Monday, February 8, 2010

"EVERYONE TALKS ABOUT THE WEATHER,"

But no one does anything about it,” Mark Twain once said, and there’s much to talk about nowadays throughout the U.S.: snowstorms in the East, rainstorms and mud slides in the West, freezes in the South, and business as usual in the North. Years ago, when I lived in Limestone, Maine, “snowmageddons” were everyday occurrences during the icy winter months in this small town on the Canadian border. Had it not been for an electric blanket, we would have been near frozen. We lived in an old farmhouse with one oil stove in the living room, an oven in the kitchen, and no heat in the rest of the apartment. I never could figure out why anyone would choose to live in northernmost Maine. We were there with the U.S. Army, stationed at a SAC (Strategic Air Command) base during the 1950’s, and my former spouse, an intelligence specialist, spent days in a radar shack, searching the sky for Russian planes that might cross our borders from Moscow. The weather at that time could have challenged today’s reports of snowstorms -- one night, the temperature dipped to 50 degrees below zero, and we southerners lived to tell it.

A proof for my latest book, THE MAINE EVENT, a mystery, is forthcoming and incorporates some of my experiences in northernmost Maine. The painting for the cover was rendered by my brother Paul, and the design, of course, was done by Martin, my grandson. It’s among the novels that have been in the cardboard box of my life, otherwise known as unpublished manuscripts, slowly being published, beginning with my retirement three years ago.

An excerpt from THE MAINE EVENT that gives readers a foretaste of the novel’s setting :

“Near the farmhouse, this deeply-forested area of northeastern Maine had tall canopies of fir, spruce, white pine, sugar maple, ash, birch, and elm, giving us the feeling of living in a virgin wilderness. The birch trees impressed me the most. After we first arrived, I had peeled off a piece of the bark, written a very short note on it and sent the letter back to Louisiana.

“Enough land in Aroostook County had been cleared for potato farming to support the production of one million pounds of potatoes. Even so, most people in the county were poor. Giant potato storage houses dotted the landscape. Limestone public schools, as well as Loring Air Base, turned out students and military each Fall for three weeks to help farmers with the harvest. During WWII, German prisoners of war helped dig potatoes, and a few had returned at war’s end to take up farming in Aroostook County. Jim picked up potatoes in tall baskets two days during the harvest and complained of a major backache all that week.

“The nearby St. John River had been a major route between Port Royale, Acadia and Quebec since 1612; by 1842, many Acadians had settled in Aroostook County. For all I knew, I lived a mile away from my ancestors, those people who thought Aroostook’s dense forests and trout-rich rivers were the promised land. By nature they were pessimistic, but, contradictorily, they expected that Divine Providence would give them more than their daily fare of pigeons, dandelions, and fiddlehead fern soup…”

THE MAINE EVENT should be available on amazon.com in a few weeks or it can be ordered from borderpressbooks.com.
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