A long way around a short piece of land

In Maine, as elsewhere, a gore is a triangular bit of fabric a tailor or sailmaker inserts to "piecen-out." A gore is also a "flatiron" or "heater-piece" of land left over after a survey, or perhaps to correct a surveyor's error. My grandfather's farm had such a gore on the far end, most distant from the house, a flatiron field of 10 acres.

Before I was born, this came about because Grampy had a fastidious neighbor who was nasty-neat and was called Alphabet Broderick because his name was Amos B.C.D. Broderick, PhD. Mr. Broderick approached my grandfather to say, "Tom, my line runs crooked, and to straighten it I'd like to buy some of your far field."

My grandfather didn't care what shape his farm was, so long as it grew buckwheat for his bees, so he agreed, adding one condition. He wanted a right of way from his land across the Broderick farm to the Ridge Road.

He'd thought about the wisdom of this, and now was the time to put it in writing. If he ever had occasion to go that way, it would save him a mile or so.

So this came to pass. I knew about this right of way and knew that Grampy had never used it, and I also knew Alphabet Broderick had a straight line and that Grampy had a triangle field.

Then, years later, I was visiting Grampy. We had finished supper and bedtime was nigh, and there came a rap at the door. There wasn't much after-dark activity then, and such an alarm might mean a neighbor in distress.

The dog, asleep at Grampy's feet, was astonished and forgot to bark. He rrr-rd feebly and laid his snout on Grampy's knee. Grampy looked up and called, "Enter and give the countersign!"

Our visitor was Vladislav Tomko, a neighbor up the road, a fine young man newly come from Hungary. Grampy shook hands, introduced me, and Vladislav said he had a question and needed some advice. He was new here, he didn't speak English well, he didn't want to make trouble, and he didn't know what to do.

He had worked all fall cutting some sawlogs on his woodlot, and as soon as there was snow he wanted to take the logs to the sawmill. There was a woodroad that he thought he could use, but the man at the Broderick farm said it was not public and he couldn't use it. If he couldn't use it, it would be five miles farther to the sawmill.

Vladislav got worked up telling about this, what with his language lack. This was back before people got possessive about property rights, and there was no earthly reason why the man couldn't be friendly and tell Vladislav to go ahead and haul his logs out. Except, as Grampy realized, that the man had a thing about foreigners and was being a stinker on purpose.

When Vladislav finished his speech, Grampy said, "How'd your bondurky turn out this fall?" Grampy knew only two things in Slovak. One was bondurky, which is a potato, and the other was dobry can-nuts, which means "Happy Easter."

This question threw Vladislav off track and he simmered down. He said he did fine with potatoes. When he tried to get back on track, Grampy interrupted.

I could see Grampy was stalling for time and was thinking. When he spoke, I could see that he had things figured out.

"I got to tell you, Tomko, that I don't think there's one thing you can do. You're plain stuck with a cheap neighbor who hates you on purpose for no good reason.

"What you have to do is fight back with a smart Yankee snedrick.

"Now, here's your snedrick: I'm going to buy your sawlogs for $25. Cash on the barrel head. No haggling. Soon as you sign the paper, I'm going to hire you to haul my logs to the sawmill.

"Contract price for this is 10 cents," Grampy continued. "Yes, there is an old farm road across Broderick, and I have a right of way on it. But you don't. So when you get through haulin' you'll pay me 10 cents for the use of my right of way, and then I'll sell your logs back to you for $25.

"As I figure it, you couldn't handle this unless they're my logs and you're working for me. I wouldn't want to do anything to make the man mad at me."

Then Mr. Tomko said good night and went home, and Grampy and I went to bed.

The next morning, Grampy put Tanty on the buggy and went to the village to see Squire Dunning, the lawyer and a G.A.R. comrade. The papers were duly prepared, and the logs were moved over the right of way.

The man tried to give Vladislav a bad time, but it's pretty hard to stop a team of running horses pulling a sled of sawlogs, particularly when they understand only Slovak.

That next summer the new Tomko home was framed, and it remains a credit to the community.

Grampy told me the rest of the story some years later. When he went in to settle up with Squire Dunning (a matter of a box of honey), the Squire said, "When you boil it down, it's not these foreign people we need to watch; it's you Yankees with your snide tricks."

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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