A Mainer Named Ed

At twenty-eight, Ed sold his farm in Massachusetts and moved to Maine in search of cheap land, large woods and ample pasture for his cows. Over the last fifty-nine years, Maine has changed a lot, and Ed little. Measuring time not by decades but by eras of women, Ed's twice divorced and currently lives with a special lady friend of ten years. He has grown to love his adopted home and developed a thick accent. Since bottling his first jar of milk in 1952, one year after moving to Maine, 34 dairy farmers on his street have boarded up shop, sold off their stock and left for the convenience of the suburbs. Ed stays fast, feeding his deep love for Maine with all of the food he can muster.

Driving down a frost heaved road a half hour north of Skowhegan, I stared blindly out the window of a Subaru Outback, watching the treeline cut the sky like a band saw. Out of the corner of my eye I spotted a short, bearded man, sawing small a small tree. Pushing my face up against the window to get a better look, I blurted, "Spencer, did you see that guy? We may have to turn around..."

Over the whirring of a Stihl chainsaw, I gingerly approached the old man. To make the interaction more transparent, and avoid an, "Are you lost?" I held my camera in plain view. Muffled by 87 year-old ears and fixated on making precise cuts in the downed limb like an ADD thirteen year-old dissecting a video game level, Ed didn't hear me until the third time.

"Hello Foster, nice to meet you, I'm Ed. You can take my picture, but is it okay if I sit for a while and rest?" his mouth moved like a nutcracker, masked by a 25 year-old beard. Stiffly, but with the look of familiarity in his movements, he set down the chain saw and walked towards the half-filled tractor bucket. For the next thirty minutes, we talked cows, Maine's beauty, and beards.

Ed fighting the good fight after 59 years, two wives, hundreds of cows, multiple chainsaws and a handful of safety pins in Maine.

"I let it grow wild, like me" he said as if informing a waitress at a diner about how he likes his eggs cooked. 25 years ago, Ed stopped shaving his beard. "I was hoping by now it would be down to here," he motioned to the bottom of his sternum with a chop of his hand, "but it just stopped growing a while ago." Impressed by his commitment, I pointed out that his was far more impressive than mine.

Ed's chief means of transportation, other than his slew of mid-century tractors, is this late sixties VW Bug.

After hundreds of cows and nearly six decades of making milk, Ed sold his last cow a year ago.

When his second wife wanted to move closer to her children in Virginia, he stayed with his cows and happily signed the divorce papers. Ed has conviction. Favoring the harsh idealistic life over the compromised, he wears old clothes and works with his hands.

As I walked towards the car after shaking Ed's hand one last time, he yelled, "You should move to Alaska, even though they have that woman senator that killed that moose. It sounds like a good place."

Inspired by his wild beard and commitment to the land he loves, I responded, "Maybe I will, Ed, but I don't think you can make milk there," with a smile.

Here are some more links,
"I let it grow wild, like me" (Picasa),
Side of the Road (ART).


Brian and His Yale Sweater

Behind Brian Kupke's preppy and seemingly conservative appearance lies one of the most dynamic and interesting people I have ever met. A close friend first introduced me to Brian in the fall of my freshmen year as the boyfriend of her older sister, Austin Philips, a tenacious, All-American Rower two years his senior. Brian's origins in Leesburg Florida, and rumors of an NRA card in his wallet, a rarity at Colby, only added to his mystique. Over the last three years Brian and I have grown close and I thought it would only be fitting to write about this interesting character before he graduates next month.

Although not visible through his vintage Yale sweater and the case of 12 gauge rounds, both of Brian's nipples are scarred from two years of housing stainless steal studs and a brass chain.

Upon arriving at Colby in the Fall of 2005, Brian switched from playing Defensive End to rowing four seat on Colby's Varsity Crew Team. However, Brian's extensive resume of athletic feats fails to translate into mano y mano ability, and yours truly trouncedhim in a spandex wrestling match last week despite his thirty pound weight advantage, 2-0.

Some of you may know Brian as Kuppykakes, a level 80 fury warrior on the Alexstrasza Server. Brian sacrificed many a cold Maine Night to achieve this prowess, and has recently retired from his account, ending a two year love affair with the World of Warcraft. Over winter break, Austin's next door neighbor, a Yale Alum, gave Brian this Whalerknits Yale Sweater from the mid 80's. Made in the USA, damn right!

I love the details of this sweater, like the length of the cuff.

Brian being Brian.

After Graduating in May, Brian wants to apply his quirky creativeness to a career in interior design. I am sure Brian and his Yale Sweater will have an interesting and fruitful journey. I look forward to hearing about his exploits and am ready for a wrestling rematch whenever.

Sir John Norton-Griffiths

I have to read a lot for school. Normally, I read assignments while watching a movie or wondering around on my computer and thus the pages blend together in a haze. Every now and again something catches my eye. A couple days ago I was reading Daniel Yergin's "The Prize" and stumbled across a brief discussion of an adventurer named Sir John Norton-Griffiths (pictured above). Here is the exert that captured my imagination:

“The British Government took matters into its own hands (the sabotaging of German occupied Russian oil fields) and recruited Colonel John Norton-Griffiths M.P., to organize the destruction of the Romanian oil industry. A larger-than-life figure, Norton-Griffiths was one of the great engineering contractors of the British Empire. He had undertaken construction projects in almost every corner of the world—railways in Angola and Chile and Australia, harbors in Canada, aqueducts in Baku, sewage systems in Battersea and Manchester. On the eve of World War I, he was in the midst of promoting a plan for a new subway for Chicago. Handsome, physically imposing and with the strength and endurance of a prize fighter, Norton-Griffiths was a charming swashbuckler and a persuasive showman. Men invested in his projects, women were attracted to him. He was considered ‘one of the most dashing men of the Edwardian era.’ He was also a man of fiery temperament, rebellious nature, and uncontrollable rages. He lacked discipline and perseverance, and some of his projects were spectacular financial flops. But he did achieve prominence as a Parliamentary back-bencher, variously known as ‘Hell-fire Jack,’ and ‘the Monkey’ (for having eaten a monkey while in Africa) and since he was a thoroughgoing imperialist—by the sobriquet he treasured most, ‘Empire Jack.’” (Daniel Yergin, The Prize, 180)

I will leave it at that....

Here are some more links,
The Prize (Amazon),
Sir John Norton-Griffiths (Wikipedia),
Sir John Norton-Griffiths (Royal Engineering Museum and Library),


Steve McQueen

Steve McQueen was a combative and wild actor whose off screen infamy, appetite for adventure, and Hollywood roles defined the Vietnam-Era anti-hero. As a child, Steve struggled with dyslexia (respect) and bounced around foster homes, eventually settling at the California Boys Republic in Chino California. Here McQueen found footing and sparked his interest in acting.

At the beginning of his acting career, McQueen subsidized his living expenses with winnings from weekend motorcycle races. In 1999, McQueen was inducted into the Motorcycle Hall of Fame to commemorate his life-long love and contributions to the sport.

Think of a Brad Pitt that shoots guns, smokes two packs a day, races motorcycles and Ferraris, gets in fights, has a slew of wives, does his own stunts, flies WWI biplanes, and is the highest paid man in the business.

In December of 1979, McQueen was diagnosed with mesothelioma, the topic of many of late night advertisement and holder of the coveted highest pay per click advertisement on Google AdWords. McQueen refused to take his death sentence for granted and went to Mexico to try a sketchy treatment involving coffee enemas. I couldn't make that up. His loosing battle with cancel eventually ended in Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua on November 7th 1980. Steve McQueen was a man's man.