The Star-Herald

What happens if the moose mutiny?

Aroostook County’s declining population, economic woes and attitude crisis have reached a fever pitch in recent years. While the U.S. economy has boomed and rural areas have benefitted from an influx of “cottagecore” Instagram influencers seeking rustic photo backdrops, The County has largely been overlooked.

High school graduates flee The County like escaped prisoners tunneling through hardened clay with nothing but the broken handle of their cafeteria sporks.

I say this not to be discouraging, but to paint a clear picture of the problem we face and the limited number of solutions. So far, the consensus has been to watch conditions worsen. One day, the moose will mutiny and overthrow us. 

These conditions have led me to explore alternative solutions to our problem. 

On a recent trip to Canada (pre-pandemic, of course) I stumbled upon a quaint cafe along a stone-cobbled street. Sitting alone, nursing a steaming cup of spiced syrup, I glanced up to see Justin Trudeau sitting opposite me in the parlor. We shared a glance, and a friendly smile.

To my astonishment, the prime minister approached my table and asked if I was from Aroostook County, Maine. Shocked, I asked him what tipped him off. He laughed coyly and pointed out that all of my clothes still had their Marden’s price tags on them. A bit embarrassed, I explained Marden’s rigid 30-day return policy. 

Trudeau sat across from me at my cafe table, and pulled a silver pen from his breast pocket. He quickly jotted something on a starchy-white napkin, folded it thrice, and slid it across the table to me. 

“We’re interested in acquiring Aroostook County,” he said. “We’re willing to pay generously above market price.” 

“You must be mistaken,” I began, only for him to hush me aggressively.

“We’ve tried to contact your leader, Presque Isle City Councilman Craig Green, but we received an out-of-office reply,” Trudeau whispered conspiratorially. “That was 27 months ago,” he said. “You’re our last hope.”

He stood to leave. “When you get back home, please write an editorial to your local papers, and announce my offer to your people. The people will know what’s best for them. Leave it to the people.” 

I tucked the note into my pocket, and when I looked up, Trudeau was gone. Rushing to the window, I could see the distinguished black tail of his frock coat disappearing into the Canadian mist. 

Upon returning home, I locked the folded napkin in a wooden box I keep in the back of my armoire. I decided to neither read, nor share the note with anybody — ever. The notion of selling Aroostook was too preposterous, and Aroostook would never allow itself to be sold to Canada of all places. Many members of our community are direct descendants of the legendary Aroostook War, sometimes called the Pork and Beans War, when the local black bears bravely fought off the British cavalry. 

Over time, my curiosity gained the better of me, and I began to research the possible value of selling Aroostook County to Canada. The town of Sherman could become Canada’s equivalent of Key West, and Houlton could become their Miami Beach. Bikini-clad Canadians would flock to bask in the warmth of their new, southernmost region.

It could also be a great boon for County citizens. In recent decades New Brunswick cities have flourished while Aroostook has staved off the bitter end. We’d be the pioneers of explosive economic growth. Sure, we’d be Canadians, but the rewards would outweigh any costs.

In World War II, U.S. citizens were asked by the government to purchase war bonds to support the military effort. Families rationed, and sacrifices were made. Today is no different, with the pandemic ravishing the state’s economy. Selling off Aroostook is perhaps the most selfless and patriotic thing we could do.

I decided to write this to the local papers before I looked at the napkin, which held the prime minister’s generous offer. I thought surely the offer would be impressive, considering Aroostook’s enormous land mass and the economic implications. The sheer population of moose alone is worth billions.

The editorial done, I unfolded the napkin. My heart was racing. I gulped, opening the napkin to reveal the black ink and tidy lettering — which read, “Lmao. Jk. – J.T.”

Griffin Goins lives and works in Presque Isle.

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