Tuesday, January 24, 2012
Spouse and I had come to our last day in Ireland.
It was after midnight and our flight was scheduled for early morning. Most inconveniently, it struck me all of a sudden that I needed a postcard, post-haste.
"What sort of a postcard?" Mike wanted to know as he rooted through drawers and flicked through some of his books in hopes of finding a tucked-away card that would suit.
"Anything," I declared, "but it has to be blank so I can write on it and send it. Otherwise it doesn't matter. One of an Irish landscape, if it's at all possible."
"I do believe I've got one hidden somewhere, but now I think of it, you probably wouldn't like it for sending to anyone."
"I'll take it."
"I don't know." The rummaging halted. "It's only an old postcard of Phyllis Hunt McGowan, anyway."
I announced that I'd never heard of Phyllis Hunt McGowan, but would be most happy to accept the postcard if Mike could find it.
I saw her in my mind's eye:
Late fifties, short grey hair, tweed skirt, green wellington boots, fond of horses.
Stubborn; incorrigibly so.
She'd do superbly on a postcard, especially given the late notice.
Mike was curious. "You've never heard of who?"
"On the postcard. I don't know who she is. Is she famous, or something?"
I'd been living away from the old homestead for a whole decade, you see, so I thought that maybe in the interim, I'd missed something fashionable or oft talked about in Irish culture. I was certain she wasn't the Irish president, but other than that, she could have been anybody, really, and I'd have had no clue.
There was a puzzled glint in Mike's eye. He admitted to me that he didn't know what I was talking about in saying I hadn't heard of her.
She must be Somebody, then, I decided. I hoped she wasn't an old ancestor of mine, although I was sure I'd have heard of any family members that had made it onto a postcard.
It turned out, in the inevitable moment of enlightenment and explanation, that the hearty, solid, horsey Phyllis Hunt McGowan was resident only of my mind, and she'd never set a toe outside it until that night.
The postcard Mike had been thinking of was one of "fellas hunting cows," and I'd spectacularly misheard him.
Poor Phyllis. I had quite liked the idea of her, vivid and startling as I'd imagined her to be.
Still: when such invented characters have chanced to dip their proverbial toe once into the real world, they don't ever go back to where they came from- not entirely. Which is why the fellas hunting cows have all but been forgotten, and she's still horsing around waiting for me to thrust her, perhaps, into the depths of an equestrian mystery story.
I look forward to working with her.
Posted by Phyllis Hunt McGowan at 4:17 PM
Tuesday, January 10, 2012
Houlton, Maine. A town with a motto:
'Valuing the past, planning for the future.'
It doesn't roll, exactly,
off the tongue.
Houlton's byword is its moose, lumber, land.
The houses tilting with time.
Grammy's Country Inn.
There ought to be ballads sung
About Grammy's onion rings,
About the thundering river
They call Meduxnekeag-
Tough to pronounce when you're young.
Nothing comes easy up there.
Living's hard. Words don't roll.
The ladder splinters
When you reach for the next rung.
Nothing's for free. Except, one time, a trout-
A fellow's only catch that morning
And he gave the prize away,
A speckled parting gift wrung
From the waters of red-barn country.
Things knitted, too, things planted.
We made this for you. Always room in the house
For another. Good people among.
Posted by Phyllis Hunt McGowan at 1:01 PM
Friday, January 6, 2012
Years ago, many an unsuspecting youngster was sent down to the shops to procure a tin of Elbow Grease, only to find a knowing, smirky grin, and the shopkeeper's chuckling assurance that no such item was in existence.
Off home the child would then march, empty-handed, hands bunched into ready fists, boiling with rage at the adult who'd played such a trick, smarting equally from the shopkeeper's gloat.
Poor Mater: it happened to her the other day. Except that Elbow Grease wasn't the object; and besides that, the thing does, in fact, have a place in the world.
It was all that Mater wanted. She'd seen a nice little advertisement showing some merry people clad in red jeans and, although she'd never seen such things before, she decided- why not red jeans? Why not.
Off she went, gliding into a store in town.
"What?" the youth gasped at her. "What did you say you were looking for?"
"Red jeans," echoed Mater.
"Never heard of them," announced the fellow. "They don't exist."
"But I saw-"
"No such things."
"There was an advertisement-"
"Maybe another store would have-"
"They don't exist."
He was emphatic about the item's lack of existence. The discussion didn't so much draw to a close as it was slammed shut with a cling and a clang and some suitable, rusty-key-turning sounds, punctuated by the assistant tossing the proverbial key down his gullet and swallowing it.
From the proverbial key dangled a key chain which bore a miniature portrait of some happy people bedecked in their red jeans, but he gulped it too hastily for a terrifically baffled Mater to point out and use as evidence in her quest.
To prevent the fellow from performing such flimsy half-jobs in the future, I'd make sure to send him on a long, long journey to the shops to get a tin of Elbow Grease.
Posted by Phyllis Hunt McGowan at 3:28 PM