SCORES & OUTDOORS: It’s the time of year to start watching out for the groundhogs on our roadways

Roland D. Halleeby Roland D. Hallee

Groundhog day was a little over two months ago. However, this is the time of year when they usually start to make their appearance, emerging from their dens following a long winter of hibernation. Until last Monday – when winter reared its ugly head, once more – it looked as if we would be seeing these little rodents soon. They may have rethought their intentions, and gone back to sleep.

Groundhogs, Marmota monax, also known as woodchucks, are a rodent, belonging to the group of large ground squirrels known as marmots. It was first scientifically described by Carl Linnaeus in 1758.

The groundhog is also referred to as a chuck, woodshock, groundpig, whistlepig, whistler, thickwood badger, Canada maramot, monx, moonack, weenusk, red monk, and, among French Canadians in eastern Canada, siffleux, which translates to whistler.

They are a lowland creature, found through much of the eastern United States across Canada and into Alaska. Adults are 16 – 20 inches long, including a six-inch tail, and weigh between 5 – 12 pounds. Extremely large individuals can weigh as much as 15 pounds.

The name woodchuck is unrelated to wood or chucking. It stems from the Native American Algonquian or possibly Narragansett word for the animal, wuchak. The similarities in the name led to the popular tongue-twister: “How much wood would a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood? A woodchuck would chuck all the wood he could if a woodchuck could chuck wood.”

Groundhogs prefer open country and the edges of woodlands, and is rarely far from a burrow entrance. It is typically found in low-elevation forests, small woodlots, fields, pastures and hedgerows. It constructs dens in well-drained soil, and most have summer and winter dens.

In the wild, groundhogs can live up to six years, although three years is the average. In captivity, they can live up to 14 years. Humans, dogs, coyotes and foxes are about the only predators that can kill adult groundhogs, with the red fox being the major predator. Young may be taken by owls and hawks.

According to studies, despite their heavy body weight, they are accomplished swimmers and will occasionally climb trees to escape a predator. They prefer to retreat to their den when threatened, and will defend themselves with their incisors and front claws. They are territorial among their species and will skirmish to establish dominance.

When alarmed, they will use a high-pitched whistle to warn the rest of the colony, hence the nickname whistlepig. They will also squeal when fighting, seriously injured, or caught by a predator. They will also produce a low bark and a sound produced by grinding their teeth.

They are excellent burrowers, using the burrow to sleep, rear their young, and hibernate. An excavated den can remove about six cubic feet of soil, on average, or almost five bushels per den. They are relatively large and include a sleeping berth and an excrement chamber.

The burrow can be a threat to agricultural and residential development by damaging farm machinery and even undermining building foundations. However, in a June 7, 2009, issue of the Humane Society of the United States, How to Humanely Chuck a Woodchuck Out of Your Yard, John Griffin, director of Human Wildlife Services wrote, “you would have to have a lot of woodchucks working over a lot of years to create tunnel systems that would pose any risk to structures.”

The burrow is used for safety, retreat in bad weather, hibernating, sleeping, love nest, and nursery.

Groundhogs are one of the few species that enter into true hibernation. In most areas they hibernate from October to March or April. They drop their body temperature, the heart rate falls to 4 – 10 beats per minute and breathing falls to one breath every six minutes. Researching the hibernation patterns of groundhogs may lead to benefits for humans, including lowering the heart rate in complicated surgical procedures.

Groundhogs are already used in medical research on hepatitis B-induced cancer. Humans can’t receive hepatitis from woodchucks but the virus and its effects on the liver make the woodchuck the best available animal for the study of viral hepatitis in humans. The only other animal model for hepatitis B virus studies is the chimpanzee, which is an endangered species.

Always thought to be a nuisance species, groundhog dens often provide homes for skunks, red foxes and cottontail rabbits. The fox and skunk feed upon field mice, grasshoppers, beetles and other creatures that destroy farm crops. In aiding these animals, groundhogs indirectly help the farmers.

Well, I had a groundhog living near my garden a few years ago, and he unceremoniously cleaned out all my string beans. Well, I unceremoniously captured him in a Hav-a-Hart trap, and relocated him to the wild, and wished him the best of luck.

Roland’s trivia question of the week:

Before Mookie Betts, who was the last Boston Red Sox player to win the American League batting title?

Answer can be found here.

Roland’s trivia question for Thursday, April 11, 2019

Before Mookie Betts, who was the last Boston Red Sox player to win the American League batting title?


Bill Mueller, 2003 (.326)

SOLON & BEYOND: Food cupboard at new location

Marilyn Rogers-Bull & Percyby Marilyn Rogers-Bull & Percy
Solon, Maine 04979

Good morning, my friends. Don’t worry, be happy!

