lukegilman.com : High on the Hog Blog
Purveyor of Idle Observation

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Please note: I'm no longer updating this particular blog, but keep it around for archival purposes. Visit me at the current blog at www.lukegilman.com

University of Maine at Presque Isle, A College Baseball Team, Always on the Road

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The college baseball team in my home town inexplicably showed up on the New York Times last week. Despite having grown up there it was the first time I had run across their slogan: “The University of Maine at Presque Isle: North of Ordinary.” Indeed. That may be the most appropriate slogan I’ve ever heard.

It’s a great story though and a powerful contrast to the state of college athletics in the rest of the country:

The nation’s prominent college sports of basketball and football are flashed across television screens around the clock, a big-money, high-stakes enterprise awash in excess. Unseen but nonetheless part of the same intercollegiate athletic community are teams like Presque Isle, bumping along the quiet country back roads of Virginia looking for a game. “Believe me, we know the difference between them and us,” first baseman D.J. Charette said the next day as the bus rolled down Interstate 81. “Their sport got them an athletic scholarship, and they might see it as a career. We aren’t in that world. We just want to play.”

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Picking Potatoes in Northern Maine

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The Library of Congress has a new photostream on photo-sharing site Flickr. This particular image struck close to home. The caption is “Children gathering potatoes on a large farm, vicinity of Caribou, Aroostook County, Me. Schools do not open until the potatoes are harvested.” I grew up in the neighboring and superior-in-every-way town of Presque Isle (Go Wildcats!) and picked potatoes for exactly one day with a friend of mine before saying the hell with farming and getting a job with the news.

(L to R) Octavia Panzeri, 16,  of Milan Italy, Kathrine Just, 16, of Laasby Denmark and Franze Zehentner, 17, of Villach Austria join other Caribou high school sudents in the New Sweden potatoe fields of classmate Finn Bondeson. (Bangor Daily News/Kevin Bennett)

While the schools today open before the potatoes are harvested, they still close down again for Harvest Break from mid-September until the first week or so in October. It’s a way of life that seems to say the more things change the more they stay the same, but it wasn’t always that way.

As the New York Times noted in 1989 in Presque Isle Journal; Changes On Horizon In Fields Of Potatoes changing economic pressures and the mechanization of farming have made the practice of Harvest break less of an economic necessity for farmers or children, but the tradition still seems to be thriving and is a point of pride for the people there.

See also: Aroostook County Potato Harvest and the Bangor Daily News, New hands share hard work of harvest

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Only in Maine – Deer hit by bike explodes into oncoming car

The Bangor Daily News reported on a recent car accident in Maine in which a deer was hit by a motorcycle and then careened into the windshield of an oncoming car driven by Addie Gilman (no relation):

Keating said much of the deer’s entrails penetrated the car’s interior, covering Gilman with blood and other matter. “She was just covered with blood,” he said, and the deer’s organs could be clearly seen on the floor of the passenger’s seat. Gilman’s son Ryan, 5, was in the back seat strapped into a booster seat. Less of the deer’s entrails ended up on the boy, but an officer’s photos show what Keating believes is the grass the deer had been eating sprayed across the inside of the back window. “It just exploded in the car,” he said of the deer. “I’ve never seen anything like it.”

Bangor Daily News: Palermo: Deer hit by bike explodes into oncoming car

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Moose

My friend Shaun captured this footage of a Bull Moose they encountered in White Mountain National Forest on their way to Montreal. This part is priceless:

The moose was unbelievably relaxed, just browsing along as we all snapped photos and watched him. I took the camera and creeped down into the woods with him to get some pictures from closer up. He really only regarded me occassionally, kind of giving me a look now and then, and then going back to eating. I’ll admit that I got a little nervous (and took some steps backwards) the couple times he started to walk towards me, despite knowing that there was virtually no chance that he would become aggressive with me at this time of year. This knowledge apparently flew right in the face of the “knowledge” of the rest of the gathered crowd – mostly from Massachusetts, Connecticut, and New York – who frequently aired their opinions that he was getting ready to charge at any minute.

It was kind of funny to listen to, actually, because they weren’t questioning whether or not the moose might potentially attack, but letting me know in no uncertain terms that it would attack. I was definitely thinking, “Man, I grew up in Aroostook County, Maine, I have somewhat of an idea about what this moose might or might not do. You clowns, on the other hand, sound like the assembled braintrust of a drunken misinterpretation of a Discovery Channel show about Alaska.” I didn’t say that, though, just politely smiled, inched closer, and got more pictures.

They are indeed amazing animals. Not all that bright, with a nasty habit of walking in front of your car at night during black fly season, but majestic in their own way. I have never, however, seen any moose do anything quickly of its own accord. I’d be more afraid of a sloth.

