Sunday, August 14, 2016

Where The Bulk of My Writings Are

The bulk of my writings are on the first website to accept my work. It is located close to where I lived at Katahdin Lodge and Camps in Maine. I do not know how much longer the site will be up. It is an Internet newspaper. My works there are about Maine, Dundalk, me in the Army on Okinawa, Veterans health care issues, dumpster diving, and more. Right at this link: 


Wednesday, June 22, 2016


By David Robert Crews
Jul 26, 2005 - 12:04:00 AM

Disclaimer for Patten Mainers: I never can remember if it was White Ash Hill or Light Ash Hill, but I saw it on a web site listed as Ash Hill. Can’t remember Scoot Lane’s sidekick’s name, but I think it was Tom. Can’t remember my old girlfriend Barbara Smallwood’s brother’s name or his old best friend’s name (Franky Violet’s son). I suppose that I fiddled with the facts a bit, but I’m open for correction. But there definitely wasn’t much pot in Maine back then. I hope you enjoy this though. (and helloo theah Arnie)

“I can tell when they’re on drugs, because I can look right in the uterus of their eyes.”

Franky Violet, Town Cop and Carpenter had misspoken those words at a town hall meeting in Patten, Maine back in 1969. That was the first time that local marihuana users were the subject of discussion at a public forum in that small New England town, which is nestled in The Katahdin Valley area. Franky was sure that he knew who was bringing the stuff into the area from the outside, and who was buying, selling and smoking it. He had declared a one-man war against the potheads.

In the summer of 1969, some of the local people in the area were smoking pot, but I knew that very few of them participated in the mind-altering activity at the time. I had an active, exciting social life there in Maine, but I had not ever even heard of anyone whom I personally knew, in the area, getting high on marihuana in 1969. I never once encountered it myself at any party or anywhere else around there. Nobody could have smoked the stuff anywhere near me and not have me know about it, because I knew what it smelled like in the air or on a person, after they had just smoked it. I had been around pot smokers before, when I was in high school down in Dundalk, Maryland. I had moved up to the Katahdin Valley area, several months after graduating from high school in 1968, to work as a bear hunting guide at my aunt and uncles hunting lodge, Katahdin Lodge and Camps, which is located just north of Patten.

Franky got a kick out of informing people that he had painted his house the same color as his name. He patrolled his police beat in his personal car, a yellow Plymouth convertible, which gave rise to the nickname that the local folks in Patten called him, Bananastein.

That Plymouth was only a year or two old at the time, but it only had a small six-cylinder motor under it’s hood. That was fine with any of the local boys who had big, powerful V8s in their late 1960’s muscle cars, because Bananastein couldn’t catch them when they didn’t want him to.

Franky hung out at The Pizza Place on Main St. a lot. Every time that I went in there, when he was there, he’d be talking with the other customers, who were local residents, about something or other and laughing at any humor in his own part of the conversation harder than anyone else in the place. He’d often be in there, standing up near or leaning against the front counter, dressed in a pair of green work pants and an inexpensive flannel shirt, wearing an old .38 caliber revolver in a well worn leather holster hanging at his side on a stressed out leather gun belt that was wrapped around his waist. He would always be resting the crook of his right hand Hollywood Cowboy style over the revolver’s hammer and pistol grips. He did that with a clearly visible air of self-appointed, minor superiority, which he had bestowed upon himself for being the only man in town who could legally wear a loaded firearm at all times in all places.

Guys like Arnie Ballard, in his Olds 442, which had a powerful, massive motor under its hood, would be driving around the tiny town of Patten and spot the Bananastein car sitting out in front of The Pizza Place. They would drive by there slow enough to see if Frankey was standing at the counter and wrapped up in his own conversation deeply enough that he did not notice who was driving by. If he weren’t paying attention to who was driving by, the hot rod drivers would go pull their latest favorite prank on him. The hotrodders would then roll far enough up the street that they could not be seen from anywhere inside the place, then hit the gas, spin their rear tires, squeal wheels and leave a cloud of burnt rubber smoke in the air.

When the pranking country boys first began to enjoy this harassing hobby, after they had burnt rubber, they would zoom on outa town to evade Franky, who always ran out of The Pizza Place with his dander up, jumped into the Bananastein car and pursued the pranksters.

The major drawback to that evasive tactic was that there were only two roads that they could take to leave town, if they were traveling south on Main Street, or two other roads if they were hightailing it to the north on Main Street. But, Bananastein had gotten lucky a couple of times and had caught up to a prankster, who had just squealed wheels to harass him, and given him a traffic ticket.

Downtown Patten only has about two city blocks of businesses on Main Street. The side streets that feed off of Main Street go two or three streets back then loop back onto Main Street or to one of the roads that is one of the south exits from town. It’s hard to hide from a pursuing policeman if you stay in town after getting his dander up, but that was the next E+E (Evade and Escape) tactic employed by Arnie Ballard.

What Arnie started doing was, he would burn rubber uptown by The Pizza Place, then instead of speeding on out the road, he would slip off onto a side street, go around the backside of the stores on Main Street, and hide there where he could watch Bananastein fly by in moot pursuit of him.

