Eighty six years ago, I was born Winona Rose Hargarty, in the shadow of Hidenseek Hill, which, as you may know, is right down the road from Peekaboo Mountain. I am choosing to write down the story of my life now, as it seems that I may only have a few months, or even weeks, to live. I cannot believe that my most interesting life is ending in this most mundane way. - But I will write more about things that cannot be changed later. The important thing now is to capture the highlights for those who will follow me, those who can still learn from my lessons.
Eighty six years ago, I was born Winona Rose Hargarty, in the shadow of Hidenseek Hill, which … Oh dear. I am repeating myself. I do that fairly often these days. Most folks just smile and listen politely. Then, when I am mid-way through the story, it often comes to me: I have told this tale to this person before. I can surmise that fact by the mildly disinterested look on their face, and a trace memory of having seen that look before.So let me continue to give you a bit of background, pre-history for my life story, if you will.
Soon after they married, my grandfather, Henri Philippe Lepiere, took his bride on a great adventure to Northern Aroostook, Maine. He was to make his fortune with the Great Aroostook Paper Company. But my meme’, Winona Fern, the first family Winona, died in Grandfather’s arms as she birthed my mother, who was baptized “Winona Rue”, after her mother and the bitter, strong-scented herb.Life in the North Country was no life for a young girl. The unorganized territory was a wilderness of approximately two thousand, six hundred and sixty eight miles. Even today, it still hosts a population of only 26.5 people, and that translates to one person for every one hundred square miles. Well, perhaps that is somewhat of an exaggeration, as there were few who lived an entirely solitary existence. Households were comprised of two or more paper mill employees, lumberjack-types who supervised the cutting of great tracks of forest. Occasionally, one of the men would bring a wife, as my grandfather had. When children came along, the wives were ready for more sociable company, and insisted that the family move out and into a more civilized society. Their men would take clerk jobs for Great Aroostook, in the city, ending their big adventures and squelching dreams of a he-man life in the northern territory. Few women remained who could teach my mother the fine arts of sewing, housekeeping or idle chat, as many of the “ladies” who travelled North on their own and stayed-by were those of lesser virtue.
Winona Rue longed for the companionship and comfort of women, and a relief from the oppressive grief that emanated, along with sweat and the scent of last night’s whiskey, from every pore of grandfather’s being. She could not wait, like the wives who packed up their families and left before her, to go to the “big” city of Portland when she turned 16…