This week we posted a few photos from some recent excursions to Aroostook County Maine. My folks were born and raised there, and recently my mother and her husband Paul have retired and returned to Aroostook, so it has given me many opportunities to visit and reconnect with my ancestry.
Whenever I say I am going to Maine people from here, think I am talking about Downeast. You know, lighthouses, lobster (lobstah), and beautiful beaches. Folks from Downeast pronounce car; cah and Bar Harbor; Bah Hahbah. Yeah, they have a slight twang to their speech, it’s quaint, but that’s NOT where I am going.
Maine is like two separate states, the Coast, and the county. Keep in mind; Maine has sixteen counties, but when you say “THE COUNTY,” everyone knows you mean Aroostook. It’s nearly a 600 mile trip from my door to my mother’s place, roughly 9 hours of driving if you don’t stop too long. The only comfort you have when traveling to Aroostook is that when you get into Maine, the speed limit changes to 70. Then when you get past Bangor, the limit goes up to 75 so you can roughly do about 80 – 85mph (sssh, you didn’t hear that from me), so it makes the trip go a little faster.
Aroostook is the largest county in Maine with the county seat being Houlton. The population based on 2010 figures is roughly 71,000 people.
My folk’s little town of Saint Agatha has about 800. Besides potato farming, timber, and paper used to be the top industries. Paper production has since waned, but potato farming and timber are still the predominant industries.
While Downeast has the slight pronunciation variables, northern Aroostook is predominantly English and French. The area has a rich Acadian culture as is evident by the Acadian flags and stars you see everywhere.
The last part of the journey; from Houlton to Saint Agatha is about 100 miles, ALL back road. For some reason, the wisdom of the county folks hasn’t seen fit to extend I-95 to the hinterlands so the rural route we must travel.
I don’t mind it really, you will notice some pretty neat things along the way; that is if you take the time to look but when you get up there, there is one thing that is noticeable immediately, and it hits you like a ton of bricks, and that is the air! It’s clean, or at least it smells clean. It’s like when your mom used to hang sheets on the line and then you got into bed that night, that type of thing.
Depending on when you visit, you can smell the tilled up soil too, it’s intense. I have allergies, but when I am up there – I barely notice them. There is little in the way of manufacturing and little vehicle traffic by comparison, so there is not a lot of air pollution going on.
The other thing you pick up on is everyone is on the lookout for Moose, not because they enjoy seeing the big critters, but because many folks have died or were seriously hurt when their car hits them. The first thing my mom asks when I arrive is “did you see any moose?” Moose are big, and not too bright, so they have no qualm about tangling with your automobile or light-duty pickup truck if they feel a threat. So if you see a car flashing you their high beams, it’s not because there is a cop hiding out in a speed trap ahead, it’s because you are heading into moose danger, so you need to be wary! The DANGER is real people! Oh yeah one other thing, Moose are wild animals, don’t be stupid and think you can pet them or get close to them. Like any wild animal, it’s best to give them their leave and admire their beauty from a distance.
Over the next several months we are going to be featuring images from the County in our 500px gallery, Facebook and here on our website. My goal is to shoot more there, from the timber lines to the ice fishing cabins on the lakes, from the scenery to the people, I want to show you what it’s like to be from there, to live there, so stay tuned!