First County Agent in Piscataquis County…

Grangers will likely enjoy this article penned (keyboarded?) by Mary Annis–President of the Dover Foxcroft Historical Society and Secretary of Valley Grange #144 in Guilford, Maine. Set in the early 1900’s, Annis tells the story of how the “young whippersnapper” Henry Bodwell became the first county agent in Piscataquis County and met with a great deal of resistance from “UncleFrank” Merrill, the master of the South Dover Grange who was best described as “240 pounds of pure sarcasm.”

Over 300 farmers and their wives were in attendance to hear “Uncle Frank”, as the popular Grange Master was known throughout the county, expound on what he thought of the appointment [of Bodwell as County Agent]. From his remarks, nobody doubted that the going ahead would be anything but smooth for the young man that “Uncle Frank” had so sarcastically referred to as that little “whipper snapper.”

Well-researched, the article includes stories as told by Bodwell himself and will help readers understand the important role the Grange played in Agriculture and the community in general. The story of how the “young whippersnapper” wins over “Uncle Frank” and his fellow farmers is a timely lesson even though it happened 100 years ago. It takes some creativity on his part, but the young county agent wins an opportunity to explain to Grangers and farmers that his, “job as County Agent can be compared to just what is happening here on your farm today, namely neighbors cooperating with one another to aid in a common cause.”

View, print, and download the article.

Annis, Mary, “Joseph Henry Bodwell Becomes First County Agent in Piscataquis County” (2017). Cooperative Extension – Agriculture. 14.
https://digitalcommons.library.umaine.edu/extension_ag/14

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Health Beat – September 2014

HeartDr. Lesley Fernow writes a column called “Senior Matters” for the Piscataquis Observer in Dover Foxcroft. Valley Grange is privileged to have permission to use her past columns for our  “Health Beat” Feature and for the information to be reposted to the Maine State Grange website. Address your questions or comments  to lmf@fernowmedicalhousecalls.com, 207-992-6822. Please note that information is general in nature and specific questions should be addressed to your health care professional.

Not everyone sees that retirement party the same way.  For some, retirement is a well-earned time for rest, for others it can represent a loss of purpose and can cause stress and depression.  Preparing for the next stage in life where your job is not what defines how you spend your time or who you are is important.

Most advice about retirement planning focuses on financial planning.  This is essential if the aging years are to be stress free, and is best started early in life.  Women, who generally earn less in their lifetime than men and live longer, are particularly vulnerable to financial problems as they age.  There are many excellent resources on financial planning, including columns in newspapers and books.

Retirement planning is about more than economics, however.  Many people feel a sense of loss of purpose, loneliness and depression after they stop work.  Since there are often more than twenty years of living left to do after stopping work, it is essential to reframe this phase of your life as an opportunity for continued growth, activity and development in new directions.   The following are tips to help you age well, remain vibrant, healthy and happy after the job years are over.

  1. Set a schedule. Avoid the temptation to sleep in or just see what comes to you as the day goes on.
  2. Identify new hobbies or interests: painting, learning an instrument or new language, reading, gardening.
  3. Consider taking a class to learn new skills or just to learn. This keeps the mind engaged.
  4. Exercise regularly. Try different things: yoga, dancing, swimming.  Mix it up, but do it daily if you can.
  5. Meet people. Maintain a social life.  Find new friends.  Join a club, a church.  Have coffee or go out to eat with people.  It’s important for mind and spirit.
  6. Travel to new places. Try travel and learn programs, or programs where you can travel and give back to a community by building a school or other community service.
  7. Volunteer your time. This not only is great for the community but it gives you a sense of value and purpose.
  8. Don’t feel you need to spend every minute with your spouse (or kids). They will thank you for it.
  9. Don’t count on your body working forever. Find activities that you will enjoy even if the body parts wear out.
  10. Turn off the TV! Monitor your habit of TV watching.  It can be addicting and contributes to boredom and depression.

Aren’t you the person who…?

newspapersStu Hedstrom, reporter from the Piscataquis Observer, jokes that he has attended so many Valley Grange Dictionary Presentations he could probably fill in for me if for some reason I couldn’t make it. Well, it seems the kids agree with him. Stu emailed this morning to tell me that he was waiting for Santa to arrive in Dover Foxcroft last night and a young boy also waiting approached him with the question, “Aren’t you one of those guys who gives out the dictionaries?” Stu  says he explained his role and notes that he was pretty impressed with the young fellow’s memory and the fact he
got it “almost right.”

There’s a lot to learn from this little incident. One, even the little things we do with and for kids are appreciated and remembered by them. We may not arrive in a sleigh with eight tiny reindeer, but the kids do remember the “gift of words.”

Two, we might learn how fortunate we all are to have “community” — including a “hometown newspaper” with an interest and commitment to our communities. I think Stu is one of the guys who gives out the dictionaries, because he–along with untold others who help in some way–are part of the program and make it possible. As the kids might say, that’s pretty awesome.

Santa gets the credit for a lot what happens at this time of year, but let’s not forget our communities are filled with good people who are not just nameless faces going through the motions of life. They are people who give of their time and energy to help others and make so many of the things we have and enjoy possible.

This morning I find myself thinking that third grader really had it right. He recognized Mr. Hedstrom, but he didn’t just smile and say “Hello.” He saw that Mr. Hedstrom fit into something that happened and had meaning in his young life. That he saw it is important.

Maybe we should follow his example–start looking for those people who fit into our lives in some way. While Stu was being greeted by his friend in Dover, I was standing by the bonfire in Guilford waiting for Santa as well, enjoying the warmth not only of the fire but of the friendship. I now realize I could have walked up to more people at the tree lighting and asked some questions like:

  • Aren’t you one of those people who helped put up the town’s tree?
  • Aren’t you one of those people who baked the cookies to go with the hot chocolate?
  • Aren’t you one of those guys who kept the bonfire going?
  • Aren’t you one of the kids who came to sing Christmas songs?

The list gets longer once you get started, doesn’t it? I think one of the things we love about Christmas is watching people’s — especially kids’ — faces light up when they receive a gift or hear that Santa’s coming. And yet there are thousands of “gifts” being given in our communities every day–gifts of time, energy, compassion and friendship. We need to discover them. We need to give them. And we need to let our faces light up when we do.


At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us.

Albert Schweitzer