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We hope to pass that way again

PEOPLE ask where we went, and I tell 'em, ``Estcourt.'' Nobody much has ever heard of Estcourt. Estcourt Station is the northeast community in Maine, and like several other border towns in that area, you can't really get there from the United States. This is because the wilderness townships are owned by timberland interests and the roads are not public highways. Going through the ``gates'' requires passes and keys, and both are hard to come by. This makes sense, because tourists don't mix too well with double trucks hauling 30 and 40 cords of tree-length lumber.

We did go to Estcourt on our fall leaf-peeping excursion this year, and it will take but a moment to describe the place. The United States post office (zip 04741) sits nigh the Canadian Customs station, so the location of the international boundary is self-evident. That's about it. Estcourt is farther north than Quebec City, much farther north than Montreal, and but a short kilometerage from the St. Lawrence River. Our route to Estcourt was US Route 1 to Fort Kent, Maine, and then across the St. John Ri ver into Clair, New Brunswick -- we ran out of New Brunswick shortly and were in the ``Maple Townships'' of Quebec with incomparable fall foliage all the way. We didn't see any people in Estcourt.

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It's possible we were the only tourists to find Estcourt this season. For the record, we were there the day the Toronto Blue Jays nipped the New York Yankees to win the championnat de la ligue am'ericaine de l'est, and when we arrived to pass the night pleasantly at Levesque Motel in Rivi`ere du Loup, I was eager to learn how that game came out. The television in our room came on, and staring at me was a dapper Canadian newscaster who was apologizing because his network hadn't carried that game. A flood of telephone calls, he said, and everybody was sorry. ``Previous contractual obligations'' had prevailed instead. I sort of got the idea that there was limited enthusiasm about the Blue Jays, and the network had assumed nobody would mind. True, that's hockey country, where boys get ice skates for baptismal gifts, but even so. . . . For my part, I hope some year the World Series is played between Montreal and Toronto -- I hope to see a lanceur throw and a fra ppeur connect for a coup de circuit (quatre buts!).

The television from the United States gets good play in Canada. In the lobby of one hotel there hung a huge color photograph of Queen Elizabeth II and the royal family. My visits to Canada never convinced me that ``separation'' was so important an issue as our newspapers and magazines made out. Kaybeckers are Canadians first, and loyalty to Mother France began to erode three centuries ago. The issue was more talk than intent, and any number of French-Canadians have told me so.

So here was Her Majesty, surrounded by her considerable family, attesting that while Canada has removed itself from Empire and the like, Queen Elizabeth of England is still Queen of Canada. As we stood looking, a waitress passing with a tray paused to point out who was who in the picture. ``So many people ask me,'' she said, ``that I memorized everybody.'' We thanked her, and I said, ``Makes quite a bunch of people!''

``Yes,'' she said. ``Everybody's there except Howard Cosell.''

We came home by way of Canterbury and the Orient. This Canterbury is in New Brunswick, and the boy in the grocery store indicated I was by no means the first who had inquired for the archbishop. Orient may have two-three more people than Estcourt, but we didn't see them either.

Orient is the border crossing that brought us home to Maine. Here an agreeable gentleman in customs uniform welcomed us and asked if we had anything to declare. We declared, and he decided there would be no complications.

We chatted amiably about the serenity and remote charm of Orient; he said he enjoyed his work and the place; and as no other traffic came along we were not hurried. I didn't ask the gentleman his name, so I can't introduce him, but I applaud him as the kind of border guard who does credit to himself and his country. He was so comfortable to meet that we hope to pass that way again. We got home that night just as a magnificent sunset was in full swing, and we noticed that the foliage along Route 97, from

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Thomaston to our house, was lovely.

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