Norris Junkins

Norris9 Junkins (George Washington8, Isaac Lord7, Isaac6, James5, James4, Joseph3, Alexander2, Robert1), born in Oxbow, ME June 15, 1901, died Saturday, February 23, 2002 at Presque Isle Nursing home.

Norris was the son of Clair (Willard) and George Junkins. He was predeceased by his wife, Helen (Wiggins) Junkins in 1973. He was also predeceased by three brothers, Herman Junkins of Masardis, Aubrey Junkins of Veazie, and Odell Junkins from Lincoln and two grandchildren, Amanda Gilbreath of Abilene, TX and Larry Lyons from Masardis. Norris is survived by his son, Earle Junkins and his wife, Lorraine of Masardis and a daughter Alice Lyns of Presque Isle. He is also survived by seven grandchildren, 14 great-grandchildren and four great-great-grandchildren, as well as many nieces and nephews.

The following article, written by Norris, appeared in JFA newsletter no. 15, Winter 2006.

A Century of Stories

A Presque Isle Junkins recounts his 100 years of life in Aroostook County, Maine, as told to Leonard Hutchins. He said the two of them will update this in 2101

I'm not sure where the years went. Maybe, I should have counted them as they went by. Whether I'm ready of not, number 100 will arrive June 15, 2001. The house in which I was born in 1901 is still standing near School Brook in Oxbow. I remember, at probably age two or three, chasing trout in the small brook. Also, I remember two caribou staying in an open-ended shed with some of our cattle for a winter. All caribou moved out of Maine soon after that.

Later we moved to Masardis, and there was always something to do. In 1910, I delivered groceries for my father's store with a team of horses and a wagon. Soon I hauled water, cement, and bricks to building sites. I liked to make the several-mile trip to a brick kiln, and driving a team on farm jobs was great fun. A ferry crossing to the flat, fertile fields across the Aroostook River from Masardis was eliminated in 1913 when the built a bridge a few miles down river.

My world expanded when I drove my mother to Limestone for a visit. We rode, and rode, and rode, and when it got dark, I was sure I was lost. We finally stopped for the night in Washburn, well over twenty miles from Masardis. Next day, the perhaps twenty miles to Limestone wasn't bad at all. Looking back, I'm sure mother knew exactly where we were all the way.

No matter how much there was to do, my parents saw to it that I went to school through two years of high school in Masardis. However, when the river was open, father had logs to drive to the Ashland Mill Company. I soon learned to run logs, and I worked the drives on weekends and sometimes a little more often.

I haven't thought for a long time about driving logs and sleeping with the whole crew under one long, heavy "camp spread." I'd get lousy, and every Sunday I'd turn my union suit inside out. It takes lice about a week to find their way through the union suit so they can bite you again. If you believe that I'll tell you another one.

By 1917, I'd learned to drive a motor vehicle. A Bangor Lumber Company truck was stored in Masardis. They could hire me to drive it to Bangor cheaper than they could hship it on the Bangor and Aroostook Railroad, so I borrowed my friend's License and took the job. The truck had hard rubber tires and would do fourteen miles per hour flat out. However, the condition of the dirt roads made Bangor a three day trip, one way.

No Problem

But it wasn't a bad trip. Just north of Patten, the wire between the carburetor and the accelerator on the steering post broke. Two feet of telephone wire repaired it, and I twisted the ends of the wire together so the telephone phone system still worked. There was no way to get lost until I got to the four-way intersection at Old Town. A fellow told me to follow the trolley tracks to Bangor. No problem.

The truck had to be delivered to Brewer, and there was a policeman at the end of the Bangor-Brewer bridge. I didn't want to test my friend's license. Just before I got to the policeman, somebody stopped a vehicle to talk to him. I was home free.

Later in 1917, I went to Shaw Business School in Bangor. For that time, that was a good education. I used the education, but I wanted no part of an office job. Since those were World War I years, I signed up for the Army. I had a job with Orono Pulp and Paper Company on a government contract, and the government wanted me to stay. The pay was $4.50 per day and regular wages were $2.00 per day. The war was over by the time we completed the contract.

During the 1920s, I was one of a lot of Arrostook County men who farmed in the summer and logged in the winter. Farming equipment changed fast. The ground-driven potato digger was a big improvement over the potato hook. The potato hook looked like a spading form with the tines bent at a right angle to the handle. It was swung like a pick ax and the tines driven under the hill of potatoes. The handle was pulled and the potatoes pulled out for pickers. It was a man killer.

