Up in Maine there is a tradition of “Down East Humour.” One of the common characters was Virgil Bliss who was featured in the stories of the humourists Marshall Dodge and Rob Ryan. Their “Bert and I and Other Stories of Down East” stories funded airplane missions in Labrador for a number of years. The following story, while mine, is in the same genre.
Virgil Bliss was the durtiest man in Hancock County,[i] why he was so durty that when he put his Long Johns on at the first frost, he wouldn’t take ‘em of agin’ till blossom time in the spring. His wife Hettie would put on her gardenin’ gloves, pick ‘em up off the floor, hold ‘em at arm’s length and march ‘em straight out to the gahbage can. Mind you, she didn’t mind the stink till about mid-wintah, but by March they were gettin’ a mite ripe, even for Hettie.
There’s a parable of sorts here. We’re born without Long Johns but sooner or later as we grow we put on our Long Johns and they kinda grow with us. Up to a point those around us don’t mind the stink; they have Long Johns of their own. In fact there is somethin’ comfortin’ about the stink, kinda familiar and homey, up to a point; but come about mid-wintah, if not before, the stink of our lives begins to be intolerable.
Sometimes it gets intolerable for others long before it gets intolerable for us. Now some people either keep perfumin’ themselves with culture, art, music, intelligence and other such stuff, or they just seem to have no olfactory sense at all. Every time give me a man who knows he stinks, rather than a man who pretends he doesn’t.
Of course there’s a solution. Own up to the fact that your Long Johns stink. Take those Long Johns off. Take a bath. Make your confession to the only One who can cleanse your soul. “If your baptism is to benefit you, you must make constant use of it throughout your life.”[ii]
[i] Virgil Bliss is a character from the Bert and I records, but this story is my own.
[ii] Philip Jacob Spener, Pia Desiderata (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1978), p. 34