Down the Road a Piece
Maine’s Fifth Season
When I was teaching eighth grade in Thorndike, a farmer’s son educated me as to the four seasons in Maine. He forgot one, which because of his being a farmer’s son has puzzled me ever since.
He named ‘untin,’ snowmobiling and ice-fishing (If you’re new to Maine and don’t recall those hard, cold, snowy winters so aren’t familiar with ice-fishing, rent Grumpy Old Men from Netflix to learn about ice fishing.), open-water fishing, and baseball -- he didn’t mention harvesting hay and other crops.
Nor did he mention the fifth season, Mud Season.
And I’m only thinking about it because of last week’s treat by relatives to the Craignair Inn, which is at the causeway to Clark Island in the town of Spruce Head.* The meal was great with four or five courses, I can’t quite remember how many after eating that much and it’s only being a week ago so it still hasn’t all quite worn off yet and allowed my mind to clear.
It was what happened when we left that triggers my thoughts of Mud Season. To me it was simple. I walked around a bit in our wonderful Daylight Savings Time to take a few photos of the inn and that ocean. To the wife of our relative, things were a bit more burdensome.
“Where are you going?” she shouted to me as I walked away from the building in a direction that did not lead to the soft wet-gravel parking lot.
“To take a couple of pictures,” I answered.
“But I can’t get to the car in the mud,” she shouted. “I’ll wait inside until you bring the car down.”
I had dropped them off at a solid-stone walkway before parking the car as we had arrived.
Following my photo-taking expedition, Dolores , the husband, and I drove down from the soft wet-gravel parking lot to the walk to pick up the missing relative.
As she approached the car, the husband said to her, “Why would anyone wear gold shoes in Maine in Mud Season?”
I looked and sure enough, she was wearing gold-colored shoes.
Why would anyone wear gold shoes in Maine in Mud Season?” I asked myself.
Even though I wasn’t certain that the soft wet gravel in the parking lot qualified as genuine Maine mud.
I’m still not certain.
I do know Mud Season came and went early this year at our house, probably because there was so little snow and only about three inches of glare ice. Mud Season may have occurred under it.
I do also remember other Mud Seasons, especially when I was married to my first wife and lived in the South Paris area. Each year my first wife followed a tradition. As the days grew a bit warmer, she would yearn to get out and take a drive in the country. I was usually at work when this yearning struck, so I didn’t get to either go with her or warn her that this was Mud Season and not take-a-drive-in-the-country season.
It was good that we knew the local tow-truck operator fairly well, as he left us off cheap each Mud Season.
He would phone me, either at the office or at home should I have arrived there by the time he phoned (never on a cell phone. In those days, a futuristic question would have been ‘What the heck will a cell phone be, anyhow?’)**
“She’s done it again,” he would say. “I’ll go get her.”
And he would.
“I don’t know how I got stuck,” she would later tell me.
I knew that. And I knew she’d say it every year.
In case you’re curious, my first wife and I are still friends.
But someone else is now whom the tow-truck operator calls.
Also in my fading memory, Mud Season and Easter usually went together. (Which is why the Craignair Inn incident was no real surprise to me.) We used to attend an Easter Sunrise Service, followed by breakfast, followed by a later Easter morning service I tried hard not to sleep through because I hate dreaming about mud. Driving into the half-mile-long dirt drive to the farm where we met was easy with the temperature holding somewhere just below freezing. Heading home after two services, a breakfast, and a nap was a bit more tricky. The mud had also risen on this morning set aside to celebrate the rising from the dead by our Lord.
I had already known this driving tip, but it became crucial on the way out that drive. Put your foot down hard on the gas pedal and don’t let off until you’re on pavement. We would bounce, slither sideways, and pray a lot, but we always made it to the pavement.
Mud affects hikers too, which is one reason the Maine Appalachian Trail Club doesn’t officially begin hiking season on the AT in Maine until Memorial Day. Before that holiday, snow also is a problem on parts of the AT.
On one occasion, while Dolores and I were staying at a bed-and-breakfast in Andover prior to heading out to do some volunteer work on the AT, a couple from New York State also were staying at the B&B.
When he learned we were MATC volunteers, the husband approached me and said, “They (note: it’s always ‘they’) ought to take better care of the Trail. I slipped off it and one foot went into the mud. Now my boots don’t match.”
“I didn’t know boots in Maine were supposed to match,” I replied. “I’ve never had a pair that matched.”
Always sympathetic to out-of-state hikers/tourists who expect Maine to be like home. I always wonder, since Maine’s mud is so awful, why they leave home to come here.
We once lived in a house a third of a mile from the pavement, and spring was always adventuresome. We cheered more than for Easter when the guy came and graded the road. Parking at the pavement end and walking home grew tiresome.
I’m not sure that this year will actually boast a true mud season. This could be due to global warming, now dubbed climate change by politicians and scientists for some political and scientific reason that is beyond this non-politician and non-scientist’s reasoning power. Mud Season may actually come in February, under the remaining swiftly melting snow and glare ice. I’m not sure.
I’ll have to research it.
And let you know the results, unless there is a Mud Season next year during my research period and I don’t find my way out.***
*If you can’t quite locate Clark Island or Spruce Head in your mind, you’re not alone. I think of the 50 or so I’ve told about our Easter Dinner at this really nice inn that was built in 1828, I believe, to house quarry workers, about one knew where Spruce Head is. The inn and Clark Island are somewhere southwest of Rockland right on the shore of some ocean -- on Map 8 of The Maine Atlas and Gazetteer. For you in northern, it may be in the “other Maine.” I’m not quite sure of the boundaries of the “other Maine” or if that Maine is the southern or northern part of that the Atlas shows as Maine. I’m not even sure where Downeast is, that term being claimed in many parts of the state including at an auto repair company by that name I saw in Farmington.
**Dolores and I have only had to deal with those cell-phone contraptions within the last year or so. I got one after the day I was driving a bus through Bucksport to Bangor and my boss tried to radio me to pick up a couple of people at a certain spot in Bucksport. Of course, when he radioed I was in the men’s room at McDonald’s so didn’t get the call. The two people didn’t get to Bangor. The boss told the operations manager, “Don’t let Milt out of the stable again without a cell phone.” So I was given one, and one of these days I’ll learn how to use it.
We bought Dolores a cell phone so I could find her in the supermarket, if I recall this correctly. Of course, when I would enter the store and call her to see where she was she didn’t answer. The ringer wasn’t loud enough for her to hear it, because it was at the bottom of her purse. Then when a Radio Shack guy showed her how to raise the volume -- neither of us have any idea what he showed her, she couldn’t answer it because she couldn’t get way down to the bottom of her purse on time. I looked around and found her the old-fashioned way, by walking every aisle in the supermarket until I located her in the very last aisle I walked. It was always the very last aisle, but the exercise was probably good for me. At my ripe old age of the second half of 29.5, it is nice to be still able to walk.
***Always end a sentence with a preposition, such as ”out,” if you want your fourth-grade teacher to be assured that when she said you’d never learn grammar, she was right. Fourth-grade teachers should always be right.
Milt Gross can be reached for corrections, harassment, or other purposes at email@example.com.
Milton M. Gross Copyright 2012