Received an e-mail from Linda French which is very important. People seem to be having trouble with the new location of the food cupboard. It has been moved to 120 Pleasant Street, in Solon. Just before you turn onto the Brighton Road. It is open the second and fourth weeks of the month on Thursday and Friday. The hours are 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. The phone number to call is you want to check to see if it is open or if you need to make arrangements for a different time is 430388.

Received the following news by a letter from Charlotte Withee, in Anson: Athena Cemetery Association meeting at the Anson Town Office meeting room on Thursday, May 9, at 6:30 p.m.

I had begun to think spring was finally here. The snow had been melting every day, and it was beginning to look more like spring, but then I looked out the window, and it was snowing AGAIN! And it wasn’t long before I received an e-mail that school had been canceled in MSAD #54 schools because of the weather. So now I will have to call all my friends in our painting club at Skowhegan High School and tell them there won’t be any meeting tonight.

Lief and I went to the Solon Congregational Church sale last Saturday at Solon Elementary School, and were very impressed with all the people that had tables there, it was a great fair. Now, mustn’t forget Percy’s memoir; Never accept the negative until you have explored the positive.

As you know by now, I’ve been going through old clippings from old columns back when I used Salada Tea tag sayings (this one from December 2, 1994). “This week I’d like to thank Ben Safford for the tea tags that he saved for me, thanks so much Ben. And so from Salada Tea, Ben and me…“Time wounds all heels.” Now I must run and call all my friends to tell them there won’t be any painting class tonight!

Obituaries for Thursday, April 11, 2019


FAIRFIELD – Michael Stanley Sr., 49, passed away Friday, March 22, 2019, at MaineGeneral Medical Center, Thayer campus, in Waterville. He was born September 4, 1969, in Waterville.

He graduated from Lawrence High School, in Fairfield, in 1988. On June 13, 1992, he married Melissa Larsen, in Fairfield. He worked for Stanley’s Septic & Construction and owned and operated Mike Stanley’s sealcoating. He enjoyed spending time with family and working on his trucks.

Mike is survived by his wife of 26 years, Melissa M. (Larsen) Stanley; two daughters, Samantha M. Stanley, Shelby R. Stanley; son, Michael Stanley, Jr.; mother, Ruth Stanley; three brothers, Jack Stanley Jr. and wife Tina, Daniel Stanley Sr., Levi Stanley Sr. and wife Monique; sister, Elizabeth R. Hersey and husband John; 10 nephews, Jack Stanley and wife Sekora, Matthew Stanley, Joshua Stanley, Daniel Stanley Jr. and wife Paige, Levi Stanley, Jr., Carson Hersey, Tyler Hersey, Joshua Larsen, Jacob Larsen, Caleb Larsen; six nieces, Sarah Stanley, Jacqueline Stanley, Jennifer Wehry and husband Zack, Haley Hersey, Emily Hersey, Katelynn Larsen; two great- nephews, Jeremiah and Daniel; father-in-law, Arthur Larsen; mother-in-law, Joan Larsen; brother-in-law, Arthur B. Larsen and wife Sheri; Uncle Roland and Aunt Minnie Voisine; Aunt Elizabeth McDonnell; Uncle Albert and Juanita Smith; numerous cousins; dear friends, Paul St. Amand and family, Brian Scott and family, Bruce Scott and family. He was predeceased by many loved family members.

In lieu of flowers, gifts may be made to Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in memory of Michael to support cancer research and patient care at: Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, P.O. Box 849168, Boston, MA 02284
or via

Arrangements under the direction and care of Dan & Scott’s Cremation & Funeral Service, 445 Waterville Road, Skowhegan, ME 04976.


WINSLOW – Marilyn G. (Paquet) Theriault, 83, passed away Monday, March 25, 2019, at her daughter’s home, in Winslow. She was born February 22, 1936, in Winslow, the daughter of Emile and Florence (Massé) Paquet.

She was educated and graduated in the schools of Winslow. In August of 1956, she married Joseph A. Theriault, at St. John the Baptist Church, in Winslow. She was employed for many years as a waitress at the Silent Woman and Bonanza Restaurant, at Mamouth Mart and retired from Keyes Fibre (now Huhtamaki), all in Waterville.

Hobbies/interests include spelling bee champion, candle pin state champion bowler, Bingo Aficionado (enthusiast), loved couples dancing, camping and playing cards. Especially enjoyed spending time with her family and her grandkids. She will always be remembered for her quick wit and great sense of humor.

