Thursday, December 4, 2014

Lobster Teriyaki and Other Feats of Culture - Day 5

Year in and year out the Saturday of Patten Pioneer Days is the grand finale and wraps up the week's events.  On Saturday there are not one, but two major highlights bring about the fitting conclusion - the parade down Main Street, and the Beanhole Dinner at the Lumberman's Museum.  Variety is the spice of life, and given that in Northerm Maine's idea of "spice" salt and pepper, you can well imagine the role that variety plays in these parts.  If you have been to a Main Street Parade, you have been to all Main Street Parades.  If you have been to a Beanhole Dinner, you have been to every Beanhole Dinner.  And we have been to several:

Like this one...

And this one...

That's not to say they aren't a whole lot of fun - we enjoy them tremendously.  But you're not likely to come away with a mind-blowing experience of novelty and creativeness.  There is comfort in consistency.

Generally the hardest part of the day is starting it.

Wait for it!  Wait for it!

Let the festivities begin!

Not quite sure what to make of northen Maine culture...

Old school!

Am I the only one who finds this disturbing?

We always sit at the park right near the Pentecostal Church.

Then on to lunch at the museum.

The beans cooking in the bean holes.

The same band as always...
but they were in front of a different shed this year!

My Dad is the eternal bean server.

We got our plates and went and sat at the same picnic table we always sat at.  At the other end of the table were two older gentlemen were talking quietly; I took no notice of them at first.  About midway through our meal, however, I noticed Stacy slide over a few inches closer to the gentlemen.  And then a little closer still.  Then she simply turned to them and said, "Gentlemen, can you tell me what language you are speaking?"

I was horrified, assuming immediately that she simply had been unable to parce the Maine brogue that can get fairly thick "up hee-ya."

"We were speaking French," one of the men replied, much to my relief.  "We are originally from Quebec."

At that point, with her usual ability to drew self-revelation from the most tight-lipped of crabs, Stacy began to acquire the entire life stories of the two gentlemen, and most of their extented families.  I sat there in silence, eatting my red hotdog.

How many dozen pictures have we
gotten on this tree over the years?

Nate is the eternal target.

Ready...  Aim...


This lady made wonderful wood-lathed things.  We got an
ice cream scoop with a beautifully turned handle,
and the kids got sweet little wooden tops.
The late afternoon was suitably lazy.  L even went so far as to drag the blowup matress out into the warm sunshine for her nap. 

 And so passed our final day in Patten.  Our vacation would continue, but the scenery would change dramatically.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Lobster Teriyaki and Other Feats of Culture - Day 4

Rituals are formed easily on repeat vacations like this. Our Maine trips quickly fall into patterns that have become comfortable and anticipated. For instance, it would be practically unthinkable to us to travel all the way to Patten, Maine and not make a trip to Mr. and Mrs. Kinney’s pig farm. It is just one of those things that you do. But while we Perkinses have made this pilgrimage numerous times, the Tanakas would be experiencing the trek in all its piggy glory for the first time. That promised to keep things interesting!

The kids tend to break the day sooner than the adults on these occasions. In the wee hours L, N and K were already out in the backyard and somehow had managed to acquire another instant friend out of nowhere as only kids seem to be able to do. I took all four on a brisk morning shake-down run to the park a block down the road before tackling the more pressing porcine events of the day.

L bites the dust, and lots of it.

Once the day was ripe enough, we loaded the car with showered and sweet-smelling children and headed to the Kinney’s farm. (On our trip back home, I assure you, it would be the children who were ripe enough and the car would be anything but sweet-smelling.) Charlie Kinney was crossing the lawn from the barns when we pulled up and he waved us over. If the Kinneys have ever grown tired or resentful of our repeated use of their farm as a must-see Maine tourist attraction, they have never let on. They are always kind and warm and make great efforts to make us feel welcome.

They had a young calf who had been rejected by her mom, Mr. Kinney told us, and he was just about to go to the north fields to feed her by hand. If we wanted to, we could come along. And he could probably use some help feeding her, he said, looking to the girls with a twinkle in his eye. There were a few very quick volunteers. So the pigs would have to wait – cows were the first on the agenda. (But it only took a slight shifting of the breeze to assure us the pigs were all there and not going anywhere.)

