A continuing tale of life in the boonies

No. 148

Farmington's sign language

A couple of weeks back readers were invited to suggest the appropriate wording for a neon sign to accompany a giant finger which selectmen are urged to buy from Milton Mills Methodists and erect on Route 11 pointing townwards.

A bulging mailbag of more than a dozen entries contained both the bitter and the sweet. Local resident John McStocker had several stabs which included "Farmington: Henry Wilson slept here."

Some effervescent soul called Bubbles Banshee thought "Farmington: Ayuh...on second thoughts no" was a winner. Sorry, Bubbles, a little flat.

Mr. Ramgunshoch considered "Farmington: Bibbo slept here," a topical entry, and McStocker hand delivered a last minute submission "Farmington: Washington didn't sleep here."

Joyce Cangello of Rochester went with "Farmington: People's Choice" and a highly respectable Farmington churchgoer, pleading anonymity, suggested wryly, "Farmington: Murder free since '83." Too good to win.

However, the joint winners of this prestigious competition are none of the above. Sharing the $3 first prize are the Bowdens of Mad River Road with "Farmington: The Lost Eden" and Nancy Ferguson of Rochester, whose sign under the indicating finger would read "Hysterical Downtown Farmington."

Unfortunately, people, Milton's wooden Hand of God is valued at an incredible $40,000, and its purchase by the niggardly trio of Farmington selectmen is a somewhat remote possibility. I predict you will never see your names in lights.

WOOOF two reasons to buy the button

Thought you'd heard the last of WOOOF, eh? Not as long as I have 83 badges to unload (still a snip at 99 cents). And here is a brand new reason to buy one, Farmington dwellers - help get Whitehouse Out Of Obscurity Forthwith.

"Surely Wilson," says you.

"No, Whitehouse," says I.

Research done by Smithsonian historian Silvio Bedini (no relation to Silvia, Biff) assures the place of George Leighton Whitehouse in history, or at least in Farmington Corner and the May/June issue of an American publication called Professional Surveyor. I assume the magazine is American - Silvio's article appears on page 76 and is concluded on page 26, perhaps indicating this journal originates a little closer to Shanghai.

No matter, thanks to the eagle eyes of Barrington's Paul Brent Howes, the feats of Whitehouse can now be shared among those of us who are not surveyors. Here is a synopsis of Silvio's research, with an enlightened commentary by Ramgunshoch.

Silvio writes that Whitehouse was born in Middleton (pop. 1,089) in 1797 and held every important town office there, before moving to Farmington in the 1820s.

Ramgunshoch notes that Whitehouse was age 15 when Henry Wilson was born, although at that time the U.S Vice President was an indentured servant known as Kid Colbath. Mr. R. also postulates that Whitehouse moved to Farmington midway through a tempestuous term as Middleton's moderator.

Silvio writes that in 1839 Whitehouse constructed a canal three-quarters of a mile in length on the headwaters of the Cocheco.

Ramgunshoch feels that this was probably a vengeful scheme to flood out enemies made whilst serving as Middleton's whipping boy/moderator. When his digging aroused suspicion, Whitehouse was forced to bluff it out and power a grist mill instead.

Silvio writes that shortly after this, Whitehouse built three surveying compasses and then moved to Dover, passing his time constructing railroads, producing maps and serving on committees.

Ramgunshoch interprets this behavior as anxiety-laden. Like Henry Wilson in 1833, Whitehouse had to leave town, and his three compasses prevented him walking in a circle or arriving back in that Middleton. Personally laying out railroads ensured he lived on the right side of the tracks, and serving on committees gave Whitehouse a chance to yell therapeutically at moderators.

Silvio writes that in 1876, Whitehouse patented a leveling rod.

Ramgunshoch thinks that Whitehouse lived in the constant shadow of Henry Wilson, who died in office in 1875. Is it a coincidence, asks Mr. R., that less than a year later Whitehouse invents a device to cut people down to size?

Whitehouse, himself, died in on Nov. 19, 1887, at the age of 90, and the following week received a wordy tribute in the obituary column of the Farmington News.

Additional information: It is believed that Whitehouse bore an uncanny resemblance to Henry Wilson, making WOOOF buttons, (a snip at 99 cents) equally relevant in this new and pressing case of historical obscurity.

Multi-talented resident III

Farmington can boast more than Henry Wilson or George Whitehouse. The town currently has Willis Berry. Not only is Willis one of the most elected Selectmen ever, he is a groundsman par excellence,, ice house racing demon, beloved school janitor, and a noted C&W singer. Now it is suspected that Willis is about to become a grower of roses. Why else would he be spotted on South Main Street industriously garnering horse droppings?

Plenty justice, no mercy

At the selectmen's meeting of May 18, the $2,366 water bill presented to Mary Lussier of 27 Summer St. was discussed. Lussier's usual account for a six-month period comes to $54 for herself and neighboring trailers, but due to an undiscovered water leak over the winter, over a million gallons escaped and she has been asked to pay the price.

Water Chief Dale Sprague advised the board not to grant a rebate, to which Biff Silvio (not Silvio Bedini, please note) replied, "It bothers me to rebate it, but I'd have a heart attack if I got a bill like that."

Administrative Assistant John Scruton said that justice should be tempered with mercy, but this remark floated off into the ether.

Bill Cooper made a motion that Lussier should be compelled to pay the entire $2,366, interest free for a year. And $197.17 per month, plus your next water bill, Mrs. Lussier. Do not pass Go. Do not collect Mercy.

Plenty money, no decision

Farmington has $600 in its annual budget for Patriotic Purposes. Accordingly, when the rope broke on the town flagpole, Allen Drew of the American Legion asked the Board of Selectmen for cash to replace it. The board wrestled with this one for weeks, until, with the approach of Memorial Day, Allen dipped into his own pocket and came up with the $18 required to get the town flag flying again.

"Roger Belanger (garbologist) said he would split the cost with me," said the Legionnaire.

John Scruton, when asked for comment, said "I guess he got tired of us trying to reach a decision. I am not sure how long we deliberated."

May 22, 1989

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