My dad, Ezra Smith, wrote lots of letters to the editor. Many were provocative or funny or both. And the editor knew it was a letter from Ezra Smith because three of the letters on his 70-year-old manual typewriter didn’t work.

I still have that typewriter, and I treasure it. It is a Smith Corona, but he painted over that and made it an Ezra Smith. When Dad died, I found that he’d kept every letter that had been printed in the newspaper and elsewhere, organized by decade. I’m going to share some of his thoughts with you today.

One of my favorites included this: “With all the discussion about dogs by our Legislators recently do you suppose it would be a good thing for our State to put a leash and muzzle on the politicians and let the State go to the DOGS?”

I hunted for 53 years with Dad, and he gets credit for making me a conservationist. In a 1980 letter he wrote: “The Maine wildlife does indeed belong to all Maine people. It is time that all Maine people started paying for their protection. The sportsmen have supported the Fish and Wildlife Department all by themselves long enough.” I spent many years trying to achieve that, without succeeding.

Here’s another strong conservation statement from Dad, printed in Down East magazine: “May I respond to your February letter writer from Sacramento, California, who thinks the proposed dam on the Penobscot is right. It seems that he has been away from Maine too long and has perhaps lost some of his good Maine common sense. I suggest that he build all the dams he wants in California, while we in the meantime will fight to keep Maine the most beautiful state of all as he admits it is.”

He often spoke out against increases in moose and deer permits, chemical spraying of road sides, Sunday hunting, and smoking. When the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife spent a lot of money on a dam in west Mount Vernon, Dad wrote that “a couple of beavers at the site would have done the job for free.”

In 1969, Dad wrote to the mayor of Auburn with a check for $2 to pay his fine for improperly parking for a spring basketball game there. “I was most humiliated by this action, and disappointed,” Dad wrote. He suggested that an officer should have been available to help with parking, noting “certainly no one knowingly wanted to violate your ordinance. It was bad enough to risk our automobile on the approach road (in Winthrop it would have been closed as impassable) but to be fined for improper parking was really Socking it to Us,” he concluded. The mayor sent Dad’s money back to him.

In 1989, Dad wrote that he’d been reading a history of a Maine town, and in 1855, this poem was written about the two political parties: the Fusionists and the Liberals.

“O what a war of words there’ll be, Twixt tweedledum and tweedledee, How demagogues will rant and strain, And vulgar masses shout amain, How dandy orators will blow, About the country’s weal or woe, Tell what to do in such a crisis, To check advance of public vices, Achievements might as well be done, In declamation: yet the sun, will rise in spite of all they say, And set as usual every day.”

Dad’s conclusion: “134 years later, some things never change, do they?”

Boy, you got that right, Dad.

I will say that Dad sometimes offered humbling statements before letting people know they were doing something wrong. I particularly liked this statement: “I owe my existence, at least in part, to an old country doctor who came to my rescue in a horse drawn buggy. Due to his primitive delivery, I probably am not even programmed right or qualified to make judgements.”

And how about this bit of wisdom? “Old age is definitely not the best years of our life. We are supposed to be senile along with many other shortcomings. I believe I have reached that stage. For example, my wife is going for a permanent today (hair do). It will last about three months. Our legislature enacted a temporary one cent sales tax that will no doubt last forever. Now, please tell me, has the meaning of permanent and temporary changed places? Or am I indeed just old and confused. I sort of hope permanent does mean temporary. I would like to think my stay at the funeral parlor is just that – and I will soon be out and about again.”

Now you know where I got my strong opinions, along with a desire to share them with you.

George Smith can be reached at 34 Blake Hill Road, Mount Vernon, ME 04352, or [email protected]. Read more of Smith’s writings at www.georgesmithmaine.com.

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