Tuesday, April 20, 2010

A Mainer Named Ed


At twenty-eight, Ed sold his farm in Massachusetts and moved to Maine in search of cheap land, large woods and ample pasture for his cows. Over the last fifty-nine years, Maine has changed a lot, and Ed little. Measuring time not by decades but by eras of women, Ed's twice divorced and currently lives with a special lady friend of ten years. He has grown to love his adopted home and developed a thick accent. Since bottling his first jar of milk in 1952, one year after moving to Maine, 34 dairy farmers on his street have boarded up shop, sold off their stock and left for the convenience of the suburbs. Ed stays fast, feeding his deep love for Maine with all of the food he can muster.

Driving down a frost heaved road a half hour north of Skowhegan, I stared blindly out the window of a Subaru Outback, watching the treeline cut the sky like a band saw. Out of the corner of my eye I spotted a short, bearded man, sawing small a small tree. Pushing my face up against the window to get a better look, I blurted, "Spencer, did you see that guy? We may have to turn around..."

Over the whirring of a Stihl chainsaw, I gingerly approached the old man. To make the interaction more transparent, and avoid an, "Are you lost?" I held my camera in plain view. Muffled by 87 year-old ears and fixated on making precise cuts in the downed limb like an ADD thirteen year-old dissecting a video game level, Ed didn't hear me until the third time.

"Hello Foster, nice to meet you, I'm Ed. You can take my picture, but is it okay if I sit for a while and rest?" his mouth moved like a nutcracker, masked by a 25 year-old beard. Stiffly, but with the look of familiarity in his movements, he set down the chain saw and walked towards the half-filled tractor bucket. For the next thirty minutes, we talked cows, Maine's beauty, and beards.

Ed fighting the good fight after 59 years, two wives, hundreds of cows, multiple chainsaws and a handful of safety pins in Maine.

"I let it grow wild, like me" he said as if informing a waitress at a diner about how he likes his eggs cooked. 25 years ago, Ed stopped shaving his beard. "I was hoping by now it would be down to here," he motioned to the bottom of his sternum with a chop of his hand, "but it just stopped growing a while ago." Impressed by his commitment, I pointed out that his was far more impressive than mine.

Ed's chief means of transportation, other than his slew of mid-century tractors, is this late sixties VW Bug.

After hundreds of cows and nearly six decades of making milk, Ed sold his last cow a year ago.

When his second wife wanted to move closer to her children in Virginia, he stayed with his cows and happily signed the divorce papers. Ed has conviction. Favoring the harsh idealistic life over the compromised, he wears old clothes and works with his hands.

As I walked towards the car after shaking Ed's hand one last time, he yelled, "You should move to Alaska, even though they have that woman senator that killed that moose. It sounds like a good place."

Inspired by his wild beard and commitment to the land he loves, I responded, "Maybe I will, Ed, but I don't think you can make milk there," with a smile.

Here are some more links,
"I let it grow wild, like me" (Picasa),
Side of the Road (ART).

42 comments:

m said...

May we be so lucky.
Thanks for this, great pics man.

Foster Huntington said...

Thank you M, i hope to have as much conviction as Ed. by the way could i have an aston martin DB5? sorry bad james bond joke...
foster

m said...

that"s Admiral Sir Miles Messervy to you!

took me a min.

Seamus said...

incredible story and photographs. I love Ed. He reminds me of all my Italian friends in Italy. They live just like him.

LC said...

Fantastic! Best thing I've seen on the internet in awhile.

Andrew Mooers said...

I like the tractor. I never met a farm tractor in Maine I did not like..growing up on a Maine farm. I have a 1953 Super M Farmall that is older than me that I cherish, respect and use on the 300 acre farm I am lucky enough to own. Great images, post.

Foster Huntington said...

LC,
flattered by your words. people like ed you only see once in a great while,
foster

Foster Huntington said...

Seamus,
people with conviction and love of their land, like ed, live all over the place. i knew some in the NW and i have met a handful in new england. their outlook and attitude is the same regardless of their location,
foster

Foster Huntington said...

M,
glad you got it. hahaha
foster

Michael M. said...

Good find buddy! He's a great character. I wish I could send you to my grandfather and his buddies. One of them used to make his own bamboo fly rods. I may have to resurrect some history next time I am home...

Foster Huntington said...

Michael,
sounds awesome. i wish i could visit them.
foster

james at 10engines said...

