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I don’t know for sure if the planet is getting warmer because I haven’t traveled around the planet lately to check. I’ve been to Bangor a few times this summer but that’s about the extent of my recent travels.
But every July when the hot weather in Maine gets serious, I’m reminded of the fellow from Bangor who got arrested in our town one summer morning and later blamed his arrest and eventual incarnation on "global warming."
Law enforcement people often say that weather can affect the crime rate, but in this case the weather also affected the apprehension of a crime suspect.
The way I heard it, Handy Pinkham of Bangor, a small-time criminal, had once-again run out of money and figured he’d have to do something about his dire financial circumstances pretty quick. The idea of getting a job seldom occurred to Handy; it was never an option. Instead, he thought that robbing a small bank Down East in Milbridge would solve his financial problems.
But a few days before Handy’s bank heist Wink Dyer of the Milbridge Tru Value decided to put all his exterior paint on sale because summer had all-of-a-sudden turned even more summery.
News spreads fast in towns like Milbridge, so within a day or two Wink’s paint sale began filled his store with folks wanting to get a started on warm-weather painting projects.
What did that have to do with Handy Pinkham’s planned bank heist? Be patient and I’ll explain.
One of the first customers on the scene was Harold Dow, who wasted no time filling his pickup to the gunwales with about 50 gallons of bright red exterior hous paint. Everyone in town knew that Harold never liked the yellow house paint his late wife Ester picked out years ago and now that she’d been gone a respectable length of time Harold figured he should be allowed to paint his house a color he preferred.
Most houses in small Maine towns are white and so Harold’s unnatural yellow house really stood out. Being of that intense yellow shade it was often used as a landmark to help direct people out of town: "You want to go down River Road until you come to a bright yellow house on the corner and turn there," folks would say. "The road’s easy to miss but you can’t miss that yellow house. Don’t stare. That yellow can burn your retina."
So, as Handy Pinkham planned his bank job, Harold Dow and a crew of locals began slapping a fresh coat of fire engine red 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 Savings & Loan.
Handy thought he’d planned his heist carefully, even arranging to come into town by one route and leave by another. All he knew was that his getaway involved heading out the River Road and taking that right by the gaudy yellow house at the hidden corner. He figured he'd be back in Bangor before anyone knew he'd gone.
Well, after the robbery, Handy sped out River Road but missed the right turn at the bright yellow house because the gaudy yellow house on the hidden corner was now red.
Taking the next right a few miles further he turned and sped down the dead-end road to Sprague Falls. He was soon arrested by a sheriff’s deputy who was investigating a camp break-in less than fifty yards from where Handy came to a screeching halt. The deputy had just heard about the Milbridge bank robbery and thought he’s do a routine check on Handy. A few minutes later Handy was in handcuffs and headed for the county jail.
He insists to this day that if the weather hadn’t turned so warm that July and Wink’s hadn’t put his paint on sale and Harold Dow hadn’t decided to repaint his gaudy yellow house, he’d be a free man today. Still broke, but free.
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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