It's a Down-East Maine colloquialism and I've adopted it for my own. I grew up in the metropolitan Washington D.C. area and we were short on colloquialisms. Nobody stayed put long enough to whomp up anything regional. There should've been a way to work dead 'possums and Congressmen into the same phrase, but mostly we didn't get too colorful.
"Handy by" just means "handy." Like you'd want to keep your ice saw down cellah, handy by, in case a weasel gets frozen to your shed again. It only makes sense to keep things handy by. Right where you'd need them. That's why, in your better households, you don't keep your cheese by the toilet and your toilet paper in the fridge.
I've been able to instill good habits just by keeping things handy by. My dental health improved tremendously when I took the floss out of the bathroom and put it by my writing desk. I'm there a lot, and I'm not always visibly doing anything. There's always time to floss.
So I was inspired last week when we got a call to arms. We are supposed to fire off postcards to our congressmen or call them on the phone. They're our servants: ideally, they should know what we think, and I've been meaning to get in the habit. Specifically, this time, it was suggested that because Presidential Advisatrix Kellyanne Conway didn't think there was any "point" to the Women's March, we should pop her a line to help her out.
|Overflow crowd at Sen. Jeff Merkley's town hall meeting|
...momentary pause to fetch the fourth beer, back in the seat...still with me, Kellyanne, sugar?...And another thing...
Well. I have a tiny little .005 Micron art pen, but by the time you jam all that onto a postcard it looks more like a barcode. I ended up printing it out and folding it into a regular envelope proper and resolved to be more succinct the next time.
I'm under no illusions anyone is going to pluck my letter out of the pile and have a look, and then get on the horn and say hold off on that deregulation, Murr's made a pretty good point here, but this is still our democracy and our public servants should hear from us. According to congressional staffers, written mail and phone calls really can have an effect. I have lots of beer and a full bandolier, and I can shoot words onto postcards all night long. Assuming I have postcards.
But I know how this works. I might think about flossing my teeth ten times a day, but I won't do it unless the floss is right there, handy by. And I can promise myself I'll write to my congressmen (or, more likely, yours) but odds are it's not going to happen unless I keep postcards. So I went to the post office. And I got a fistful of pre-stamped postcards, with lots of room on the back. And I put them in the drawer of my computer desk. I can hear them rustling about and squeaking "pick me, pick me!" They're right there. Handy by. Ayuh.
You can do it too. Here are Ten Actions For The First Hundred Days.