NEWCASTLE, Maine — Amid a mild odor apparently noticeable only to newcomers, Larry Russell stood Saturday at Dyer Valley Farm, beneath a newly erected sign marking “Cowshit Corner.” Russell pronounced the placard just perfect.
“It looks level to me,” said Fuzzy Crockett, 60, of Jefferson.
“And it’s way taller than the old one,” Russell said.
A few months after the original sign — which for 40 years heralded the landmark curve on Route 194 known to locals as a common for its distinctively chippy bovine aroma — disappeared overnight under “suspicious” circumstances, Russell, 51, and other members of the “Cherch of the Holy Cow” applauded as the sign was hoisted into the air, then headed off to the nearby Oxbow Brewery to celebrate with a beer.
Each Sunday afternoon for years, Russell, Crockett, Marijuana Pete and other longtime friends have met not far from the sign at Russell’s dairy farm to attend “The Cherch of the Holy Cow.” They perch on five-gallon buckets — or inside the calf barn if it’s raining — grab a Bud Light and talk about what’s going on with their lives, in town and, sometimes, politics.
But earlier this summer, the sign disappeared overnight. Although Russell and the rest of the offbeat congregation say they know who took it, they’re not naming names.
“It might be an inside job,” Mark Fenderson said cryptically on Saturday, not long after arriving in a bulldozer. Fenderson, 54, farms hundreds of acres in Whitefield and has worked for Russell on and off for 20 years.
As a brand new sign was raised on Saturday, filmmaker Keith O’Leary adjusted his camera lens and recorded the entire event. Intrigued by their “different outlook on life,” O’Leary is filming meetings of the Cherch, and other adventures of its members, in hopes of producing a reality show that will be picked up by a network.
O’Leary said he has heard from several production companies in the last month. No deal has been signed, but O’Leary said he expects to hear in the next month whether the show wins a network’s approval.
On Thursday evening, the Oxbow Brewery held a fundraiser — with food provided by Damariscotta’s King Eider Pub — to help Russell pay for the $3,500 sign. Several hundred people turned out, according to Russell and O’Leary, and raised about $1,500. Russell said that despite some naysayers, the turnout signals to him that locals support the sign.
“I was going to put it up anyway, but this makes it more a community sign,” he said.
But the sign doesn’t appeal to everyone. Margo O’Leary, Keith’s wife, said Russell and other family members in town feud “like the Hatfields and McCoys.”
Russell said he refers to one of the neighboring homes as “Jealous Ridge” and casts aspersions on the intelligence of other neighbors who take issue with the sign.
Pointing to the new signpost, he said, “All the nuts on those bolts head that way. Damn right there’s a reason for it.”
Russell dismisses other opponents as summer people and not Mainers.
“They’re paradise seekers,” he said. “They come up here and fragrant the air and then they sputter.”
“Finally some real accents, not that phony Hollywood stuff,” one commenter wrote on Facebook. “Hurray for Cowshit Corner!”
“Please let this be real,” another exclaimed at the YouTube site.
Fenderson is ready for acclaim.
“We’d rather be heroes than zeroes,” he said.