If you have to have a blowout …


If you have to have a blowout, let it be in Rumford. A few Saturdays ago – a perfect day of sun and breeze – I was motoring along Route 2, past Marden’s and Teena’s, taking the long curve that comes before Sam’s and Z&Z’s and the truck turnout on the right. The car windows were open to the bright day, so when I heard a kind of rhythmic popping sound, I thought, how annoying, and I closed the windows. But wait, haven’t you heard that sound before? I pulled into the turnout. Right front tire had blown. My first thought: I’ll never get to McKennel in time to pick up the dog. Second thought: left the cell phone at home. Like always.

I had heard that sound before, in the passing lane on I-95 in Peabody, Mass. Horrors. Barely got off the road, then waited for hours and hours to be rescued.

But this was one beautiful morning in the River Valley. A very different story: Laura McKenna tried to get her cell phone to work while I admired the strawberries she had for sale. But she got no reception. Didn’t look as if Dick Pratt or Jean Arsenault, both with merchandise on sale, had their cell phones either, so I crossed Route 2 and put my problem to Amy Martin.

I used her phone to call home: Jim would have to fetch the dog from McKennel’s before Marcia closed for the day. Then, Amy asked, “You have triple A?” I do. “Hold on.” She called the AAA rescue worker on duty. The list she gave him included two flat tires (mine and one in Mexico) and a tow. Sam will be right along.

Back on the other side of Route 2, I forgot about Triple A Sam because I got to talking with Dick Pratt about his Adirondack chairs – and the oil to weatherproof them – and cradles and kid-size rocking chairs. He showed me pictures of cribs he’d made for his grandchildren as well as a pump-car. I bought a quart of beautiful strawberries from Laura McKenna and then I wandered over to where Jean Arsenault was selling moose racks. He takes to the woods on snow shoes to collect them. But “business is slow…oil prices maybe.”

Ed Mercier had set his chair up next to Jean’s and they were visiting. Ed asked if I was related to Peter MacGregor. Ed remembers hunting coons with him: “I was just a kid. He was quite the outdoorsman.”

Sam called out, “Hey, your tire is all set” just as I identified the singer and the song playing behind Jean and Ed – Louis Armstrong, “It’s a Wonderful World.”

High summer

August tomorrow, but we were almost done with July before a real sense of summer settled in. Seems as if those beautiful bales of hay and all the sweet smells appeared overnight, but the hayers know better. Last week, small crowds at the Covered Bridge in Andover braved the frigid water. Andover Old Home Days happens this weekend. Sudbury Days in Bethel is just a few weeks away.

I haven’t seen a “raspberries for sale” sign at Rameys’ yet, and the annual blueberry excursion lies ahead. But soon.

Labonville’s parking lot is a fine location for Friday’s Farmers Market where Dave Kimball was selling perfect little red potatoes last week. There’ll be beans any minute.

Back here in our rocky garden, we are happily picking wonderful lettuce and basil and anticipating our own modest bean crop and broccoli, too.

Too savvy now to be smug – remember the Barker boys are neighbors – still, I was feeling upbeat about our crops when I ran into Dee Holman at Hannaford’s deli counter late last week. At her suggestion I’m grating soap to ward off the varmints who got under or through the electric fence when the battery went dead. The broccoli crop will be a while yet. But working the garden – even ours – can be cathartic: “Take that, you bully,” I say to the relentless grass. “Thanks for being here for us,” to the squash.

August tomorrow. The time of the summer visitors. Very welcome visitors: family and friends we see too little of, people who refresh and enlarge our appreciation for this place and its many kind people. It’s a wonderful world.

Linda Farr Macgregor lives with her husband, Jim, in Rumford. She is a freelance writer and author of “Rumford Stories.”