Friday, July 13, 2012

What to do on July Fourth in Maine when there is no more parade in West Athens?*

Check out Father Sébastien Rasle.
At a pit stop a few days earlier, on our drive north, I picked up a brochure about Somerset Country. All the other brochures were gone, and amazingly, coincidentally, Somerset Country is where are. In that brochure I learned of the existence of Father Rasle, who is named as one of the four (4) famous people of the county. The other three are Benedict Arnold, Margaret Chase Smith, and George Walter Hinckley of the Good Will-Hinckley School, so you can see he is in good company. The brochure, when it isn’t misspelling his name, tells us that Father Rasle was a Jesuit of the early 1700’s, at the time of the French and Indian Wars. The Abenaki Indians – in what was not yet known as Somerset County - were allied with the French against the English. Fr. Rasle worked to convert the Indians, and to that end he created the first French-Abenaki dictionary, the first Abenaki dictionary of any kind.

This is where I became quite excited, because I am interested in early saints and missionaries who, in the course of trying to convert native peoples - an enterprise I am not in favor of - often compiled dictionaries and wrote down languages - enterprises I think are entirely brilliant and worthwhile. (Another of these lexicological priests was Jean de Brebeuf, who compiled the French-Huron dictionary, and famously named the Huron’s favorite sport Lacrosse, because the stick they used reminded him of a bishop’s crozier.)
I also learned that Fr. Rasle’s grave is in Madison, on the other side of the Old Canada Highway from West Athens, and not so far from us. What else could we possibly hope to do on the anniversary of independence? CSB, whose interest in Jesuit philologists could not fill a thimble, was wonderfully agreeable about heading over to Madison, a town we generally note only for its frequent appearance in the Morning Sentinel’s Police Blotter.
So without even stopping for a quick drink at the Solon Hotel (ever-tempting)
we went to Madison and found the cemetery where Father Rasle was buried. Here is CSB looking really happy to pose. The cemetery was full of French Canadian names, and some wonderful gravestones. But this was my favorite. I am guessing that both Robert and Beverly love to play golf. CSB pointed out that they are not yet dead.
On our way home, via Skowhagen, we met up with the Grannies for Peace, marching back and forth across the Old Mill Bridge over the Kennebec, all day long. Being deprived of marching their annual plea for peace in West Athens, they brought their cause to the metropolis. They were delighted to have their picture taken, and of course we talked about our grandchildren.