Stephen King, the Red Sox and long underwear

Novelist Stephen King lived in Bangor (still does), and I would write a story about him every few months. This was a favorite — King has a good sense of humor and he saw the potential for fun in this event right away. King was supposed to eat lunch on this day in his underwear if he had lost the bet with Bangor Daily News sportswriter Bob Haskell; since he won the bet, he showed up in a tuxedo.  Later in that year (1986), the Red Sox won the pennant and went on to the World Series. I called King, a Red Sox fanatic, and asked him if he would be interested in covering the Red Sox post-game locker room. He was enthusiastic about the idea (it would have given him access to the team locker room), but the plan was killed by UPI’s union; no union membership, no work.


BANGOR, Maine (UPI) — Sports writer Bob Haskell wore his old Army long stephen kingjohns and munched a chicken lunch Thursday provided by novelist Stephen King in payment for a sports bet that attracted donations for young cancer victims.

Haskell’s humiliation began in May with a newspaper column in which he predicted the Boston Red Sox, then as now in first place in the American League East, would be out of contention by Flag Day.

King, a Bangor resident and rabid Red Sox fan, took exception.

“It was like Germany before World War II,” said King, a Red Sox season ticket holder.  “Good people must not be silent in the face of outrage.”

In a guest column, King said if the Red Sox were indeed out of it by Flag Day, he would eat a chicken dinner on the lawn in front of the Bangor Daily News, June 14, in his underwear. He challenged Haskell to the same terms if the Sox were still in the pennant race.

“It was the best lunch I ever had, and I didn’t even eat anything,” King said after about 200 people watched Haskell chew on a chicken leg in the gazebo at Bass Park, next door to the newspaper.

fenwayHaskell, who wore a New York Yankees shirt and a pair of cutoff long johns left over from his Army days, said he was through with sports bets.

“This will be the last bet I ever make in public, and it most certainly will be the last bet I ever make with Stephen King,” Haskell said.

After lunch, Haskell said he still was not ready to concede a Red Sox victory in the American League East.

“I still think the Yankees are going to win,” he said. “I’m not going to give up on them when they are just eight games out before the All-Star break.”

The Bangor Daily News invited readers to participate by sending in their predictions and money for the Jimmy Fund, a nationwide charity for young cancer victims and their families. The promotion netted $1,250, and King kicked in an additional $1,000 just before Haskell’s chicken lunch began.

The money raised was presented to Jerry and Maureen Hodge, a Bangor couple whose young son, Adam, died of cancer in April.

Carter speaks at Bates College

An earlier post talked about a gathering of former secretaries of state at the Muskie Archives at Bates College in Lewiston, and the occasional opportunity to cover national political events in rural Maine. Here’s another example. Remember that Muskie served as secretary of state during the Carter Administration.


LEWISTON, Maine (UPI) — Former President Jimmy Carter, attending the dedication of the Edmund S. Muskie Archive at Bates College, said Saturday he has little hope for an arms agreement unless President Reagan “is willing to bend” on the Star Wars space weapons program.

jimmy carterCarter, speaking at ceremonies honoring his former secretary of state, noted that all recent presidents except Reagan have been able to agree with the Soviets on some sort of arms control.

“All my predecessors, and I, have been very successful in negotiating arms control with the Soviet Union, in spite of those who see the Soviet people as an ‘evil empire,” said Carter, who lost to Reagan in the 1980 election.

“Those opponents of good-faith negotiation provide a foundation for our nation’s position that there is little hope for a reduction of nuclear stockpiles,” he said.

At a news conference prior to his speech, Carter said he doesn’t hold out much hope for an arms agreement when Reagan meets for summit talks with Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev in Geneva Nov. 19-20 unless the Reagan administration is willing to bend on its Star Wars space weapons program.

“I think an obstacle is Star Wars,” Carter said. ‘It is ill-conceived, expensive and an impediment to arms control.”

Carter, in his speech at the dedication, also said the United States must provide world leadership in human rights.

“In order to be truly great, we must use our power for the enhancement of peace for ourselves and for others,” he said. “This includes forgoing belligerence and force wherever possible and relying wherever possible on diplomacy.”

