A continuing tale of life in the boonies

No. 159

Culture wars: retaliatory strike

Irritated beyond endurance at the way Rochester has been flaunting its Great Books Discussion Group the length and breadth of Strafford County, Farmington (the true Athens of the North), has struck a decisive cultural counterblow by forming the Slightly Obscure Books Interlocution Group (SO BIG).

Aiming for a more esoteric membership that the Lilac City browsers, SO BIG feels its bibliophiles will at least be in command of their subjects. And none of your rehashed, clichéd, and parroted nonsense about "Thus Spoke Zarathustra" or "Finnegan's Wake" or Plato's "Republic" either.

Sustained by the premise that small can be beautiful, SO BIG, so far, consists only of five people from the Planning Board end of Meaderboro Road, and, rather oddly, a Mr. Ramgunshoch from the part of town which basks in the glow of that infamous pothole, Hackett's Crevasse. But recruitment is near the top of SO BIG's list of priorities, and blizzards of informational postcards are constantly being sent out to the right sort of people, on a weekly basis - as yet, with a puzzling lack of success.

It would be more heartening if the entire membership of six crowded into SO BIG's fortnightly interlocutions, but unfortunately attendance since the group was hatched in January, has averaged a mere 3.5 persons. Nonetheless, human dynamo and group founder, Ann Barden, has maintained a calm exterior and continues to bake fudge brownies and chocolate chip cookies for vastly greater numbers, presumably feeling that to cut back at this early stage would be to acknowledge that membership had already plateaued.

SO BIG, if one believes Ramgunshoch, is even more concerned with nurturing the witty exchange and illuminating discourse that springs from the fountainhead of delightfully obscure literature, than with attracting the sort of crass multitudes who drool over the smoke and mirrors antics of so-called Great Books.

Take last Thursday evening, for example, when Ramgunshoch, Ann Barden, Sylvia Hobby and her brother, Ralph Russell, gathered in a tasteful Meaderboro Road kitchen. The first 45 minutes were spent nibbling brownies and cookies and waiting for the other two m embers, and when it became clear the occasion had somehow slipped those minds, the assembled company and the edibles, with scarcely a sign of disappointment, moved to the livingroom.

Ralph, now in his 91st year, recounted a story he was currently writing, concerning a camping trip to the Sanbornton Mountains made with his brother in 1914. While they had forgotten to bring soap, the lads were well stocked with an anti-mosquito preparation invented by their chemistry-teaching father, which, when applied to the skin, formed a varnish-like coating. This the bugs were unable to penetrate.

Then Ralph read a passage from his slightly obscure but worthy book, "In the Line of Duty," which documented a Baltimore police officer being fatally shot while pursuing a suspect up a dark lane in 1985.

After a civilized lull, during which brownies and cookies were once more in demand, Ann familiarized the group with a Dorothy Parker bittersweet tale of two Brooklyn typists out window-shopping. Over tea, and another chocolate chip cookie (the brownies, astonishingly, had somehow gotten cleaned out), Ralph said he knew a man once whose sister was called Dorothy Parker, but not the tragic one.

Next Ramgunshoch, taking "slightly obscure" way beyond reasonable limits, droned on about a Nigerian clerk, name of Johnson, who passed the 1920s hiring legions of native drummers with other people's money, news which caused the company to nod off and drop crumbs over itself. When Mr. R. finally got through it was almost 9 p.m. and time for the group, whose median age was 71, to slowly wake up, stretch, and toddle homewards.

The next planned meeting of SO BIG is on March 1, and before then the Elite, the Intelligensia, and the Chosen Ones of Farmington should have received postcards divulging the new secret location. Ramgunshoch, in a Machiavellian ploy by the group to boost attendance, has been quietly omitted from the mailing list.

Royce Hodgdon Freezer news

Whereas it has only been three months since I bought a Royce Hodgdon Freezer; and

Whereas three months is only a blink of the Creator's eyelid; but

Whereas the appliance has no door rails to retain food jars; and

Whereas the jars keep clunking onto the floor; but

Whereas I knew of said deficiency when I purchased the freezer; and

Whereas when Royce said the door rails would arrive "next week," I should have twigged he was speaking metaphorically, and was referring to some far-off Golden Age; but

Whereas if I can't get the rails, I would be delighted with just the plastic end-caps, and concoct something to jam between them; and

Whereas Royce said just a week past Tuesday, "I got those old girls;"

Then it looks like things are really on the move at last. Maybe.

Competition update

It's time to fill you in on potholes, though, in a frantic bid to keep themselves out of the limelight, city and town road crews in two states and four counties have been feverishly filling them in, too. In an uncharacteristic fit of generosity, the publisher has sanctioned the awarding of a three-foot-high trophy (with a tractor on top) to the Highway Department in whose care that winning pothole is entrusted.

Last week's column encouraged local gentry to suggest names for, and describe particularly dangerous craters in their neighborhood, with Hackett's Crevasse being the one to beat for the $3 first prize. To date entries have come in from Milton, Rochester and Farmington, including one that apparently clawed a complete tire from the car of a well-known garbologist. The closing date for entry into this free competition is Wednesday, Feb. 21, and so, for the price of a 25-cent stamp you can still see your pothole bask in the print is so richly deserves. Name that Pothole today and tell Farmington Corner, c/o Rochester Courier, Box 1600, Wakefield Street, Rochester, N.H.

Sorely missed

The Henry Wilson Winter Carnival is dead. Last year it grew sick, and the diagnosis was lack of snow. In 1990, despite snow in abundance, Henry's carnival quietly passed on, with this being the only obituary notice. It will be buried alongside the Farmington Town Players, the Outdoor Club and several lesser luminaries. No flowers, please. Donations to Town of Farmington Recreation Department, which is seeking a record $39,000 for the current year.

February 19, 1990

FC4 Home       Previous       Next