One morning in the very long ago our legendary village sage and
general practitioner, A.W. Plummer, MD, was riding his status gig
out to Webster Corner, a matter of about three miles, and he passed
a farm home that immediately took his notice. The house was on fire.
He accordingly directed his dilatory nag into the driveway, stopped
by the house's front door, and reaching with his whip he thumped the
handle end briskly on the portal. At this a lady opened the door,
looked out, and said, "Well, what do you want?"
Dr. Plummer, always a gentleman, then said, "I have come to tell
you your house is on fire."
To which the lady said, "Is that all?"
And Dr. Plummer said, "At the moment, that seems to be all. Giddy-
When Dr. Plummer became a legal nonagenarian, he gradually
reduced his practice and became a full-time philosopher at whose
feet I profited, I think, by mastering the gentle art of logical
positivism. That's a science now lost when people no longer mean
what they say or say what they mean. For several years I was on call
to drive Doc in his car up to the state legislature where he loved
to attend hearings, no matter what they concerned. On one of my
choicest days, he told the lawmakers about Tobias Goddard, who stood
for two hours arguing with a milestone about the distance to
So it's not surprising that Doc Plummer came to mind the other
evening when we were served some uncooked green beans here at our
comprehensive home for senior living. I'm told that for
institutional cookery they hold a pot of green beans one minute over
the intense heat of a yellow-eye bean. I do not know if this is true
and can offer it only as a presumption.
When the young woman who comes about the tables arrived to
inquire if everything was all right, I blurted out bravely, "The
green beans weren't cooked." At this, the young woman assumed a
posture of delighted frustration and said, "Of course the green
beans are cooked; everything we serve here is prepared to the most
discriminating desires." I felt just terrible to be made a liar in
front of all these nice folks who'd just pushed their uncooked green
beans aside. But then the young woman said, "Is that all?" and I
thought of Dr. Plummer, dear man.
When I was a schoolboy my trail buddy was Eddie Skillin, a
compatible lad who, over our wasted youth, hiked with me the length
and breadth of Maine in search of fantasies. And one day we ventured
into the town of Pownal where, in passing, we found Miss Mardelle
Launt high on the top of her daddy's dooryard pile of firewood.
Miss Mardelle came to our school and she was pretty. So Eddie and
I paused to chat, and we asked her about the weather up there, and
if the hens were laying, and other abstruse things that occupy the
minds of fifth- graders. …