It was funny to see. I was sitting out in front of Patten Drug Store with my girlfriend one time, and what catches our attention but the front grill and hood of Arnie’s 442 peeking out from the only alley in town that comes out onto Main Street. Sure as we suddenly expected, here comes Bananastein motivating down the street from the direction of his usual hangout and traveling at almost twice the speed limit towards the south end of town. We watched the front of the 442 as it creeped out further with Arnie hunched over the steering wheel and stretching his head forward while looking down the street to make sure that the town cop had fallen for the trick and was still taking his chances at catching the rubber burner on one of the south end roads.

We knew what Arnie was up to, because almost everyone in town was aware of Arnie’s latest E+E trick.

His father owned the largest of three gas stations in town, and had known Franky Violet all his life. Ole' Bananastein had had a few talks with Mr. Ballard about Arnie’s shenanigans, that were solely designed to aggravate and harass the town cop and carpenter. Arnie’s days of thundering around the northern Maine countryside in a bad ass Olds 442 were about to come to a screeching halt. Franky had his fill of that nonsense and had one last angry, aggravated talk with Mr. Ballard.

That was it for that 442 in Patten. Arnie told me that his father had asked him to sell the 442, which he still had plenty of monthly payments left to pay on, to someone that they didn’t know who lived far enough away that Arnie couldn’t ever drive it again. In return for that favor Mr. Ballard would give Arnie a nearly new Pontiac Bonneville, that he owned, and buy himself a new car. Arnie sheepishly added that he didn’t mind accepting his dad’s offer, but I seriously doubt that he had a choice. He conveniently told his friends that to protect his youthful pride.

One Saturday night, around midnight, during the summer of 1969, Arnie and I were cruising around in his recently acquired Bonneville, drinking a few beers. We had each taken our girlfriends out that evening, but the parents of the young ladies of Northern Maine usually enforced an 11PM curfew for their daughters, so we had already taken them home. We were easing down Main Street, looking for some of the other local boys to hang out with, and found a few of our buddies sitting and sipping beers in their cars, that were diagonally parked under the street lights out in front of Richardson’s Hardware Store. Arnie pulled in next to them, turned the Pontiac’s big V8 motor off, and we got comfortable in our seats while the other guys welcomed us into their conversation.

That time of night, the married men were usually all at home snuggling up with their wives. That included Franky Violet Town Cop and Carpenter and his good wife. Out of state tourists, fishermen, hunters or campers staying at the area’s recreational facilities were never in town that late at night, because all of the businesses were closed till morning.

That left just us young bachelors out and about to socialize, relax from working hard all week, and do some underage alcohol consumption without anyone else bothering us. Not that anyone minded very much back then, because we never made much noise or left empty beer cans and bottles littered all over the place. If anyone had done any of these things, everyone else in town would have soon known about it and been offended by such rudeness. The offenders would then be subject to angry reproach from their family, friends, and the store owners, who they had to do business with on a daily basis. Most importantly, we rarely ever wrecked in one of our motor vehicles while engaging in this dangerous, illegal activity.

We all sat there enjoying the quiet stillness of the night and talking amongst ourselves for about an hour.

Then, Arnie and I had to drain some used beer from our bladders. We drove out of town a little ways and pulled off onto an old gravel road were there were no houses near by then got out and watered the weeds on the side of the road. It would have been an unsanitary, stench of a mess if us guys peed on Main Street every time that we drank beer there.

When Arnie and I got back to the crew sitting under the streetlights on Main Street, another car, with two more locally grown country boys in it, had pulled in to join them. It was Scoot Lane in his brand new Olds 442 with his lifelong best friend and sidekick Tom in the passenger seat.

The car had Connecticut license tags on it, because Scoot and Tom had moved south to that state to find work about two years before that night. Many of the young men and women from that area had to do that, after they turned eighteen years old. Scoot and Tom were on one of their frequent weekend trips home.

Arnie pulled in next to the 442. He was looking it over good, because it was the first time that he had seen it. I had never seen the car or Scoot and Tom before, but I already knew who they were. Bananastein had let it be known to everyone around town that he knew for sure that those two were bringing reefer up from Connecticut and selling it to a certain woman whose farm house had reportedly become the site of marihuana and sex orgies. I believed the part about them importing the pot, but the orgy bit was straight out of the movie Reefer Madness.

Every guy there was drinking beer. You could tell by the glossy shine on all of our eyes, that we had each achieved some degree of intoxication. But Scoot and Tom had an extra reddish, deep glow to their ocular openings. Because I had been around people who were high on pot before, I knew the difference between an alcohol glow and a marihuana glow reflecting from a user’s eyeballs. Them two boys in the 442 had the distinct look of people who had been smoking a lot of pot.

A few more fellas came by in their car and pulled up and parked on the driver’s side of Arnie’s car. One of the guys from a car that was parked on the other side of the car that was parked beside the 442 came over to the car that had just parked, and he told them guys that it would be cool to see that 442 git it on and do its muscle car thing. Then he went back to his car.

The guys next to Arnie started to whisper stuff to him about it. Every time that Scoot and Tom would have their heads turned towards the cars on the other side of them and be talking just to them guys over there, the guys next to Arnie would pester him to challenge Scoot to a drag race. Every time that Scoot and Tom were paying attention to something interesting or funny said by one of us sitting there on our side of the 442, then them guys on the other side of the 442 would make clandestine hand signals and mouth words of encouragement through Scoot’s car windows over to Arnie.