Marilyn is survived by four sons, Tim Theriault and wife Carmen, of Winslow, Ken Theriault and wife Lise, of Winslow, Tony Theriault and Karen, of Waterville, Joey Theriault and wife Michelle, of Winslow; two daughters, Fran Hudson and husband Mark, of Winslow, Sue Rodrigue and husband David,of Winslow; sister-in-law, Theresa (Theriault) Dutil and Husband Norman of Oakland; six granddaughters, Casey Ramsdell and husband Rusty, of Winslow, Lisa Meng, of Virginia, Julie Theriault, Elise Theriault and husband Mark Pelletier, Jayde Couturier and husband Garret, and Emilee Theriault, all of Winslow; seven grandsons, Jamie Theriault and spouse Johnathan Schulte, of Gorham, Chris Moser, and Cory Moser and wife Alex, all of Sidney, Travis Veilleux, of Unity, Seth Theriault, of Winslow, Nate Theriault and Ben Theriault, both of Connecticut; 12 great-grandchildren; sister Olivette Letourneau, of Winslow; five brothers, Leonel Paquet, Maurice Paquette and wife Claudette, Clarence Paquet and wife Yvette, Lawrence Jean Paquet and wife Mary Jane, of Winslow, Dave Paquet and wife Mary Ann, all of Winslow; several nieces, nephews, and cousins.

She was predeceased by her husband Joseph A. Theriault; parents, Emile and Florence Paquet; and siblings Dorianne Poulin, Marcel Paquet, Marriette Leavitt, Justine Dolham, Camile Paquet, Frances “Chic” Madore and sister-in- law Shirley Paquet.

In lieu of flowers, friends wishing may make donations in Marilyn’s memory to Alzheimer’s Association Maine, 383 US Route 1, Suite 2C, Scarborough, ME 04074.

Arrangements under the direction and care of Dan & Scott’s Cremation & Funeral Service, 445 Waterville Road, Skowhegan, ME 04976.


FAIRFIELD – Lawrence R. Robinson, 52, passed away on Tuesday, March 26, 2019, at home. Lawrence was a warrior that battled stage 4 pancreatic cancer for two years. He was born in Waterville, August 14, 1966, son of late Linda Robinson and Prescott Robinson, of Fairfield Center.

Lawrence attended Lawrence High School, in Fairfield. He was a very hard worker starting at a young age on farms. He worked for Maurice Bard Auto Body, C&J Trans­port, Valley Distributers and Town of Fairfield before building his own business, a heavy duty diesel truck garage, Robinson Repair. Lawrence had a unique set of skills that not many acquire. He was an incredibly knowledgeable superhuman that would help anyone. Lawrence loved working in his garage, antiquing, boating, hunting, fishing, jeeping, 4-wheeling, camping, snowmobiling, shooting guns, grilling, tractors and most of all spending time with his grandchildren, wife, family and friends.

Lawrence is survived by his best friend Rhonda, married on September 25, 1992, his daughter, Brandy; “son” in law Cameron; his granddaughter, Layla; grandson, Logan; Scott and Jenny Dostie, Nolly Dostie; Uncle Dale Adam ; two sisters, Robin and Donna; two brothers, Prescott and Robert.

He was predeceased by his mother Linda, his mother-in-law Laura Bennett, father-in-law Frank Bennett.

A celebration of life will be held on Sunday, April 7, 2019, from 1-6 p.m., at the VFW, in Fairfield.

In lieu of flowers, donations be made to Pancreatic Cancer Research at or MaineGeneral Homecare & Hospice care at

Arrangements under the direction and care of Dan & Scott’s Cremation & Funeral Service, 445 Waterville Road, Skowhegan, ME 04976.


PALERMO­­ – Stephen L. Haskell, 85, of Palermo, passed away on Friday, March 22, 2019,at Oak Grove Center, in Waterville. He was born in Palermo on April 3, 1933, the son of the late Wellman and Lucy (Fuller) Haskell.

Stephen attended Palermo schools and Erskine Academy, in South China.

He was a woodcutter, farmer, and an avid draft horse puller. He participated in professional draft horse pulling competitions in New England and Canada for 50 years, winning many blue ribbons and trophies. He enjoyed spending time with his nine grandchildren, 16 great-grandchildren, and one great-great-grandson. In recent years he also enjoyed spending winters in Florida.

He was predeceased by his parents, Wellman and Lucy Haskell; his spouse, Donna Jones Haskell; his siblings, Clayton Haskell, Jack Haskell, Joe Haskell, Bill Haskell, Pearl Hamilton, and Peggy Jones.

Stephen is survived by his companion, Donna Doolan; his children, Susan Cote and her husband, Paul, of Waterville, Steve Haskell and his wife, Mary, of Palermo, and Shirley Irish, of Winslow; and his sister, Rosalie Rood, of Albion.

A graveside service will be held on Sunday, May 5 at 1 p.m. at Greeley Corner Cemetery, in Palermo. Family and friends are invited to gather following the service at Steve and Mary’s at 515 Jones Rd., Palermo.

An online guestbook may be signed, and memories shared at

Arrangements are by Lawry Brothers Funeral & Cremation Care, 107 Main St., Fairfield.


WINSLOW – Lillian M. Webber, 93, of Winslow, passed away on Saturday, March 23, 2019, at MaineGeneral Medical Center, in Augusta. Lillian was born on April 17, 1925, in Waterville, the daughter of Mary (Battit) and Elias George.

