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This is a Down East story and I'll try and tell it like it was told to me, but first let me give you a little background.
Among the many items taped up and tacked up on the wall of Tink Billing's neat but not overly ostentatious pine-paneled den is a faded citation of appreciation from the Maine Sheriff's Association. The plaque is dated Feb. 11, 1968 and - in phrases a tad more flowery than you'd expect from such a group - it thanks Tink - for helping them catch a robber named Danny Boyle who had preyed on several banks and stores in the mid-coast area all the previous summer.
Next to the framed citation is taped a now yellow and brittle clipping from the Bangor Daily News - Down East edition - which tells the story. Now Tink is proud of what he did that day, he's glad the robber finally got caught and that he had some part in his “apprehension.” But Tink sure wishes now he'd never talked to the reporter from the newspaper and that his story had never been told.
According to the story that was told, Tink, having just gotten his newspaper, was standing by the road in front of his house when a car came screeching to a halt beside him. The driver - obviously in a hurry - wanted to know the quickest way to Bangor.
Tink stood for a while looking down the road while considering the possibilities, and then he began directing the stranger out toward the county road that connected - after a few miles of twists and turns - to the Bangor road about 12 miles out of town.
As often happens with Tink, he got bogged down telling the stranger about Ed Beal's barn - a huge local landmark that sat less then ten feet from the county road and could be seen for miles in either direction. The barn didn't figure in the directions to Bangor, but Tink felt the need to mention the huge structure since it was such an imposing part of the scenery.
Once the barn was mentioned Tink couldn't help but tell Boyle about his own old barn and about the day eight years before when he filled his pickup with paint he'd bought on sale at the Tru-Value to spruce up that barn and how he never finished the paint job because in the middle of things he heard that his daughter, Emily, and her husband, Harold, out in Canton, Ohio, just had their first baby and Tink and his wife, Edna - bags already packed - dropped everything else and flew out of Bangor on the next flight to Ohio eager to see their first grandchild.
It was their first trip to Ohio, of course, and they didn't want to rush it so while there they took all kinds of side-trips to places like Columbus, Toledo and Cincinnati. They figured they'd leave Zanesville and Lima for another time.
Well, Tink's directions and accompanying story took so long and Boyle became so absorbed in them that a sheriff's deputy managed to catch up with him and arrest him on the spot.
Tink, of course, was given due credit for his part in the apprehension of the dangerous robber and he'd never gone but twenty feet from his front porch. He still feels some foolish about it.
John McDonald is a humorist and storyteller who performs regularly
throughout New England. John’s e-mail address is
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