Snow Birds

By Joe Talbot Jr. | Mar 26, 2018

As I gaze out my window, I rest between paragraphs, and the snow is nearly level with the bottom of my windowsill. For the third time in 10 days, the snow, whizzing by at 40 miles per hour — not earthward bound, but horizontal — is on it’s way to California. Hah! Guess again.

Many Mainers, are not present to witness this beautiful art work that appears like magic whence the sun finally takes over the land, after the storm is out to sea. All that is the earth’s crust around us gleams pure white, and most beautiful.

Indeed. I feel sorry for those poor spirits that no longer have the fortitude to get up early and shovel. I pray for the weak minds that no longer have to scrape gleaming crystals that are welded to the windshield, in order to navigate the silent back roads to civilization for milk, bread, eggs, and the nectar of forgetfulness. The evening weather report on the idiot box lends more glee, as they report another similar event is upon us in a few days.

Where are they, the missing? Where else — Florida! They’re sitting on their patios, at poolside, with a giant bug screen covering the whole thing. It’s too cold to swim, too many bugs outside, and they spent a fortune getting there (and another huge fortune for the privilege of having a ridiculously expensive winter home in the land of multi-millions) from all over America, all praying they can get to the store and back, without having an accident with someone else wishing the same thing. My daughter, who spent last winter in Port St. Lucie, told me she could hear the giant slam of cars colliding on the roadway adjacent to her at the rate of one every other week. I would bet that there are more snow birds, over age 90 and still driving in Florida, than the entire winter population of Maine. My daughter and husband go on a winter cruise on a ship, with a room on the mid-lower deck, and all they do in five days is eat and eat, gamble, eat, watch a show after dinner, and they are doing it with over 6,000 other people all crammed together in a boat that’s a little over 500 feet long! I spent a summer in Florida once (never again) with the temperature so hot we had to carry our dog everywhere, and the asphalt and cement burned the pads of her feet. The water temperature in the ocean was over 80 degrees, how refreshing! Much like here in Paradise.

All around our country, people want to get south so they don’t have to bear the excruciating cold outside, heading south around Christmas, and coming back in late spring. I’ve often wondered why no one told them “There is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing.”

When I lived in Port Clyde a few years ago, some of the fishermen had bumper stickers on their pickups that read, “If it’s tourist season, how come we can’t shoot em!”

I have a new definition for us to ponder. What is paradise? Answer: Midcoast Maine in winter.

We Mainers have something no one else has. Have you ever had the awesome experience of joining with four or five of your friends on a toboggan, legs around the person in front of you, and legs of the person behind you with your arms around his/her ankles, while holding on for dear life to the small rope attached to the sides of the toboggan? But check this out: how about the slide master, when all are secure, pushing the lever forward which lowers the front of the toboggan down to match the frozen, wood-sided toboggan chute, and you “dive bomb” down the 400-foot chute at breakneck speed, dumping out on to Hosmer Pond, for a ride over the ice until you end at the other side of the pond ... or someone drops a hand out on one side to the ice, and causes the whole mess to start spinning, which ends the ride a little sooner, thus shortening the walk back to the chute to do it all again. Ever heard of one of those things anywhere else on the planet? Didn’t think so.

A friend of my father's gave me a 135-millimeter slide camera when I was young, and I entered into a world of beauty that I had no idea existed before that most fortunate event. I have pictures of Camden Harbor that I took in 1950, depicting the snow-covered trees all round, and the gray skies overhead, casting a gray and white serenity on the schooners “side-tied” to each other waiting for spring. My slide collection grew quickly. I captured angry white-capped water coming down the waterfall into the harbor, the other end of that cascading under Molyneaux Road Bridge at the Fish & Game Clubhouse; Maiden’s Cross on Megunticook Mountain, with frozen Megunticook Lake below; huge icicles hanging 10 feet below the roof’s edge above the waterfall on Aubry Young’s Fish Market on Main Street, caused by the steam rising from the waterfall. Wow! There’s more loveliness everywhere we look. Oh, and get this! Start at the Camden Post Office, and walk up Chestnut Street as far as you can until it stops going up hill. Now, imagine the town putting road barriers on each end, so the whole town of young people can slide from top to bottom every night on sleds until around 9 o’clock! Picture that in your mind: nary a parent in the whole town had to wonder where their kids were. I remember Sonny Goodwin had a “Bob Sled” with a steering wheel at the front, and long enough for five or six kids to sit on, with running boards for their feet. They often would have great conditions that would allow them to go all the way to the monument in the middle of the road in front of Crocket’s “Five & Dime Store,” where Camden National Bank is now. In the 1950s, this really happened!

I doubt there is any other place quite like our Midcoast Maine, especially in winter. We’re surrounded by Mainers just like us, taking the weather in stride, and hoping the snow birds never catch on to what they’re missing.


Joe Talbot is a former columnist for Peterson Publications' "Off Road Magazine" and "Four Wheeler Magazine." He lives in Belfast.


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