Sippican Cottage

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A Man Who Has Nothing In Particular To Recommend Him Discusses All Sorts of Subjects at Random as Though He Knew Everything

Captured Happy In A Picture Frame

My wife and I like to go out for a walk every day the weather’s nice. There’s a quiet warren of streets near us that’s very suitable for it. If I’m too busy working, she goes alone. She’s reserved, and she lives in a house of yammering males. She must welcome a moment of peace and solitude.

We know, or at least know of, many of our neighbors. Most everyone’s friendly, although some are very private –they’re sunny when you encounter them, but there’s a whiff of Punxsutawney Phil about them. Many stop and chat when you pass by if they’re out in their yard. Everyone at least waves.

The leaves have gone into another spectrum now, and many are already scurrying before your footfalls in the street. The sunshine is milky and the thermometer is losing interest in the indoor numbers. Summer was cool; September was cold. Life will be turning entirely inward here soon.

One of our far-flung neighbors said hullo to my wife at the apogee of her walk. She’s a hoot. She and her husband live in a big foursquare, now bereft of children, and make do with the best dog in the neighborhood. Taciturn and friendly. The dog, I mean; the neighbors are chatty and friendly.

The last big agricultural fair of the season is on in Fryeburg just now. Are we going, she asked? My wife and I enjoy such things. We just like wandering amongst the animals, big and small alike, and all the farming regalia; our little one want to go on all the rides. My wife said we were too busy and broke to go. Our neighbor immediately proposed Plan B.

She came by in the early afternoon, after our little son’s school work was done, and took my wife and the boy to her mother’s house in the next town. It’s “out in the landscape,” as my father used to term everywhere without sidewalks. And out back of mom’s house was too much garden to be considered anything less than a farm by a nine-year-old boy. It was a wonderland.

Our neighbor let him do everything there. He gathered pumpkins for our porch. He pulled carrots, and dug up beets, and parsnips, and pinched off the last cucumbers the season’s likely to see. Then he got to dig potatoes, raking them out of the rich earth and tossing them in a basket. She was an old pro, and showed him the ropes. He asked more questions than a policeman, but she didn’t mind. He was in heaven.

There’s a big outdoor sink hard by the rows, and they rinsed the prizes a bit, and himself a lot, and he came home and told me all about it. My wife mashed those potatoes, and we ate them along with some of most everything else last night at dinner, and will again tonight. They tasted better because they were from friends. My boy is in the next room right now, scrawling a thank-you note to deliver to his farmer neighbors.

I have lived in Maine for over two years now. Before that, we lived in a town in Massachusetts for fifteen years. I think I’ve determined the essential difference between the two places: It’s presumptuous, I know, but I really do believe that my new neighbors here in Maine would cross the street to piss on me if I was on fire. I wouldn’t make such an extravagant claim about the last place.

8 Responses

  1. One time, before the kids came along, we were away for the long weekend. The adjoining field to our house caught fire, and, without us knowing it, all the neighbors showed up at our empty house with water trucks, shovels and bulldozers. The fire missed us.

    We came home to a home exactly as we had left it.

  2. I just watched an interview with Charles Murray and he was discussing our country's loss of "social capital". I feel it greatly, though I am blessed to have one great neighbor, who I am sure would do whatever needed to be done in a pinch.
    We live in a very different world, with only glimpses of what we once had. Your world sounds lovely.

  3. Sipp, you're making me homesick. Today I took the tots for an exploratory drive. I was hoping to find something a little like what you just described, as there's a huge cow pasture just a couple of blocks away, and yet the roads here are laid out such that you can't get there from here. As far as I can tell, the cows are bounded by quarries, freeway, and an assortment of neighborhoods; the farmers must teleport in.

    Anyway, it sounds like your boy had a wonderful adventure; I hope he has the chance to have many more. Friendly, farming neighbors are a wonderful gift.

  4. One of the things that struck us when we moved to the County was that people were nice to us – for no reason, but especially that they took great delight and went out of their way to be nice to the kids. What a concept. Big families used to be the thing here, and I think that mindset has continued on so that people here don't see kids as otherspawn but as future friends and maybe family. Goes along with the farming thing maybe, I dunno. I sure do like it here in the State O'Maine.

  5. I want the yellow house with the picket fence at 02:46. However, I suspect I don't have enough work days left in me to make the money required to lure the occupants away from it.

  6. Here's another of those strange interwebs coincidences. Leslie's mention of Charles Murray brought my own town back in a rush. Chuck and I lived not far from one another in our little Iowa town, and crossed paths in our high school's debate program for one year.

    He and his partner were the A team, for sure. I do remember that the topic for debate the year both of us attended the state tournament was "Resolved: that Red China should be admitted to the United Nations".

    Let me go find my Geritol.

  7. You know, an odd thing about farm folk – its like they have this strange gene that makes most of them open and friendly.

    You story reminds me of a time when I was still active in the volunteer Fire/Rescue service. It was one of those afternoons where nobody was covering the ambulance other than myself (as Region Fire Officer of The Day) and one EMT. As it happened (as it always happens when there aren't enough volunteers to go around), a call for severe chest pain came in – and it was at the Chief's farm. I called dispatch and had them send the ambulance directly to the scene as I would head directly there and met up with it.

    The bad bit was that I had my then nine year old son in the truck with me – I figured that at least one other EMT would show up so I wouldn't have to leave him there at loose ends if this was a serious problem.

    Turned out it was a serious problem, but the Chief's wife went over to my truck, got the boy out and started walking to the barn while we got the field hand bundled up and into the ambulance. Didn't even have to ask, she just took it on herself to entertain my boy while I was away doing EMT stuff.

    When we got back from the hospital, I went to the farm house to pick him up and wouldn't you know it, he had stories to tell. He saw a live hog with baby pigs, a calf being born (that was an experience for him), he got to pick strawberries and EAT THEM RIGHT THERE!!, etc., etc., etc. The upshot was the Chief's wife thanked me for leaving him there – hadn't had that much fun with a child in years. :>)

    Yep – I miss living in rural Connecticut. Well except for the low taxes, two minute walk to my boat from my house and gas under $3.40 a gallon here in South Carolina. :>)

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