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There must be something in the air or in the drinking water around Maine because for the last few weeks the tattered mail bag here at Storyteller Central has been bursting as the seams.
Russell from Augusta writes: “John, I read your column on the internet and I came across something you wrote about the famous Norse explorer Eric the Red. I enjoyed the piece a lot. As someone who has red hair and beard, I particularly enjoy reading about famous redheads. And don't ever call me 'carrot-top!' ”
Thanks for the letter, Carrot Top. If you enjoy stories about redheads, I'm sure you'd enjoy reading Arthur Conan Doyle's classic mystery "The Red Headed League," if you haven't enjoyed it already. Only a writer like Doyle could come up with a story about a bank robbery and build the whole plot line around something like red hair.
And what about the William the Red, or William Rufus, also known as William II of England? His better-known father was William the Conqueror, but don't ask me what color his hair was or even if he touched it up. When the phrase “the Conqueror” is part of your name, people become a tad nervous about asking if your hair color is natural.
Red hair stands out because it is less common in the population than blond or brown. Over the years redheads were thought to have their own unique personality characteristics. For centuries people with red hair were considered lewd or deceitful. Some considered redheads hot tempered - some still do. Some say Judas Iscariot, the disciple who betrayed Jesus, had red hair, and that certainly didn't help the cause of red heads.
On another note, a while back I wrote a column about a letter I received from a reader in Brunswick who wanted to know more about Harriet Beecher Stowe and her 19th century classic Uncle Tom's Cabin. I said: Don't be embarrassed about never having read Uncle Tom's Cabin. As a true American classic it's not supposed to be read, just left on a bookshelf and talked about occasionally. I also said that there were probably only three people alive today who had actually read that famous book from cover-to-cover.
Well, soon after the column containing those myopic remarks appeared in newspapers throughout Maine I received a nice letter from one of those three readers.
What are the chances of saying only three people on the planet have read a certain classic and having one of the three be a reader of my column? I'll let you know if I hear from the other two.
And finally, I received several e-mails from people wanting to know what happened to the Gurney Seed and Nursery Co. of Yankton, S.D. Why me?
Over the years I've written columns about my lawn and used to co-host a garden show on the radio so now, I guess, I'm considered a gardening expert in some circles. (I wondered why I keep going in circles)
The word on Gurney is that they moved their nursery business from South Dakota to Michigan (who knows why?) but continued to use their South Dakota address, just to confuse things. After a few months in their new location they went belly up and a lot of unlucky customers were left holding the bag - and apparently the bag had no seeds in it.
Keep those cards, letters and e-mails coming.
John McDonald is a humorist and storyteller who performs regularly
throughout New England. John’s e-mail address is mainestoryteller@yahoo.com.
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storytellers@maine.com