 The kids all piled in to Charlie’s mini-tractor for a ride up the fields that, for pure joy and excitement, ranked up there with anything Disney has to offer. Stacy, Hiroko and I trudged up the road behind on foot. We soon found Charlie and the kids surrounded by a clump of curious cows, being kept in tight quarters by an exuberant sheep dog brimming with doggie joie de vivre. I felt a little like I’d been whisked into a James Herriot novel.

"I love my job!  I love my job!"

The cow whisperer

Psst, N!  I think the one on the right is mad doggin' you!

So, kids, ya say ya like steak, so ya?

Once the baby was fed, Charlie beckoned the kids back into the tractor. We’ll feed the rest of the lot now, he said. He drove to another corner of the field where he got out and produced from somewhere a big sack of hamburger buns. He bought all the local grocery store’s unsold bread for cattle feed. Magically, the cows all the way across the field where we’d left them, detected lunch on the opposite side of the world and made a mini-stampede across the field. (A little less James Herriot now, and more Louis L'Amour.) We spent the next half-hour or so feeding cows hamburger buns, the irony of which was evident even to the kids.

A majestic summer storm sweeps down from Canada.
It slid over Patten 5 miles to the north, but we didn't get a drop.

"Two all-beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese,.. "

But soon the previews were over and we moved on to our feature presentation – the pigs. For Hiroko and K it was a rather quick experience, as they couldn’t quite handle the… ahem, aroma. (Newbies!) There were no brand new piglets this time, but we still got to see plenty of porkers, and L and N were able to practice their husbandry skills with pig feed as well.

Hey, sweetheart.  Can I buy you a drink?

They shed the cute fast.

That heart-warming moment when you suddenly realize
you've met a kindred-spirit without having said a word.

Back at Mimi’s we deluged ourselves with very hot showers and a whole lot of soap. Then it was time to add yet another animal to our check-off list. Moose hunting! We piled back into the car, which unfortunately we couldn’t give a hot shower, and headed off to our traditional native hunting grounds, the road into Baxter State park. On the way we trained Hiroko and K in the fine art of the moose call, guaranteed (except for today) to draw any moose within 50 miles. “Muh-muh-muh-moooooo-sie!” They became quite adept. Soon he kids were screaming it into the forest as we drove with all the windows down (so the moose could hear it better, and for, well, …ahem, aromatic reasons.)

Mean Tiger-Mom Hiroko makes poor K do homework before moose-hunting!

But our patented technique failed us. No forest cows were to be seen despite hitting several of our key stalking grounds. (Come to think of it, we’ve never seen a moose at any of these coveted spots, but what are statistics except killjoys.) Nevertheless we followed our traditional route and ended up on the shores of Grand Lake Matagamon. There’s a boat launch that we always play skip-the-rocks at. We are about as successful each year at skipping rocks as we are at seeing moose, but we try not to take that into account. On the way home we drowned our moose-less disappointments in large servings of ice cream from the last holdout of civilization – a surprisingly well-stocked camp just before entering the park. Then it was home and a rest before the day’s grand finale – fireworks!

One night during the week of Patten Pioneer Days is dedicated to fireworks at Shin Pond. For some reason I have never gone, but Mimi, Stacy and the kids have long incorporated it into their routine. I guess I secretly expected a small town show to be less than thrilling. And Shin Pond doesn’t even qualify as a small town. But this year I decided to swallow the pessimism and come a long. Uncle Mike was up now from Bangor, so we had a pretty decent crew assembled for the event. We took separate cars, Stacy, Hiroko, the kids and I in the pig-mobile, and Mike and Mimi in Mimi’s car. I’d forgotten just how dark it can get in the middle of the North Maine woods, even in a small outpost of a “town”. We both evidently found the hillside field where the show was to be held, but we never found each other, so we had to compare fireworks notes with Mimi and Mike after the fact. And it turned out to be a quite a show after all.

Shin Pond is nestled in a slight basin surrounded by woods. In various directions the last vestiges of the Appalachians throw up small hills and mounts. As a result, when the fireworks go off the explosions ricochet back and forth across the valley like thunder trying to find a way out. I can only imagine what all the antisocial moosies must think.

Oh Mr. Moon, we've lost our Mimi.
Can you help us find her?

The show was large and impressive and our spot on the hillside afforded us a fine view. By the end, however, it was a tired troop that headed back to the car for the 10-mile drive back to Patten and our sweet-smelling pig pens.