This Week in Lincolnville: The Plow Guys are the Stars
It was a blizzard, wasn’t it? Finally, after all the scary predictions of a “big one” coming, predictions that inevitably fizzled out, we got a good old-fashioned, all night and all day blow out. I was grateful to have the company of my son’s family, ostensibly here with me and the wood stoves in case of a power outage, but I suspect they didn’t want me to be alone this time. They were right; I didn’t.
At one point Monday we realized the plows hadn’t been by in quite a while. Then we heard that DOT had pulled all their plow trucks off the road because of the dangerous white-out conditions. The drivers of those trucks – the big state trucks along with the legion of pickups with a yellow Fisher plow on the front – are our saviors. And then I remembered a story that Allan Thomas told me about his father, Herb, one of the men who plowed the town’s roads back in the 1930s:
Sometimes he let Alan ride with him, and on those occasions, the boy didn’t miss a thing. It took two men just to start the Pierce Arrow truck, one standing on the radiator while the other pulled up on the rope attached to the crank. Leigh Miller often worked with Herb. If it was really cold, they started a small fire on a snow shovel using a combination of kerosene and rags and then held it under the motor to heat the sluggish oil.
TUESDAY, Feb. 14
Needlework group, 4-6 p.m., Library
Budget Committee meets, 6 p.m., Town Office
WEDNESDAY, Feb. 15
Library Presentation, 7 p.m., Library
THURSDAY, Feb. 16
Soup Café, noon-1p.m., Community Building, 18 Searsmont Road
Free Foxtrot Lesson, 6:30 p.m., Community Building
SUNDAY, Feb. 19
Rev. Dick Hanks preaches, 9:30 a.m., United Christian Church, 18 Searsmont Road
AA meetings, Tuesdays & Fridays at 12:15 p.m., Wednesdays & Sundays at 6 p.m., United Christian Church
Lincolnville Community Library, open Tuesdays, 4-7, Wednesdays, 2-7, Fridays and Saturdays, 9 a.m.-noon. For information call 763-4343.
Soup Café, every Thursday, noon—1p.m., Community Building, Sponsored by United Christian Church. Free, though donations to the Community Building are appreciated
Schoolhouse Museum is closed for the season; call Connie Parker for a special appointment, 789-5984.
Bayshore Baptist Church, Sunday School for all ages, 9:30 a.m., Worship Service at 11 a.m.; Good News Club, Tuesdays, LCS, 3-4:30
Crossroads Community Church, 11 a.m. Worship
United Christian Church, Worship Service 9:30 a.m., Children’s Church during service
Feb. 21: Sewer District meets
Feb. 23: 6 week foxtrot course starts
Feb. 25: Rev. Kate Braestrup preaches at UCC
Mar. 7: Job Fair at Hutchinson Center
Herb and his plow truck could do anything it seemed to young Alan. It might take three or four days to plow the whole town after a big storm, but he got the job done. First he’d open the main roads. Then, if a woman was expecting a baby he’d make sure the road to her house was plowed and kept clear. Sometimes the snow was so deep even the Pierce Arrow with its hard rubber tires and wooden plow couldn’t break through. Then crews of men and boys would shovel ahead of the truck, opening up the worst of it.
His father had to be resourceful when he was out on the snow-covered roads, and no one else was moving. One time the engine was skipping somewhere on Youngtown Road in the middle of a cold, nasty night. Herb, standing in the sleet, used the emery paper on a matchbook to file the points on the distributor, then adjusted them using a dime.
Herb drove with the “wing” or passenger-side window open. Since there wasn’t any heat in the truck that didn’t make much difference. A small fan on the dashboard that operated off the battery kept the windshield on the driver’s side clear. The wingman, Leigh or one of Alan’s older brothers, rode with his head out the window watching for obstacles in the way of the plow. When one came along—a stump or a telephone pole or a boulder—Herb stopped the truck so his wingman could get out and lift the plow with a chain fall.
People watched for them, especially in the night. Alan’s Aunt Electa Heal kept the lamps lit at her 116 Youngtown Road house for her brother, Herb. They’d go by once, then on the way back they’d stop in to thaw out, and Electa would have heated up a meal for them. Cora Drinkwater always had pie and doughnuts for them no matter what time they made it the mile in to her house, 283 Van Sickle Road. Such stops were welcome after hours in the icy cold truck. One time, when Alan’s older brother Perry was his age, their father had the eight-year old drive the truck while he walked behind trying to wake up. They were on the Canaan Road almost to the Tanglewood corner when Herb realized the truck had nearly come to a halt. Perry had fallen asleep at the wheel.
Thomas men have continued in Herb’s footsteps. First his son Paul, then Paul’s son Larry carried on, plowing out the town of Lincolnville for many years, Larry retiring from the job just a couple of years ago. Alan’s son Peter is plowing for Northport this winter. The snow removal contract was shared for many years by the Thomas and Young families, with Bernard Young and his son Todd doing half the roads, and Larry the other. Finally, two years ago these men retired, and the contract went to Farley and Sons of Rockport.
On a bitter, blowing winter night I wonder if anyone keeps a lamp lit and the coffee pot on for the men out on the snow-covered roads….
