Arnold Langmaid — July 5, 1919 — 93 and Counting

By Dwayne Langmaid

Arnold and Shirley Langmaid at the award ceremony for oldest man in Danville.

Arnold and Shirley Lang­maid at the award cer­e­mony for old­est man in Danville.

First of my remem­ber­ing much of Arnie, and of course Shirl, they were liv­ing in half of the lit­tle house across from the old North Danville store. Rather tight quar­ters by today’s stan­dards, but cer­tainly a step-up from the tin-can tiny trailer that had been home. Before that, I’m told Arnie went to the St. Johns­bury Trade School, worked at C. H. Goss, mar­ried Shirl in ’42, and then did three years with the Army in Europe until the end of the Big One.

After get­ting out, Arnie and Shirl bought the tin-can and lived in Spring­field where Arnie was a machin­ist in one of the big shops. A cou­ple years later, we–Hom, Boo, Joe and Snug–started com­ing along. This prompted the move to Arthur Sanborn’s lit­tle house. Arnie mechan­iced out back in the garage that still stands there and helped his dad, Burl, in the woods. Wrench­ing and log­ging didn’t seem to be mak­ing ends meet, so he went to work for Fair­banks Scales, rapidly going through the foundry–drilling to plan­ning to milling and lathe work.

In 1950, Arnie and Shirl bought the farm where Snug and Smitty (Don and Dianne) are now. The place was pretty rough. They, with the help of our grand­par­ents, aunts and uncles, hoed and dug, ripped and tore until in the sum­mer of ’51, we moved in. The old house was plenty big enough, but we didn’t dally run­ning down to the cook stove on nippy mornings.

That’s when the rou­tine started, which lasted for the next 26 years until heart attacks, three years in a row, forced Arnie to quit Fairbanks.

3:45 – 6:00 am: morn­ing chores

6:00 – 6:30 am: wash up and eat breakfast

6:30 – 7:00 am: 30-minute drive to Fair­banks when the road was passable

3:30 – 4:00 pm: drive home

4:00 — ?? pm: fix what broke that day, chores, ball­games, school board meet­ings, town lis­ter, square dances, occa­sional crib­bage with Earl McReynolds, Howard Byron and Nate Mor­rill. Week­ends, hol­i­days and two-week vaca­tions were for catch­ing up: haul­ing manure, hay­ing, fix­ing rag-tag equip­ment and pic­nics, etc.

Arnie never has had much tol­er­ance for debt. A few times he con­sid­ered it a nec­es­sary evil; how­ever, as an evil, it was to be shed as quickly as possible.

Arnie and Shirl made liv­ing on the farm fun. We had horses, cows, pigs, chick­ens, dogs, cats, and even a few rab­bits. An ugly rooster and a small bull, which we thought was mean, patrolled the barn­yard. To get up to the cow sta­ble we had to sneak around the com­bi­na­tion water tub-milk house and race up to the barn door. Arnie showed us how to launch the rooster into next week with a swift boot to his chest. Two or three stout clubs stood by the water tub ready to be car­ried, and if need be used, to belt the bull in the nose! The bull was all bel­low, glare, and bluff and really just played with third-grade minds.

The banty rooster was a dif­fer­ent story. Imag­ine one day screw­ing your courage up tight. No more run­ning from the 80 lb banty chicken-monster. This kick is going to lift him, sans feath­ers, to the moon–wait, wait, now! Some­how he side-slipped it. The force landed the brave one on his back in the snow. Thank good­ness for the ugly, embar­rass­ing, hated snow­suits Shirl made for us! He couldn’t claw and peck through.

It was hard work, espe­cially for Arnie and Shirl. Arnie fig­ured no man ever drowned in his own sweat. We often whined about the work, but with its com­ple­tion came a sense of pride and actual fun. Arnie could pick up two cans of milk, walk them out of the barn, down the path to the milk house, flop them in the old cooler, and it looked like child’s play. Believe me, the first time we were able to do it, we were some puffed-up about it. Where was that 80 lb banty rooster when you needed him? Too bad Shirl stewed him!

Arnie believed we should be exposed to the assorted farm equip­ment at an early age. A lot of the expo­sure involved shov­els, hoes and forks, but motor­ized rigs were also included. We had an old truck, A New Hol­land 76 baler, a Ford 8N trac­tor and assorted imple­ments. The 8N trac­tor on the huge 76 baler looked like a mouse drag­ging a football.

