In his poem “Just ’Fore Christmas,” the poet Eugene Field acknowledged, “Most all the time, the whole year round, there ain’t no flies on me. But jest ’fore Christmas I’m as good as I kin be.”
Well, sure. Aren’t we all.
But as Christmas, now just eight days off, sneaks up on us yet again, it occurs to me from my admittedly biased perch that for many readers who have been around the track a few times, the reward for being good comes not just once a year, but daily in the ritual reading of the morning newspaper, coffee cup at hand.
The Internet and an abundance of new-age communications gadgetry notwithstanding, the morning newspaper gives us our daily jump-start as we contemplate the adage that truth is, indeed, far stranger than fiction. If this is incentive for readers to put a little something extra in the holiday greeting card for the newspaper carrier who has faithfully delivered the paper all year, in fair weather or foul, good on them, as my Canadian friends would say.
It was in the morning paper that we learned of the automobile accident victim who “walked for help, despite a broken nose.” Each time I read the clipping I have a suspicion that the reporter who penned that line would have welcomed an opportunity to have another go at describing the situation.
The morning newspaper tells us of an accused shoplifter nabbed with all manner of items tucked under his clothing, and the mental picture that results is as impressive as his explanation — according to the arresting police officer — that he always travels with such a collection “at this time of year.”
When one glances at the other news stories on the page, it becomes easier to understand the man’s asserted practice of venturing forth in this festive season prepared for most any contingency. The reports tell of a stabbing, theft of a wood splitter, bounced checks by a convicted embezzler, a case of illegal possession of drugs, the dramatic rescue of a worker who had become stuck in sand at his workplace and an earthquake in the Blue Hill area measuring 2.3 on the Richter scale.
Opposite this page of Yuletide doom and gloom is a story concerning the theft of tree-length logs from a downstate woodlot.
Peruse that menu and you could be forgiven for concluding that it’s a jungle out there, despite the joys of the Christmas season. Except for the grateful man rescued from the sand, there’s not a gram of holiday cheer in the lot. But that’s the thing about the morning newspaper — we get a little of this and a little of that and we stand a chance of being a bit more informed when we finish reading than when we began.
That being the case, let the record show that I have been “as good as I kin be” for roughly the past six months in anticipation of a big payoff under my politically incorrect Christmas tree. But if a lump of coal should be my lot instead, the daily newspaper arriving in the mail — the gift that keeps on giving — will be reward enough for the commendable behavior.
Radio and television can delight as well as newspapers, of course — especially on those occasions when they inadvertently reassure us that all is well on the Maine linguistic front.
While listening to the truck radio as I was out and about, I heard an interview with a downstate resident who was talking about something that had occurred down in “Alabamer.” I kept hoping the conversation might take a turn where he had to work in “Cuber” and “Coker Coler” or maybe “Arabier,” but it never happened.
No matter. It was a treasured Christmas gift just to be shown that our native tongue survives, at great odds, even in The Other Maine. It’s good to know that, the best efforts of the elocution police notwithstanding, real Mainers will never meet the word ending in “a” that they can’t easily transform into something ending in “r.”
It’s state law. You can look it up over to Auguster.
BDN columnist Kent Ward lives in Limestone. His e-mail address is email@example.com.