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For as long as I can remember it's been called “The Dunkertown Incident,” and the question I often get when I start to tell about it is: Where's Dunkertown?
That's when I feel the need to admit that the incident really didn't take place in Dunkertown, a small village over on the New Hampshire border, but in the town of Dublois, which most everyone agrees isn't a town that deserves to have such an incident named after it.
As it turned out Dunkertown, where nothing much has ever happened, was a town in need of an incident, and this incident was in need of a suitable name, and so the two were eventually joined together and have been together ever since.
Here's the story.
Paddy O'Reilly had spent several years clearing and planting hay on several acres he owned just outside of town. He needed the hay for the cows and horses he kept at his place. Eventually Paddy was growing several acres of the most beautiful hay anyone had ever seen. People going by would often slow down just to admire the fields as the hay gently swayed in the afternoon breeze.
But not everyone was content to just stop and admire Paddy's hay. Some actually coveted it and wondered how they might make off with it. They tried to think of ways to cut the hay and haul it into their barn before Paddy or anyone else noticed what they'd done.
One of these covetous individuals was Murray Seavey, who happened to live on the edge of the village not far from Paddy O'Reilly's beautiful hay field. Murray spent endless hours thinking up ways of stealing things from his neighbors instead of earning the money to go out and buy the items for himself.
After a lot of thought and a bit of research Murray decided that the best time to try and steal the hay was between nine and noon on a Sunday morning when most everyone in town, including Paddy and his family, was at church.
So, on the first Sunday in July Murray hitched two horses to a hay wagon and as the town's church bells began to chime he headed out of his driveway toward Paddy O'Reilly's hay field. Working quickly he managed to fill half the wagon before heading back to his barn before church services were over.
His first assault on the field worked so well that he repeated the raid the next two Sundays.
On the fourth Sunday Paddy O'Reilly, who had caught on to the fact that someone was stealing his hay, was getting annoyed with the whole business. He decided to skip church and also sent word asking the sheriff's deputy to meet him at the field so the deputy could make an arrest if warranted.
Hiding in the stand of trees that surrounded the field, Paddy waited until Murray – just as bold as brass – arrived to cut and steal more hay.
When Murray's wagon was half-full, Paddy ran out of the woods yelling to Murray that he was a thief, and he had caught him red-handed and he was going to hold him there with the evidence until the deputy arrived to make an arrest.
What happened next is, I admit, hard to believe, but it was later verified by those who investigated the incident. Murray didn't want to be standing there with his wagon full of stolen hay when the deputy arrived, so he struck a match and lit the hay on fire. Spooked by the fire the two horses began running toward the road and back to Murray's place, setting a few bad brush fires on the way. They ran right up Murray's driveway and into the barn where they set the barn on fire, burning it to the ground. Eventually a spark flew over from the barn to the house and eventually the house was a smouldering heap of ashes.
Murray spent quite a while in Thomaston for the incident and, as far as anyone knows, no one has ever tried to snitch hay from Paddy O'Reilly since.
John McDonald is a humorist and storyteller who performs regularly
throughout New England. John’s e-mail address is
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