The upper cor­ner of a field behind the barn was steeper than a cows face. As we got more cows, we needed the hay from it. There was no way the lit­tle trac­tor would pull the baler up around. The trick to bal­ing it was to go up the more grad­ual back­side across the ever-steepening side hill and then com­mit to the cor­ner and down you would go. The rules of engage­ment were: drop the trac­tor into what Arnie called Grandma, Uncle Fob called bull­dog, and we know as first gear; extremely light on the brakes; and do not – I repeat do not touch the clutch unless it started to jack­knife in the corner.

Shirl, always the worry wart, couldn’t watch, and we looked on in a mes­mer­ized state. After lessons such as those, we never thought much about haul­ing manure up Water­man Hill steer­ing with the brakes as the old 8N was so light on front that was the only way to keep her in the road.

We got our saw­dust down at the Fair­banks Mill in North Danville. A neigh­bor, Paul Joyce, rode to work with Arnie. On saw­dust day, Arnie would take the old truck down to the mill and back it under the saw­dust door. Paul would drive the car down, and off to work they would go. As soon as school got out, we ran down to the mill. The sawyer, Joe, would let us crawl up in the saw­dust stor­age and start fill­ing the truck. The won­der­ful smell of fresh-cut soft­wood saw­dust falling on you is some­thing you never for­get; the same can be said about chopped cow-corn pum­mel­ing you in the silo.

It was a proud occur­rence when one day we had the sawdust-truck filled before Paul and Arnie got there. Even bet­ter was the first time we were allowed to drive the load home. We drove around the farm, why not on the road; just had to make sure you shifted it about right going up McDow­ell Hill. Lis­ten to the engine, dou­ble clutch it and don’t panic. A lit­tle grind­ing never hurt a ‘41 Inter­na­tional trans­mis­sion, and it only tweaked the mind of the ado­les­cent team­ster. I believe that could be termed “pre” driver-ed.

The four of us boys were not above cre­at­ing a few prob­lems. We some­times would pick on each other and get to rough­hous­ing. More than once, Shirl has accused us of dri­ving her crazy. She is deathly afraid of mice and has been known to climb up on a chair or even the kitchen table to escape the taunt­ing one of the sib­lings might admin­is­ter with a dead mouse. Need­less to say, we were all very famil­iar with the sha­laylee (shil­le­lagh). Shirl was usu­ally the one to put it to use as Arnie was at Fair­banks work­ing. Many is the time, as she was appor­tion­ing out the pun­ish­ment, we heard “you wait till your father gets home.” Talk about spoil­ing a per­fect day.

Even­tu­ally we learned her heart wasn’t in it, and if we cat­er­wauled and wailed enough, she might not men­tion it to Arnie. I will say, though, if she did men­tion it, we prob­a­bly deserved what we got. He could some­how instill us with his dis­ap­point­ment at our behav­ior, which hurt much more than the occa­sional shalaylee.

As in all fam­i­lies, our par­ents went through a dumb phase. About the time we turned 15, Arnie couldn’t tell the for­est from the trees. At that age play­ing bas­ket­ball, base­ball, soc­cer, chas­ing girls, some­one had to show the old man the light. We didn’t have time for chores and all that petty bull–we were busy!! Bide your time, pick your argu­ment you can set the old man on his duff. Then run!! What a dish of humil­ity when he pulls up beside you and with­out say­ing a word, with a look, asks if that was your best shot.

Some­how Arnie always found time for things like horse­back rid­ing, ball­games and tak­ing our 4-H ani­mals to the fairs. He would back the old Inter­na­tional against a bank on the lawn and load up two or three calves, a cou­ple horses, some­times a heifer or a cow and off to Lyn­donville, or once in a while Bar­ton. The ani­mals would prac­ti­cally have to jump in and it looked like the horses could step over the side boards, but we never had any prob­lems. Seems he felt if you didn’t think an ani­mal would do some­thing wrong, chances were pretty good they wouldn’t.

Arnie always had a knack for doing things about right. Be it tin­ker­ing, work­ing, play­ing, danc­ing, quick-witted, able to plan and exe­cute on his feet. One time he had a heart attack up in the barn. He told Joe and Snug to run down to the garage, cut the oxy-acetylene welder hose and get the oxy­gen tank up to him. That form of oxy­gen is not to be directly inhaled, but he con­tin­u­ally passed the hose by his nose and made it through.

Arnie never smoked, drank or swore, or at least didn’t until after his stroke when he devel­oped a respectable sailors vocab­u­lary. I am sure every­one at some time grap­ples with this; how do you say to a loved one, “Arnie you have done a remark­able job and it’s okay; it’s okay to let go.”

The time is near.


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