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Every April when the weather in Maine starts to warm up I'm reminded of the fellow from Bangor who got arrested in our town one spring morning and later blamed his detention on the unseasonably warm spring weather. Law enforcement people often say that weather can affect the crime rate but in this case the weather also affected the apprehension of a suspect.
The way I heard it, Handy Pinkham of Bangor had run out of money come spring and figured he'd have to do something about his financial circumstances pretty quick because his situation was getting more desperate by the hour. For some reason he thought that robbing a small bank Down East in Milbridge would solve all his financial problems.
What happened was this. A few days before Handy's bank heist Wink Dyer of the Milbridge True Value decided to put all his exterior paint on sale because the weather had all-of-a-sudden turned warm. News spreads fast in towns like Milbridge so within a day or two Wink's paint sale began to cause the type of retail activity that Wink had hoped for. His store was filled with folks wanting to get a head start on spring painting projects.
One of the first customers on the scene at the paint sale was Harold Dow who wasted no time filling his pickup to the gunwales with gallons of Colonial Blue. Harold never did like the bright yellow house paint his late wife Ester picked out years ago, and, now that she'd been gone a respectable length of time, he figured he should now be allowed to paint his house a color he liked.
Most houses in small Maine towns are white and so Harold's bright yellow house stood out and because of that was often used as a landmark to help direct people out of town: “You want to go down River Road until you come to that bright yellow house and turn there, folks would say. The road's easy to miss, but you can't miss that yellow house. It's the only one in town.”
So, as Handy Pinkham planned his bank job Harold Dow and a crew of local lads began slapping a fresh coat of blue over Harold's yellow landmark. A few days later - as Harold and his hired hands were putting away the leftover paint and cleaning the brushes - Handy Pinkham was robbing the Milbridge Bank.
Harold had planned his bank job carefully, and arranged to come into town by one route and leave by another. His getaway involved heading out the River Road and taking that right by the gaudy yellow house at the hidden corner.
Well, Harold headed out River Road but missed the right turn because he never saw the yellow house on the hidden corner.
Taking the next right a few miles later he sped out the dead-end road to Sprague Falls. He was soon arrested by a sheriff's deputy who happened to be investigating a camp break-in less than fifty yards from where Harold came to a screeching halt.
Harold insists to this day that if the weather hadn't turned so warm and Wink's paint hadn't gone on sale he'd be a free man today. Still broke, but free.
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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