Monday, September 14, 2009

Tales from Rural Maine: "I Know Exactly Where That Is"

One of the things I love--I mean, really and truly love--about rural Maine is the way people give directions.

My family has been here in this same town on both sides for more than two centuries, and I myself have never been away for more than six months at a time in 37 years, and yet I don't know the names of most of the streets. People don't say, "Go up Mill Street." They say "Go up the Post Office Street." (In fact, I don't think it is "Mill Street." I genuinely don't know the name of the street on which the Bucksport Post Office is located.)

And I am not alone in this. I don't know the name of the street because almost no one local uses its name. Most directions are given with points of reference being, not street names or number of blocks between things, or even in miles, as might be common in other places, but rather in terms of details based on where people live or where something happened or what is located on the street (such as the post office or the library).

My favorite part is that the directions are always correct and reliable, but utterly inscrutable to outsiders because they most often begin with where something (or someone) used to be.

I enjoy re-telling particularly excellent examples of rural directions as anecdotes and recently attempted to regale my father with a narrative about the directions a friend had given me to his house in Happy Town. Peter and I had been invited to have dinner with him and his wife, and he issued us the following directions via e-mail:

From your Dad's home take Upper Falls Road to Bald Mountain. I don't have mileage from there but from Bald Mtn you go down over the stream, then up two steep hills, after the hills go a couple of miles, the road sweeps to the Left with some cows on the side of the hill at Wee Bit Farm. Look for Winkumpaugh Road on the Right, take it and go to the next stop sign at Happy Town Road, the sign is frequently stolen and I can't recall if it is there at present. Go 1 mile up the hill on Happy Town Road and we are on the Left @xxx. Our house has a carport, shingled exterior and green trim. Most importantly my cell is xxx-xxxx should you get lost.


I was cracking up by the end. I mean, isn't that a riot? Aren't those directions just so awesomely rural-perfect? Start at your Dad's, go all these crazy ways, turn (no idea which direction) at the stop sign with the missing road sign all to end up in some place called "Happy Town"? Awesome, right?

But my dad, who had been following along intently to my narrative, picturing all the roads and turns in his head just said, totally straight-faced, "I know exactly where that is...But he should have told you the cows have long hair."

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1 Comments:

Blogger Kirse said...

I've been eagerly awaiting another installment of your rural Maine series. Thanks - I loved it!

1:16 PM  

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