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Q&A: May Davidson

09/12/2018
Q & A: May Davidson first appeared in Islandport Magazine, Fall 2018.
 
May Davidson was born in 1929 in Damariscotta, a charming fishing village in Midcoast Maine. In 1947, she graduated from Lincoln Academy, a private high school in the nearby town of Newcastle. She married her teenage sweetheart, James, a year later. Determined to stay in Maine, Davidson and her now-late husband experimented with several entrepreneurial endeavors—from creating a lobster trap building facility to raising purebred sheep—before finding success by designing and selling the iconic North Country Wind Bell. Today, she lives in Whitefield and is known for her column in The Lincoln County NewsWhatever It Takes, her first book, (coming in 2018 from Islandport Press) describes their adventures.
 
Where did you learn how to write?  
 
My childhood home in Bremen faced Muscongus Bay’s Greenland Cove, while pine forests behind the house led to Webber Lake. I was an only child and these surroundings of shores and forest were my playgrounds. The peace, beauty, and constant revelations of wildlife’s magic and mystery inspired me to search for words that could express my reverence for what I experienced in this hallowed environment.
My mother taught me to read and write before I entered the local one-room school. Reading books became my passion as I understood that words were the tools to preserve my observations in written form, using them to paint my love of all I saw. I have kept journals and a daily diary from my fifteenth year to this day.
 
There was never time nor money for me to attend writing classes. English class during high school was my “training.” I love humor, natural beauty, and the goodness of people. My life with my husband, Jim, contained all that plus romance and my dreams of adventure. I needed to share this by letting the words flow forth in my book, Whatever It Takes.
 
What was your writing process like? How long did it take you to write the book? Where did you do the writing?

Whatever It Takes took me fifteen years to complete. The time-consuming intensity of being self-employed did not allow me the comfort of sitting at a desk with the laptop to write for a few hours each day.
My journals and notes traveled with us when we were not on the farm. I seized any time available in the camper-trailer at the state fairs after showing sheep, in the lower berth of our sixty-foot, forty-ton, eighteen-wheeler truck, Pine Tree Express, when it wasn’t my turn to drive, and in the wheelhouse of a powerboat we owned in later years. While not convenient, these locations added visual inspiration to my effort.
 
What songs bring you back to some of the experiences described in the book?

Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1 and Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 2 that Jim and I played on an old Victrola when we first met and fell in love.
 
Dick Curless’s “Tombstone Every Mile” in the years we traveled the Haynesville Woods on the way to the Presque Isle Fair to show our sheep.
 
“On the Road Again” when we started the state fair season heading for Bangor.
 
“Send in the Clowns” when we bought our first Kenworth truck for the lobster trap sawmill.
 
“Convoy” and other trucking songs when we were long-haul trucking across the country as independent operators.
 
Jim’s love of music and tonal qualities enabled him to produce the sounds of the North Country Wind Bells Buoy Bell Wind Chimes.
 
When I was age twelve my father became ill for two months. Cow care became my mother’s and mine. One of my duties was to bring the cows in from pasture. They had no respect for me and high-tailed away when they saw me coming for them. It became a tiring chase. One day I was singing Jeanette McDonald’s “Ah, Sweet Mystery of Life” with all the pitch and volume I possessed. The cows stood as if frozen, and all but gaped at me. Grasping this opportunity I kept singing and cast the looped rope over the nearest one’s horns. Having control of one assured the herd would follow. I learned to “catch a cow with a song!”
 
Of all the jobs and experiences you had in your life, which gave you the most satisfaction?

I reveled in the challenge and hope of each enterprise Jim and I took on. Those I loved best were being out on the sea with Jim when he was hauling lobster pots or on land raising sheep. Driving our eighteen-wheeler was the most thrilling of my adventures with Jim. The truck was a symphony of design that belied its power. Like a fine boat, it seemed to have a soul.
 
My greatest satisfaction in our variety of efforts to make a living was working side-by-side with my husband, Jim. He believed I could do anything and encouraged me to fulfill my personal dreams of accomplishment.
 
You and your husband, Jim, were together for nearly seven decades. What advice would you give young couples?

Falling in love can come easily. Loving truly and ever more deeply with time is where the pattern and strength of marriage’s tapestry requires thoughtful weaving. If the mutual attraction includes liking many of the same things and having similar life goals you are on your way to becoming best friends as well as lovers. Share your feelings and respect, laugh and weep together, never forget the binding beauty of romance.
 
Marriage is a relationship of mutual dependence. Not out of weakness, but of two strengths fusing to become a greater force, like two beams leaning on each other to sustain a greater weight. Marriage can be the most beautiful and essential part of your life. Love never dies.