NEVER say goodbye to a good cardigan... this one up there w/ Harry/rose Foster.

Foster Huntington said...

James,
i knew that if any one would appreciate Ed, it would be you.
foster

tintin said...

That's so well done. You have to so something with this great story outside your blog.

When I was a cop in FL the consensus was all the wack jobs like nice weather and people of character live where the weather is cold.

Foster Huntington said...

tintin,
I am flattered. glad you like eds story and my photos. Cold weather certainly tests your conviction. I never knew you were a cop?
foster

destroy_alkaline said...

amazing story. he looks like a happy man and i'm sure you made his day.

Foster Huntington said...

Destroy Alkiline,
Ed was a very happy guy. he thanked me for stopping and i thanked him for talking to me. he wasnt fazed by the camera at all,
foster

Chotsky said...

Great post, thanks a lot, this is the only blog i read regularly.

Foster Huntington said...

Chotsky,
glad i could be on your short reading list. i am flattered by your words,
foster

michaelmundy said...

Foster
I love your blog. I really enjoy your photos and your take on things. Keep it up.


Michael Mundy
Photographer

Megan said...

I am amazed you had the guts to just start chatting with this guy! I hope to one day do something similar myself. You must get some awesome stories and photos out of it if this post is any indication.

Foster Huntington said...

Michael,
thanks for the kinds words about my pictures and prose. your website looks great btw. thanks for stopping by,
foster

B said...

I enjoy your stories and photography. Keep up the good work!

Foster Huntington said...

Megan,
you will never know what could have happened if you didnt take a crack at it. Despite looking rough, the people i have approached have almost always been incredibly friendly and eager to have their photo taken. Its hard to regret trying. give it a whirl, you will smile,
foster

Karen + Sara said...

foster this is truly amazing. best thing i've seen in a long time!!

Vincent Tsang said...

One of the best posts youve done

Foster Huntington said...

Karen or Sara,
Your blog looks great. that house decorated with the tools is redic. thanks for your kind words,
foster

Foster Huntington said...

Vincent,
when are we going to square off in CS? thanks for kind words man, means a lot to me.
foster

Joe said...

Foster,
Though I read often I comment seldom...this post is quite simply beautiful.
I passed a set of twins (both surely in their mid 70's) the other day while they sat out back of their dilapidated home (which they had obviously shared for quite some time). In my brief passing it looked like something they must do often when the Delaware weather turns warmer. Afternoons shaking off the cold and soaking in the sunshine. They were surrounded by years of collected/accumulated/hoarded "treasures". I had my 5D by my side and just couldn't muster the courage to stop.
I respect your determination and commitment to make connections with strange strangers...may we all be so bold. This would be a better place if we just stopped the car a little more often and shook hands.
In my short existence I've found it pays to listen to those with experience and wisdom. Heed this mans advice. Go (north) west young man.
Best,
Joe

Foster Huntington said...

Joe,
letting interesting people get away is like never making a move on a girl you had a crush on for a long time. you will always regret it and never know what could have happened. The thing about people is that they are always more interesting and dynamic than the conclusions you can make on first glance. I never would have known that Ed collected VW bugs and showed them at local car shows for decades, without stopping and talking to him. thanks for your kind words and for reading my blog,
foster

miron said...

I enjoyed this post immensely, quality blogging.
take care,
miron

Just Another Savage! said...

Ask Ed if he will rent me a space in his barn, I'd like to visit and paint his portrait.

Foster Huntington said...

Just another Savage,
Ed certainly deserves to have a portrait painted of him. he has an amazing presence,
foster

michaelmundy said...

Foster,
I just posted a story I thought you might like.
Michael Mundy

Cary Randolph said...

This is amazing - the best you've done, Foster. There's a novel's worth of material in these photos and in Ed's story. Someone needs to write it.

Foster Huntington said...

Cary,
I am flattered by your comment. Ed is an amazing guy and certainly worthy of a more writing. if only i had the the time. thanks for you kind words.
foster

Kitty said...

I stumbled upon your blog a couple weeks ago, and I have loved it ever since.
This is probably my favourite thing you've written (well, for what i've had the time to read so far).
Your photos are beautiful, and your stories are so well thought out, bringing out the best of life.
Seriously well done.

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I like your blog pics.. This old man is looking very hard working i like the spirit...thanks for sharing