Carter said the nation’s greatness should also be measured by its commitment to human rights and by its efforts to reduce the danger of a nuclear holocaust.

The Muskie Archive will house more than 5 million documents that span Muskie’s years as governor of Maine, U.S. Senator and secretary of state. Muskie is a graduate of Bates.

Carter was awarded an honorary doctor of laws degree during the ceremony.




Gathering of Secretaries of State

You wouldn’t think of Maine as a place that offered much opportunity to write about national issues, but that wasn’t always the case. Take this story, for example, about a gathering of six former U.S. Secretaries of State at Bates College for a discussion about 1980s-era foreign policy. This event was sponsored by the Muskie Archives, a collection of Edmund Muskie-related papers and artifacts that is housed on the Bates campus in Lewiston, Maine. One thing I remember about this day is that the event did not provide a separate  area for reporters; we had to sit up front in the audience, right in front of the row reserved for the wives of the secretaries. I had to balance my old Radio Shack laptop on my lap and type furiously, and that old machine made quite a lot of noise. I recall that when the event was over, Jane Muskie gave me a pretty good chewing-out for making such a racket. Another thing; I didn’t cover national foreign policy issues every day, so I had to do some intense homework to prepare for it. This took place in October 1989.

 Several former secretaries of state agreed Friday that recent thaws in U.S.-Soviet relations reflect a softening ideology in the Soviet Union rather than abrupt changes in Soviet leaders’ strategic policies or perception of their national interest.

Six former top diplomats — Dean Rusk, Edmund Muskie, Henry Kissinger, William Rogers, Cyrus Vance and Alexander Haig — gathered for a conference sponsored in part by the Muskie Archives at Bates College, Muskie’s alma mater.

muskie pic

Edmund Muskie

‘Ideologically, communism is in deep trouble,’ Kissinger said. ‘But the Russians have never been able to define their security except through physical domination.

‘We would make a mistake if we thought we could live in a state of conciliation without an understanding on the national interest issue, and not just on the ideological one,’ said Kissinger, who served under presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford.

cyrus vance

Cyrus Vance

Vance, President Jimmy Carter’s first secretary of state, said most recent changes in the Soviet Union have been philosophical rather than territorial.

‘None of the Russian leaders have abandoned the loot collected by their predecessors,’ he said. ‘Little of the Soviet Union’s policies have been abandoned by the present leadership in places like Afghanistan, Cuba and Central America.

dead rusk

Dean Rusk

‘But, as one who was present at the beginning of the Cold War, I waited a long time to see when the Soviet Union would join the rest of the human race,’ Vance said. ‘With a little luck, this is beginning to happen.’

William P. Rogers, who also served as secretary of state under Nixon, said there has been a recent American reassessment of the Soviets.


Alexander Haig

‘The Cold War was epitomized by the Reagan statement that Russia was an ‘evil empire,’ and that has been the general attitude of the American government and its people for a long time,’ he said. ‘I think recent events have shown that that part of the controversy is just about ended.’

Vance predicted that new arms control agreements could be reached in the near future.

‘I think we are in the process now of beginning to put the pieces in

rogers pic

William Rogers

place of what may be a substantial reduction in the next so-called START (Strategic Arms Reduction Talks) agreement, which I think will come perhaps at the next summit,’ he said. ‘It is even possible that in 1990 or thereafter there could be an agreement with respect to conventional weapons.’

The former secretaries discussed foreign policy issues inside the Merrill Gymnasium. The event was moderated by former NBC News announcer Edwin Newman and former New York Times newsman Hedrick Smith.


Henry Kissinger

A group of about 40 people protested outside, waving signs saying ‘Welcome Secretaries of War’ and ‘Dollars Can’t Buy Lives.’ The protest was sponsored by a campus group, the New World Coalition.



Sleeping with sheep

Not exactly sure, but I think Maine’s Department of Agriculture sent me a press release about a new state program that provided state funds as seed to Maine farmers interested in the bed & breakfast business. I called the contact person and asked if he could put me in touch with one of the farmers who had gone into the bed & breakfast business. That resulted in a phone conversation with Anne Gass, who along with her husband Alan owned Moose Crossing Farm, a sheep farm in the western part of the state. Beth and I drove there on a Saturday afternoon and spent the night. I remember it being a bit more primitive than what we now generally think of bed & breakfasts, but it was enjoyable, and the breakfast was plain but very good.


