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Have you been out on Maine's roads, lately? Of course you have.
Not only is our beloved state being flooded with the usual hordes of what we now “correctly” call “summer visitors,” we're also being clogged up with our relatives, friends and neighbors who are staying around this summer for what the tourist people call a “staycation.” Thy say it’s all about the weak economy.
Folks in Augusta want us to use “correct” phrasing like “summer visitors” to describe people from away, but what do we call Mainers who are now riding around our state acting very much like the haughty “summer complaints” we've always complained about? The tourist folks in Augusta are silent on the subject.
Can we call our own neighbors ''summer complaints” or “flat-landers?” I don't think so. If you can think of a good name for them, let me know. (
In the interest of acceptance and inclusion and all that stuff, I thought I'd include here a few interesting facts for both our visitors and our staycation neighbors about this place we like to call Maine, since that's its legal name.
Call this shameless self-promotion but just by coincidence, many of these same facts are included in a popular book I associated with titled "Down the road a piece: A Storytellers Guide to Maine."
I hope, if you're from out of state, you can read and enjoy these useful facts before it's time to pack up and head down the turnpike toward home. If you're a staycationer I still hope you enjoy these facts even though you've probably heard them a time or two before.
First you should know that here in Maine – also known as Down East – we make a big deal about the fact that we are farther east than anyone else in the country. I'm not sure how special that easterly thing makes us, and I'm not prepared to argue the merits of being farther east than the rest of you, but the Maine city of Eastport boasts of being the easternmost city in the United States. It also claims to be the first city in the United States to receive the morning's sun. But when you consider how early it is in the morning when Eastport first sees the sun the rest of the people in America are apt to not care.
OK, maybe that fact didn't do anything for you. But there’s MORE!
Maine is the only state in the union whose name has only one syllable, and we're the only state that is bordered by only one other state – unfortunately for us that state happens to be New Hampshire.
Just kidding, we love granite, so how could we not love the Granite State.
Regarding size -
Our five New England neighbor-states have trouble dealing with the sheer size of Maine, since all of them can easily fit into the area that Maine covers. We're grateful none has yet tried to do it, but they could if they figured a way. On some summer weekends they've tried to get all their people into Maine, but most of their land they've left behind.
To use one more example of how large Maine is compared to our New England neighbors, Aroostook County at 6,453 square miles covers an area greater than the combined size of Connecticut and Rhode Island. Some say all that proves is how small Connecticut and Rhode Island are.
OK, I can tell you're not easily impressed. How about this? It's a little known fact but 90 percent of our nation's toothpicks are manufactured - not in China - like almost everything else in the country these days, but are whittled by hand by teams of highly trained retired loggers here in Maine. You may laugh but considering how many toothpicks a band of loggers can whittle from a good-sized 16-foot birch log, and considering they now sell for about $2-a-box, toothpicks are probably the most profitable wood product on the planet. Think of that the next time you squeeze one between your two protruding front teeth.
Have a safe trip home, even if home is right here in Maine.
John McDonald is a humorist and storyteller who performs regularly throughout
New England. Contact John at or 899-1868.
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