She attended local schools and graduated from Waterville High School.

Lillian enjoyed knitting, crocheting, spending time with her family, and was a member of Maine Rebekahs for several years. Living on the family farm, Lillian found joy in bailing hay with her husband, Merton, and had a way it fun for everyone involved.She loved her time spent at Owl’s Head, watching her grandchildren play or just simply holding Merton[‘s hand while they sat on the porch watching the boats float by. She also adored her leisurely car rides to Cadillac Mountain, New Hampshire, or Small Falls with a picnic lunch packed.

Lillian will be remembered for her intelligence, kindness, strong will, her readiness to forgive, and her delicious cooking-especially Syrian food. She always made sure there was room at the dinner table.

Lillian was predeceased by her husband, Merton, in 2014; her twin brother, Elias, and her brothers, Richard, Charles and Adrian.

Lillian is survived by her son, Ron Webber and wife, Audré; daughter, Deirtra Wing and husband, James, daughter, Darlene Morissette; grandchildren, Michael Webber and partner, Jayda, Joey Morissette, Robert Morissette, Jasmine Webber and partner, Michael; great-granddaughters, Sierra and Jorga; brother, Joe George and wife, Lauretta, of Connecticut; as well as many nieces and nephews.

Please visit to view a video collage of Lillian’s life and to share condolences, memories, and tributes with her family.

For those who wish, donations may be made in Lillian’s memory to: MaineGeneral Hospice, Hathaway Creative Center, Suite 307, Waterville ME 04901.


GERALDINE H. QUIRION, 85, of Waterville, passed away on Tuesday, March 12, 2019, at Northern Light Continuing Care – Lakewood, in Waterville. Locally, she is survived by her children, Jerome Quirion, of Waterville, Patrick Quirion, of Benton and Carl Quirion and wife Janet, of Winslow.

SALLY L. SMITH, 89, of Augusta, passed away on Sunday, March 24, 2019, at the Maine Veterans Home, in Augusta, two days before her 90th birthday. Locally, she is survived by sons Fred Farrington and wife Gloria, of Sidney, and Emery Smith and wife Cindy, of Whitefield, and a daughter, Dianne Heino and husband, Michial, of Belgrade Lakes.

BARBARA W. MORSE, 84, of Waterville, passed away on Tuesday, March 26, 2019, at Oak Grove Center, in Waterville. Locally, she is survived a daughter, Beverly Busque and her husband André, of Fairfield.

WILLIAM W. NUTTING, 80, of Augusta, passed away on Thursday, March 28, 2019, at MaineGeneral Medidcal Center, following a brief illness. Locally, he is survived by a daughter Lisa Lapointe, of Vassalboro.

Selectmen to ask MDOT for new sidewalks

by Mary Grow

Vassalboro selectmen decided at their April 4 meeting to ask the Maine Department of Transportation (MDOT) to include new sidewalks in North Vassalboro as part of the Route 32 (Main Street in North and East Vassalboro villages) rebuilding project.

Lauchlin Titus and John Melrose voted yes; Robert Brown abstained. Only Titus lives on Main Street (North Vassalboro), and the sidewalk no longer reaches his house.

The reason for hesitation is that although the MDOT will pay for the sidewalks, the town is obligated to plow and sand them. The same rule applies to the existing sidewalks, which are at least 50 years old, audience members said, and have not been a high priority for maintenance.

Melrose, a former MDOT commissioner, said state law allows the state to plow sidewalks when a town doesn’t and to bill the town – but he never heard of the state invoking the law. Later in the evening, he told Budget Committee members that as far as he knows, no other Maine town has turned down state-funded sidewalks.

Before voting to sign the agreement promising to maintain state-provided sidewalks, Titus asked, “Can we in good faith sign something that says we’ll maintain them when we know we might not?”

Reasons for including new sidewalks are that state highway officials and some residents think curbed sidewalks are safer for pedestrians than a paved shoulder, and if Vassalboro decides after the Route 32 project is done to add them, the town will pay construction costs.

Since the project is scheduled for two or three years in the future, Titus said town officials have time to decide whether winter maintenance should be done by the town public works crew or contracted out.

North Vassalboro residents also raised again the issue of increased Vassalboro Sanitary District (VSD) fees.

The VSD needs money to complete its connection to the Winslow-Waterville sewage disposal system. Users have proposed a town meeting warrant article asking taxpayers for money; selectmen declined to add the article and advised on the procedure for putting an article before voters by petition.

Two other funding sources are in the works. Melrose said a decision should be made soon on a state Department of Environ­mental Protection grant; and Titus and Town Manager Mary Sabins said part of Vassalboro’s Tax Increment Finance (TIF) money is likely to be recommended for the VSD by the time the Budget Committee finishes pre-town-meeting deliberations. Almost $300,000 in TIF money has gone into the expansion project already, Titus said. When a resident said Sanitary District officials told him the district’s client list is not public information, Sabins suggested filing a Freedom of Information Act request.

