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Friday, July 29th, 2022
Volume 31 Issue 8

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In This Issue of The Wood Prairie Seed Piece:

This edition of the Seed Piece may be found in our Wood Prairie Seed Piece Archives.

Maine Tales. Million Dollar Rain. Caribou, Maine. Circa 1981.

'Doss' Morse (1899-1992) and Etta Sharp Morse (1900-1984).
  Our close and kind neighbors spent a lifetime farming. Characteristically for the day, Doss virtually never wore the top button to his shirt unbuttoned, even on the hottest Summer day.  Etta was 16 before she ever laid eyes on Houlton, 25 miles away.  In a time and place when doctors were few and far between, Etta was midwife to the mothers of many children born on Bootfoot Road.

Our second nearest neighbors in the 1970s and 1980s were Joshua (‘Josh-ou-way’), nicknamed “Doss,” and Etta Morse. They lived less than a mile away. Doss’ father, Guy Morse, was born in Bridgewater but didn’t move to what was referred to as the ‘Wildlands’ in the west towards the end of the east-west Bootfoot Road until 1897. There he bought a plot to farm on the south side of Bootfoot in the 3x6-mile “Portland Academy Grant.” Two years later in 1899, Doss was born.

Guy Morse bought another lot in 1909 so he could clear the trees and make it into a farm to grow potatoes. This lot was the very last one on the north side of Bootfoot Road, located in the “Bridgewater Academy Grant,” also 3x6-miles. That lot abutted Township D, Range 2 WELS (“West of the Eastern Line of State”), the Unorganized Territory (‘UT’) township where our Wood Prairie Family Farm is located.

In 1920, Guy sold his end-of-Bootfoot farm to Frank Sharp. Frank, too had been born in Bridgewater. He had cleared some isolated forest land and farmed downstream (that’s to the east) and adjacent to the Whitney Brook, a half-mile from Bootfoot as the crow flies. Etta was Frank Sharp’s daughter, the youngest of five. She was born in 1900.

A Long Marriage

Well, as happens, Doss & Etta eloped into Canada in 1917. In time, that dust settled out and Doss & Etta Morse came to own their farm after Frank Sharp passed in 1931. So, once again it was back in Morse hands. They were married 67 years until 1984 when Etta passed. Doss lived another 18 years and he died in 1992.

Doss & Etta successfully held onto their farm through the highs and the lows, including during the hard Great Depression. Their farm was typical for the day; highly diversified and governed by careful Maine farmer frugality it supplied most all of their needs. They grew hay, oats and Irish Cobbler potatoes. A large garden featured beet greens, squash, Jacob’s Cattle Dry Beans and green tomatoes. Wood stoves kept their home warm and cooked their food. Etta made biscuits from scratch every day. Their everyday diet centered around Cobblers, Jakes and biscuits, morning, noon and night, seven days a week. They also kept cows, pigs and chickens. Etta would make butter to sell in Town to pay their taxes.

The Best Neighbors Are Farmers

They were good, kind neighbors and wonderful mentors. We valued them and their knowledge of farming. Typical of the generation which followed, their offspring developed interests away from the hard work of farming. Common to the era, Doss had gone to school through the 8th grade. Yet he was notably wise and knew at the very least something about virtually everything of importance to young aspiring farmers. Etta was the sweetest woman and the best cook in town. At her funeral in the Fall of 1984, the big Baptist Church in Bridgewater was elbow-to-elbow standing room only.

We both kept big gardens and in 1981 Northern Maine was having a very dry Summer. At the time we were also growing on our farm Strawberries, Jacob’s Cattle Dry Beans and Potatoes. That year, Maine had planted 106,000 acres to potatoes, most all of that acreage up here in Aroostook County. In those days, because of mostly reliable Summer rains it was rare for any Aroostook farmer to irrigate their potatoes. The dryness was holding back tuber sizing and taking quite a bite out of yields.

Million Dollar Rain

Then on a Monday in mid-August thunderstorms rolled in and blessed Bridgewater with two-and-a-half inches of very welcome rain. That afternoon, Jim was over at Doss and Etta’s house and the three of them watched the drought-crushing rain fall, appreciating the transformed prospects for crops that the rain meant. Doss summed it up when he exclaimed, “Jim, that’s a Million Dollar rain!”

To a hardworking Maine farmer who had persevered through a lifetime of struggle in order to hold onto the farm through thick and thin, the concept of a ‘Million Dollars’ represented a sum so vast that it was at the far end of comprehension. Doss was right several times over and this Bridgewater rain rescued that year’s local Maine Potato crop.

Now, while Bridgewater received a moderate rain, a particularly ferocious storm cell thirty-five miles north of us settled in on the Town of Caribou. The cell dumped 6” of rain and that caused flash flooding including right in downtown Caribou. One house was swept off its foundation and floated away down the Aroostook River. A flash flood on the Prestile Brook washed out a large culvert which crossed under the ‘Old Highway’ in Caribou (Rte 164) just south of McElwan House, now home to the Northern Maine Development Commission. A huge mini-Grand-Canyon was created and it took all Fall to rebuild the highway and stream crossing which has now withstood the pounding of subsequent storms over the past forty years.
  Caleb, Jim & Megan

Caleb & Jim & Megan Gerritsen
Wood Prairie Family Farm
49 Kinney Road
Bridgewater, Maine 04735
(207) 429 - 9765 Certified Organic, From Farm to Mailbox