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It’s happens ALL the time. Well, maybe not ALL the time, but it happened this time and at least one other time, I think.
This time it happened right after last week’s humorous yet somehow informative column on the Braddock Device, or “foot thingy” hit the streets. (We always say “hit the streets” in the newspaper business. OK, so maybe we don’t say it that much anymore in these urbane, enlightened and digitalized times we live in when everybody can TiVo their TV, but we used to say it all the time years ago when hitting the streets was still cool and I just thought it would be a good time to say it again.) Anyway, soon after last week’s column appeared in print I began getting e-mails from readers telling me – in effect – how much they enjoyed the column and how glad they were to learn about the strange-looking device shoe people use to measure feet.
Typical was this from Jack in Skowhegan. He writes: “John, thanks for taking on the tough topics. Who else can we count on to tell about things we wonder about but never take the time to ask about? Usually I only thought about the ‘foot thingy’ when I was buying shoes and was asked to put my left heel in the place marked ‘left heel.’ The salesman was always so busy I didn’t want to bother him by asking: What do you call this crazy-looking thing?’
In that column, John, you also mentioned what you called a Maine invention, the ‘peavey.’ At first I thought you were trying to be funny, implying a Mainer was responsible for the feeling of being ‘peeved’ or ‘peevish’ or ‘peevey.’
As you might have guessed, I’m not from Maine and have only lived here six years but I’ve never heard of this ‘peavey’ you speak of and would like to know more. It would be nice, the next time I’m down at the store here in Skowhegan to be able to use the word ‘peavey’ in a sentence to show all the native Mainers who gather there each morning that I’m finally becoming a real Mainer.”
I don’t know if anything I tell you will help you with the folks down at the store, Jack, but I can tell you a little about the clever invention known as the peavey.
According to the official website of the Peavey Manufacturing Company in Eddington ( the company meets the “special needs” of the forest industry with quality tools, handles and dowels. It even claims it can make a handle to fit each individual need and says its pick pole gives pick pole operators the most positive grip available anywhere.
That right there should impress the doubters down at the store, Jack.
Up around Bangor they like to tell what’s known as the Peavey Story. It was the spring of 1857 when Joseph Peavey made his first tool to be known as the peavey.
Old timers still sit around and talk about the time in Stillwater when a log drive became hung up on a branch of the mighty Penobscot River.
Peavey was already well known around Bangor as a clever Mainer who was always inventing things. Like what? You ask. A special hoist, for one, used for pulling stumps out of the ground. He also invented the first hay press (for wrinkled hay) the first wood screw vice (for whatever) and the first unspillable inkwell.
George Peavey wasn’t like some of the crazy inventors we have today. You’d never see George trying to invent something like the Clapper, the In-the-Shell Egg Scrambler or the Pocket Fisherman – no siree. George Peavey invented good, solid, useful things that made the world a better place – at least the world of the logger.
The historic day Peavey made his specially designed log prying tool, his peavey, they say he used a solid socket in place of toe rings with a driven pick. I have no idea what that means but I’m sure you’re as impressed as I am with the cleverness of it all.
Do I get the same feeling when I see an ad for the Clapper on TV? I don’t think so.
Just memorize these facts and then recite them back to the folks down at the store, Jack. I’ll bet they’ll be some impressed.
John McDonald is a humorist and storyteller who performs regularly throughout New England. John’s e-mail address is
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