In other business April 4, selectmen agreed to create a small working group to join discussion of rearranging the transfer station. Interested residents should contact town office staff.

Sabins said selectmen agreed to add to the June warrant an article concerning a solar array to generate electricity, without designating a location.

They asked her to seek legal advice on what new arrangement, if any, the town should seek concerning the Riverside fire station, currently used under an old agreement by which it would revert to the lessor – deceased, town officials believe – if the Riverside Hose Company no longer needed it.

Selectmen followed their April 4 regular meeting with an April 8 budget workshop. Melrose proposed three topics: reconsidering the appropriation for solid waste hauling in the transfer station budget; considering additional uses for TIF funds; and making the Public Works Department request for money for grader repairs more flexible, since the grader’s condition and therefore what to do about it are unknowns.

After more than an hour’s discussion, selectmen voted unanimously:

  • To recommend $10,000 less for solid waste hauling, based on the contract price for the service and manager George Hamar’s updated information on the number of trips;
  • To ask Sabins to find out what kinds of town activities and projects are eligible for TIF money; and
  • To ask Sabins to draft a town meeting warrant article asking voters to appropriate money for grader analysis, with anything left over to go toward paving as much as possible of the town garage driveway.

Sabins presented a new proposal, to share membership with China in ITN (Independent Transportation Network), at a cost of $1,000 to $1,250 per year. The organization relies on volunteer drivers to provide rides to senior citizens, with, apparently, freedom for participating towns to set some of their own rules and standards.

Sabins said Christopher Hahn, head of the China for a Lifetime Committee, proposed the joint project to Friends Advocating for Vassalboro Older Residents (FAVOR). Selectmen are interested but would like more information before recommending funds.

The next regular selectmen’s meeting is scheduled for Thursday evening, April 18.

2019 China town meeting: Selectmen, firemen get approval on stipend increases

by Mary Grow

With more than $3.5 million worth of 2019-2020 expenditures up for approval, change or rejection at China’s April 6 town business meeting, voters focused on $17,700 – a $13,700 difference between the lowest and highest amounts proposed for the volunteer fire departments and $4,000 to increase the five selectmen’s annual stipends from $1,000 to $1,800.

They were generous to both parties, and approved all other expenditures as proposed.

They also approved changes to the Land Development Code recommended by the planning board. After Board Chairman Tom Miragliuolo answered one question about tents and recreational vehicles, there was no further discussion of any of the changes.

China’s three volunteer fire departments, China Village, South China and Weeks Mills, and China Rescue are private organizations, not town departments. They are funded partly by the town and partly by fund-raisers and donations.

In the warrant, selectmen recommended $171,199 for fire and rescue services and the budget committee recommended $181,499, both by unanimous votes of the members present. The difference was over how much the departments should have to offer stipends to officers and to members responding to calls.

Aware of the months-long disagreement between selectmen and fire chiefs, veteran moderator Richard Thompson emphasized in his opening explanations the need for speakers to stick to the subject and to focus on issues, not personalities. His effort was mostly successful.

After Budget Committee Chairman Robert Batteese moved the higher amount for the fire and rescue budget, resident Sheryl Peavey promptly moved a still higher figure, $188,499, which she said was the departments’ initial request.

The underlying issue is less the money than selectmen’s concern that the firefighters are jeopardizing their volunteer status, resulting in tax complications, and their insistence that the departments should account to them for expending town funds – the fire chiefs agree – and for expending their other funds, something the chiefs have objected to.

China Village Chief Timothy Theriault said since the stipends started, his department has gained five new members, South China has gained three and Weeks Mills has gained two. He believes the stipends helped.

A two-page memo from Scott Cotnoir, Director of the Maine Department of Labor, spelled out requirements for reimbursing volunteers, requirements that Theriault said the departments can meet.

South China Chief Richard Morse and Theriault said the request is likely to change in the next few years as chiefs find out how much they actually need for stipends.

After a half-hour discussion, during which several speakers commended the firefighters and resident Donald Pauley rebuked the audience for quarreling over “a piddling amount,” the $188,499 was lopsidedly approved.

Asked about the increase in selectmen’s stipends, Town Manager Dennis Heath pointed out the footnote to the warrant article saying $1,800 was slightly below the current average for selectmen in 16 towns similar in size to China. Voters approved the increase by a counted show of voting cards, 64 in favor to 44 opposed.

The budget included in the 2018 town report shows expenditures and supporting revenues in detail, from employee salaries to charitable gifts.

Heath repeatedly said before the meeting that there would – or should – be a quorum, given the number of supporters of China’s Quorum Ordinance last November, and that the meeting would be shorter than usual. He was right on both counts: 119 voters had checked in by the 9 a.m. starting time (another 30 or so came in later), and the meeting lasted less than two hours.

