What is a “Real Mainer”? My initial response to that question is that many of us have been and still are survivors and strivers. What else do you call a man who went into the woods with an ax and a rifle and made a living? How about the ones who went to sea, built ships or felled the trees? How about the women who supported them?

My grandmother was married to my grandfather in 1905 at the age of 16 and plowed their first garden behind a team of oxen. I know people who walked a mile and a half in 30-below-zero weather to work in stores or in 100-degree, noisy, smelly, dangerous mills. Others endured obnoxious “sports” while they worked as guides, but they all survived and strove for their existence and better lives for themselves and their families.

Many were born here, but many came from other places such as Quebec, Russia and Mexico. One, my wife, came from the Philippines. Having survived the Japanese invasion as a toddler, she taught for 40 years (30 in Waterville), made glasses and fancy cake and still works as a substitute teacher. She’s a Mainer — and so are thousands of others who “knuckled down, buckled down” and “git’er done.”

Worldwide, there are millions of people who fit my survivor and striver criteria. But when skills, knowledge, self-discipline and respect for self, others and the environment all come together in the northeast corner of the United States, we call them Mainers.

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