Kaitlyn Dunnett/Kathy Lynn Emerson here, today inspired by the end of the summer tourist season to point out that there’s another Maine that most of folks “from away” probably never see.
Several of my friends and acquaintances visited Maine this summer. One never got farther north than Portland. Another took a trip on a cruise ship that stopped in, among other coastal locations, Bar Harbor, Rockland, Camden, and Boothbay Harbor. A third visited Acadia National Park and sailed on one of Maine’s schooners. As a side trip, she visited the Duck of Justice at the Bangor Police Department.
None of them saw a moose.
This should have been a clue that they were only brushing the surface. Although we’re small in relation to Texas or Alaska, we’re a big state compared to our neighbors. We have 3,478 miles of coastline, but that only accounts for a small portion of the state. Fishing for lobster is an important industry, but—trust me on this—there are Mainers who don’t like any kind of seafood. My late father-in-law used to call lobsters “trash fish” because back before they started getting so much good PR from summer people, the locals didn’t consider them fit for anything but fertilizer. Folks who only visit the coast seem to equate Maine with getting out on or into the water, going to clambakes, and enjoying panoramic ocean views. I can count on the fingers of one hand the number of times I’ve done any of those things.
The “other” Maine is the part of the state away from the coast and beyond the bedroom communities surrounding Portland. Some equate it with the second congressional district, which isn’t far off the mark except that, in all honesty, there is more than one “other” Maine. The area I know best is the western Maine mountains, where I live and in which I set my Liss MacCrimmon mysteries. We have lots of trees, lakes, and streams, plus ski areas, apple orchards, campgrounds, and trails for hiking, snowmobiles, and ATVs. Some of these same tourist attractions are found in a big chunk of sparsely populated land located, approximately, in the middle of the state. It includes Baxter State Park, Moosehead Lake, and the recently established Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument. For variety, there are the flat, fairly empty spaces to the north, where the economy revolves around the annual potato harvest, and the stretch along the border with Canada, 611 miles in all, where you’ll find French spoken right along with English. The Franco-American heritage is alive and well in many parts of Maine. All of these areas, and probably a few I haven’t thought of, are distinctly different from either Portland or the coast.
As a general rule, the other Maine is politically conservative, although rather than register with any political party a great many of the residents list themselves as “no marks” and vote (with the glaring exception of the most recent elections) for the candidates who exhibit common sense. Most of the towns in these rural areas hold annual festivals of some sort. A surprising number of them celebrate blueberries. Old Home Days are also numerous. One town, Lisbon Falls, honors Moxie, the official soft drink of the State of Maine. Locally, we shop at Hannaford or Food City for groceries and Renys (aka Chez René) or Mardens for bargains, pig out on Giffords’ Ice Cream in the summer, prefer wearing jeans and t-shirts to dressing up, and root for the Red Sox, the Pats, and the University of Maine Black Bears.
And the only time anyone says “A-yuh” is when we’re having fun at the expense of tourists. It’s usually accompanied by the carefully considered opinion that “you can’t get there from here.”
Mainers have a wicked good sense of humor . . . at least in the opinion of other Mainers.
Kathy Lynn Emerson/Kaitlyn Dunnett is the author of nearly sixty traditionally published books written under several names. She won the Agatha Award and was an Anthony and Macavity finalist for best mystery nonfiction of 2008 for How to Write Killer Historical Mysteries and was an Agatha Award finalist in 2015 in the best mystery short story category. She was the Malice Domestic Guest of Honor in 2014. Currently she writes the contemporary Liss MacCrimmon Mysteries (Overkilt—November 2018) and the “Deadly Edits” series (Crime & Punctuation) as Kaitlyn and the historical Mistress Jaffrey Mysteries (Murder in a Cornish Alehouse) as Kathy. The latter series is a spin-off from her earlier “Face Down” mysteries and is set in Elizabethan England. Her most recent collection of short stories is Different Times, Different Crimes. Her websites are www.KaitlynDunnett.com and www.KathyLynnEmerson.com and she maintains a website about women who lived in England between 1485 and 1603 at www.TudorWomen.com