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The other day I got a call from a producer at a radio station in St. Louis. He said every week for a year the station will do a feature on one of the 50 states and this week it was Maine’s turn. Someone - he didn't say whom - told him that I could provide him with information on Maine.
First, I had to ask, since there are 52 weeks in a year and the United States has only 50 states, the last time I checked, what are you going to do on the radio on the two extra weeks?"
Allaying my concern he said on those weeks they plan to do features on Porto Rico and Guam.
Once that was resolved to my satisfaction I proceeded to tell the producer about Maine.
I told him we call our state "Maine" but no one knows how we got the name or why it stuck.
I said our state has about 1,274,923 people, but the number can change suddenly depending on the traffic through the York toll-booths. I said the number didn’t include what we call "summer complaints.” He wanted me to explain “summer complaints.” I tried. He said he appreciated the effort.
Like most people from away he really wanted to know about Maine moose. I told him that Maine had about 30,000 mostly healthy moose.
Moving along quickly he then asked about lobsters. I said we have more than enough lobsters for anyone in his listening area who wants one and I gave him an 800 number his listeners could call to have lobsters over-nighted to St. Louis.
How large is Maine? he asked. Maine has 33,275 square miles of hilly rocky land. Fortunately, most of it is above sea level at high water. I said we’re proud of the fact that a few of those 33,275 square miles of land are even owned by native Mainers.
Highest point? Mount Katahdin at 5,268. I said folks in the Old Portland are sometimes ‘higher’ on Saturday nights but then get pretty low-down by Sunday morning.
Maine’s lowest point is sea level and the first day of tourist season.
I thought it curious that he then asked if radar detectors were legal in Maine. I said they were permitted but not encouraged.
What about firearms laws? I said we had a few.
Fishing and hunting? Yes.
When he asked where to go for further information I said his listeners should get here first then turn off their GPS gizmos so they can stop and ask a colorful native for information and/or directions. I let him know they might not get to their final destination but they’ll long remember the encounter as an authentic Maine experience.
Well, then he wanted to know what someone should pack before coming to Maine.
As little as possible, I said. All seriousness aside, I said we prefer that folks bring NOTHING with them and buy everything they need after they get here. Just bring lots of money and credit cards, I told him
I said if you insist on luggage you might want a suitcase with large wheels instead of the two-inch wheels you see in airports. If you’re planning to visit one of our wilderness areas, you might want luggage with four-wheel drive. Luggage with a power take-off with cable could also come in handy.
What should people wear? I said the only thing certain about Maine weather is its unpredictability. Even people who are paid to predict our weather have no idea what it’s going to do from one minute to the next, so what chance do the rest of us have?
In coastal towns fishing boots and foul weather gear are acceptable in restaurants and shops, and places of worship - just as logging outfits are considered proper for most occasions in Maine’s western hill country.
I said bringing all kinds of rain gear will almost guarantee you one dry sunny day after another. Conversely, I said, if you don’t have any waterproof clothing you’re begging for a non-stop spell of rain and a bank of fog “thicker than three in a bed," as Kendall Morse would say.
John McDonald is a humorist and storyteller who performs regularly throughout
New England. Contact John at or 899-1868.
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