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About noon on Friday, June 24 I was driving alone across Maine, bound for Errol, N.H. Near Errol, at the Pack Management Center on the Dartmouth College Land Grant, I was slated—or destined—to join the most astonishing trout-fishing expedition of my life. I hadn't realized quite how astonishing the trip really was till I stopped for a rest in the town of Strong, Me.
There, while sipping a gas-station Coke, I saw a sign stating that Strong is the world's center for the manufacture of toothpicks. I began to think about toothpicks and people who used them. My grandfather had a gold toothpick. My mother, who didn't use toothpicks, said grandfather's wasn't sanitary. I wondered if Abraham Lincoln used toothpicks? Or Billy Graham? Or Ben Hogan? Or Oliver Wendell Holmes?
Then all of a sudden I wondered if President Eisenhower used them, and brought up with a severe start. Within 24 hours, if no mishap befell me, I would be in a position to know. Because at the Pack Management Center, above the fork of the Swift and Dead Diamond rivers, at noon tomorrow I was going to eat lunch with Mr. Eisenhower.
I had been invited by Dartmouth's President John Sloan Dickey to join his annual fishing party. As hosts to Mr. Eisenhower, the party was to catch the trout which Sidney Hayward, secretary of the college, would broil. Then, together with the President of the United States and others, we would all sit down and eat them. Afterward, if Ike wanted a toothpick, he would get one to his liking if I had to whittle it myself out of dry cedar.
To the average man, eating trout, cornbread and beanhole beans at a small, deep-woods, camp table with the President is of the stuff of dreams. In this respect at least I am an average man. My name is Smith and it is on behalf of the average man that I hope to describe the sensations, before and during, of a close-up meeting with America's leading citizen—and of the 20 seconds or so I found myself, by accident, alone with him.
"He'll be coming through Sunday or Monday," the gas-station attendant said.
"I know," I said. "On his way to Skowhegan. As a matter of fact, I'm eating lunch with him tomorrow."
I repeated myself verbatim and the gas-station man, with the acrimony of total disbelief, said, "Nuts!"
I drove on, fully realizing that the guy could be right. I might be dreaming. The average man often did. There was a possibility that I would arrive on the riverbank in the forest of the Dartmouth Grant and find the place deserted. On the other hand, my wallet was upholstered with credential papers from Robert Scott Monahan, Dartmouth College forester and head of the college staff in charge of arrangements for the Presidential party. And now that news of the trip had been released I was at liberty to talk about it.