It’s needlework time at the Library tonight, Tuesday the 14th. Come any time between 4 and 6 p.m. to work on a favorite project and relax, have a cup of tea and chat with friends. Newcomers are always welcome. The library will also be open for regular business until 7 p.m. To learn more, call 763-4343 or email.
Wednesday the 15th the monthly Library Presentation and Concert will feature Paul McFarland, Youngtown Road’s own poet. Following Paul will be Heart ‘n’ Soul, a women’s barbershop group. Contact Rosey Gerry, 975-5432, to reserve seats, $10 each; proceeds from these events benefit the Library each month.
Thursday the 16th eighth graders and their parents will meet in Walsh Common to talk about high school course registration. As the grandparent of one of those students, it literally seems like yesterday that she was excitedly awaiting the first day of kindergarten. My own children’s LCS years went by quicker than seemed possible, but now the grandchildren must be flying through theirs.
Several Belfast area organizations are collaborating to host a regional job fair to be held at the University of Maine Hutchinson Center on Tuesday, March 7th. This fair is free to both employers and to job seekers. Hopefully some 40 area employers will be participating, so a big turnout of job seekers would be great. Watch for more information on this in coming weeks.
Richard Grant’s latest novel, Cave Dwellers, is due to be released later this spring; read a review of it here. Richard, who lives down the road from me, is the guy who leads the carol-singing at the Beach every year.
LBB Post of the Week
This informational tidbit posted by Corelyn Senn set off a days-long riff on foxes:
“It is fox mating season and both red and gray foxes are showing up on my cameras in pairs. Mating is from December-March with the main period being January and February. Foxes make various sounds when attracting a mate--none of them sound good to humans. Hear them on YouTube. They also are quite territorial, marking their area.”
That drew this: “I initially read this subject line as "Foxes in Paris" and thought, How romantic! I obviously am not fully caffeinated yet.”
Then: “We heard similar festivities in the woods on the other side of the Ducktrap last night. Risqué!”
There was lots more, but my favorite was Lisa Curreri’s poem:
There once were some foxes
Who lived in some boxes;
The reason for nobody knows.
But sly little foxes
Felt that the boxes
Protected their fur from the snows;
Those sly little foxes
Without any soxes
Had frostbite on each of their toes;
So those smart little foxes
Lined all of their boxes
With leftover- hand- me -down clothes;
Now some think that foxes
Are really obnoxious,
But I think it fair to suppose
That red and gray foxes
Who live in warm boxes
Are smarter than anyone knows!
Ross Faneuf admits that feeding the birds year round at their Heather Hill house may “tilt nature’s balance... but we have been unable to resist the temptation to persist. At this time of year, and into spring, is the only time we regularly see ravens. This year there are three which show up nearly every day to scavenge what they can. Everyone else pretty much decamps when they show up, except for a nervy red squirrel. At other times crows scavenge in the same way, complete with a sentinel crow in the nearest oak. They seem to keep away when the ravens are about.”
In addition to squirrels, which somehow Ross and Lois have managed to keep out of the feeders, they have chickadees, a dozen blue jays, 20-30 mourning doves.
“Don’t these things have any predators? They’ve been multiplying ever since we moved in 20 years ago, despite every appearance of being slow and unwary.”
Downy and hairy woodpeckers appear regularly, as well as a pair of cardinals which also attack their reflection in the windows. A large flock of goldfinches show up in the spring, and from time to time, a fox wanders by. “I imagine this is typical of other people in town, and really a bit boring. But such as it is, there you have it.” I wouldn’t be at all bored to have a pair of cardinals, an occasional fox and those ravens!
Dwight Wass writes: “My front yard looks out across Coleman Pond towards the back of the many peaks that comprise Camden Hill State Park. This week I've observed a bald eagle picking up fish left on the ice by local families that come to the pond to ice fish. The feeders host chickadees, red woodpeckers, crows and ravens and lots of blue jays. This morning I watched a beautiful red fox play and run across the pond. Then there are the 4 entertaining grey squirrels that suddenly combust into 5 and one lonely red squirrel that sits on the same knot of an oak overhanging the pond....This year the ice for skating has been ideal and today snow and cold remind me of my promise to go south, but I can't seem to leave my perch watching all the entertainment of winter.”
The Stories Keep Coming
We’re still getting notes and cards with stories about Wally, things he did or said. One old friend remembered the homebrew we made back in the day.
“That stuff could take the finish off your teeth,” he wrote, or something to that effect.
I certainly didn’t take offense; it was pretty ghastly. I can still recite the recipe by heart: 1 can Blue Ribbon malt (used to find it in the baking aisle), 5# sugar and 1 pkg. baking yeast, add 5 gal water, wait 10 days —which Wally never did — and invite your friends in! It had two winning attributes: it was alcoholic and really cheap. For years we always had a batch bubbling away behind the stove.
We stopped making it when he had a strange reaction which we attributed to his being allergic to penicillin, as the brew was growing some kind of mold at the time.
Losing your spouse just as February kicks in hardly seems fair, though when is it ever fair? Yet living surrounded by kind-hearted neighbors and friends makes it bearable.
In the middle of several snowy nights I’ve been awakened by the sound of a truck plowing the end of my driveway. A few well-placed swipes and he’s on his way, leaving me with a lot less work the next morning. I don’t know who it is, but I’m feeling profoundly grateful.