Arnie quietly said that it would be dumb to race in the big, wide, and heavy Bonneville that was designed as a family car. The other guys said something like, but yeah, you got the biggest motor here and you had that 442 of yours so Scoot might want to take the challenge.

Arnie didn’t think it was a good idea to tarnish his established driving reputation by losing a race so easily as he would, but the other guys said that they just wanted to see what that new 442 could do with a highly skilled driver like Scoot behind its wheel. They told Arnie to just go about halfway through the race then slow down and let Scoot put on a show for us. Arnie finally gave in to their prodding and said that oh what the heck he’d like to see that too.

I leaned back in my seat as Arnie leaned forward and casually challenged Scoot to a drag race. Scoot scoffed in a friendly way as he glanced down at the Pontiac’s big Bonneville style body, grinned and shook his head in disbelief at Arnie, the former owner and daring driver of a 442. Tom looked over at Arnie and grinned too, but he maintained a natural hard edge to his face that showed me that he was one of them kind of individuals who were born and raised with a mean streak running right through them.

Scoot didn’t hardly answer Arnie’s question, because it seemed like it was said as a jest. But Arnie asked again and Scoot said something like, yeah why not.

All of us guys, in all four cars, shifted positions in our seats. We went from being laid back and relaxed to upright and oh man we’re gonna see one of the biggest badest stock muscle cars in America get up and go. Best of all, it would be driven hard by a local lad who was one of the best drivers around. We anticipated witnessing expertise at double clutching gear jammin’ technique and the sounds of a massive motor growling, roaring and blasting through the still night air.

Scoot and Arnie then agreed upon the starting and finishing lines for the race. They chose the end of Main Street as the start. From there, the road has four wide lanes, covered with smooth asphalt, as it goes down a small incline, over Fish Stream and up a large incline until it reaches the top of that hill, then turns into the two lane, rough, tar capped road that goes six miles down to the tiny town of Sherman Station. The finish line was declared to be just before the end of the four-lane section of road, which was about the standard quarter of a mile used for most drag races.

The two racers cranked up their motors. Tom’s weight and mine were about equal, so the drivers each agreed that we should ride along. They backed out onto Main Street, and then we slowly moved forward to the starting line. The other three cars stayed right where they were, because it was a good advantage point to watch the race from.

Arnie told me that he hoped that his father didn’t ever hear about this and take the Bonneville away from him too.

Scoot and Tom sat there looking at Arnie and Arnie and I sat there looking at Scoot. The drivers revved up their engines a little but nobody moved an inch. Arnie was trying hard not to show that he was worried about getting into trouble for racing right there in town. Scoot couldn’t have cared less about what might happen.

Everyone was hoping to hear that 442’s tires squeal and see a cloud of smoke form around them as the racers took off. But, neither car did anything.

Arnie said to Scoot, “We’ll go when you take off.”

Scoot said, “No, you go. I’ll spot ya three car lengths because ya got that big, heavy thing”

Arnie replied, “No, I can handle it, let’s just go.”

Then Arnie started to creep forward, while watching the 442 closely so as not to miss a second of its roaring and screeching burst off of the starting line. Then the 442 started to inch forward and Arnie hit the gas. Scoot stayed right along side of us. He wouldn’t shoot past us like he could have. Arnie went faster, Scoot went the same speed. Arnie slowed down, and so did Scoot. Arnie took off and hit about 70 mph with Scoot and Tom sitting there right beside him grinning like two rabbits eating the lush grass growing next to a barking beagle’s dog pen.

It was obvious that the show wasn’t going to go on as Arnie slowed down and Scoot did too. Scoot and Tom really had big grins on their faces now, and we were just about to stop and talk, when all of a sudden, out of nowhere, a brand new, dark blue Plymouth pulls up behind us. The driver flicked its high beams on and off a couple of times then kept them on. We turned around in our seats and saw a little blue revolving cop car light on the Plymouth’s dashboard.

Arnie and I looked at Scoot and Tom and shrugged our shoulders in disbelief, and they looked at us, shrugged their shoulders and hollered over that it wasn’t a state cop and that they didn’t know who it was.

The 442 rolled a little faster, got a few car lengths ahead of us, and started to pull off to the side of the road.

The dark mystery machine stayed back to our left, as Arnie and I strained to see who was driving that thing. We were drifting along at about 5mph when the blue menace slid up next to us. It had a 383 cu. in. engine insignia on the side of its front fender, which Arnie and I both saw and remarked on at the same time. I look up from that and saw my girlfriend’s thirteen-year-old brother looking back at me from the front passenger side window. Next to him, in the middle of the front seat was his twelve-year-old best friend, Franky Violet’s son. And sitting there behind the steering wheel, in all his self appointed glory, was the one and only Franky Violet, Town Cop and Carpenter.

Arnie’s eyes got real wide as he looked over at me with my wide eyes and we said and or thought, “Holy shit! What the! Where’d he get that thing from?”

It was the inaugural ride of Franky’s brand new war machine. He had taken all that he was going to off of the local boys for driving around as Bananastein. Now he had a fast car too.

