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Mervyn The Hired Hand

Maine Christmas Humor

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Mervyn The Hired Hand

Maine humorist Tim Sample tells a Christmas story about his uncle’s little general store in Eastport, ME. I can’t tell the same story, certainly not like he does, but here’s the overall gist of it.

Tim says he spends a lot of time at Unc’s store up to Eastport. It’s beautiful there. Unc says if you could buy a Greyhound bus ticket with a food stamp, we’d all be up there.

His Unc has a reputation for snappy answers. He says its nothing special, and it wouldn’t be so easy if folks didn’t ask such dumb questions.

In Eastport, they get two TV stations. One from Bangor has all the old movies and Slim Whitman ads. I’d like to know how Slim Whitman sold 40 million hits before I ever heard of him.

The second station is a public access cable station in East Millinocket. They mounted a video camera in a corner of one of the local paper mills that shoots down at the floor, so you can see who’s working what shift. If you don’t come from that town, its probably not very interesting. Tim generally turns it off after three or four hours.

One day a rock and roll band came into Unc’s store rather late at night around 7-8:30, dressed up in performance costumes and makeup. They poked around awhile looking at everything. Finally one of them came up to the counter and asked if they had any live entertainment in this town. Unc looked at him for a moment before saying: “Well, I guess it looks like we do now.”

Unc didn’t go all out over Christmas the way some stores do. His idea of the holiday season was a string of lights around the beer sign that he turned on at Christmas time. But one day he was looking at a Sunset House catalog and on the very last page he found something he just had to have. It was a semi-life sized display made of genuine reinforced durable Styrofoam of Santa Claus and eight reindeer, plus one with a flashing red light on its nose. Well, Unc placed his order right away.

Some months later it arrived in a large package from the “ups” man, complete with brackets and instructions. Unc immediately set about assembling it on the roof of the store. When it was all put together, it looked wicked good, just marvelous, slick as a cup of custard up there. It got to be quite a hit in the area. Folks would pull into the parking lot, line up their pickups side by side and sit there eating cheese nabs for hours talking about it.

One night he was restocking the Slim Jims and pickled eggs—you know the pickled eggs. Aint they some nasty? Every general store seems to have them on the cashier’s counter in a large half jar of murky water. You stamp your foot on the floor and those eggs jiggle! Tim always wonders who ate the rest of them? And what did they use to fish them out with?

He also says if he was starving to death on a desert island and crawled up a hill to find a jar of pickled eggs there, he’d keep right on crawlin.

It was busy that night in the store when the commotion started: Bang, bang, bang! Everybody hit the deck. Unc knocked over a whole rack of Christmas tree air fresheners that had probably been there since the war (not saying which war), right on top of Tim.

When the shooting stopped, they heard a big car pull up and it later appeared from tracks in the snow that all four doors of the car had opened and somebody had gotten out of each of them. Unc suspected it was some out of state hunters up to Maine looking for deer.

From the meandering of their tracks in the snow, it appeared they had found a good deal of beer instead. Apparently they had seen the beer sign in the store window, and pulled into the parking lot. Then they saw the eight deer on the roof.

Unc doesn’t usually hold things against anybody, especially if they’re loaded, but what happened next kinda ticked him off. The hunters blasted those Styrofoam deer on the roof all to pieces, climbed up on the roof, dragged down the pieces, strapped them on the fenders of the car and drove off. Santa remained unscathed.

Tim told Unc he could console himself with the knowledge that somewhere in New Jersey there was a freezer load of Styrofoam.

A funnier version of this story is available on a recording by Tim Sample entitled “Back in Spite of Popular Demand” from Bert and I, Dept. C, P.O. Box 666, Ipswich, MA 01938. Used by permission.

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