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Years ago, when I was nowhere near as cultured as I am now, I would go to the store, pick up a newspaper, walk over to a wastebasket and shake all those pesky, worthless advertising supplements that newspapers like to stuff in their newspapers. Along the same lines I used to go through my daily mail and foolishly toss out anything that looked like a sales pitch. I don't know why someone didn't stop me from such reckless behavior, but no one did.
? One can only speculate on the amount of useful information I tossed into the trash in those reckless days. I now know that by throwing out the supplements I was depriving myself of some of the best parts of the newspaper. If you're in the habit of reading those advertisements you already know what I'm talking about.
These days I carefully save all this useful printed material that's filled with the kind of good reading that comes in useful during these bleak winter months when there's not a whole lot to do, there's nothing but trash on TV and we need something –anything – to read. I could recommend you read my books: "A Moose and a Lobster Walk into a Bar" or "down the road a piece; A Storytellers Guide to Maine" but some might consider that shameless self-promotion.
Anyway, in these colorful advertising inserts I find listed just about everything I'll need to live a happy, prosperous life here in Maine. You might not know it, but these treasured flyers are even more important to us folks here in Maine than they are to folks in warmer parts of the country.
Everyone knows that our winters here are too long and our summers are too short. All through these long, cold winters, we sit in our warm, cozy, banked-up, winterized homes reading stuff and trying to stay warm. Occasionally we look up from what we're reading, gaze out the window at the barren landscape, stoke the sleepy fire and carry out a bucket of ashes. From time to time we'll put on our wool socks and wool pants over our double-layered longjohns, we'll don an extra heavy wool shirt and a few wool sweaters and big winter coat and we'll venture outside to sprinkle salt on the walkway, shovel huge mounds of snow out of our driveway or fill the feeder for the birds. Then we'll plod on back to the house and continue reading. Less literate types will troll the cable stations for some mind-numbing program to watch.
? During these long winters we like to spend time reading seed catalogs and think of all the impressive things we'll be able to grow when the weather gets a little warmer. We can't help it. Once we begin looking through those colorful catalogs that start arriving in the mailbox by the bagful just after Christmas, we're hooked. We read them while eating breakfast and then haul them to the office and read them all day at work. When we go to sleep at night some of us dream about the gardens we'll have with perfect rows of beautiful vegetables.
Then, one day, we walk outside the house to get more wood for the stove and the snow has melted and warmer weather has arrived – just like that. Soon every club and lodge and grange and church in Maine had planned yard sales and flea markets and cookouts, festivals and fairs and bean suppers and clambakes and fish fries. Summer theaters and musical quartets come alive out of nowhere and begin presenting all kinds of warm weather programs. For a few weeks we're so busy with everything we don't need the good reading that advertising supplements provide. But warm weather never lasts long and then its back into the deep freeze.
So, don't throw out the valuable inserts. Save 'um. Read 'um. We've still got a lot more winter to get through and – considering what's on TV– it'll take a lot of reading material to get us through it.
John McDonald is a humorist and storyteller who performs regularly
throughout New England. John’s e-mail address is
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