Paul Lynn “Neighbors”

Cherry tomatoes

This story appeared in the 2021 summer issue of The Maine Organic Farmer & Gardener in response to the theme “Neighbors.”

One thing about old-time Maine Yankees is that they tend to be economical with their words and habitually choose the fewest ones to convey an exact meaning. If you ask them a question, they will take the language quite literally and, if it seems worth their while, will offer a literal response even if they know that was not the intent of the inquiry – just another subtle form of humorous entertainment at the expense of the unsuspecting.

One Sunday in church, it came to the part in the service where the minister asked the rural, Midcoast congregation for “joys and concerns.” A lady sitting near the back pews raised her hand and said she was thankful for the beautiful sunny day after the several days of rain we had had. The pastor allowed, as that was most certainly a joy, and called on another raised hand whose owner was thankful for the rain that we had had over the previous several days. He said it would help the grass turn green again and the mid-July flower and vegetable gardens would benefit considerably.

Pleased with the congregation’s responses so far, the questioning continued in this vain. The gardener in the pulpit, who knew full well that it was a few weeks too early to be eating ripe tomatoes from the home garden and well aware of the pride each gardener had in trying to be the first one to harvest a tomato, queried, “Does anyone have tomatoes yet?” The pastor looked across at the faces of the faithful flock. Not to be outdone by their neighbors, three or four hands shot partway up in the affirmative, and several smug voices replied tersely and literally in unrehearsed unison, “green ones.”

Paul D. Lynn

Cushing, Maine

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