Before the meeting started, Selectwoman Irene Belanger announced 2019 Spirit of America awards for volunteerism to the China Four Seasons Club and Carl and Phyllis Farris.

Local man’s latest adventure: Teaching in China

China, Maine’s Ron Maxwell, left, taking a selfie while on a field trip in China. (Photo courtesy of Ron Maxwell)

by Ron Maxwell

I had never properly left the United States until this last summer. I did go to Tijuana in high school and honeymooned in New Brunswick, but as neither of them was off the continent and both were brief visits to places less than an hour or two into their respective countries, I never really counted either of them. I have, however, taught middle school in rural Maine for 20 years so I am not a stranger to danger and intrigue.

When I tell people I teach at China Middle School, they always ask if the trip back here took a long time. I tell them it is an easy commute to Maine and we both laugh a little at how clever we are. But in all the years of pretending to teach in China, I never once thought I would get there. Until Bernie.

I hope there is a Bernie in your life. Someone whose good nature is never forced. Someone who genuinely is interested in the answer to his/her question, “How are you?” Someone who knows that s/he has an opportunity for you that would do you good and at which you would be good and doesn’t listen when you make silly excuses to say no.

Bernie told me he taught in China and I said I’ve taught in China for years, cleverly countering. Later, Bernie told me he taught in China during Christmas break and I said I’d never be able to make a break trip work, cleverly stalling. Later, Bernie told me I’d be good at it and I told him I had never traveled abroad, cleverly distancing. What I wasn’t ready for was when he was done playing nice. Last year, Bernie came back from China and said he had given my name to the people he worked with and I should email them. I did, and before I knew what was happening, I was on a plane to Shanghai, China.

Ron Maxwell in his classroom in Shanghai, China. (photo courtesy of Ron Maxwell)

Bernie was right about everything. Teaching in mainland China was an exciting adventure in a land truly foreign to me on many levels. One that challenged my craft in unforeseen ways and rewarded me in ways I cannot explain. I am going to share with you three things I brought away from my latest adventure, teaching in China.

1) Teaching in China was familiar and challenging to my understanding of the craft of teaching. I worried about how well it would go and prepared for months beforehand, but in the moment I stood in front of the class in China I realized that children are children wherever you find them. I realized that, for all the worry that they would be an unknown, I was looking at the same general personality types that I had seen for years in the States and that it was going to be all right.  My ideas, techniques, and mannerisms that worked to motivate and inspire my Maine students worked in China.

The challenge came in that I no longer had my greatest tool, the command of the native language of my students. Now, I consider a common language with my students a teacher’s greatest and most “taken-for-granted” tool. I never realized how important it was until it was not there for me to fall back on. All the clever banter I thought I had was useless. All the Disney references I cultivated over the years were not there (except for “just keep swimming,” which worked). My students in China distilled my technique for me, forcing me to speak directly and obviously and to draw or show whenever possible. Being forced to do those things that are good teaching is making me a better teacher.

A street in Shenzhen, China. (photo courtesy of Ron Maxwell)

2) Being immersed in a foreign culture is a good experience.  When I wanted to buy sugar at the local store the clerk looked at me and bruskly said, “No English,” while walking away. So, I went back to the WiFi of my room and looked up sugar in my dictionary, played the word several times, wrote it down and went back to the store. I showed the writing to the same clerk and made an attempt at saying sugar. The effect was magical as the disinterested man of before disappeared to be replaced by someone who was so pleased by my attempt to be understood that he took me to a bag of crystals I had walked by earlier. He did laugh at my pronunciation and corrected it for me, but it started a working relationship that I came to consider a “home” in this world I did not know. Every day I tried a new phrase or word, and every day he would patiently correct while smiling. I won’t claim proficiency, but now I can manage a couple of phrases that sound vaguely correct, though I do still get corrected with a smile some of the time.

I never felt lonely, because the many teachers I worked with in China formed a group that did things together and had adventures during the off hours in a camaraderie that was another “home” in China. The wandering together led to wandering alone and I found myself walking and smiling and buying things while speaking terrible Chinese and enjoying learning everything. Giving something to someone else in China can be done as a polite gesture by using both hands. Walking in the wrong lane, the bike lane, for example, leads to being honked at by scooters. Not the brash cussing out that I heard from car horns in the States, but a gentle tap or two that reminded me of where I should not be. Being forced to learn a new culture is making me more appreciative of the similarities between our cultures and more at ease in learning a new one.

Dinner is being served for Ron Maxwell during his teaching stint in China. (photo courtesy of Ron Maxwell)

3) The challenge of navigating a foreign culture places you at the mercy of strangers, which teaches humility and patience. Teaching in the same school for 20 years leaves one with a sense of security that can lead to pride. Everything is predictable and known. Procedures are simple because of practice. When I sat at breakfast on my first day in China I was completely captivated. Everything was new and I understood none of it. On the left of the room were steam tables filled with magical smells of exotic food. On the right were tables where people sat in various and unfathomable groupings. The language that flowed musically in my ears meant nothing to me: I had looked and thought about Chinese but I knew next to nothing. All my ears heard was the magic of tones which combined to make breakfast music. But to get there I had needed a kind greeter who took my breakfast card and pointed me toward a stack of plates and chopsticks with an open hand wave, a small head bow, and a smile.

