This Headline Could Be Much Funnier

'Twas said that Alexander Woollcott, who was clever with the comeback, was not so glib as he appeared. He was wont to have one prepared in advance. His quirky mind, and fortunately we will probably never see another such, would fantasize an unlikely situation and then decide what he would say if it ever befell. He waited a number of years to find a hair in his restaurant applesauce, whereupon he said to the waiter, "Will you take this back and bring me some made from Baldwins?"

I mention this because the House at Pugh Corner has caught up with my possibilities and at long last I can say, "Oh, Bother!" Will the buffs of A.A. Milne and the fans of Winnie and Christopher Robin please stand up?

In our favorite village, the traffic pattern comes to a loop, and at the fork, whichever way you choose brings you back. When you leave the business section (two stores, two churches, and the town hall), you are headed for the harbor - spelled "hahb'h" - either way. A few years back, puzzled by summer-folk manners, our selectmen decided the loop would be more up to date if ordinanced one way. I believe Sue Armstrong conformed by putting a sign up that said: 34 One Way Street.

I also believe some of our lobstermen merely continued as before, and went whichever way they'd a mind to. The change to one way came about when two Winnebago motor homes met by the Connie Pace place and found the loop too narrow for them to pass. As neither driver knew how to back his vehicle, things were tied up for three tides and everybody could see that modernity had arrived and it was time to do something about it. There is nothing you can do about summer people, so it had to be done to the loop.

At the far end of this loop, just where it keeps you from going into the ocean, is a cozy roundabout. Great spruces that tower like cathedral arches prevail, and you could - if you took your life in your hands - look between the trunks and see foreign strands that would prove to be the Azores and the Iberian Peninsula.

If you are prudent, you don't look at the Azores, because the winding loop makes it prudent to forget them and make sure you avoid the House at Pugh Corner and do not excite Julie Pugh as she is putting in a pan of biscuits to bake. Julie's home is precisely on the vital bend of the bow, and you will know it by the sign that says, PUGH.

To sum up the particulars: If you go to the hahb'h from the village, you do so (either way) past the House at Pugh Corner. Clockwise on your left, otherwise on your right.

It has been my latent thought for at least three decades that sometime, out of the big blue, something will happen to fetch this obscure cottage on the loop into prominence, and I can drag it into some sort of narrative as my hair in my applesauce. Finally, our House at Pugh Corner had a happening.

And I am grieved to report that our local newspaper, the Rockland, Maine, Courier Gazette, which regularly reprints these dispatches, slept at the switch and disappointed us all. Oh, Bother! But Winnie the Pooh is a stranger there. The greatest newspaper headline of the 20th century might have been printed, but the Courier Gazette was sadly lacking. Here, I can only surmise how it would have been:

HOUSE AT

PUGH CORNER

BOTHERED

The gentle whimsicality of the Christopher Robin books survive well after we are 6, and I think our family hasn't had a meeting since that Pooh's name didn't surface and somebody said, "Oh, Bother!" There is always warm rapport when kindred spirits meet at a mad tea party, and the same goes for other functions in the realms of purest gold. But none better than when two old fogies meet and clap each other on the back while quoting Pooh. And here's to Julie Pugh whenever I asked her about affairs in the House at Pugh Corner. Jack and Julie Pugh would be good folks to know in any connotation, but have got to be special for their house.

SO what do you think happened? The Courier Gazette, lacking something in the rhapsody area, dismissed it as if no more than a dog biting a man, and the headline writer managed: CAR STRIKES HOUSES

Did Westminster Abbey burn? Did they paint the White House red? Did the Taj Mahal blow away?

No, but an obscure lady from Waldoboro lost control on the harbor loop and her runaway automobile busted into the House at Pugh Corner. Lori Young, she was, and she was driving, said the newspaper, a 1995 Ford Taurus. The police report indicated she was wearing a seat belt. Let us rap on the window with a wet sponge and give a cheer for journalism that has descended to a new depth of meritorious deficiency.

The Lady Lori, bothering old pokey Pooh, caused $6,000 damage. Maine law requires adequate insurance coverage, so it was unnecessary for the paper to report this angle. I have not seen the Pughs for quite some time, which impoverishes me mightily, but I hope to see them in the not-too-distant future so I can ask Julie what goes on lately in the House at Pugh Corner.

This untoward incident with the Taurus may spoil the whole thing, because for once dear Julie won't need to purse her lips, arch her brows, make like Eeyore, and improvise some absurdity consistent with the enormous nonsensity of our jolly good fun. For once, anyhow, there was a $6,000 bother.

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