Franky must have gotten the new Plymouth that afternoon, then hid it somewhere away from Patten until after nightfall. There is no way that he could have driven it through town that day and not have all of us guys hangin’ out in town that night know about it. News like that would have traveled at the speed of sound, through town till everybody knew about it, if just one person had seen Bananastein in a brand new dark blue Plymouth with a big 383 motor under its hood that, we found out later, was built on a beefed up chassis and suspension designed for state police cars.

He had retrieved his new patrol car from its hiding place, then stayed off of Main Street as he maneuvered it to a strategic spot somewhere in the darkness down by Potato Row, where there were no street lights. From there he had watched us guys up on the hill in town like an Owl looking for its midnight meal. He knew that when Scoot finally went home to go to bed it would be to his parent’s house, which was south of town. When Scoot drove out of town in that 442 it would probably be leaving at a rate of speed higher then the posted limit. That’s all he needed to be able to stop the car and search it for marihuana.

Scoot never came to a complete stop. As Franky rolled by the Bonneville, he just looked over and stared at us. The three cars now moved like we were all in slow motion.

Then, Franky started after Scoot. The dark blue Plymouth got close enough to the 442 for Tom and Scoot to see that Franky was driving it.

We all knew that Scoot was the target of Franky’s big interstate drug ring investigation. It was no surprise to anyone there that night when Scoot finally granted the wish of the guys sitting under the streetlights in town. He took off like them two munching bunnies would have if the beagle’s dog pen door had popped open.

Holy o’ jeezus you shoulda’ seen him go. Arnie stopped the Bonneville and we jumped out and watched. It was Thunder Road 1969. The 442’s motor and transmission’s barking and growling sounded like poetry to us young hot rod appreciators. In that sparsely populated wide open section of Katahdin Valley, on such a quiet summer night, the sounds traveled loud and clear for a long way.

The four on the floor shifting 442 Olds went garowwww, womp, womp garowww, womp, womp, garowww, womp, womp garowwwwrrrrrrrrr off down the road. The 383 Plymouth’s automatic transmission didn’t allow it to make the well-known classic drag strip sounds that the 442 made, but its huge Mopar motor added a nice steady deep rumble to the scene.

A short way past the start of the two lane, rough surface country road that lay in front of us, there is a slight drop in elevation, then the road goes up and up White Ash Hill. At the top tip of that hill, there used to be a slight, lip like bump that protruded about six or eight inches above the rest of the road.

When the 442 hit that spot, its front end went straight up in the air. The front tires hung in the air like T-Rex’s limp arms. The headlights shined way up into the dark, starry sky for a split second. Its rear wheels never left the road, but the rear bumper scraped up sparks from the road surface. The front wheels bounced wildly when they came smashing back down onto the tar, but the car steered straight and steady. The 383 hugged the road at a somewhat slower speed as it followed in pursuit.

After that, the road goes down past Katahdin High School and on through Blood and Guts Curves. That is a fairly flat, mildly curving section of Rt. 11 that is OK to drive at the posted speed limit, but several horrible accidents had occurred there over the years as a result of fast driving. Arnie and I could hear the cars traveling at high speeds for a minute, and then we didn’t hear anything at all.

It was best that we went down the road to see what Franky had to say to us. Arnie did not want the town cop knocking on his family’s door the next morning to speak to his father about this and I sure didn’t want him contacting my aunt and uncle about it.

We never thought that we should go see if anyone might need our help in case there might be one hell of a smash up down the road. The two drivers knew every inch of that stretch of tar and precisely how to take the one line of travel through each and every curve, dip, hump and bump that would allow them to move at maximum speed without losing control and wrecking.

There weren’t very many roads around there, and even though it was six miles between Patten and Sherman Station, the people who lived in that area made the drive in six or seven minutes when they drove at the normal accepted rate of speed. Any local person who grew up around there had ridden on that stretch of road many hundreds of times by the time that they were old enough to get their driver’s license. Then they drove on the road themselves numerous times a week as long as they lived in the area.

When Arnie and I drove into Sherman Station, we saw an old white Rambler car sitting on a gravel parking lot at the side of the street. It was parked with its front facing the street, and we saw the tops of two heads peaking up above its dashboard. As we got closer the two bodies under the two heads sat up and waved us over to them.

It was Scoot and Tom. Arnie stopped beside the Rambler and we all talked things over for a few minutes.

Tom said that he had gone over Ash Hill like that one time before, when he was with another guy who was driving a 57 Ford with a big V8 T-Bird engine in it. The car was doing 115 mph at the time and the driver almost lost control of it when all four wheels had left the road and the car flew through the air for a short distance. Tom casually, with intense enjoyment, said that he had mentioned this to Scoot just before topping Ash Hill and told him not to take it at more than 110 mph. So they had gone over the hill at 107 mph and loved every mili-second of the ride. After the hill they went flat out as fast as any driver had ever dared to. Scoot said that he never went under a 120 mph during the rest of the short, extremely fast, crazy ride and that his speedometer registered between 120+140 mph the whole time.

Then they had whipped into the side street and up to the house where Tom grew up, quickly put the 442 into an old barn there, and jumped into his mother’s old Rambler. It had the keys in the ignition, because there were never any car thefts around there and everybody up there always left their keys in the ignitions of their vehicles when they were parked at home or in town. Then they made it back out to the main street of town in time to see Franky fly by.

