Monday, October 12, 2009

"They Didn't Believe Me . . .


Years ago, probably about 40 or so, when Gramma Shasta and Newsman, now Old Newsie, did a lot of camping and rockhounding in New England and Canada, we made a trip up through Maine into Nova Scotia for a couple of weeks.

That trip produced a newspaper column here in New Mexico in the 90s and just today in cleaning out a box of old writings which appeared in the local newspaper, I ran across the copy of the story of the Nova Scotia trip and decided there might be a few more people who yet might get a laugh out of it and so , as published back then, here it is.

It was a dark and dreary night quite a few years ago as we drove north through Maine heading for a couple of weeks of camping in Nova Scotia.

It was late and we were looking for a campsite for the night, much as we dreaded unpacking and pitching a tent in the deluging rain.

After miles of traveling without seeing much sign of habitation, we came
upon a solitary light at the approach to a bridge - a store - and decided to
stop and ask someone who most likely would know where to send us.

"Steve, go in and ask how to get to a campsite." Sleepy-eyed Steve (he was a nephew along for the vacation) answered "OK, Uncle Charlie" and climbed from the car.

In a few minutes he was back, fully awake and with an unbelievable yarn which made Uncle Charlie just a little peeved. "Uncle Charlie, the man said to drive to the middle of the bridge and take a right. "

"Now Steve, quit kidding, we're all tired and in no mood for jokes this time of the night."

"But Uncle Charlie, I'm not joking, that's what the man told me," said Steve. Uncle Charlie's impatience began to show. "Now listien , Steve, you go back into that store and get the right directions and no more jokes."

When Steve came back the dirctions were the same: "go to the middle of the bridge and take a right."

Uncle Charlie got out of the car, took Steve by the collar and marched into the store. They were greeted by three or four customers and the man behind the counter, all laughing heartily.

"Your boy is afraid he's going to get walloped for telling you to turn right tinto the river but he's not kidding you!" said the counterman.

With a grin he repeated the directions - "if you're looking for a campsite, go to the middle of the bridge and take a right, and by the way mister, all the other strangers in these parts get mad too."

After returning to the car Uncle Charlie announced he'd look for another place to get directions and then started over the bridge.

Just as he reached the middle, he spotted the sign - turn right here, free camping.

Gingerly, Uncle Charlie steered the car to the right, flicked on his bright lights and illuminated a road going downhill, down to an island in the middle of the river where flickering fires dotted campsite after campsite.

Laughter broke out from Gramma Shasta and Steve, then Yarntangler, CT and Scrabblebuff, and finally , Uncle Charlie.

Rapidly the family-sized tent was pitched and ditched against the rain by the kids with the help of a few other campers, all of whom listened solemnly to Steve's tale about the directions and then burst into howling laughter.

The next morning the urge to re-visit the man who gave the odd directions couldn't be resisted.

After serving everybody coffee and doughnuts the counterman carefully entered everyone's name and address into a well-filled memory book with the blaring title "Now They Believe."

As Old Newsie's family and guest Steve St. Jean piled into the car to continue a planned trip to Parrsboro, Nova Scotia, and a rendezvous with other New England campers, hearty laughter from the store seemed to follow them over the bridge.

Tonight as I write, I seem to hear those folks at the bridge still laughing and in Rhode Island, Steve, last heard of as a police officer at Brown University, regaling anybody listening with the tale of the campsite reached by taking a right off the middle of the bridge.

- 30 -

1 comment:

  1. I remember and tell that story all the time. Poor Stevie, he simply didn't know what to do when they kept repeating those directions. But I remember the astonishment we all had when we saw that steep wooden road leading to the campground!

    I'm currently re-reading John Steinbeck's Travels with Charley for the umpteenth time. He comments eloquently on the habit of those Mainers who delight in giving wrong or misleading travel directions.