It’s mid-March in South Bristol, Maine. The flora and fauna have not yet shown themselves to be into the resurrection-of-life phase of the calendar year. Well, let me qualify that—this morning two deer were seen foraging on the far side of the ice and snow encrusted pond that lies behind my house. That could be an early sign of many changes that will soon arrive.
Maine has more than long winters to deal with in its competition with other northern-tier states for the economic activity that brings taxable revenues from their own residents and from hoped-for waves of summer visitors with their eyes on a good time, good eats and the exhilaration of adventure in unspoiled places—on the water, in the mountains and far from the madding crowd. All of that requires preparation. Calendars must be cleared for the performance of the annual task of making ready. March, the time of tenacious ice and snow, is the first of several visitor-forbidding winter-recovery months set aside to prepare facilities for visitors, commercial and family alike.
There are similarities to spring training in the world of baseball: Every year is a new season; new people and new ideas are given playing time. Some succeed; most do not. But the need to cull the roster and slot in new talent is part of the ritual. If you don’t do it your neighbor will. Where do you think the lobster roll came from?
In this annual bazaar, March is a prime time for metaphorical and actual scraping and painting. March is the cold, wet shoulder between winter escapes to Florida and the arrival of the good weather that will bring Maine-loving visitors. It is “mud season” that will lead into “black fly season.” There are no strangers about, but their imminent presence, with associated demands, needs and spendable income, is palpable. What better time for spring cleaning than the month that offers reliable snow melt, mud, basement flooding and insect mass arrivals?
The above mention of baseball allows me to insert this further observation on Maine and March: Waldoboro, the birthplace of Clyde Sukeforth and many other Sukeforths, is a typical small coastal Maine town near me. Clyde, a baseball legend, was born there in 1901 and died there in 2000. He played catcher for the Reds and Dodgers when young enough for that, then scouted and signed Jackie Robinson (and many others) for the Dodgers. A hunting accident early in his career damaged an eye. He continued to play, but his ability to hit was compromised. The fact that Clyde played baseball in the major leagues at all is surprising. The baseball season does not begin here till June, when the ground warms enough for grass to grow.
Beginning in March, the local papers advertise for help wanted for the coming needs of tourist service businesses for June, July and August when camps, marinas, restaurants, gift shops, farm stands and supermarkets will strain to keep up with the good fortune of having their raison d’être validated by another spike in demand. There is always greater need for than local supply of these seasonal workers, who are mostly young, mostly students, otherwise unemployed, and lacking the qualifications for high-paid summer internships elsewhere. They are the counterbalance to a more privileged and older Maine swarm behavior group: summer visitors. Both are essential to the Maine economy. Some four-season residents speak ill of these summer people, but do not be misled—both groups are welcome here in “Vacationland,” not only for their contribution to the economy but also for the social window on the rest of the country that they open to us each year.