Scoot had been high enough on reefer and booze to be able to go all the way to the very most outer edge of extremely dangerous driving without caring about the possible consequences, but not so stoned that he went over that line and made a fatal mistake. He was young, had good mental-physical coordination, possessed well-tuned Northern Maine driving abilities and had the right car to do it in. Also, he was plain lucky not to have hit a wild animal or pet dog, that was crossing the road, or some person walking along the road or some innocent motorist pulling out of their driveway who did not have the time to see a car coming at them moving so extremely fast.

Franky was sober, not so extremely well skilled of a driver as Scoot, didn’t know his new car’s above average road handling capabilities intimately yet and most importantly had two kids with him. He was smart to make that run at about 90 to 100 mph and not the hellacious speeds of up to a 140 mph that Scoot drove.

Scoot said that he knew that Franky was out to get him, and we all said that we knew it. The best thing for us to do was that Arnie and I would go down to the restaurant at the Sherman Interstate 95 Exit a few miles down the road and hope to find Franky there. We would come back, after he wrote Arnie any traffic tickets and gave us a lecture on what we did that was wrong, and tell Scoot and Tom what was going to happen to them.
Sure enough, Franky was in the restaurant. He was standing there with his chest and shoulders all puffed up and he was feeling glorious. The two adolescent boys, who had just been on the most thrilling ride that they could imagine, were milling around looking all excited and proud to be a part of it all.

Arnie and I nervously approached them, expecting the worst, but they didn’t even pay any attention to us except to nod their heads in the regular way of greeting someone.

Frankey was talking to the man who cooked during night shift at the restaurant. There was a telephone sitting on the counter between them, which Frankey had just used to call his closest police back up down in Millinocket, forty miles south of there. It was the closest town with a cop and a jail. 
The phone rang and Franky answered it. With a huge smile spread all over his face, he looked at the night cook as he spoke into the phone and said, “Yep, yep, all right, I’ll be here.”

Franky beamed with satisfaction from his first big score as a cop who had suffered months of indignant harassment from the local population, whom he had known his whole life, he was related to some of them, and he taken an oath to protect and serve them all.

Then he turned to Arnie and me and said that he had just spoken to the cop down at Millinocket and that that cop was going to get the jail ready then come up to Sherman and help him go arrest Scoot Lane for traffic violations. But, he never said one word to Arnie and me about being in the race. We could see that he was only interested in Scoot, so we skidadled.

Although I was definitely relieved to get out of there without being administered any kind of punishment from Franky, I still had my girlfriend’s parents to worry about. Her brother was gonna be telling them all about this first thing in the morning. Then there was my aunt and uncle too.

Arnie and I went back up through Sherman Station and told Scoot and Tom what was happening. Then we drove up to Patten and found that all the other guys were still out in town. We parked next to them, sat back in our seats, and tried to wind down some.

The conversation soon turned to the marihuana aspect of the situation. Arnie said that Franky had once asked him to buy a nickel of pot from Scoot using a marked five dollar bill, but Arnie didn’t smoke the stuff and he also knew that Scoot would have come after him later and done something in retaliation to him if he had set up that drug bust.

That prompted one of the other guys to ask if any of us had ever seen the big knife that Tom always carried in his pocket. Another chipped in with, “Yeah, and he’ll use on ya too, in a New York Second.”

Then a different guy said that he had asked Scoot one time about how it was that he could afford that expensive car and that Scoot had told him that, “Shoot man, one trip up here pays for that.”

Which I did not believe back then nor now, because there just wasn’t that much pot being smoked up there at the time.

The next morning, when I woke up at the lodge, I anticipated angry questions about the night before from my aunt and uncle. My girlfriend’s father was my uncle’s best friend. He could have called the lodge on the phone, before I got out of bed, spread the news about the car chase and voiced concerns about what other dangerous things that I might do when his daughter happened to be with me. Nothing was said to me about it before, during or after I ate breakfast at the lodge, so I went on down for my regular Sunday date with my girlfriend.

I dreaded going up to her door that day. But, when her mother answered the door there was no anger at me evident on her face. As soon as my girlfriend and I left her house she told me that her mother and Franky’s wife had been giving Franky holy hell all morning for taking them two boys on that wild car chase with him. He was in deep doo-doo.

The gossip born of this incident had to of burned the ears of just about every man, woman, boy and girl in the Patten-Sherman area. And of coarse, I talked to some of my Maine friends about my witnessing such a crazy thing happen. But, I never bothered to find out what happened to Scoot and Tom, because their fate was neither of consequence nor interest to me.

Neither my girlfriend’s parents, nor my aunt and uncle ever said anything to me about my participation in that far out event.

For the rest of my time that I lived in Maine, until I entered the U.S. Army on November 17, 1969, I had plenty of exciting and interesting things to do in my everyday life as a bear hunting guide. Best of all, the pace of my active, Northern Maine social life never slowed down a bit after the night that Scoot Lane did a 107 mph wheelie on White Ash Hill.

