A collection of traditional Maine “Downeast” stories by writer, musician and performer Kendall Morse, Father Fell Down the Well (Islandport Press, 2015) has been years in the making, figuratively and literally. The author has collected and performed these stories over a number of years, and they go back to the days of the rural Maine farms and woodlands when folks liked nothing better than to tell yarns over a cup of mulled cider while sitting on the piazza, or over to the general store where the men always seemed to congregate.Arranged in ten chapters, we are introduced to many Downeast Maine characters and the stories they tell (some of them even have a grain of truth in them), each one seeming to lead to the next crazy tale. One of the longest (at 20 pages) is Chapter 5, Cheaper to Quit Smoking in which the author, finding he is out of tobacco, sets out on a cold winter night (“going all day without tobacco is like facing the grim spectre of death to a half-and-half addict like me” he laments) for Ira Crabtree’s store. After some car troubles which are fixed by sticking a screwdriver in the carburetor, he winds up at the store to find it “full of idlers, as usual, sitting in a circle around the big Station agent stove” and “the same old stories are being told by old-timers who were teenagers” back when his father first took him to the same store many years ago. After the telling of stories makes the rounds, the author picks up his can of tobacco and heads home, “I’ve got work to do and the day is half gone, showing no profit at all.” It would be cheaper to just quit smoking he thinks.
This is a great book for any Downeast Mainer, vacationers, or anyone who loves humorous, homespun tales along the lines of Lake Wobegon Days. With all of today’s technology, it is nice to revisit simpler times, where a sense of humour was needed to displace the cares of the day.