Maine is a wonderful travel destination. Personally, we tend to gravitate towards the sea coast. We love the scenic harbor towns: the wharves and boathouses, fishing boats and nets; the sea breeze carrying the unique fragrance of Poseiden’s realm; the sounds of the gulls and waves.

Our son was two, and was totally spoiled by a doting set of grandparents, who were not about to let us take their precious grandson away for two whole weeks. So, on this particular trip, we needed to rent a place to stay – a place to hold two adults, one child, and three grandparents. After a little research, we found a captain’s house on Penobscot Bay, near Stockton Springs. It was still undergoing renovation, and only the bottom two floors were usable, but this was the first season the new owners were renting, and the price was extremely reasonable. So, we made reservations and, as soon as school was out for the year, we hopped in our Suburban and drove east.

Actually, we drove north and THEN east, but I think editorial license permits a bit of understatement.

The trip was a riot, and Beloved Son was king: he dictated who sat where; especially, who had the privilege of sitting at his left and right hands, those who would have the honor of entertaining and waiting on him, as opposed to the one banished to the furthest borders of his kingdom – the back seat.

King Solomon never had it so well.

The trip took two days, and eventually we pulled into Stockton Springs. The directions to the house were a bit confusing, so we stopped at the major intersection of town, and asked the gas station attendant for assistance. We had momentary trouble making our intended destination known, but finally we saw his mental light click on.

“Oh,” he said, “you mean the Cow Palace.”

The Cow Palace. My wife and I are seldom on the same wavelength, but this time we were both in sync. Visions of mulling cows, flies, and various bovine-scented deposits were filling our heads.

The attendant must have noted our response, but he just smiled, gave directions, and refused to expand on his remark.

Our destination was, in fact, just a few miles down a side road, directly on the sound; and as soon as we turned into the drive, we understood the attendant’s remark. There, behind this charismatic and scenic old captain’s house, was a faded, grey, used-to-be-painted-white barn, and along the top were the hand-painted words, “The Cow Palace.”

Relief.

The grounds were lovely, and the house was only a few hundred yards from the rocky beach. Several miles down the road, on the point, was an old New England lighthouse. Other than that, there were no buildings, or neighbors, in sight. That night, the windows open to the cool sea breeze, was the darkest and quietest night I have experienced. At one point, with the tide either leaving or returning, we could hear the soft “shurrrr-rush” of the water. But, when the tide was still, the complete stillness was frightening.

We spent a wonderful week along the coast; the harbors, Acadia National Park, and just the hours spent walking along the long rocky beach, which we had entirely to ourselves, were memorable. Of the thousands of images I have probably photographed throughout my life, it was on that beach I took the one which will always be my favorite: a boy and his grandfather, walking hand-in-hand, frozen in mid-laugh. No other image will ever bring to heart as strong an emotion than the image of that particular moment.

It was a fantastically relaxing vacation which ended entirely too soon, and the memories saved, both on film and in the darkroom of the mind, were – and still are – priceless.

Oh wait – I nearly forgot! The most unique feature of the entire Cow Palace…

… the bathroom.

The owners had taken an entire first floor bedroom, and converted it into a bathroom. The most spacious bathroom I have ever seen; and, somewhere in the twisted mind of a two year old, our son decided that the middle of the bathroom was the perfect location for game playing.

Picture, if you can, three senior citizens, two grown adults, and one dictatorial two year old, in the middle of a good sized bedroom decorated with toilet, sink and shower, playing ring-around-the-rosie, and going ‘all fall down’ on the hard tile floor.

So tell me – think he grew up spoiled?

Nah.

But at 22 years of age, he still gets to decide who calls, “Shotgun!”