My mother called me New Year’s weekend, upset about a place called Lyndon and how Caribou is slowly being chiseled away in order to save on property taxes.
“What are they thinking?” my mother asked me in deep concern.
I’ve been trying to reason that out for some time, and I’ve been wondering what would happen if I woke up in a place called Lyndon because, as it happens, my house is in the claimed area.
It’s funny the things we take for granted in life until they suddenly are gone. Family is a great example. Once a family member has left this life, that void can never truly be filled again, so when our family starts talking about a place called Lyndon, my father’s presence is keenly missed. He had an excellent sense of humor and a quick wit, so he would have found Lyndon to be quite funny. He probably also would say it wouldn’t work.
My father and mother set up a life in Caribou in 1955. He and my mother worked long hours to build a restaurant, a large family of five children and a future in Caribou. My sisters, my brothers and I took turns working in that little restaurant alongside them, learning some of the lessons of life.
For instance, my father always voted. To him, government wasn’t about “them,” it was about “us.” He believed adults have obligations like that one. Obligations to pay their bills, help family and support their community. He also firmly believed in the achievements that came from hard work and was suspicious of gimmicks and schemes. If something were too good to be true, it probably was.
On the subject of taxes he was quite clear. Pay them. Don’t evade them, avoid them or try to get out of them. Just “make do,” pay them and “call it good.”
“Making do” and “calling it good” really sums up Caribou and life in The County. Winter is difficult here, especially paying heating bills, but we make do and call it good. Back when highway construction ended in Houlton, instead of continuing north to us, we always “made do.” When Loring Air Force Base evaporated before our eyes, we “made do” and “called it good.”
The community of Caribou was slowly built up over the years by hard work and people “making do,” just like that. You see, communities, like families, aren’t just about how much we get out of them. One of the first things they provide is mutual support. Maybe I will never need firefighters, EMTs or police officers at my door, but I know others will. Should we deny other people these services in order to cut taxes — property taxes that are on par with surrounding communities’? In the end, supporting the community is a gain we all enjoy, even if it is indirectly.
Could Lyndon save me money on my property taxes?
My instincts and my father’s lasting influence say no. Quite frankly, it sounds too good to be true. Many of the things we depend on in life will always need to be paid for somehow, or we’ll simply have to go without. I’d rather have firefighters and police on hand now than risk all my worldly goods on some well-intentioned promises.
The alternative to our unity is letting our community die from neglect and slow atrophy. When I think of a place called Caribou, I don’t want it to be a sad declining patch of weeds near an old sign. Caribou is more than just a name on a map or a bunch of mill rates. The more I consider a place called Lyndon, the more I see it as an insult to generations of people, like my parents, who worked to build this place called Caribou.
This is why my mother is upset: She knows the hard work and sacrifices where folks “made do” and “called it good” would be wasted if Caribou fails.
In the end, I have no loyalty to a place called Lyndon and have no wish to become part of it, either, by voting to destroy the community I was born in or by allowing Lyndon to exist by my silence.
So, what would I do if I woke up in a place called Lyndon? I think I would move home to Caribou and make do.
John Albert-Murchison is a resident of Caribou.