Sent: Saturday, May 19, 2007 2:10 PM
Subject: Touched by the violence
From the New Maine Farmer
We'd been fairly lucky to avoid the violence other people have reported. That ended this week.
Six days ago we heard gunshots from the house down the road from us. By the time we got there, a black Mercedes SUV was fishtailing out of the driveway. In a past life I was a Marine. Finding the bodies of the Millers, a gentle elderly couple, in the remains of their kitchen brought back unpleasant memories. Their place was stripped, so the raiders had been there for a while. Shooting the Millers must have been the last thing they did. The Mercedes was found, abandoned and burned, the next day near the Interstate.
Word got around fast, especially combined with the raids on those two farms in southern Maine. At the farmers market yesterday, I wasn't the only one wearing a .45 on my hip. In fact, it's starting to look like the Wild West around here, pistols and shotguns and the occasional AK-47. I even saw a guy with a machete strapped to his leg, gunslinger style.
There's a sound we hear regularly now that once was rare: a train whistle. Amtrak service had ended in Portland before the crisis, but now there are regular passenger trains running through Augusta to Bangor and through Bath to Rockland. The trains here are getting first priority after the military for diesel fuel.
A tourist train outfit was operating on the line to Rockland. The company is now offering regular commuter service along the coast that's popular with workers at Bath Iron Works, which specializes in building destroyers for the Navy. Anyone who's been keeping up with events in the Middle East and the new defense budget knows that's a growth industry right now.
The other growth industry is renovating abandoned rail lines. The work crews are absorbing some of the newly unemployed, although it's a real culture shock for a former financial analyst to be shoveling gravel all day. At least he's keeping his family fed.
My brother in law runs an auto repair shop and gas station. I was there last week getting the gas tank on my daughter's car repaired after someone drilled a hole in it to steal the gas. His pump jockey came in while we were talking and said to put Mrs. X on "the list" - the names of people who must pay in advance. She had just filled up her Yukon with $170 worth of premium, and her first three credit cards were denied, maxed out. The fourth one finally cleared. She and her husband own a large contracting business. Business is bad. At least her husband already knows how to use a shovel.