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  • You hear it a lot. Follow your dreams. I did one time.

    The Common Ground Fair in Maine is an alternative, organic, ponytailesque, version of a more traditional State Fair. There aren’t the carny games, no flashing lights, neither rides nor midway freaks and fantasies. But it does have all the fancy breeds of chickens, prize sheep and goats, blue-ribbon home made products, herbs and crystals, workshops and product demonstrations, bluegrass and newgrass music, dream catchers and dream weavers galore. It is a feast for the heart, mind and senses. The last two, and only times, I went was back in the late 1980s. We were young and we were going to make some serious cash.

    Claire and I left baby Carly with my parents the first time. It was our first trip off the island in what seemed like forever. The fair was everything we’d dreamed of. People doing what we were doing. Crowds of people all come together to share the dream of living on the land, living from the land, living with the land. It was energizing and inspirational.

    We chatted up the lady with a pony cart. Checked in with the solar power guy. Looked at composting innovations. Compared our garden’s production with the vegetables on display. Took notes on goat raising, soap making, and 1001 uses for seaweed. And the food. The food was the best. We ate lamb kabobs, stuffed potatoes, organic sausages with special relishes, hand cranked ice-cream and more and more.

    We could do that, I said on the drive back.

    Do what, asked Claire.

    Sell stuff at the Common Ground Fair, I said. No one was selling lobsters, I added after a long pause.

    All that long winter we schemed. We were a registered organic farm, soil tested and fully certified. That put us past one hurdle. Indeed no one else was selling lobsters. Certainly not grilled lobsters. That put us past another. We filled out the paperwork and waited.

    We got approved, I told John down at the wharf.

    Is that so, he said.

    50,000 people, I said.

    50,000. No shit.

    We looked out over the sullen grey harbor.

    Say one out of ten buys a lobster. And we get them at boat price. The gears clicked and the wheels turned. We were scheming.

    I ordered seeds for cabbages and giant sweet onions. Started seedlings and dug new garden. People would order coleslaw to go with their lobster.

    We sourced organic butter.

    I built a stand. Claire painted a sign:

    Sweet Meadow Farms,
    Simply the Best from Land and Sea.

    Billy had a lobster cooker he let us borrow. We practiced the recipe. Boil them first, split them, painted them with herby butter, slapped them on the grill.

    100% organic and totally delicious.

    They’ll be lining up, I said, wiping butter off my chin.

    We set up early. We had huge onions hanging in heavy braids down the side of the stand. Solid, green cabbages lined up in patterns, dark green, light green, round, and pointed. We set up the cooker and waited.

    It rained that weekend.

    We waited.

    People lined up for soup and coffee and french-fries. They carried corn dogs and pigs on a stick.

    We waited.

    John drove down on Sunday.

    He didn’t ask how it was going.

    In the harbour our extra lobsters in their wooden crates sunk into the muddy bottom and suffocated. 700 pounds turned to slime.
    By Sunday night John was drunk. He popped the cooker on the trailer hitch on his pick up and hauled it back to Billy. Somewhere along the way it began to fall apart.

    I just left it in Billy’s dooryard, he told me. I don’t know where the hell the lid and all went.

    I went over to Billy’s. I was pretty sure he was going to punch me out.

    How’d it go Benjy, he asked.

    I told him. Told him I was sorry about his cooker and I’d pay to have it replaced.

    Jeez Benjy, he said. I don’t want you to go broker on my account. Don’t worry about it.

    This past summer, 25 years later, Billy and I stood around the fire down at Cory and Barb’s place. I told him about that day and what it meant to me that he’d said that.

    Jeez Benjy, he said. I only done what anyone would of done.

    That’s the thing about scheming I guess. There’s always the human factor.
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