A continuing tale of life in the boonies

No. 059

A scrap of information

Ann and Jake Chapline live in such a far-flung nook of Farmington as to make Boondock Butt appear an urbanite by comparison. Their house clings to the rocky crags below the summit of Blue Job Mountain, beyond the reach of water, power and sewer lines, beyond the madding crowd of hollerers and mudders on the lower slopes, beyond the strangulating claws of civilization. One supposes that they grow hardy vegetables up there, venturing down occasionally to snatch the odd unsuspecting Krasner lamb, or to corner a bottle of Gevray-Chambertin '61.

From late November until mid-April the only way to call on these solitudinarians is with pack-mule and snow-shoes. Imagine my astonishment, therefore, when I encountered Planning Board member Ann Chapline last week, in a Rochester laundromat.

"Ann," I blurted, "knowing your affection for the Outdoors, I always assumed that you washed your clothes on a stone in a creek."

"That is normally the case," she responded sweetly, "but I have just tumbled into the creek and created a wash-day crisis."

I told Ann that the readership would be fascinated with this behind-the-scenes glimpse of country life and she awarded me an enigmatic smile. When I returned to the laundromat some time later, Ms. Chapline was gone, but atop my washing machine had been placed a rusty kettle. An old horseshoe dangled over its rim. My mind raced to decipher these strange symbols. A rusty kettle? Of course - the ancient love-token of Irish hawkers and beggar folk! Ann, I thought, must be familiar with the roguish tinker song that runs:

While walking down a leafy lane

On a door I chanced to knock,

"Have ye any pots or kettles

With rusty holes to block?"

"Well indeed I have!

Don't you know I have?" etc.

And a horseshoe. Used by the Gurkha hill tribes of Nepal to signify that "Tuesdays are Auspicious." Tuesdays? Hmm. Planning Board night. It was all falling into place - perhaps those dull meetings would be less tedious in future. Meanwhile, canny by nature, I yet await further signs, and delay hiring a burro.

C For Cranks News: A letter arrived this week (coincidentally, I am sure) from a reader who thinks Farmington Corner should be renamed Washday! That the letter arrived at all was a tribute to the Postal Service. The author had dispensed with the stuffy convention of an envelope and ingeniously stapled a sheet of notepaper together, scrawling an address on the back. A mailman somewhere had been generous enough to stow this crumbling epistle into a plastic body-bag, thus ensuring that the wisdom of its content survived to be shared.

Penned by a "Woman of Farmington" (don't we love mysteries!), it gave me startling advice on how to be liked...join a men's group...learn to kiss cats and dogs...experiment with humility. There was encouragement too. Vast chiliocosms of potentiality, I possess, apparently. I flew to the dictionary, but could find nothing between chili con carne and chili sauce. Oh well!

School News: The kids are back, thank goodness. Real, tangible news at last to prevent Farmington Corner being cut and re-named Gibberish Inch. (Now there's an idea - Ed.) Field trips, ballbouncing results, teachersí workshops, studentsí poetry, school plays...weeks of fascinating prose are just around the bend.

In the Library: Librarian, Mrs. Ruth Gagnon, announces that Mrs. Plummer of Milton will fill the No. 3 slot, assisting on Mondays and Fridays. Mrs. Whittum keeps the No. 2 position, giving her services on the three midweek days. Her husband, Judge Whittum, sits on the local bench, but Mrs. Whittum, hoping to go one better, is appealing for the donation of a rocking chair for the library. This would be used for story hour corner, when tales are spun for 1st and 2nd graders.

How's this for a deal? If the readership responds with a rocking chair for Mrs. Whittum, an amusing anecdote or two concerning the judge (secrets for a decade or more) shall leak into print.

In the Nurse's Room: The school nurses scratched their heads when requested for news and then asked that parents be reminded of their responsibilities with regard to checking their children's hair to make sure that they are free of the pitter-patter of tiny feet. There has been a minor problem in the area during the summer months, apparently.

Goodwin Library: Phyllis Kologowski, in the twilight of her librarianship, is delighted to announce that the late Merton Peavey bequeathed his father's old Herculean Fire Department uniform to the museum. Splendid, colorful, miraculously unsmudged by soot or smoke it is on display for townspeople to view. Complete with helmet, Archie.

Nute Ridge Half Marathon: Despite the curious censorship imposed by the Seacoast media on last year's extraordinarily successful race, the truth has seeped into the pages of national magazines. Ultrasport, a coast-to-coast monthly publication, has gone as far as to feature it prominently in its September issue, and has recommended the Nute Ridge Half Marathon as one of the six most exciting events to compete in during the coming four weeks. It stands along-side triathalons and surf rodeos in Hawaii, Virginia and California. With this sort of publicity, and with the ecstatic recommendations of the 1985 runners, entries for the 1986 race, slated for Oct. 12, are 250 percent up on this time last year. Requests for forms have come in from 10 different states, ranging from Maine, down the east coast and across to Texas. It has been necessary to compile a list of local motels, campsites and bed and breakfast establishments in the Rochester/Milton/Farmington area, to send to out-of-state runners along with their entry form and new town brochure. For six months after the 1985 race, letters of appreciation came in from competitors who had never before encountered the level of friendliness and hospitality, around the course, and in Farmington Town Hall after the Half Marathon.

This year, at Portsmouth and at Newburyport, handing out entry forms to runners gathered for local races, I was still surprised by affection and esteem in which our race was held. And how well-known it had become in only one year, entirely thanks to the enthusiasm and dedication of everyone who helped to organize it.

Sept. 11, 1986

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