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It was the dawn of a day that would change his life forever, but as the sun began coming over the stand of pine that lined his lower pasture he was not yet aware of it. It would be the last time the sun was seen that day. Soon the skies would cloud over, and it would begin to snow, then turn to rain, then go back to snow, then change to mixed snow and freezing rain and back to all snow.
Perley Leighton awoke like always that winter morning and began his daily ritual: Put out the cat; put on the coffee; load up the parlor stove; fire up the Queen Atlantic in the kitchen; and read his thermometer by kitchen window, the barometer by the bathroom and the rain gauge on the deck. He’d then enter all the numbers in his well-worn journal.
Perly had been recording those numbers for over fifty-eight years and still couldn’t think of one good reason for doing. He knew from history that both Thomas Jefferson and Ben Franklin had kept such records throughout their lives and that was enough for Perly.
But at this point in his life Perly was beginning to question the wisdom of doing his numbers. He began to think that – for him – there wee no good reasons any more.
As the weather went from one form of precipitation to another Perly looked out his kitchen window, across his barren field and knew he was in for one of those winter days that push us Mainers right to the edge and almost over the edge; one of hose days that make us think seriously of living somewhere farther south – even New Jersey.
After a breakfast of oatmeal and reheated beans, Perly made himself some tea and sat in the rocker by the kitchen stove to drink It, and think of something useful he could be doing on such a useless day. He tried to put the present weather conditions out of his mind and thought instead about the garden he’d been planning to put in this spring. Every year around this time he started planning his garden. On this morning he hoped, as he always did, that this would be the year that the garden he planned in February and March, would in some way resemble the garden he planted come Memorial Day weekend.
He knew he wanted his peas planted first, but he couldn’t decide if he should plant them early and take his chances with an early May frost or wait till the end of May like the pea-planting traditionalists. He’d always been among the Memorial Day weekend pea-planters in town and over the years had even been known to ridicule the early-birds of pea-planting society down at the store. On this particular morning Perly was feeling more contrary than normal and felt like doing something completely different. Still, it wouldn’t be the timing of his pea-planting that he’d scratch that itch with.
It was around this time that – out of the blue – Perly’s phone rang. The sudden sound of its sharp ring nearly gave him a coronary since Perly wasn’t used to getting calls at such an early hour. In fact he wasn’t used to getting calls at any hour. His friends knew that Perly preferred talking in person and only kept the phone around for emergencies.
On the other end of the line was Wallace Watts who wanted to talk to Perly about town business. After almost an hour of arguing and cajoling, Wallace managed to convince Perly to go where he’d never gone before; to do something he never thought he’d do. He convinced Perly to do something that would – for good and ill – change Perly’s life – what was left of it – forever.
Wallace had convinced Perly to run – at the March town meeting - for Second Selectman.
John McDonald is a humorist and storyteller who performs regularly throughout
New England. Contact John at or 899-1868.
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