Copyright © 2005, David Robert Crews. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

The Rocket Scientist

Summer of 1969, I'm guiding bear hunters at my Uncle Finley's Katahdin Lodge & Camps. One week, among our hunting clientele, is a Washington, D.C. rocket scientist. One evening, when picking him up at a bear bait, that dude was all flipped out and damned near blew my head off:

The Rocket Scientist
By David Robert Crews
Sep 3, 2005 - 3:49:00 PM

One of the most powerful examples of my experiences as a bear hunting guide was the time that a Washington, D.C. Rocket Scientist darn near shot my head off. It happened in the summer of 1969, when I was a nineteen-year-old kid from the suburbs of Baltimore, Maryland, working at my uncle's hunting lodge in northern Maine. Although I had only been working there at the lodge for eight months, I was a Registered Maine Hunting and Fishing Guide, and I was handling my assigned responsibilities well.

The rocket scientist looked like the classic Hollywood version of a rocket scientist. He was a tall, thin gentleman past sixty years of age with white hair and a well-trimmed white mustache. He spoke in a kind, friendly manner with endearing dignity leaving no doubt as to his high education and life achievements.

His hobby was building high performance hotrod cars and boats. He would order an engine block from Detroit and create an awesomely powerful motor from scratch. He said he owned a station wagon that only got six miles to the gallon of gas, which was a point of pride in the world of hotrods. Some of the young hotrodders living around D.C. hung out in his garage with him learning the "tricks of the trade" which the rocket scientist often invented on the spot.

He was a great guy to hang out with.

The hunt was a seven-day package, Sunday to Saturday, with all guide services, room and family style meals included. The bears were hunted over baits: piles of slaughterhouse leftovers, mostly cow’s guts and heads, placed in strategic locations throughout the woods. Then a tree stand was built near the bait, or a good spot was picked out on the ground close to it where a person could gain maximum hunting advantage over the bears.

Bear hunting was done from early afternoon till a half-hour after sunset. Legal hunting time was from a half-hour before sunrise to a half-hour after sunset. Possession of a loaded firearm during non-hunting times is a violation of the law and can be extremely dangerous. Also, humans with loaded weapons have an unfair advantage over wild animals during the hours of darkness.

On Wednesday of the rocket scientist's hunt, he was part of the group of hunters whom I was responsible for that day. On Wednesday night, I passed a serious test of my ability to guide bear hunters. It happened that night when I was doing part of my job: picking up hunters from near their baits.

That night, the rocket scientist happened to be the first hunter who I was to pick up. I had been instructed by my Uncle Finley to wait for Mr. Rocket Scientist on a smooth, dirt logging road that ran up through the woods about sixty yards from the bait that Mr. R. S. was on. From that road ran an old washed out, rocky, rough, nearly overgrown unused logging road that the bait was placed beside. That little section of old rough road had a lot of large, exposed rocks sticking up out of it that were a hazard to the undercarriage of the lodge’s pick up trucks, so we only drove up it when we had to haul fresh bear bait into there.

In one of the lodge’s pickup trucks, I drove to the prearranged spot for picking up Mr. R. S. and waited there for him until about fifteen or twenty minutes past legal hunting time. At first, I was thinking that maybe Mr. R. S. had seen a bear circling warily around the bait and he was squeezing out every last chance to kill it, or maybe he was just taking his time walking down that rocky road in the dark. But then thoughts of heart attacks and hunting accidents filled my mind.

I couldn’t wait any longer, I had to walk in and find out what was happening.

To avoid being mistakenly shot for a bear, I walked up the rough, rocky road with a flashlight shining up the road, and I was alternately whistling and making other human sounds with my mouth that sounded like the background vocals of Doo Wop songs.

I couldn’t hardly believe what I saw when I got to Mr. R. S.

He stood there in the dark woods holding his bolt action rifle across his chest like a military man standing at attention and waiting to be inspected by his commanding officer. His tall legs were as stiff as tree trunks, his knees were locked tight in standing position, his entire body was as rigid as a day old corpse and it bowed so far backwards in an arch that his nose was pointing up into the treetops. His wildly wobbling eyes completed the picture of a man deep in trouble.

It was obvious that he had flipped out from the fear of being out in the woods alone.

"What are you doing?" I asked.

He responded, "You don't think I'm walking down this road at night do you? I could fall on the rocks."

My reply, "Yeah, well look, I have a flashlight and you have a flashlight--it's not that bad. Come on, I'll help you walk down to the truck." He would not budge an inch, literally.

I walked back to the truck alone then drove it up that rocky road to where Mr. R. S. was standing. The headlights showed him to be in the exact same position as before.

I stopped the truck with the passenger side door right next to Mr. R. S., which allowed him to open the door and get in without moving very far. He slid onto the seat with his rifle pointing towards me. The truck’s dome light was on, and I got much too good of a look down the rifle’s barrel.

You know the rule--never point a gun at anyone, not even unloaded ones.

But before I could react to this infraction of proper firearm handling and tell him to point that gun away from me, Mr. R. S. started frantically yanking as hard as he could on the bolt handle of his rifle. I instantly realized that the damn fool still had the rifle loaded and a bullet was jammed in the chamber and the way that he was yankin’ on it could cause it to discharge and shoot me dead.

