A continuing tale of life in the boonies

No. 200

Rally round the flagpole

(Tune: Rally round the Flag, boys)



We will rally round the flagpole,

Rally on the Square,

Shouting the battle cry of "Paint it!"

We will rise against the faction,

Who do not seem to care,

Yelling, "It's a disgrace, buddy, ain't it!"



Flagpole, forever!

Hurrah, boys, hurrah!

Bring out the feathers,

And heat up the tar,

If there's gonna be some action,

We will all be thar,

Shouting the battle cry of "Paint it!"


Repeat chorus

(with even greater fervor and menace)


Yup, there no doubt about it. Farmington has the rustiest old flagpole for miles around - probably the worst in the state - and while all kinds of folks think it a public disgrace the town officials are rustier still when it comes to springing into action, citing low funds and high risks. Don't they know that "paint" is a five-letter word which appears in most dictionaries fairly close to "patriotism?"

There was even an ugly rumor circulating in a less trustworthy organ of the media than Farmington Corner that the pole might be removed by authorities, but everyone knows such action would provoke an insurrection that would make the South Los Angeles riots look like a day at the beach. Rufus Rundlett, for example, who has been barbering on the Square for 64 years, almost as long as the flagpole itself (what a clever flagpole - Ed.) said that he, for one, would raise holy hell if it was taken down.

According to Rufus, the last man to paint the flagpole was a fellow called Joe Judd, but the stalwart who has run the flag up and down the pole for the last 30 years, Mr. Allan Drew, disagrees. He declares it was another intrepid painter name of Merton Tufts. Neither Tufts nor Judd have been seen for many years, and it's thought they may have passed on, so this particular aspect of the matter will probably remain in dispute. But Tufts or Judd, one of them ran a stronger rope through the pole's pulley, hooked up a bosonís chair, hauled himself 82 feet into the air and painted himself back down to ground level again, all in the same day. But now, nobody trusts that pulley and such insurance risks send spasms of fear through town administrators.

I rendezvoused with Allan on the Square this week. "By a miracles of modern photography you will be in the same picture as that flag," I told the old soldier. He became very alarmed.

"No!" he protested, "I ain't climbing that pole."

Then he realized that if he stood at the base and I lay down on Central Street, gazing up, he and the flag could fit in a single frame for a souvenir shot.

Allan still hopes the rusty old pole will get sandblasted and undercoated and then be given a good coating of white auto enamel during his lifetime, especially since the Historical Society and the Woman's Club have each pitched in $100. But this is a long way short of the $1,500 figure now being talked about since the Fire Department declined to volunteer its manpower and its ladder truck.

Fire Department spokesman Maurice Weymouth put it succinctly. "We are in the fire business. We are not in the painting business," he said, adding, for good measure that they didn't want to get paint all over the ladder truck. This must stay nice and shiny for parades.

"Ain't they never heard of covering it with plastic?" exploded a member of the paint-the-pole-with-the-ladder-truck fraternity. Hmm! Maybe the real reason for the non-offer is that it's scary up on the top rung.

The ladder truck, you see, only soars to 75 feet, fully extended, and it would take the Celtic's Robert Parish to reach up the last seven feet. Incidentally, he cost Farmington about $5,000 (it is rumored) the last time he came to town, which is enough cash to have the pole painted three times over.

A more ingenious solution being required, I called Beulah Thayer but she refused to let her husband Jim shin up the pole even though he clambered up and down his 80-foot radio mast with simian ease until just recently. Then I remembered Manny Krasner's law books! He has 100 of those mammoth suckers and, despite appeals in Farmington Corner, no one has suggested a use for them. So, what could be a more brilliant solution than constructing a giant set of stairs? Can't you just here the voices of officialdom pronouncing, "We are taking steps to address the problem of painting the town flagpole."

But failing this, Farmington Corner, the column that raised over $230 to save Lefty Lee's jacket from a fate worse than foreclosure, is prepared to launch a fundraiser called POPE - or Paint Our Pole Expeditiously. Watch this space!

Come all ye fair ladies and tender

Sandra Canney, president of the Women's Fellowship, announces that this year's Strawberry Fair is set for Saturday, June 20 at 9 a.m. at the Congregational CHurch on Main Street. Crafts, candy, white elephants and ye famous strawberry shortcake and freshly whipped cream will be on hand. And to close, heartiest best wishes to library trustee Beulah Thayer who recently celebrated her 80th birthday.

Hopeful sign

If Brownie has a chalk stick, can summer be far behind? Professional scanner listeners the other day overheard police radio chat which told the town that Farmington's best-loved policeman had lumbered out, like a large bear seeking food after a winter hibernation, to look for illegal parkers on Main Street. Chalk, chalk, he went on those potentially offending tires outside the library, but then, horror of horrors, he couldn't lay his hands on the parking tickets!

"We got all kinds of 'em now, though," said an ebullient Brown a few days later. Brownie is not set to retire until June 26, which means he will still be around for that strawberry shortcake, ladies.

Hopeful size

Part-time, soon-to-be-full-time, angler Ken Beaupre says that he gave ice fishing a miss this year on account of the unpredictable conditions. In April, however, he was on the Salmon Falls River, hooking those three-pound trout galore, Now that too has passed, and he is left with the dismal prospect of smacking little white balls around a mowed field with an iron stick under a pitiless sun. It's called golf, or something.

May 23, 1992

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