'down the Plains'


If Not a Yankee By Birth 
If The River Behaves 
A Seat at the Table 
Interesting Discussions Were Had Upon Various Topics 
Something That Will Cure 
And Yet The Sun Continues To Rise 
An Attractive Exhibition 
A Match Game 
To Those Who Know Something About The Matter 
Delayed a Little By Operations 
One In His Boot And The Other In A Hole 
The Pine Grove Cemetery 
Fluent and Pungent 
Other Means of Fire 
‘Pears To Me 
On The Road Between 
Far At A Time 
An Ordinary Freshet 
The Challenge Will Probably Be Accepted 
The Bridge Passable 
A Good Fisherman 
“Slicking Up” 
“Whatever Is Given Him” 
A Second Heat on the Same Track 
The Frenchmen’s Recipe 
The French People Were Also Comforted For A While 
Exert a Controlling Influence 
Wickedest Woman 
Not Only By Penal Enactment 
Not Quite Finished, Is Open For Travel— 
If Women Were As Particular In The Choosing 
It Would Not Have Been So Strange 
Having Several Years To Run 
Lost On The Plains 
In Making Their Bridge Free 
A Double Tenement 
Such As Clothes Pins 
Their Enterprise On The Plains 
Ont Été Lancés dans l’Éternité 
D’une bonne réputation... 
À la condition sociale de la classe ouvrière 
Une partie de nos chantres se proposent d’aller chanter 
Collette et manchettes, 2 cents
About the author 


 This is a book about a female growing up, living in, trying to leave her cultural self behind, and then returning to the Franco-American cultural group which exists in the Northeast, and more specifically in Waterville, Maine.  The book addresses what has been asked of me in order to be present to this cultural group of people.  As a girl/woman who or how have I been asked to be?  What has been asked of me?  The book is written from the perspective of a contemporary woman who is also an historical person.  The book is also as much about the conditions in which the Franco-American group exists as well as the writing about what it means to be Franco-American and female.  This is a book about how we are  our historical self while we are in the present.   I am more of my past—than I am of the present moment—when it is in the present moment that I now exist.  What is, or is not, reflected in my reality and the reality of other Franco-Americans?  This book is about the female self and her formation through the many individuals and institutions around her.  Through story and cultural filters, the book illustrates family, friends, religion, health, alcoholism, superstitions, art & craft, beliefs, values, song, recipe, story, coming-of-age, generations, motherhood, language, bilingualism, denials, sexuality and what constitutes a cultural individual in a society that will not always allow that person full access or realization to who she is.  But she does it anyway. 
This book restores the chapters taken from this book to create the book, Wednesday’s Child, which won the Maine Chapbook Award.  ‘down the Plains’ represents the complete story of the journey to self.


 A woman has been admitted to the Typographical Union of Washington—and yet the sun continues to rise and set as before.
The Waterville Mail, Vol. XXIV, No. 13, September 23, 1870

Chapter 6

And Yet The Sun Continues To Rise

 I’m pregnant.  I’m having a book.  Women from my culture rarely have books born out of them.  This is one woman who wants very badly to have this book. 
 Like the Virgin of window sills, I want an impregnation of mythical proportions.  A new myth to set me free.  Mostly from myself.  My self-hatred.  I am a Wednesday’s child.  You know the rhyme?  Wednesday’s child is full of woe.  That’s me.  Except, I don’t know it or I never did or if I did, it didn’t matter.  It was more fun running the lines.  Skirting the edges.  In the cemetery with my brother and Jerry, Ron and Ricky.  One of them is dead now and I can never remember which.  Died in a car accident.  Blown off the road in a Volkswagen beetle.  I can’t bring my childhood friend back, though I wish I could.  It did not seem possible one of the perpetually young could die like that.
 We sit around in the sandbox and make towns; new towns every day, visit each other, step on someone’s house by accident—kill the whole family inside.  Have to make a new house.  One of them eats bugs, raw. 
 The sand box is at Jerry-Ron-and-Ricky’s house under some kind of spring flowering tree.  I, and my three friends, stand at my house to have our picture taken when I am four by the newly planted lilac bush.  We are forever there beside the bush, measuring our mutual growth over the years.  Except the lilac grew much taller than any of us ever dreamed it would and left us all behind to scatter to the four winds.  We can’t all be Wednesday’s child.  Some of us have to be born on the rest of the days of the week. 
 My own children are a Friday’s child, a Sunday’s child and a Tuesday’s child.  Those are good days.  Wednesday’s children have a long row to hoe.  Or many seeds to plant.  When I was four, maybe three, my job was to put the corn seed in the ground after my father had formed the row.  Being low to the ground, I would then cover the seed; I would rather be playing.  Or running around with Jerry-Ron-and-Ricky.  Play in the sandbox, make towns, crush people, have floods, accidents, visit the sand people’s homes, eat mud-pie pies make-believe.  Leave mad when I couldn’t get my way.  Throw sand ball bombs.  Get sick at the sight of Ricky eating bugs.  I could not eat onions for years remembering Ricky chewing on the bugs he’d find and crunch.  The feel of the onion under my teeth sounded a lot like the crunch of the bugs Ricky chewed.  It’s awful.  I can’t ever remember which of my childhood daily companions died in a car accident.  I wonder if he was a Wednesday’s child, too?


It was reasonable to suppose that the death of the young man in the lock-up, last week would suggest to the proper authorities the propriety of taking immediate measures to put that filthy place in condition for uses for which it is designed...It was not only unsafe on account of fire—as the death of young Roderick has proved...most of the persons thrust in there are drunk...and once before a man...kicked over the stove and set the straw on fire.  Now there is no stove or other means of fire; and it was inhuman to put a drunken man in such a place, to lie from Saturday till Monday.  “But what else can I do?” was the reply of officer Edwards.
The Waterville Mail, Vol. XXIV, No. 20, November 11, 1870

Chapter 16

Other Means of Fire

 Being born last in a family is like walking into a movie that has already begun.  The action has been going on for quite some time and you walk into the theater where everything is dark, everyone else is sitting and eating their popcorn, candy or drinking their sodas, you have to find a seat for yourself and find a way to catch up to what the story is about.  You have to understand the main plot, the clues, the theme, tempo, musical score, heroes, stars, action shots, caution: danger, mud puddles of happiness, saloons’ backroom games, beauty parlors, dance halls, feel out the other hombres so you won’t get your face smashed in too hard or get pounded out for not knowing the plot well enough.  And, since you were born late in the show, the plot thickens.  It is a lot like being caught in a gun fight at sunset and you forgot to bring your guns. 

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