A split-second later, Mr. R. S. was furiously grunting and grumbling and spraying spit all over himself as he tried to dislodge the jammed bullet. The end of that rifle barrel kept pointing directly at my head, and as I ducked and dodged back and forth in the driver's seat trying to avoid being shot, I must have looked like a ruffed grouse doing the winning dance at a jitterbug contest. In the dome light, the opening at the end of that rifle barrel appeared to grow to the size of a Civil War cannon barrel. The barrel’s rifling grooves were very, very distinctly visible to me and each one of them seemed to be very wide and deep.

After what seemed like a lifetime of terror, I got control of the rifle by pushing it against the rear window of the truck. My chest was almost squeezed through the open spaces in the steering wheel; I was leaning as far forward as I could.

"Stop! Stop! What are you doing!" I blasted at him.

"Trying to unload this thing, it's jammed!" he spurted out.

I returned with a hot under the collar, "You should have had it unloaded a half an hour ago! It's past huntin' time."

"You don't think I'm going to stand around here with an unloaded rifle where a bear can get me do you?" He defensively replied.

"Yeah I do; we go in the woods at night without a gun all the time. If the game warden caught us here I'd be fined too because I'm your guide. The lodge could lose its license and you're not supposed to have a loaded gun in a vehicle. That's another charge against us! Gimme the rifle!"

With that I took the gun from him, exited the truck and unjammed and unloaded that dangerous firearm.

Mr. R. S. regained his composure somewhat during the ride back to the lodge. He acted like he hadn’t done anything wrong or that anything out of the ordinary had happened, and I let it go at that.

I never mentioned a word of this incident to anyone at the lodge. It would have devastated Mr. R. S. if I had, especially since his wife was staying there at the lodge that week too.

Copyright © 2005, David Robert Crews. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Family & Friends' Maine History

Here is the link to the story of mine, on a Maine Gov website, that my cousin responded to by comment on Facebook: 

And I responded to him, but it grew too long for a Facebook comment, it morphed into a solid piece of historical writing. Covers a lot of ground. Says a few things some people won't like, but is real. It also tells of some cherished memories I share with people I haven't seen in decades, and will never see again. Parts of this story are good for the people in them still living, their family and friends to enjoy. The history laden comment is below.

This piece contains a little bit of rough language, just like everyday life today:

I forgot you were there when that house burned down, you don't remember me at the horrible scene because I went into the small house with the freaking out old woman, two woman who had stopped to help and Finley's top Maine Guide Gary Glidden, minutes after Gary and I arrived. Then it ended up me by my teenage self keeping the old gal from loosing her self completely. Her granddaughter was cute, and calmly cordial to the people who came to help keep the fire from spreading to other buildings, the woods, and to give emotional support. She was close to my age, but not interested in any other teens and our fun times. Just a year or two too immature, and wanting to be with her grandmother all summer.

Years later, a family who had purchased the old ladies property - as a vacation cabin - read my House Fire story online, and we exchanged emails. That was neat. 

All us Clarke-side cousins miss Maine, and some of Aunt Martha's side of the family too. I cannot understand why Martha cut us (who are on the Clarke side) all out of Uncle Finley's life. My sister Jeanmarie said Martha was jealous and wanted him all to herself. Martha grew up living next to the Clarke family, and they were all good friends. I only heard this once, but Fin told some hunter about he and Martha went out somewhere the first time on New Years Eve, and didn't come home till the morning. Something just not done in the early 1950's. Fin said,"Woo-ee, was her mother HOT (boiling angry), and Martha was engaged to another man." Fin and Marty sure did love each other. But the harsh shit he'd say to her, and her being very adept at aggravating him into anger. 

Uncle Finley suffered from Korean War PTSD. I know war PTSD from having Vietnam War veteran friends and guys I was in the VA Hospitals with, because of my back injuries - sciatica. I've seen war vets go off with intense rage. Not truly that angry at the person who committed some real or perceived act of ignorance, or a broke down machine or something they are working on, they are angry against the war they fought. The enemy, or a dumb American jackass who committed disastrous military strategic blunders or sent summer uniforms to the freezing front line in winter. War PTSD - I swear it has a smell of its own. It signals me to keep my cool, don't jump on him and take him down, let him roar and maybe throw a wrench down on the ground, in one case it was a heavy metal hospital bedside cabinet thrown out across the hall against the wall. Then talk to them, and just stay there with them awhile. 

My mother once said, with sisterly love, when Finley got back from his year on the front lines in Korea, "he was a mess." He was asked to go on a TV show to accept some medals. He earned a Bronze Star and Silver Star. The whole Clarke family bought nice new clothes to go on TV with him, but he refused to go, saying," I never did more than any other man over there." 

He drank whiskey heavy and wild for a few years, after Korea, then he rolled his old pickup truck, and that cut him down to mellow, small amounts of beer only. I was about 5 or 6, and recall seeing his truck in the alley behind Grandmom and Granddad Clarke's house with the roof bashed in in a few places, from him rolling it. 

When I moved up to Katahdin Lodge, at 18, in '68, I drank beer like I was 21 and legal. We drank beer at the Lodge mostly on weekend evenings, when local Mainers were visiting and/or paying hunters were there; and we was swapping stories, telling jokes (Martha was a deep well of dirty jokes told when kids weren't around), playing Cribbage, Yahtzee, 500 Rummy, never any money gambling. Uncle Finley'd be drinking beers, but was always having peaceful fun, never acted intoxicated nor ever became overly angry at anyone or anything. 

