Editor’s note: Bucksport Poet Laureate Patricia Ranzoni sent the following verse recalling the July 21 gathering where local and seasonal residents, authors, musicians and others paid tribute to Bucksport’s 80 years of papermaking and the former mill town’s drive and pluck to move forward since Verso Paper Co.’s 2014 closure.
By Patricia Smith Ranzoni
Phil, his keys like coins in his pockets keeping time, keeping everything moving along setting up, keeping the doors to the old theatre shut for the air conditioning in the heat that cut attendance to the festival by half the paper said. Still, they came for reunions and the celebration of life for their mill almost cleared away but for their echoes.
The farmer from haymaking, fisherman off his boat, the town manager, bookseller, restaurateur, inn keeper, teacher, reporter, artist, photographer, broadcaster, lover of history and Maine. Old friends and newcomers, their happily ever afters. Even Phyllis, their most distinguished elder, older than the mill was, left her walker at the home and came to the podium to tell.
Artifacts lining the walls trembled to the recording of #5
paper machine, “The Big Dog,” its Tender telling how precisely he knew it. How they had become one. How their magnificent, gleaming-clean, multi-million dollar machines were junked, cutting them to the core.
The State Poet Laureate came, sat with them, leaned to them and listened. And read from his “How to Start Over,” bringing sighs, ohs and hms from those who know how — to start over — and how artfully he has put it. Twenty-three mill vets and relations piped, read, strummed, and sang in remembrance and respect.
A “Yankee” man from away who’d written “The Town That
Refused to Die” — taped on the wall — and come back to honor
them again by hosting the day, found he wasn’t anymore — from away — given the key to their town and proclaimed “story laureate” for “getting them.” For showing them and their mill soul to his million readers and themselves.
Sons and daughters, partners, grands, and friends who put it together, took it apart, returning the evidence to the protection of Johnny’s WeStore shed until proper space is made. If they can, they will return in five years more, fewer by far as they all pass on, for the 10th anniversary of their mill’s demise, and recite and sing again of all they’ve kept in mind and heart and what they, unbelievably, did. And who they still are. Feel again the inspirited old tools, signs, hardhats, contracts, wage scales, safety equipment and so on, collected from attics and barns for history’s sake. Their sake.
In spite of loud efforts to hush it all. Proving they’ve had the will all along, known the way. And however strong their town is by then, that it will still be, first and foremost, because of theirs and them.