Contact with the ground turned the wheels and other moving parts of a ground-driven potato digger. The machine was hard on horses, but one machine could keep about seven pickers busy. Before long, gasoline engines were mounted on potato diggers to turn the moving parts. That was easier on the horses.

One year we used seven pairs of horses to havest our crop. Four pair pulled diggers. Two pair hauled wagon loads of potatoes in barrels to potato storage houses beside Bangor and Aroostook Railroad tracks. One pair plowed the fields for the next crop.

Farm trucks and tractors gradually replaced horses. The first tractor I bought was a Fordson. Later I bought a cletrack-a track laying machine. These were okay for plowing and harrowing. Later, "row crop" tractors had wheels spaced to roll between rows of potatoes, and were more versatile.

However, the bigger, better, faster and more powerful farm equipment became-well you just wouldn't believe the prices. Except, perhaps, during World War II and government subsidies, I never knew a farmer who didn't live under a mortgage. I farmed on my own seven years, and I'm ashamed to say it took me that long to learn that it is easy to lose money farming.

Logging is something else again-if you do it right. Horses have a place in the woods, but on my four hundred eighty acres of woods, I used several kinds of farm tractors and in later years a skidder. Logging can be the same as farming; expensive equipment can put you out of business. A friend and I built my Fordson tractor over with a V-8 engine and a second transmission. Come hell or high water, the wheels turned on that little jewel.

However, that little jewel did have a problem. On a cold morning, I literally had to build a fire under the engine. The gas tank was over the engine, and my wife was always fretting about a fuel leak. My horses always started in the morning.

I did okay logging, but if I were young and had to do it again, I think I'd do better with just horses. No matter how good or how expensive a machine is, someone has to steer it. Usually two people work toether in the woods-one felling trees and one in the yard. When they work with a good horse, the animal is smart enough to go back and forthe by itself.

The woods, along with streams and rivers, provided me with fun as well as work. Learning to paddle and pole a canoe was as necessary as learning to handle horses. There was (and still is) plenty of fish and game if you're willing to go after it. I learned, early on, to keep a roll of tarred paper in the canoe. One piece under and one over will keep a sleeping camper dry. Today's plastic is a little more flexible.

I made them work for it

In 1991, I had a chance to use an old skill. They had a raft race from Masardis down the Aroostook River to the bridge they originally put in in 1913, and I poled a raft. A couple of kids paddling two inner tubes tied together beat me, but I made them work for it. It was great fun.

So much for making a living and having fun. Now about the important part of life. I ran across a Canadian lady, Helen Wiggens, or perhaps she ran across me. The important thing is, we were married in 1926. Our son, Earl, arrived in 1927 and Alice in 1929. I have eight grandchildren. If I had known how much fun grandchildren can be, I'd have tried to figure out a way to have them first. I also have eight great-grandchildren. They are gifts I don't have to wait until Christmas to enjoy. And I have three great-great-grandchildren. I can hardly believe that I am so fortunate that I don't have to sneak back through the Pearly Gates (or up from Hades) to see them. I am blessed.

But life is a two-sided leaf. In 1973, Helen went with friends to visit in Canada. There was a car accident, and the grief that balances fun, success, good fortune, and good health withered my leaf. My family helped me live.

Live indeed! I find that being old is something like being a kid again. There is a whole new set of problems, and a new set of rules to learn. The doctor gives me nitroglycerin pills to use in case I need them-which I don't. Since the Oklahoma city disaster, good nitrogen fertilizer isn't as available, so I tried some of my old pills under my corn. You know-it works. Don't throw away your old nitroglycerin pills.

I still have a valid driver's license, but I don't trust myself, so I gave my car away. Now I've got an electric scooter-the best thing they ever put wheels on. It took a while to learn to use it, but the Presque Isle bicycle path was a great place to learn. Once I dumped myself in a puddle, and a perhaps eighty year old, eighty pound lady stopped to help me get going again. I dumped myself again near the Presque Isle Post Office, and the batteries fell out of my scooter. Two total strangers stopped, picked me up, put the batteries back in my scooter, and sent me on my way. Now, I hope I can use my scooter well enough to stay on the good side of our policemen.

Other people help. The folks who run Meals on Wheels are great. A fine lady comes in to help keep my little apartment neat. For me, Aroostook County is a big place, but it's like a small town. A lot of people care about others.

I hope that doesn't change during my second century.

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