I could write a whole series of posts about the wonders to be found in the State of Maine’s collection of digital records.
(And indeed I might, since it seems that list-style posts that trawl the back corners of the Internet are just about all I have to write lately. Even that may be more than the world needs, or I need. Anyway.)
I don’t know why I started reading back issues of “Field Notes,” a weekly, then monthly publication of the state Department of Inline Fisheries and Game.
I’m glad I did, though, because they’re oddly charming.
Each issue consists of a series of verbatim reports from state game wardens from all over Maine. Each warden reports on notable hunting, fishing and wildlife events from his area.
Of course there are quick-hit anecdotes that stand out in each one — like the story of Charles Dugay, who trapped a bobcat in his woodshed one night in the spring of 1963. Not having a gun to hand, Dugay opened the shed door and finished off the catamount with a shovel, earning himself a $15 bounty in the process. A man could buy himself a lot for $15, I guess.
There are also little things that pique the curiosity. Like the mention, in the above-linked issue, that “smelts have started to run in Dead Cambridge with a good run on.” What in the hell do you s’pose Dead Cambridge is?
Similarly, Game Biologist Steve Powell’s note of Aug. 20, 1963, is quietly fascinating: “It is time for teal to begin a build-up in Merrymeeting Bay although the rice is not as far advanced as it should be.”
I can imagine Merrymeeting Bay in my mind, despite never having been there; and I am envious of men whose life and work call on them to know when the teal usually start massing in Merrymeeting Bay.
Or Warden Supervisor Walter Bisset’s comment of Aug. 25, 1965: “I have never seen the woods as dry as they are at present.” Makes the literate suburbanite think of Ben Mears and Mark Petrie setting fire to ‘Salem’s Lot.
Not all the passing tidbits raise an eyebrow, though. Sometimes they warm the heart.
Like in the issue of Nov. 17, 1965, when Warden Supervisor David Priest notes: “Still quite a few ducks along the Penobscot River.” Somehow those nine simple words conjure the image of a content outdoorsman enjoying a roast duck dinner in a little hunting cabin by the river, with a fire to keep him warm, as the pre-Thanksgiving dank settles on the woods that surround him.
Or Warden Alden Kennett of Bethel, reporting in the issue of Sept. 14, 1964: “The maple trees in many areas are taking on their autumn brilliance – makes one realize that fall is upon us.” How thoroughly wonderful that these folks who get paid to work in the wilderness haven’t lost their basic sense of wonder at the colors of fall.
Those folks who get paid to live in the wilderness often have a fine command of the English language, too — spare but colorful. Like the report of Warden Supervisor C.F. Cooper of Stockholm on Dec. 5, 1969: “I still believe we have a good herd of deer, even though it appears otherwise. A few years ago we had a similar fall, and after the end of November, one almost had to kick them out of the way.”
Or Warden Supervisor George Nash of Jackman Station in the same issue: “There were fewer hunters in this area but fewer hunters killed more deer. Figure that one out.”
Or Warden Michael O’Connell of Pittston, speaking volumes with a phrase: “Spending a lot of time on lost hunters.” Just those words are enough to bring on a shiver, and make you imagine the growing sense of being lost in the vast Maine woods.
On that note, I’m logging off and going to fantasize about bagging my limit of teal, or whatever it is sportsmen dream about in this wild other world I’ve just spent an hour visiting.