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Most every small Maine town comes with one - a person no one in town seems to like. Your bigger cities like Portland, of course, have more of these people than they know what to do with, but every town will have at least one person that – for many good reasons - no one cares for.
In our town that person was Sylvester Sprague. Ves Sprague had been born and raised in town so he couldn’t be accused of being from away. He was 100 percent homegrown. Folks say he was not only one of the most un-likeable people you’d be likely to meet, he was also one of those people who was just born to make trouble. They say if you knew his family better you'd know why.
Some say Ves was so ornery that he could sour a container of milk just by staring at it. Others claim Ves Sprague was personally responsible for thinking up the nasty trick where you put a paper bag of ‘doggie-do’ on someone’s porch and light it and then ring the doorbell so the homeowner will open the door, see the burning bag and stomp on it with his foot.
Others have claimed ownership rights to the nasty trick but most agree it was probably Ves who thought it up.
Come Halloween no window in town was safe from his soaping sprees and no outhouse was spared from his unique tipping technique.
It wasn’t just the fact that Ves routinely did things like this, it was more than that. Ves was one of those people who never observed the most common niceties of saying things like ‘please’ and ‘thank you.’ Although that was only part of the problem it was also that he never missed an opportunity to say or do something that was particularly annoying or vulgar.
A troublemaker from his first day at school he eventually quit school at 15. His seafaring family managed to get him a job aboard a vessel out of Searsport.
Folks in town weren’t the least bit interested in hearing about Ves Sprague’s antics at sea. They merely assumed he carried on in other ports as he had carried on here at home.
After many years at sea Ves eventually retired and bought a place in a nearby town. But he was still the same un-likeable person where ever he lived. Some say he was a tad more un-likeable in retirement, although most wondered how that was possible.
I can’t remember now how long it was but I’d say five or ten years after he came ashore Ves Sprague breathed his last breath and died.
Ves was always a man who attended to details, so long before the end he made sure his affairs were in order and all the arrangements for his funeral were made and paid for.
As expected, Ves’ funeral was not a standing-room-only event. The few who were there put the number at about half-a-dozen.
The preacher, who barely knew Ves, conducted the service in a dignified fashion but when it came time for the eulogy he had absolutely nothing to say - he was literally speechless.
Calling on the small assembly the minister said, "Rather than give a eulogy myself I thought I’d invite anyone here in the congregation to come forward and give a eulogy for our departed brother, Ves.
After a long, embarrassing pause an old-timer finally stood up and hobbled to the pulpit. Once there he looked down at Ves' coffin, look out at the meager congregation and said:
"I hear his brother was even worse."
John McDonald is a humorist and storyteller who performs regularly throughout
New England. Contact John at mainestoryteller@yahoo.com or 899-1868.
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