Tuesday, April 04, 2006

From Away

Who uses it: Natives of Maine
What it means: People born anywhere else
How you can use it: To admit that you're a stranger here.

My young friend Grace, who was born in Maine, may live here her entire life, but will probably always say, when people ask if she's a native: "Yes, but my parents were From Away."

Maine is more welcoming than you might think, though, especially as more and more of us are From Away.

Dizzy and I were down at the river on Sunday afternoon, and he ran up to a couple who were fishing. I usually try to keep him away from the fishermen, who seem very serious and intent on their work, but this couple seemed happy to say hello, even when Dizzy nosed around their bait box.

"Does he like fish?" asked the woman, in a broad Maine accent.

"I don't know," I said. "He's never had any."

"Well, let's give him one and see," she said. "I've got a small one." She pulled a whole fish out of her box, about five inches long and still gleaming with river water.

"What kind of fish is that?" I asked.

"White perch," she said.

"Yellow," said her companion, in the same Maine accent.

"Yellow," she agreed. "The white perch don't start for another couple of weeks."

It took Dizzy a minute or two to figure out that the fish was food, not a toy. Once he did, he chewed it enthusiastically, working from both ends toward the middle. At the middle, he picked it up and shook it hard.

"Look at that, he's shaking the guts out," the woman marveled. "Are you sure he's never had a fish before?"

"No," I said. "Wow."

"He just knows," the man said.

"I'm Tricia," the woman said, extending her hand to me. "Steve," said the man, shaking my hand too.

They warned me not to let Dizzy eat any fish after June, when they get wormy, and they cautioned that fish sometimes has a laxative effect on dogs.

But Dizzy's shown no ill effects, other than smelling a little fishy, and we both felt welcomed, even though we're From Away.

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