Yesterday I received a voicemail message from Terry Jr., our contractor, carpenter, and all ‘round build-anything guy in Washington County.
Terry Jr. is in the process of taking over more and more of his dad’s (Terry Sr.) carpentry up in our neck of the woods. As far as I can tell, though young in years, the son is cut from the same bolt of fabric as the father. His work certainly has a family resemblance to the old man’s,solid, functional with a no-baloney form-follows-function quality and that’s marvelous.
He’s also clearly picked up his dad’s dry, deadpan, thoroughly Maine sense of humor. One of the first projects Senior did for us the first summer we had the camp was to build and install a dock on our little patch of lakefront. The adult sons and a youthful nephew or two were on hand to help launch the thing from the landing a few hundred yards down the lake from us. As this makeshift crew poled and paddled the awkward structure along the shore the scene looked like something out of Tom Shore.
It was a lovely early summer day and the sun was sparking off the placid lake as the younger kids splashed around having a fine old adventure. Terry Sr. stood on the bank directing the whole operation with a critical eye. When the dock was finally, safely installed, one of the younger kids just couldn’t resist the urge to leap fully clothed into the lake.
“Hey!” Terry hollered, “What do you think you’re doing?”
Chastened, the boy replied “Well, I figured after all this work I deserved a swim.” Terry’s deadpan response: "Who says you’ve done any work?”
So I returned Jr’s call yesterday afternoon and he said he was about halfway done so he’d need to get some money to keep going. I took down the numbers and asked how the project (remodeling the bathroom ) was coming along.
“Well,” he said in a monotone, “when we tore off the wall paneling to get at the pipes the whole camp collapsed.” I’ll admit that my brain waves hit a mental frost heave for a second or two. But, I bounced right back. Grinning into the phone and said, “Yeah, well, that’ll happen sometimes.”
“Ayuh,” said Terry Jr., “it will.” It was classic Downeast deadpan delivery. I was tickled and also relieved that I was the one having this conversation rather than my wife. She’s not a native Mainer and after more than twenty years here she’s still prone to the occasional misstep straight into one of these home-grown Maine humor booby traps when chatting with the locals.
I grew up with this sort of local entertainment, which is a large part of the reason I decided on a career as a Maine humorist. About twenty years back I was down at Skip Cahill’s Tire on the Old Bath Road. I’d purchased a set of tires from one of the big national tire warehouse companies and Skip had mounted and balanced them for me. It didn’t seem to bother him that I hadn’t purchased the tires from him, so I went on my way without giving it any more thought.
For some reason though, that set of tires seemed to be cursed. I picked up a nail in one of them less than a week after Skip put them on my car. A few weeks later there was some “curb rash” on another which necessitated replacement of a nearly new tire. Skip always got me right in and did the work promptly and professionally with nary a hint of editorial comment. I can’t recall what the exact problem was with tire number three but it happened just a week or two later and I wasn’t too happy to make a yet another trip to Cahill’s and shell out another chunk of change to put things right.
As I stood by the fender watching Skip re-mount yet another of my “bargain” tires I grumbled.
“Boy I’m just having the worst darned luck I’ve ever had with this set of tires.”
“Ayuh,” says Skip, “that’ll happen with these national chain store tires.” The line was, of course, delivered without a hint of inflection, no remonstrance for my failure to shop locally, no subtle “I told you so.” Nope. Just a good dose of good-for-what-ails-ya, Downeast deadpan straight from the horses mouth.
Tim Sample is a Maine humorist. Read more of his work — and see his dvds — here.