SOUTH PARIS, Maine (UPI) — Alan and Anne Gass bought Moose Crossing Farm in 1985 because they wanted to raise sheep, and they do, but thanks to a state program, they are also in the bed-and-breakfast business.

The main activity at Moose Crossing Farm still is the herd of about 65 sheep that roam the fields of the old 90-acre farmstead, but sometimes guests find their way up Christian Ridge Road and onto the dirt driveway.

The money supplements the Gass’s farm income, and the guests provide company.

4F944F6A71‘The farm is wonderful, but with the sheep you can’t ever get too far away from home,’ Ann Gass said as she prepared bacon, scrambled eggs and homemade popovers one recent Sunday morning in the big farm kitchen. ‘I enjoy people, and the bed-and-breakfast helps in that regard.’

The state Department of Agriculture, ever on the alert to find ways for farmers to generate new income, came up with the farm bed-and-breakfast idea about three years ago. Now, 20 Maine farms offer rooms and a real farm experience. More are expected to join the program in the coming months.

Maine’s popular coastal areas have been dotted with bed-and-breakfasts for many years. But Department of Agriculture officials believed at least some of the thousands of tourists who flood the state every year might be ready for something a little different.

‘We saw an opportunity at the department four years ago,’ said Chaitanya York, a marketing specialist who started the program. ‘We dealt with the hypothesis that there was a growing interest among vacationers in staying at farm bed-and-breakfasts.

‘We also worked on the assumption that there was a willingness among some farmers to have bed-and-breakfast operations,’ he said. ‘We saw it as a real possibility for some farmers to have another source of income that could help them to continue farming.’

York and his associates studied similar programs in other states and in New Brunswick, Canada.

The department sponsors the annual Maine Agricultural Trade Show, and three years ago York presided over a seminar on the operation of bed-and-breakfasts.

‘We got it on the program, publicized it, and reserved a room that could hold 70 people,’ York said. ‘Way over 100 people showed up.’

One reason for the success of the program so far, York said, is that all the farms that take part in the Maine Farm Vacation B&B Association must meet very strict operating standards.

‘The farms must be inspected and must meet guidelines,’ York said. ‘And every farm must have some sort of farming activity going on. You can’t just have a set of farm buildings.’

The Maine participants all offer something different, York said.

Moose Crossing has its sheep; Piper Mountain Farm in Dixmont grows Christmas trees; Squire Tarbox Farm in Wiscasset has a herd of dairy goats; SealCove Farm on Mount Desert Island raises goats and sheep and produces several varieties of cheese.

Arnold Sturtevant, president of the Maine Farm Vacation B&B Association, said his Home-Nest Farm in the town of Fayette attracts guests through a variety of sources.

‘They find us through articles, through bed-and-breakfast guidebooks, and a bed-and-breakfast reservation service lists us,’ Sturtevant said. ‘They also find us through the Maine Publicity Bureau, and through the state information centers (on the Maine Turnpike). We also have our own brochure.’

Sturtevant’s 200-acre farm, which has been in his family for seven generations, features a main farmhouse as well as a smaller cottage and an old schoolhouse. All offer space that can be rented by the night or for longer periods. Some families, he said, spend several weeks on the farm each summer, and skiing and snowmobiling is offered during the winter months.

For Jim and Marcia Cope and their young daughter, from Columbus, Ohio, who have stayed at Home-Nest Farm during the past three summers, the vacation provides some much-needed tranquility.

‘This is pretty hard-core inner city, with lots of noise and crack use and confusion,’ said Cope, a Luthern minister who serves in Columbus’ inner city, in a telephone interview. ‘I really look forward to getting away to a quiet setting. I grew up on a farm, and this sounded like the kind of thing I was looking for.’

For Cope, staying on a farm B&B, which generally costs $40-$60 a night, provides an alternative to the popular coast of Maine.

‘The costs have gotten so high, and the Maine coast is so rocky and so much of it is owned privately that it isn’t easy to find a place overlooking the ocean at a reasonable price,’ he said.