Health care reform, higher state taxes, potato blight, Taliban biggie obliterated, Eunice Kennedy Shriver in a coma (how can she possibly be 88!), all banished from our mental screens last week by the shooting deaths of two Rumford men.

If convicted of the killings, the two suspects will have taken their own lives, too. Nineteen and 20 years old,  they are children really. And former honor students at Mt. Valley High School.

  Now they are dehumanized images, clad in prison orange, that won’t go away.

Panning for gold in Coos Canyon was what I wanted to write about this week. Last Thursday afternoon, we took a ride up to the canyon through the beautiful broad valleys of Frye and then the narrow, wooded way through Roxbury and on to Byron.

The park area was bustling. Across the road, outside the Rock and Gift store, Bonnie White was demonstrating the art of panning for gold for some boys. Bonnie showed us how bits of gold stay on the bottom of the pan while first gravel, then sand slips over its tilted edge.

“How much are those (pinhead-size bits of gold) worth? $20?”

“More like 20 cents,” Bonnie replied. “Better pan for gold for the fun of it. Still you never know…” The boys eyes said they would hit pay dirt and have fun.

Coos Canyon Rock & Gift was established back in the 1950s by the present owner’s parents. Rosie White Susbury and family and friends now operate the business, which feels more like an avocation than a business.

Back in town and headed home, we came onto the Rotary at Memorial Bridge in Rumford Falls. The bridge was  cordoned off, emergency vehicles, back of the library blocked to traffic, helicopters over the river, curious onlookers on the sidewalks and roofs of nearby houses. More of the murder investigation?

The joy of our outing receded. Newsprint and tele news kept the ugly story before us till the arrests at week’s end. Then the story vanished from the media, but not from our minds.

Walking the dog on a lovely rural road last Saturday — brisk breeze blowing mosquitoes — gazing upon Whitecap, didn’t drive away the images of those accused boy-men.

In its May 19, edition, the Bangor Daily News carried a story about crime rates in Maine in 2008. The homicide rate, the article reported, jumped in 2008 to a 20-year high. Authorities account for the rise in part by the increase in multiple murders. Assaults and thefts also increased.

All other crime categories decreased. You may ask, what others could there be? Well, domestic violence, burglaries, among others.

Despite all the news coverage of crime and criminals, when you’re headed for Hannaford or Rite Aid, crime and criminals are under or beyond your radar. When a blip does make it to the mental screen, it isn’t immediately identified. Example: Another day last week, as I braked for the stop sign on River Street at Hartford I noticed a threesome crossing the street from the police station. One was in orange garb and seemed to be having difficulty walking, hands held in front. One man walked ahead, the other alongside the person in orange. This was, dear Lord, a prisoner, shackled and handcuffed and bound, no doubt for South Paris. Another once-real human being distilled, another image in orange.

Linda Farr Macgregor is a freelance writer. Contact her: [email protected]

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