Our Maine Street's Aroostook Issue 7 : Winter 2011 - Page 58

but with many small and green potatoes strewn about. I told Dan it smelled a bit like a musty basement. It was a familiar scent to him. He even said, if he was blindfolded and dropped in a northern Maine potato field, he would know, from the smell alone, where he was standing. Now I also know that smell. We also felt a brisk wind while at the launch site of the Double Eagle II. In the summer of 1978, three adventurous men took off in a helium balloon from the open field. It became the first successful trans-atlantic crossing of its kind. We felt the incessant wind, yet again, at Echo Lake. Here, Dan’s father first launched the fourteen foot Starcraft boat he bought out on the road to Caribou. For years, the family used it on nearby Portage and Squa Pan Lakes. Later that same afternoon, while coasting along Route 10, the russet, gold and cherry red leaves, buttressed by lanky, deep green firs, filled the rolling hills behind some of the fields. Other fields seemed to go on forever. I told Dan how much I too loved the feel of the open vista. It was here I really saw how spending his formative years in Aroostook County had made a lasting impact on Dan, from his love of fields and open space to his enjoyment of mowing our small hay field back home with his John Deere tractor. Completing Dan’s memory-jogging tour of Presque Isle, we drove back to Stewart’s Farm to buy some Shepody potatoes. A worker there told us that way behind the barn were some fields still picked by hand. But, pickers weren’t working that day. The fields were too wet. One tractor had been pulled out of the muck, she said. While at Stewart’s, Dan happened to peek into a side room when a spontaneous reaction caused him to say, “I’ve been in this room before.” It was the smell of the stoked-up woodstove that unleashed the vivid memory of the time he had picked potatoes at that farm. The same woman said that the stove used to be in a shanty next door, but they had moved it into this room. The room’s smell had reminded Dan of potato picking on many rainy days, when his gloves would become clumped with muddy soil. He and his friends used to go inside to get warm. It was clear Dan loved picking just the same on those days, as he did those times he drove the tractor of his friend’s father on a clear day. As he remembers it, they were all good days. Kathleen Fortin received a Master of Arts in Liberal Studies from Dartmouth College. Concentrating in creative writing during her studies, she focused on nonfiction narrative, personal essay and oral history. Her graduate thesis was an oral history of the MacDowell Colony, a one hundred year old artists’ residence colony located in Peterborough, New Hampshire. Kathy is a freelance writer and continues her long time career in the legal field. 56 No Ordinary Place WINTER 2011