over before it was printed!

This lovely house has three dicks from which to enjoy sunrises and sunsets…

Yeah, I could have used my pal back then…

My good friend Linda has provided me with some other prime examples of headings and captions that should never have gone to print. The publishing world is cut-throat, and blunders like these can derail a serious writing career in the blink of an eye. It’s a good thing I’m not taken seriously, that’s all I can say!

Something Went Wrong in Jet Crash, Experts Say
(Sheesh… can you imagine what the amateurs might have said?)

Juvenile Court to Try Shooting Defendant
(And I thought we were trying to discourage the use of corporal punishment…)

Enfield Couple Slain. Police Suspect Homicide.
(Ladies and gentlemen, our tax dollars at work!)

Red Tape Holds Up New Bridges.
(The yellow tape was completely useless…)

Local High School Drop Outs Cut in Half.
(I told you you’d get in trouble for skipping school!)

Cold Wave Linked to Temperatures
(There’s no doubt about it…those meteorologists have the cushiest jobs!)

If Strike Isn't Settled Quickly, It May Last Awhile
(And the reporter won’t be on the picket line, he’ll be in the unemployment line.)

Panda Mating Fails; Veterinarian Takes Over
(You’ve got to wonder what the kids’ll look like…)

Yup, the publishing world is rife with uncaught bloopers and bonehead moments. Is it any wonder I feel so comfortable here?

Oh…ineptitude, Jack? Why, that’s spelled i.n.e.p.t.i.t.u.d.e. You’re weclome, pal.

This blog posting contains more than one mistake. The first person to email me at with all the errors wins a free MAINE tee-shirt. (Well, I suppose you wouldn't really be 'winning' it if you had to pay for it, now would you?) Anyone can, friends, pets, proof readers and editors, critics and reviewers! This is your invitation to pick me apart, so don't miss this rare opportunity...

Saturday, December 5, 2009

The Camera Adds Ten Pounds!

December is typically not a good month in which to diet. The Christmas holiday season is jam-packed with social events…the ‘company’ party, the neighborhood party, the family parties, and the OTHER company party. Too, there are the shopping trips. It is practically unheard of to spend a day in town, bustling from shop to shop, without stopping for a bite to eat in a restaurant or a café or a fast food joint. Such extravagances almost always result in an over-indulgence or two. It’s impossible not to splurge on a piece of strawberry cheesecake or a dish of chocolate mousse. After all…it’s Christmas! It’s a tradition!

But you see, I have a problem. I am going to be a guest on a local television show on December 27th. Just two days after Christmas. I’m excited… psyched, even! What a great opportunity to tout my novel, Grumble Bluff! To spread the word about my newspaper column, ‘Observations from The F.A.R.M.’! And what fun!

But holy smokes! Everyone knows…the camera ADDS TEN POUNDS!

There are some people, admittedly, who can afford to look a bit heavier, a tad more fleshed out. Sure there are. Of course!


Oh, brother…

I have NEVER been skinny. Even when I wasn’t curvaceous, I wasn’t skinny! I’ve already HAD the ten pounds added. The twenty! The…um…twenty-one!

Good heavens…

I suppose it’s a good thing that there are men hereabouts who like their women with a bit of meat on their bones. I know I would have been up the proverbial creek without a paddle if every man in western Maine was only content with slender ladies who sported collarbones and had space enough between their thighs to throw a Frisbee through.

Yup. As Martha Stewart would say, ‘It’s a good thing.’

Of course, it’s important to remember that we well-rounded girls have many other attributes that make us attractive. I read a survey once that stated that Maine had one of the highest percentages of overweight women in the country. That may very well be true. After all, we have a very long, cold winter here! It’s hard to concentrate on how your bikini will look when you’re hanging wet laundry on the clothesline in -20 degree weather, or trying to peel an icicle off your tongue without drawing blood. We stay inside except to shovel snow or lug wood, and sort of semi-hibernate.

Nope, for seven months out of the year, we’re basically inactive. These months include Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s, Valentine’s Day, Easter, Ground Hog’s Day, Martin Luther King Jr. Day, President’s Day, April Fool’s Day, Ash Wednesday…even FAT TUESDAY, for crying out loud! And several full moons, too!

We’re doomed!

And we have only May through September to take that winter weight back off.

Do the math. If we gain five pounds a month for seven months, work hard and manage to lose five pounds each month during the summer, we are still ten pounds overweight when winter rolls around again. In four years, we’ve gained forty pounds! In eight years...EIGHTY! That’s what an average ten-year-old child weighs. That’s sixteen bags of sugar. Three hundred and twenty sticks of butter!

Man, am I depressed!!

So, it’s possible that Maine men do prefer large women. It’s also conceivable that they have no other choice…their options are that limited. Therefore, it’s vital we ladies constantly remind them that what we lack in slenderness, we make up for in hair.

See…most men in Maine don’t have a lot of body hair. Oh... you’ll occasionally see a fellow with a tuft of hair peeking out over the top of his tee shirt, but chances are good, that same man will be as bald as an egg. It’s like the body compensates for what the head has lost...

And while men have a problem with thinning hair as they get older, it’s just the opposite for us gals. As we age, we fur out. A little moustache on the upper lip, some downy fuzz on the cheeks...the occasional black wiry hair sprouting from a mole.

It’s all part of our charm, I’ve been told.

My point is, so what if some survey conducted at a college on the coast of southern California says that Maine women are overweight? We have many other attributes that make us sexy!

Hmm. For some strange reason, I’m STILL depressed.

The bottom line is this. I’m going to be on TV. In front of a host of viewers who will be both strangers AND folks who know me… and I’ll be looking like I’ve gained ten pounds. In order to appear as I do right now, I need to lose ten pounds in the next three weeks. During the season with the biggest, most food-filled holiday of them all.

Can I do it? In an intelligent and healthy manner? Well, I’m going to try. I’ll give it my best shot.

And I think I’ll start by having a shave…