A continuing tale of life in the boonies

No. 067

Archye off Altoune


Archye, a semely syghte to se

Ffor sothe, no palfraye hyrer he

By-helde a gunne, by-gotten fryghte

Ffulle fast away with alle his myghte

Whare it was dirke as mydnyghte myrke

And watr flode alronde his knee.

(The Cobbler's Tale - 1397)


The recent discovery of a parchment bearing the above lines has the academic world in a frenzy of excitement. The verse was first observed by Farmington garbologist Roger Belanger, inexplicably fluttering along a local sidewalk, and the most favored theory of the literati is that the scrap is part of a hitherto unknown Canterbury Tale.

Much evidence and argument is being brought forward in favor of this opinion. Firstly, Geoffrey Chaucer, although completing his stories of the pilgrims in 1389, could conceivably have had an afterthought. Secondly, scholars point out, the very nature of the work - boisterous, full or humor, frank and hearty - epitomizes the style of the English medieval poet. Thirdly but I must interrupt myself to announce that the eggheads are plumb wrong!

The clue lies in the second line of the fragment. "No palfraye hyrer he," in modern English, translates as "not a taxi driver," and this thunderbolt leads one immediately to that well-loved figure, Mr. Archie Corson. (One assumes that 1397 is a typo for 1937.) The Cobbler's Tale in its entirety is, nonetheless, an important saga, and I am indebted to Archie for the full story and permission to relate it.

In 1937, Archie was a thin boy, living in Alton and working in the Shoe Factory in Farmington.

"How would you like a girl-friend tonight?" asked a group of older, well-meaning workmates.

"Sure!" said young Archie, and that very night he was directed to a house at the foot of Mechanic Street. On good advice, he was wearing a smart felt hat, his best suit with cigars stuffed in the breast pocket, and was carrying two cases of beer with a box of chocolates on top.

Archie recalls climbing the seven steps onto the porch and knocking on door, which was unexpectedly opened by a large man. "I understand that I have a date with your daughter, tonight," stated Archie, hopefully.

"Daughter nothing! That's my wife!" raged the man in the threshold, suddenly pulling out a gun. Archie dropped the cigars, beer and chocolates, cleared the seven steps in one bound, and ran for his life as gunshots rang out. He ran down to East Grove Street, fled around the back of the old laundry, and into a marsh. Driven by fear, he struggled gamely on, emerging bedraggled onto Winter Street, and then crossing Main Street. Although he saw Police Officer Charlie Roberts way off in the distance, framed in the yellow light of a street lamp, Archie did not pause. He headed full tilt up Spring Street and ran all the way to Alton, refusing the offer of a ride from a passing motorist on the grounds that he was in a hurry!

The tale has a sequel. The next week, young Archie was persuaded to accompany the men who had caused him to embark on such an enterprise. They wished to make amends, they said.

"Oh, no!" yelled Archie, as the group tramped up the seven steps to the porch of the house on Mechanic Street.

"It's okay, you're with us this time," his friends assured him, upright men like Jack Howard and Bob Wentworth.

They were admitted to a room of the house, where furniture had been pushed back and poker tables set up, and a spirited game of cards ensued.

"Gee, I could go a beer!" said one of the players after a while.

"I could use a cigar," enjoined another.

"Chocolates would be nice," a third man suggested, wistfully.

"Any minute now!" said Jack Howard.

Sure enough, at this moment a taxi drew up outside, and through a chink in the curtains, Archie saw a man get out with several cases of beer, a box of chocolates and a stash of cigars. A knock on the front door was answered by Jack.

"I understand that I have a date with your daughter," the stranger said to him.

"You dog," stormed Jack, "you're after my wife!" and produced a gun. Beer, cigars and chocolates were rapidly abandoned, and as the man flew back up to Main Street, gunshots once again enlivened Mechanic Street.

"Don't worry - we use blanks," the poker players assured Archie as they resumed the game, in considerably more comfort.

The stranger, who was an engineer from Boston, sent here to repair the shoe shop machines, booked out of his hotel that night. He managed to reach Rochester and caught a train back to Massachusetts, leaving all of his company's tools behind, so great was his alarm. They were sent on.

Dog News: Roger Abrantes, a Danish dog psychologist, is reported in the Globe, as having made a breakthrough in the understanding of canine behavior. He advises mailmen such as Biff, not to smile at snarling dogs, nor spray them with mace, nor even to rip up their master's mail and hit them with it.

"If you squat and make munching noises, the chances of being bitten are extremely thin," contends the dog shrink. Worth a try, what?

Forthcoming Date: My self-appointed social secretary, Freddy Olson, has arranged several interesting engagements for the month of November. Looking over the list, I see that I am down for tea with Strafford County Kennel Club on the 34th. Hmm.

Baptist Youth Group: Friday, Nov. 14, is game night at the church - don't miss the fun! 6:30 p.m.

Penny Sale: On Saturday, Nov. 15, the sophomore class is hosting a penny sale in the high school gym. The sale at 7 p.m. is preceded by a spaghetti supper at 5:30 p.m. Adults - $3.00, children - $1.50.

Tea News II: This month Farmington Woman's Club has invited all school staff to tea in the library. Due to the enforcement of parking regulations, Brownie's invite may be delayed until well into the 21st century.

Tea News III: In a boost for the Sri Lankan economy, even more tea parties are in the offing. On the Nov. 13, Darlene Cardinal is coordinating a tea for school volunteers in the new library at 2:30 p.m.

Library News: Jean Pease, discussing Goodwin Library finances with the Board of Selectmen at a recent meeting, agreed with John Scruton that heating costs will be reduced in the coming year. Reason - a shared wall with the bank.

Parental Alert/Go Slow: Should any children fail to arrive home after school on Nov. 14, parents must consider that on this date their elementary school offspring will be bearing report cards.

Nov. 11, 1986

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