The Humble Farmer

November 15, 2012

The Humble Farmer portrait.

Robert Skoglund, The Humble Farmer, St. George, Maine. “I see the quality of my audiences is improving.”

Robert Skoglund, The humble farmer, lives in St. George, Maine. I knew of The humble farmer and enjoyed listening to his radio program of old time jazz and dry humor on Maine Public Broadcasting radio. The show, much to everyone’s loss, is no longer on MPBN.

In 2008, I met Robert on Monhegan Island. He had traveled there to conduct an auction of a donated Jamie Wyeth print for the benefit of the Monhegan schoolhouse. My wife and I were with friends visiting from California, and he extended to us an open invitation to drop by his house, which is also a B&B. We took him up on his offer for a few hours the next day, and had great fun being driven around in his 1919 Model T truck, listening to him talk quite knowledgeably and in depth about artists, politics and life in Maine.

Dory Kulwin, The Humble Farmer and Dana Trattner driving the 1919 Model T from the barn.

Dory Kulwin and Dana Trattner with the humble farmer driving from the barn.

Dory Kulwin, The Humble Farmer and Dana Trattner in the 1919 Model T.

Dory Kulwin, the humble farmer and Dana Trattner in the 1919 Model T.

Off and on since then, while driving down the St. George peninsula to Port Clyde, I would think of the humble farmer and mutter a vow to myself to make a portrait of him. In late summer, I finally acted on that impulse and asked him for some of his time.

My wife, Dana, accompanied me. We were treated to the usual, extraordinary hospitality of Robert and his wife Marsha, The Almost Perfect Woman. They served us a delightful luncheon — that’s the only word for it, it was really much more than “lunch.” You can see information about their B&B at http://thehumblefarmer.com/BaB.html. It’s a very entertaining site, a little corny and a lot of fun.

You really must experience humble in person, or buy one of his many recordings, to get the full flavor of his wit and personality. He says things like “You can learn a lot about a man by going into his bathroom and seeing how many extra holes he had to drill in the wall to put up his towel racks.” He asked about my family background and got me talking about my grandfather. Then he asked, “What about your other grandfather? Everyone has two grandfathers, except for some people in Port Clyde.” He goes along quite slyly, and suddenly it dawns on you that you’re going to work very hard to keep up with him.

Over the years Robert has had any number of fine artists and photographers make portraits of him, including humorous send-ups of famous art such as Grant Wood’s “American Gothic” and Andrew Wyeth’s “Christina’s World.” When I arrived I had a rough idea of shooting him outside with some of the pastured animals in the background. I set up my lighting and he shooed the animals around, but the shot would be just a technical exercise if humble hadn’t unleashed the full force of his personality onto the concept. Thank you, humble farmer, for the smiles.

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