Being helped reminds one, both of what one doesn’t know and what a blessing it is to be shown the right way to do things. It wasn’t until I was balancing plates that I realized there were no empty tables. The challenge became that I had to find a seat with complete strangers. Imagine my joy when none of those who I joined moved or forbade my sitting. I was greeted with smiles and nods of welcome. That reception was not unique. I cannot recount the number of times a kind stranger assisted me while I was overseas. In many different places, I humbly accepted help in day to day life from complete strangers. Humility is a difficult lesson to learn, and it took time and repeated exposures.

The second part of the lesson came on return to the States where I was at home. I started to see the same lesson from the other side and was able to assist others. It is very easy to be proud and demand, both when you are at home and when you are a visitor. Seeing this interaction from both sides has made me better. Seeing it at middle age brings thoughts of how young and old interact and can look after each other.

I have now gone to China twice in a calendar year, with the first being to Shanghai during last summer break and the most recent to Shenzhen during Christmas break. I enjoyed both experiences in more ways than I can recount. I did come home willingly both times, but I am still new to travel and 20-plus years of marriage has me rootbound in Maine.  I will go back every summer session the MAST Stem Academy will have me because the experience is worth it for my own growth and for the joy that each trip brings. If you are a science teacher and need a new challenge to your ability and notions and complacency, I can suggest a place in China you can grow. I will be your Bernie.

SOLON & BEYOND: Activities at Somerset Woods, model aircraft flyers

Marilyn Rogers-Bull & Percyby Marilyn Rogers-Bull & Percy
Solon, Maine 04979

Good morning, my friends. Don’t worry, be happy!

Received the following e-mail from Somerset Woods Trustees: Forest Birds, Save-the Dates, & Weston Woods & Waters. SWT Hosts Audubon’s “Forestry for Maine Birds” at Weston, Madison. Did you know that Maine is said to be a “baby bird factory?” Do you love birds and would like to learn how to maintain your forests to improve the habitat for more bird species? There will be a meeting on the above on Monday, June 10, from 4 – 8 p.m. Register at There is a book called Guidebook for Foresters Managing Woodlots ‘With Birds in Mind.

I am going to give you the dates in April when the Weston Woods and Waters will be having other events, Save-the-Dates. April 25: Eaton Kennebec River Trail workday: Ready to use those loppers? We are looking for folks to help us improve SWT’s Eaton River Trail on East River Road in Skowhegan.The time will be 3 – 6 p.m., on this date to help us get this trail ready for the summer. Once you see Eaton Rivers trails, it’s going to be one of your favorites! More details to follow asap!

Another event the Somerset Woods Trustees are having is on Saturday, April 27: Earth Day, Kennebec Banks Picnic Area Clean-up (April 28 rain date) from 1 to 4 p.m. Can you help us spruce up our popular Kennebec Banks Picnic Area? Every year many wonderful volunteers help us clean-up the area. Please join us! With your help we hope to be even more ambitious by picking up litter from the east side of the Eddy to the picnic area and boat launch. ( According to the e-mail I received, there aren’t any events listed for the month of May at this time.)

I received the following e-mail from one of the members of the Franklin County Aircraft Modelers Club. It starts, “We Dare You! To Actually Fly .”This is not a game, so you’ll find no reset buttons here.

We want you to experience the excitement and satisfaction of piloting model air planes.

Today there are so many aircraft models to choose from: Fixed Wing land and float planes, Sail – Helicopter Quad.

We have models you can borrow to train and with free instruction!

Scale and 3-D, All flown safely – remotely, using either ground view or from aircraft perspective (FPV).

Indoor flying is held at the Calvary Pentecostal Church, in Madison, summer flying places are at Whispering Pines, on the Embden Road, and at Lily Pond, in Concord. (Any of you who know Lief, know how much he enjoys anything to do with planes and flying, is a member of this club.)

Received the following e-mail from Angela Stockwell, of the Margaret Chase Smith Library, in Skowhegan: Cold temps but warmer days give us hope that spring is around the corner. The March newsletter is available for viewing and features Director David atop a snow bank that touches the roof. And we just discovered that Georgia McKearly is a songwriter! And with all the talk about “the wall” a featured article describes the Berlin Wall with a photo of MCS standing outside the Brandenburg Gate. The U.S. Senate Youth Program selections were made and two students from Maine traveled to Washington DC. One regional contest for National History Day in Maine has been held; one more to go, and then on to the state competition. Scholars continue to study the career of Margaret Chase Smith.

