Sunday, December 5, 2010

Maine Minutiae: Hop Aboard the Candy Cane Train!

All Aboard the Candy Cane Train!
I am a lucky man. I have been fortunate enough to have seen this country from North to South and East to West by plane, car, bus, U-Haul and many miles by foot. But there's one way that I have not explored the United States. By train. Ever since I was a little boy, I have always wanted to ride on a train. Like Merle Haggard sang, "The first thing I remember knowin' is a lonesome whistle blowin' and a youngun's dream of growin' up to ride, On a freight train leavin' town, not knowin' where it's bound.." True poetry. The first time I heard that song, I was probably about 10 years old. It has stuck with me ever since. That's why I took an extra good look at what I am about to share with you.

Next weekend, December 11 & 12, The Candy Cane Train in Bath, Maine makes it yearly holiday run with all kinds of fun on board. There are four trips scheduled for each day at 9am, 11am, 1pm and 3pm. The Candy Cane Train will leave Bath at the scheduled times for the ninety minute round trip to Wiscasset and back to Bath. During the trip, passengers will enjoy hot chocolate, meet Santa and his elves plus listen to storytellers and sing Christmas songs! I bet my kids' father would really like to take this ride. And they might like it, too.  :) 

Proceeds from the train rides will go to Literacy Volunteers and Read With Me Family Literacy. Not only will you and the family have a hoot riding the train with Santa, you'll be doing a great service to Maine literacy programs. After all, Christmas is all about giving isn't it?

Here's the Candy Cane Train web site where you can find all the pertinent information.

Texas Tidbits: Christmas Gifts From 100 Years Ago

A Future Laptop Case?***
I was looking over a web site that I have used to research all things Texas. I have mentioned it on numerous occasions as well. While thinking of an idea for a post today, I saw something that mentioned Christmas gifts of yesteryear. Great idea for a post! So, I moseyed on over to and I'll be dipped, if they didn't have an article about that very subject! I love Texas Escapes!

If I were a betting man, I'd bet that at least half the gifts you give and/or receive, will be something to do with electronics. Xbox and PS-3 games, PC games, computers, computer accessories like keyboards, thumb drives, printers, etc. We are a citizenry of gadgets and gizmos. Having said that, have you ever thought about what kind of gifts your grandparents exchanged with their families? I found an interesting column about that very subject at, you guessed it, at . In the Austin Harpoon newspaper at Christmas, 1911, was this ad 

“Don’t waste money on useless Christmas presents. Give your friends or relatives something artistic, as well as valuable.” Women, he continued, often send their male relatives or friends a box of cigars “with Johnson grass wrappers and alfalfa fillers.” Such cigars, he continued, “won’t smoke, and are not even pretty.”

But what about a deer’s foot thermometer?

Yes, long before all the wares offered via toll-free 800 numbers, from knives that never need sharpening to singing bass, the Muter and Collier Taxidermy Co. of Uvalde sold preserved deer’s feet with thermometers attached, suitable for hanging.

“Beautifully polished,” Bonner waxed on, the deer-foot temperature tellers were “an article that is useful as well as an art treasure.” All cloven-hooved stocking stuffer cost was $1.50 plus a dime for postage and handling."

A deer hoof thermometer! Just what every man dreams of having! I know a lot of guys who'd rather have the deer that goes with that hoof, but the hoof alone, with or without the thermometer , not so much. But, evidently, this was an entirely acceptable gift in 1911.

Let's not forget the ladies. In the same newspaper, this attractive item would make a dandy gift to the members of the Fair Sex.

So, rather than giving any of those cliché articles, “send them an art treasure – a beautiful and useful work basket, made from the shell of an armadillo.”

Highly polished and lined with “dainty silk,” the baskets are “not only a great curiosity, but valuable and handy, and will last a life-time, and then some.” In other words, give a gal an armadillo shell and create a family heirloom.

Ain't that some great stuff? It's amazing how things have changed in this country in a hundred years. Now if I could only figure out how to modify an armadillo shell into a laptop case and the deer hoof thermometer into a USB drive....

Watch out, Bill Gates!

 ***(Photo by Monty Northrup, Austin, Texas***

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All Original Material © Toby Shoemaker