I don't write the news, I just deliver it

By David Hurley | Aug 21, 2014

I have been delivering newspapers for the Republican Journal since 1983, a bit more than 30 years, about half my life — my oldest son was a toddler at the time;now he works in Rockefeller Center in New York. Time flies, but it keeps a steady count through a steady succession of Wednesdays.

Steve Curtis accompanied me on my first delivery. He still calls me "Scabby" for the years when he worked at the Waldo Independent and I continued delivering the Journal.

I got a scary phone call one morning from Stacy Lanphier after I had overslept. "David, is there some reason why the paper is not being delivered this morning?"

Stacy was very serious-sounding and he asked this question in a deep base voice like he was reciting an important line from Shakespeare. I practically shrieked and had to sneak into early morning businesses like Darre's restaurant and mumble something about mechanical difficulties.

Countless editors (maybe 20), various owners, and numerous bosses. George Patterson officially welcomed me to Maine by asking me : "David, how's your bug?"

I had to get a native to explain what that means and decided people in Maine are generally friendlier than people in New Jersey. Jersey boys (and girls) don't inquire about such things. I decided George was a very considerate person.

One of my favorite bosses was Chum Berry. I would leave him songs on his voice mail, complete with totally made up lyrics sung to the tune of Bob Dylan songs detailing my delivery sagas.

When you blow up the engine (so it needed a little oil) of a tired delivery van and actually coast mostly downhill for two-plus miles between Brooks and Thorndike and end up at the bottom of a hill at the only lit-up, coin-operated phone booth within miles, this news can only be transmitted to your boss sung to the tune of "Sad-eyed Lady of the Lowlands."

Think how much time you get to ruminate and ponder while driving a paper route. You might feel like Huck Finn on a raft drifting in the current of the Mississippi River. You get to see things sometimes that make you realize that not all fiction is made up; it is simply recorded.

One evening at the Freedom Post Office, a state trooper pulled in alongside me. Uh oh, am I in trouble?

"Sir, have you happened to have seen a woman in her nightgown waving her arms by the side of the road"? Pause. "No, officer, I haven't, what would you like me to do if I see her?"

I drove away thinking, "Man, that was strange." But then, within 10 minutes I drove down a hill and there she was just standing by the road in a nightgown, flapping her arms. I have picked up hitchhikers on occasion, but this time was an exception and I simply made the call.

Then there was the time I was reading a thriller where a meteorite has crashed into Antarctica and it's an unknown element with strange properties. That would be the same week I was returning from Ellsworth (our papers used to get printed there) and had just crossed the Waldo Hancock Bridge heading south when a giant green glowing fireball streaked across the sky. Next day in the paper: Biggest fireball seen in Maine in the last 10 years lights up the sky. And I got to see it.

Sometimes on early spring nights when it's raining, you might think the wind has blown small twigs all over the road. But it's actually the seasonal mass migration of millions of spotted salamanders, leaving their vernal pools en masse, looking for love. I think some of them got lucky, just like the rest of us.

Hurricanes, blizzards, ice storms. I have delivered in all of them. My children have grown up, gone to school and all sorts of places and returned home.

One early dawn while it was still dark, a giant buck deer was suddenly in front of the van. I was driving at 30 mph and I didn't even have time to try and hit my brakes. I felt like I was watching a cartoon because his back legs suddenly speeded up and he was close enough that I could hear him snort. And then he was gone. Pouf!

Another time I thought I had seen a strange shape on the power line, so I slowed down and backed up. It was an upside-down porcupine who was thinking this is the longest branch he's ever been on. He then began to tell me what he thought about it.

I would like to add a sentence to my encounter with the porcupine while he was hanging upside down on the power line. One thing you can say about a porcupine that's hanging upside down on a power line and you start talking to him. You have his total attention and he seems to be really listening. I thought it was a valuable conversation and wished him all the best getting to the next power line.

Also, perhaps there might be a place in the column where I mention that I have delivered during hurricanes, blizzards, and ice storms. I have called upon my brother Mike to come along on the route with me during a blizzard with the help of his big trusty Ford pick-up truck. Everything was going well until he began shouting, "You didn't tell me I would be driving to Brooks, Unity, Thorndike and Freedom in the middle of a blizzard!"

My delivery routes and times I deliver have changed numerous times. Store owners have changed, died, gone out of business and reopened. I have been witness to my own small piece of geologic time.

That I have continued to deliver papers weekly for this length of time is probably because I simply like driving and feeling I am going somewhere. In my 20s this led to crossing and recrossing the country more than six times. My dog had 40,000 miles on him and was always ready for the next ride. I would stick my thumb out; his method was to stare at oncoming cars and order them to stop. It worked, because here I am.

My cellphone just made that chirp that I have gotten a text: papers ready at 6:40. It's Wednesday and I have my route all planned out.

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