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The Potato Farmer's Daughter: 1940

The Potato Farmer's Daughter: 1940

October 1940. "The daughter of Mr. Dave Labbee, French-Canadian potato farmer, outside their house near Wallagrass, Maine." Acetate negative by Jack Delano. View full size.


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Fragrant wood

The object standing in front of the window on the right looks like a well with a crank and chain. A thick pipe is visible under the porch - but why is the well standing on the porch?
And the girl was very bold and even provocative.

Going to guess

That the item to the right in front of the window is a crank attached to a rope to draw water in a bucket from the well below.

Well, well, well?

Could the thing in front of the window be a wellhead? It looks like it has a crank handle and rope around a spindle, and below the porch there is a structure that appears to be corrugated pipe... The wooden panel leaning against it looks as if it could be a cover, with a notch for a rope. But I'm just guessing.


So much to love about this photo, beginning with the wood: shingles on the roof, shakes on the wall, lap siding, rough-hewn boards for the stairs and deck, logs for the porch. I can smell it from here, across the border from French Canada where I live, almost 80 years away. Also love the plants in the cans (incl. Jewel shortening). But what’s that item standing up in front of the window on the right, beside the classic barrel? (The girl is great, too!)

All the world's a stage

What with the girl's beauty and that pose -- not to mention that skirt length and those hose -- hey! that rhymes! -- I am inclined to believe our little miss was enjoying the attention of the photographer. Must've been a warm October in Maine for her to strut her stuff "onstage" dressed like that. But then maybe she was merely walking across the porch and glanced over at the opportune moment. Either way, the young girl peeking through the screen door wants in on it.

[That's Mother. - Dave]

However ... when I was eight or nine, I used the long front walk of a big fancy house where we lived one summer rent-free -- true story; my "stepfather" was a con-man -- as a runway of sorts. With a parasol as my prop, I pranced up and down singing a song I'd made up. Presumably this was for the benefit of neighbors and passers-by, although I don't remember attracting any notice. I do know that there was no applause and certainly no photographer, and I have no idea what I wore. Probably shorts and a sleeveless top. But then that was Florida, where it's always warm.

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