Counting On a Crow

My local paper recently published this account of a popular local character who happened to be a crow. Smokey the crow was, by this account, bright and mischievous, as well as friendly and talkative. Among other exploits, he was known for stealing parking tickets from cars and trinkets from stores. One of his human friends taught him to say “Hello.” He was so devoted as a companion that he followed his friend along on his paper route. The crow was so well-known as a beloved scamp that his death rated a front-page obituary in the paper.


Fight Like a Girl

My local paper carried a story today about an elderly lady who still hauls a mean load of firewood, thanks to a childhood on the farm and a career as a pro-wrestler. I have seen a few stories about former roller derby queens but this one was a first. Ann Lake is enshrined in the pro wrestling hall of fame for her feats, along with her sister and former tag team partner. Eventually, her sister retired to raise a family but Ann stayed with the sport until a broken ankle sidelined her.

In one passage, she describes squaring off with her sworn enemy, Slave Girl Moolah:

“She thought wrestling was about beating the daylights out of you,” Lake says. “One night I said to her, ‘I’ve had enough of this. You hit me one more time the way you hit me last time and you better make sure the first (punch) counts, because otherwise you won’t get up.’ She never hit me again.”

An historian writing about Ms. Lake reminds us towards the end of the article what a lot of moxie it took to be a “lady wrestler” 60 years ago in the US:

“They stood outside of the boundaries of the image of what a woman should be (back then),” Burke says. “They had to have a lot of gumption.”

A Recipe for Heroics

Central Maine newspapers ran a story today about a man who risked life and limb to hide and help smuggle out Americans on the run from hostage takers in Iran in 1979. The hero, a Thai cook who eventually settled in Western Maine and opened a restaurant, responded to a request from an American diplomat who had given him a job: would he find a place for five embassy employees who ran out a back door when the rebels jumped the fence? The cook, Smojai Sriweawnetr, willingly stowed the five away in the house of another former employer. Eventually, he realized that observant neighbors were growing suspicious of the amounts of food coming into the house and the drawn curtains so he devised another hideout. The new location, however, proved to be too exposed. The group was finally rescued by Canadians, while their Thai guardian struggled to safely extricate himself from a now deadly situation. After a year on the run, a penniless and desperate Smojai finally acquired a ticket to his home country with help from the Swiss embassy. American friends, grateful for his heroism, brought him to the US. If it all sounds like a movie, it is one: Argo. However, that version of the story omitted the entirety of this remarkable story line. Time for someone else to set the record straight.

Riding with a Cause

I found this piece in my local paper last fall:

Here is the story of a couple whose marriage was torn asunder by tragedy and resurrected by their joint love of motorcycles and desire to honor the memory of their son.

“Julian and Betsy Harwood, of Manchester, will get on the bike again on Saturday and ride in memory of their son, Talon, who died after suffering an asthma attack seven years ago. The Harwoods hope more than 100 other riders will join them on the third annual Talon Harwood Memorial Ride, which is raising money for LifeFlight of Maine. This year, the ride will take on even more meaning.

“Because we’re getting married this year there may be quite a showing,” Julian Harwood said.

The couple divorced in 2009, three years after Talon’s death and just a few months shy of their 20th anniversary. The strain of dealing with their son’s death was a big part of the reason the couple decided to split up, Julian said.

Their marriage ended on paper, but the couple’s relationship never really did. The Harwoods, a former Hallowell police officer and a nurse, continued to spend time together, much of which was spent on Julian’s motorcycle.

“We rode the first 5,000 miles without saying a word to each other,” he said. “It was kind of our church. That’s how we got back together.”

He bought the bike, which a fellow police officer rode in the procession at Talon’s funeral, a couple years after his son’s death.

“I’d never ridden a motorcycle before,” Harwood said.
On Saturday, the two will say their vows at Pemaquid Point. They will promise each other they will keep riding together, no matter how scary or tragic the trip gets.

The two began to reconnect on their rides and they were introduced to communities, like the Defenders Motorcycle Club, who helped lift them out of the grief they continued to carry with them.

“The whole community helped us get back together,” Harwood said. “The pain will never go away. You just find a better way to deal with it.””