And here is Percy’s memoir for this week, cheerfully called: “Welcome Spring.” O welcome Spring! We’ve waited long To feel your touch and hear your song, To smell your flowers-scented breeze, And view again your blossomed trees. O welcome Spring! We’re glad you’re here To spread your beauty and good cheer. You bring god’s vivid promise true… That all things shall be born anew. ( words by Beverly J. Anderson.)

I’M JUST CURIOUS: Old newspaper clippings

Shared by Debbie Walker and Dee Dillaman

You know I love to read and so does Ms. Dee. Since I have been here in Florida, Dee as has been cleaning out her sewing room to give it some order, she has been sharing old newspaper clippings with me. I hope you enjoy them as we have today and once again cut them out to save for younger generations!! They will always bring a chuckle. What follows is not intended to offend anyone:

Letter from Mom

Dearest Redneck Son,

I’m writing this slow because I know you can’t read fast. We don’t live where we did when you left home. Your Dad read in the newspaper that most accidents happen within 20 miles of your home, so we moved. I won’t be able to send you the address because the last Louisiana family that lived here took the house numbers when they moved so they wouldn’t have to change their address.

This place is really nice. It even has a washing machine. I’m not sure about it. I put a load of clothes in it and pulled the chain. We haven’t seen them since. The weather isn’t bad here. It only rained twice last week; the first time for three days and the second for four days.

About that coat you wanted me to send; your Uncle Billy Bob said it would be too heavy to send in the mail with the buttons on, so we cut them off and put them in the pockets.

Bubba locked his keys in the car yesterday. We were really worried because it took him two hours to get me and your father out.

Your sister had a baby this morning, but I haven’t found out what it is yet so I don’t know if you are an Uncle or an Aunt.

Uncle Bobby Ray fell into a whiskey vat last week. Some men tried to pull him out but he fought them off and drowned. We had him cremated, he burned for three days.’

Three of your friends went off a bridge in a pickup truck. Butch was driving. He rolled down the window and swam to safety. Your other two friends were in the back. They drowned because they couldn’t get the tailgate down!

There isn’t much more news at this time. Nothing much out of the normal has happened.

Your favorite Aunt,

This one is how I feel sometimes with computers:


I never could admit defeat. But now it’s clear – I’m obsolete.
When I hear someone say “dot-com,” I don’t know where they’re coming from.
A mystery that I still don’t get, Is what and where is the Internet?
When Larry said he had a mouse, I said, “Well, fumigate the house!”
Am I the only living female, Who doesn’t understand e-mail?
I always vote and pay my taxes, But I’m not sure just what a fax is.
Nor do I quite know what it means, When people go to church in jeans.
It doesn’t matter what we wear, The main thing is that we are there.
Sometimes, I must tell myself. “You’re old. You belong on the shelf!”
But really, that’s not hard to bear – I’m obsolete and I don’t care!

From “Nuggets and Doozies,” of Ann Landers.

Check out Creators Syndicate Web page:

Of course, I am just curious if you are still chuckling after reading this. I sure hope so. Don’t forget to cut out and share. Contact me at Thanks for reading!

REVIEW POTPOURRI – Book: Above Suspicion by Joe Sharkey

Author Joe Sharkey

Peter Catesby Peter Cates

Above Suspicion
written by Joe Sharkey; published 1993, St. Martin’s Paperbacks, 310 pages.

Above Suspicion is the account of an eastern Kentucky woman, Susie Smith, murdered back in 1989 by the area FBI agent, Mark Putnam, also a married man with whom she was having an affair. The murder case has sustained interest since then with films, other books and droves of media coverage while this title was turned into a film a year ago. Meanwhile the author Joe Sharkey has been working on an updated edition.

I have dipped into it as I frequently do these days with the many read and unread books around here, not finishing that many.

The author has a gift for narration and a sense of humor. So I offer an example referencing the criminal element in those Kentucky mountains:

To a bank robber, eastern Kentucky offers unusual challenges and unusual opportunities. In some ways, it is not an ideal place to rob a bank. For one thing, the region has an FBI office, and bank robbery has been a federal crime since John Dillinger’s days. For another, robbing a bank is usually a daylight pursuit requiring the capacity to get away in a car – not an easy task in a place where the roads run up one side of a mountain and wind down the other, and the nearest interstate is two hours of bad road away.

But on the other hand, banks in isolated mountain settlements tend to be guarded with about as much fortification as a hot dog stand, in towns without full-time police protection. So they draw free-lance opportunists who haven’t always clearly thought through their plans, such as the robber who hid on a bank roof to pounce on the driver from the Piggly-Wiggly store making his night deposit – and missed, knocking himself out cold in the parking lot. Or the hapless gang who held up a bank on Peter Creek, found themselves stranded when the getaway driver got lost en route, politely borrowed a teller’s car keys, and ran out of gas a half mile down the road.

I notice the rave reviewers mention nothing about the humor.