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Been out on Maine's roads, lately? Not only is our beloved state being flooded with the usual hordes of what we politely call “summer visitors,” we're also being all clogged up with our own relatives, friends and neighbors who are staying around Maine this summer for what's called a “staycation.”
Over the years folks in Augusta said they wanted us to use “correct” phrases like “summer visitors” to describe people from away, but what do we call Mainers who are now riding around our state acting very much like the “summer complaints” we've always complained about?
Can we call our own neighbors ''summer complaints” or “flat-landers?” I don't think so. If you can think of a good name for them, let me know.
In the interest of acceptance and inclusion and all that, I thought I'd include here a few interesting facts for both our visitors and our staycation neighbors about this place we like to call Maine, since that's its name.
Call this shameless self-promotion but just by coincidence, many of these same facts are included in my popular book: "down the road a piece: A Storytellers Guide to Maine."
I hope, if you're from out of state, you can read and enjoy these useful facts before it's time to pack up your things – including all those kayaks, designer bicycles and barbecue grills – and head down the turnpike toward home. If you're a staycationer I still hope you enjoy these facts even though you've probably heard them a time or two before.
First you should know that here in Maine – also known as Down East – we make a big deal about the fact that we are farther east than anyone else in the country. I'm not sure how special that easterly thing makes us, and I'm not prepared to argue the merits of being farther east than the rest of you, but the Maine city of Eastport boasts of being the easternmost city in the United States. It also claims to be the first city in the United States to receive the morning's sun. But when you consider how early it is in the morning when Eastport first sees the sun the rest of the people in America are apt to say something like, "Who cares?
OK, maybe that fact didn't do anything for you.
So, how about these? Maine is the only state in the union whose name has only one syllable, and we're the only state that is bordered by only one other state – unfortunately for us that state happens to be New Hampshire.
Our five New England state neighbors often have trouble dealing with the sheer size of Maine since all of them can easily fit into the area known as Maine. We're grateful none has yet tried to do it, but they could if they figured a way. On some summer weekends they've tried to get all their people into Maine but most of their land they've left behind.
To use one more example of how large Maine is compared to our New England neighbors, Aroostook County at 6,453 square miles covers an area greater than the combined size of Connecticut and Rhode Island. Some say all that proves is how small Connecticut and Rhode Island are.
How about that? OK, I can tell you're not easily impressed. How about this? It's a little known fact but 90 percent of our nation's toothpicks are manufactured not in China like almost everything else in the country these days, but are whittled by hand by teams of retired loggers right here in Maine. You may laugh but considering how many toothpicks a band of loggers can whittle from a good-sized 12-foot birch log, and considering they now sell for about $2-a-box, toothpicks are probably the most profitable wood product on the planet. Think of that the next time you squeeze one between your two protruding front teeth.
Have a safe trip home, wherever home may be – down the pike or around the corner.
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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