This is true only to the point you don’t piss it off, which is remarkably hard to do. Shooting it with a bow and arrow generally works. (See below – somewhat graphic)

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Nordic Ski Championships in Presque Isle, Maine

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Bangor Daily News/Kate Collins

Having grown up in Northern Maine and now living in Texas I get to do a little bit of explaining from time to time. First, is that yes, people actually live up there. I don’t know why they do either, but they do. Second, yes we did have running water. Indoor bathrooms and everything. Third, no, we didn’t have a football team, but then no one else we knew had a football team so we really didn’t miss it too much. Fourth, yes, cross-country skiing is actually a sport and actually it is nothing like the mummified nordic-track lurking somewhere in your garage.

Cross-country skiing is one of the things I really miss about Maine. So it warmed my heart to see that the U.S. Cross Country Championships were held in my home town this weekend. Interestingly enough, I remember seeing David Chamberlain, one of the leaders in the men’s 50-km marathon, skiing in the state championship in Ft. Kent when I was a freshman. He broke a pole right in front of a friend of mine who gave him his own pole (neither of us was competing, though we were on skis) and he ended up winning a few seconds ahead of one of our own skiers.

Bangor Daily News: Freeman cruises to 2nd USSA crown

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Route 1 North, Presque Isle, Maine

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It’s been almost a decade – the postcard I just got for my 10 year reunion confirms this – yet I still cannot get the following song lyrics out of my head:

Star City, Presque Isle
Star City, Mile for Mile
North-east Corner of America
Star of Maine, Presque Isle

I’ve been thinking about my home town today, which made me pick up a phone and get a subscription to the Star Herald, Presque Isle’s local weekly newspaper, since I’ve given up hope that it will ever get a website. $55 for a year’s worth of ammunition in my eternal war with Brady Moffett (Covington, Indiana) as to who can out-small town the other is money well spent. Brady is cocky because his town has fewer people (2,565 to my 9,511) yet he has not calculated on the “distance from civilization” effect that pushes Presque Isle over the top. The Potato Blossom festival is an unstoppable force of small-townitude that Covington’s corn festivals and general covered-bridginess will be powerless to stop. I have a feeling fellow Hoosier Jessie Foltz has both of us though merely by the gloriously small-towny fact that Twelve Mile, IN is so named because it is 12 miles from some other culturally insignificant map speck.

I got back in touch with a good friend from high school the other day. I’ll call him Shaun X since I never know whether I’m accidentally ‘outing’ somebody when they don’t use their full name on their blog. In any event it makes him sound more mysterious. I’ve coaxed the Gringo Argentino back onto the blogosphere.

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At least it’s warm here…

Every now and then I get nostalgic for Maine. Then I get an e-mail like this from my Dad -

Associated Press: The Nation’s Weather
By WEATHER UNDERGROUND 11.08.06, 5:03 AM ET

Cold, wet weather was expected to continue Wednesday across the North and West.
Rain was forecast again for the Mid-Atlantic and the Northeast, with flooding possible in some coastal areas.

Clear skies were anticipated in the nation’s midsection.

Sunny and warm weather was forecast for the Southwest and much of the Great Plains.

Temperatures in the Lower 48 states Tuesday ranged from a low of 21 degrees at Presque Isle, Maine, to a high of 101 degrees at Woodland Hills, Calif.

I’ve become very acclimated to the Texas unwinter.

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Northern Forest Canoe Trail: From Adirondack Park, NY to Fort Kent, Maine

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Work has been completed on the Northern Forest Canoe Trail, a water route from northern Maine through the Adirondack Park in New York. The 740-mile trail includes 347 in Maine, notably the Allagash Wilderness Waterway, Penobscot River and Rangeley Lakes.

The Magnificent Obsession of the Northern Forest Canoe Trail

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From Maine

Two Moose in Presque Isle

Two moose on main street in Presque Isle last week. From a friend in Maine, via my grandmother.

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Long-Scorned in Maine, French Has Renaissance

NY Times Long-Scorned in Maine, French Has Renaissance

Frederick Levesque was just a child in Old Town, Me., when teachers told him to become Fred Bishop, changing his name to its English translation to conceal that he was French-American.

Cleo Ouellette’s school in Frenchville made her write “I will not speak French” over and over if she uttered so much as a “oui” or “non” — and rewarded students with extra recess if they ratted out French-speaking classmates.

And Howard Paradis, a teacher in Madawaska forced to reprimand French-speaking students, made the painful decision not to teach French to his own children. “I wasn’t going to put my kids through that,” Mr. Paradis said. “If you wanted to get ahead you had to speak English.”

That was Maine in the 1950′s and 1960′s, and the stigma of being French-American reverberated for decades afterward. But now, le Français fait une rentrée — French is making a comeback.

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