My brother, Willie, really is a genius (or at least close to one) when it comes to science. When he was in high school, he became fascinated with the intersection between physics and parapsychology. Postulating that the energy field around a person, which someone people can see and label an aura, can actually be seen by everyone, just like everyone can see heat waves rising off a hot tar road, Willie set about researching the design of a pair of glasses that would compensate for the limitations of human vision and allow anyone to see another person’s aura, no matter how minimal the energy. He began his research with the historically little known research into the area of parapsychology conducted by Sir Isaac Newton. Then he went on to study more about optics. Some of his studying he did in a research trip he took to Penn State University, where I was an undergraduate, during the summer of his sophomore year.
After some experimentation, the materials for which his high school biology teacher purchased for him, there being no funds at home for such things, especially since my father had died a couple of years earlier, leaving Ma with the five youngest children to raise on a combination of farming and welfare, Willie had perfected a set of glasses that did exactly what he wanted them to do. His biology teacher was so proud of him that he managed to get him registered for a conference on physics and parapsychology that was taking place at the time in Boston and funded his attendance.
My brother went to the conference and presented his research. Of course, he looked and sounded astonishingly young. He was astonishingly young. When he asked for questions, someone commented on his age and asked for his background in the field of physics, where he had studied, and the like. Willie honestly replied, “I have no background in physics. I am just a farm boy from down Maine.” (I wish I could have been a fly on the wall of that gathering of PhDs, all very likely trying to outshine each other. I wonder how they processed the information that they had been listening in fascination to a “farm boy from down Maine.”)
Years later, a similar remark brought this story back to mind. I had just finished admitting Doah to Children’s Hospital in Boston after stealing him from a hospital in Pennsylvania. My brothers, Willie and Keith, had accompanied us and the ambulance to the hospital. Since they had expected to be bringing us back home to Maine and not to Children’s Hospital, they had simply jumped into the car after finishing their work for the day in the fields and had driven south to Boston. Seeing their coveralls, the nurse who helped with admissions from the ER, asked in confusion, “Are you doctors?”
“Nope,” replied Willie in a manner reminiscent of his response at that conference a few years earlier. “We’re just farm boys from down Maine.”