Bits of Gould: tall tales of Maine and its legends

Stitch in Time, by John Gould. New York: W. W. Norton. 153 pp. $12.95. The state of Maine has given us the lobster, the islands, the deer, the sloop, the duck, and John Gould.

He writes down for us bits about snoods, lard pails, silver sixpences, calves, and errant old hens.

Language, as it comes ashore with the lobster traps, is always an important part of these dissertations. Not only what happens to the King's English, but to French, Latin, Scottish, and TV talk as well, Gould dramatizes and glorifies -- without hardly ever an obscuration.

In this book (many of whose essays were first published in this newspaper) Mr. Gould writes one piece about Dominique LaPierre. His name is legend for his real-honest-to-gosh Kaybecker pea soup.

Dominique, known as ``Minick,'' had a secret ingredient for it. Not the Quebec yellow splits themselves, nor the beaucoup lard. Non, non, eet was the pond water! Not spring, well, or river, but pond (pronounced pound). This information is from the ``Essay on Natural Ingredients.''

Really good old-fashioned American tall tales need never be short on prevarication. After having a laugh, I can't escape the nagging notion that Mr. Gould is at least leaning against a soapbox. Oh, it's well disguised with old barn boards, fish nets, and broken oars, but the tall tales reach up beyond Gould's time and place and touch us all.

Gene Langley, for years a Monitor staff artist, is now a free-lance artist and writer.

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