It’s hard to beat those unique Christmas gifts that come from readers throughout the year in the form of written response — mostly by email these days — to things they read in their newspaper. Little stocking stuffers they are, and a delight to read.
An example of the genre is a message that arrived from Mike Brown of Mars Hill in June responding to a column concerning legislative enactment of a 75 mph speed limit — up from 65 mph — on Interstate 95 between Old Town and Houlton. Brown, a veteran of 33 years in the transportation business who is a production shift supervisor for a local firm, described an experience he once had driving that stretch of highway.
“Being from The County requires two things of a person — the first being a memory of the good old days and the second a story relating to travel to and from the Other Maine,” he wrote. “This is the latter of the two.”
One sunny winter day more than a decade ago as he was “sifting along comfortably on I-95 northbound,” Brown pitched over a rise and spotted Old Blue sitting in the crossover near the Oakfield exit.
“It was obvious from the direction his cruiser was oriented that his radar was beeping ‘incoming aircraft’ by that time. I’m caught, so I just let off and pulled over to the shoulder of the interchange on-ramp and waited,” Brown wrote. “Finally, here he comes, hell-bent for election. Seeing me sitting there, he puts the binders to it and pulls in behind me. As he walked up to the car, I rolled down the window and handed out my registration, insurance card and license. ‘How ya doing?’ I inquired.”
The trooper asked Brown if he knew how fast he was traveling when he crested the hill. Brown replied that he did, “because I did the same thing everyone else does when they see you sitting there — I looked down at my speedometer.” He quoted a figure well over the then-65 mph limit. The trooper said the figure pretty much matched his radar’s reading, and returned to his cruiser to begin the requisite paperwork.
When he returned with Brown’s papers along with a warning, rather than a speeding ticket, “the look on my face must have been priceless,” the Mars Hill man told me when I rang him up earlier this week.
“Mr. Brown, the reason I gave you a warning is because you did two things,” the officer explained. “You pulled over. Do you know how many people I would have had to chase clear into Houlton? The other reason is you are honest. Most people would have said they couldn’t have been going that fast.”
Relieved, Brown acknowledged he was in the wrong. “As far as knowing what my speed was, it’s instinct,” he told the trooper. “How many times have you — even in your cruiser — come down off the hill into Monticello and, seeing that old black and white car sitting on the left, checked your speedometer?”
That brought a smile to the officer’s face, Brown said. “But he also left me with stern assurance that this was my warning and he wouldn’t be so benevolent next time.”
A year later, Brown was on the telephone with a New Hampshire business contact who had just returned from visiting the Patten area, where he had grown up. The talk soon turned to The County, the man disclosing that his nephew was a Maine state trooper who had been fortunate to be assigned to the Island Falls patrol area.
Turns out the officer who had given Brown a huge break at the Oakfield turnoff was that nephew. “Funny thing. Your name came up at the supper table one night. Now I want to hear your side of it,” the New Hampshire resident said. Brown assured him that his version was probably exactly the same as the trooper’s.
“Now that I am older, it is amazing how much lighter my right foot has become,” Brown concluded. He had even set his vehicle’s cruise control on 65 mph and had not become “bored to tears between here and the Alton Bog.” Still, the new 75 mph option will be great, he said, “just to clean the cobwebs out of the old girl from time to time.”
BDN columnist Kent Ward lives in Limestone. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.