Thank you, Justin Kuiper, of South Bend, Indiana, for your interest in Maine. Your letter about your sixth-grade project was published on Dec. 26 in my local newspaper. I am so pleased you chose to learn and write a report about Maine. As you noted, you will learn a lot from your research, so what you are looking from us is “personal experience of the things people love about Maine.”
Here is my response. Let’s start with my own heritage. In my pocket is a smooth round pebble from the beach at West Quoddy Head Light in Lubec, the first place the sun touches in the United States. The pebble reminds me of my mom, who grew up there, and my Lubec coastal heritage. Holding the rock in my hand, I can see that rugged coastline where my great-grandfather kept the Light for 30 years. Maine has more than 3,500 miles of coastline and almost every inch of it is beautiful.
My dad grew up on a small farm in North Wayne, and I am especially happy to tell you that farming has rebounded here in a very big way. We grow a lot of our own food today. Our state is also full of creative people, writers, artists, and entrepreneurs who are building businesses here because we have lots of hard-working people and a great place to live. Our slogan is “Life, the way it should be.”
My wife, Linda, and I are travel writers, focused on Maine’s wonderful inns, restaurants and events. More than 30 million tourists visit Maine every year to experience and enjoy our state. And believe it or not, some come in the winter to enjoy snowmobiling, skiing and other winter activities. Many also come in the fall for the stunningly colorful hardwood forests where the leaves turn bright yellow and red before falling off. Yes, we have four distinctly different seasons here, and that’s another thing we love about our state.
History means a lot to us, too. We have many museums featuring everything from art to sardine canning to children’s collections and plenty of light houses for you to visit, too.
Mainers are strong conservationists, who have protected more than 3 million acres of our most beautiful places, and I haven’t even mentioned yet Mount Katahdin and Baxter State Park, our tallest mountain and a large forest managed to be forever wild.
Linda and I have a camp in the north Maine woods, where you will find 10 million forested acres, nearly all of it available to us for recreation and inspiration. I am an avid sportsman who has hunted and fished my entire life, and Linda and I spend a lot of time outdoors, where we particularly enjoy bird watching.
I am proud to tell you that Maine has more than 90 percent of all the remaining native brook trout in this country. They are beautiful fish.
Mainers are also very friendly people, living in towns where neighbors care about each other. That doesn’t mean we always agree on everything — it means we respect each other and strive to work together. We are also committed to helping the less fortunate, particularly children. You might not know this, reading the daily newspapers, but it’s true.
Mainers also take pride in living independently, growing our own vegetables, cutting our own wood for heating our homes, working hard to earn a paycheck, and yes, enjoying the blessed opportunity to live in this state year-round.
We do, for sure, appreciate tourists. You probably have learned that tourists come here to eat lobster and see a moose. Yes, we have lots of moose, bears, deer and even wild turkeys. But we also have many wonderful small rural towns, most of them in northern and western Maine where you can enjoy our mountains and forests. We also have more than 3,400 lakes and lots of brooks, streams and rivers.
Justin, you reported that your class has been reading “A Walk Across America” by Peter Jenkins. It’s a great story that I’m sure you are enjoying. You also might enjoy “Life on Foot — A Walk Across America,” written by my nephew Nate Damm, who tossed aside everything in his life to walk 3,200 miles across America. The book is compelling, often funny, sometimes sad, definitely inspiring.
Also check out my website, www.georgesmithmaine.com, where you’ll read lots more about the state I have always lived in and loved. In the book review section, you may find some books you would like to read to learn more about Maine.
And just one more thing, Justin. We hope you’ll get up here to visit Maine sometime. You’d love it!