But damn, man, other times I seen him throw stuff around and cuss up a storm. You know that he did not care who he said angry shit to. Most local Maine men liked Fin a lot, enjoyed his company, respected his work & business ethics and woodsman skills, but would not work for him because of the way he got mad and talked to people who were working for him. They were some men who had to move away from their beloved North Woods, when they wanted to stay and find a job, but not with Finley.

Fin sometimes took side jobs of laying brick. I had to stop and ask him something one time, when I rode by where he was helping put up a brick chimney; I had a load of bear hunters, taking them out to bear baits (beaver carcasses from beaver trappers & slaughterhouse leftovers), and Fin was laying brick hot and heavy in a near freakin rage. He wasn't being aggressive against the Mainers there on the construction crew, but they had strange smiles - they were getting a kick out of it - as they watched Fin steadily laying brick and talking anger at what he was pissed off in the world about. 

It was 2 hunters in the truck I was driving and 4 in a car following us, and they got a kick out of seeing Fin like that. Fin had told me earlier to take one truck and certain group of hunters out into the woods to hunt bear and Gary another group. But Gary wanted to see somebody who lived out where I was to go and swapped trucks and hunters with me. We were each driving 30 some miles from the Lodge, taking about the same number of hunters each, it was an even swap. When Fin saw me, he went verbally ballistic. Hollering it was my fault for not following his orders.

But Gary had seniority, he was mentoring me as a Maine Bear Hunting Guide, and both groups of hunters required about the same amount of work from us to deploy them out on bear bait stands. Fin couldn't holler at or say anything negative to Gary, who was extremely valuable as an employee. So Finley ripped into me in front of everybody, but they were giving me supportive looks and words of don't let it get to ya' you're damned competent as a young woodsman. The hunters were willingly trusting me with their safety driving on the rough back roads, unkempt old woods roads, plus coaching them paying sportsmen on safe, successful hunting. Including firearm safety. 

It was asinine business technique to belittle an employee in front of clients who's safety and enjoyment of the great outdoors squarely rests on the shoulders of that employee. 

My neighbor in Dundalk, during the 1960's, built an addition to the back of his house, and hired a brick layer who worked with Uncle Finley, down Sparrows Point. That brick layer told me Finley was called, by his steel mill coworkers, but not nowhere near him, "Loud Mouthed Finley Clarke." Uncle Finley once told me, years later up in Maine, that he, "Laid many a man's bricks for him down the Point. And you could tell my bricks, because they were all level." While he was laying brick, in filthy, miserable mill dirt situations, he'd friggin be telling other workers there what he was ticked off at the world about or what he thought of certain other workmen there, their life styles, life choices, etc.. All the while, working harder than every man on the crew. Finley taking all the overtime he could get. That workaholism and verbally expressed rage is part of a medical definition of PT-fukin-SD. War induced. 

He'd work 20 hrs, slinging mortar & brick, then go home, get his gear and go goose hunting down Maryland's Eastern Shore. Marty worked in Bethlehem Steel's main office, making fair wages. They had a good sex life, but Mother Nature denied them children. I never knew why, nor asked anyone, it being a heartbreaking, hard fact of life. Their house was paid off, the '56 Chevy and a pickup truck was too. Their savings and checking accounts were flush with money. The final two years in Dundalk, their freezer was full of wild meat Finley had harvested on hunting trips all across the country. They went on a bear hunt in Maine, at the Lodge, and were offered to buy into the Lodge - at half interest - for $15,000. They did it in '65, sold the Dundalk house and moved to the Great North Woods of Maine. The other owner, Harold Schmidt, was handling the business end, while Finley did the maintenance work and most of the guiding of paying hunters. 

That first summer, 1966 or '67, I think you rode up to the Lodge with my parents, Jeanmarie and me, and also the summer of '68, when the house fire happened. The one time, I remember us driving across an Interstate 95 bridge in Connecticut, near a nuclear submarine base, and 3 huge U.S. Navy nuclear submarines are slowly passing by in the river below. The shores were lined with people waving and cheering at the subs, sailors standing proudly on deck, and if it had been planned for a movie, and we were the film crew, it would have been a perfect camera angle from our view of it up in the car. Pure American might, a rare sight - 3 subs together, thrilled us to the core. 

I think you were there when my family went for a first summer week at the Lodge. I was expecting to have the other owner's 3 teen daughters there to fall in love with one, with one being my age, one a little older, the other a little younger. We get there and their father had moved the family out to another lodge. I was sorely disappointed. 

Harold had told Finley, "I've bought Camp Wapiti and my family and I are moving there. I am keeping my half interest in this Lodge, you're going to do ALL the work, I'll still take my half of the profits, and there ain't a damned thing you can do about it." 

When we arrived, in the summer of '66, Fin and Marty were some kind of worried and depressed. A few days after we got there, Uncle Finley's very successful businessman friend from Dundalk, County Car Center Chrysler Dealership owner Mr. Eiler and wife came up with their teenage granddaughter, who they were helping with emotional problems. Pleasant girl, she played piano, and taught basic piano to the 3 deaf mute kids there on a fishing trip with their deaf mute parents. The kids could feel the piano keys' vibrations, and knew when they hit a wrong note. Really cool family, great at fishing, and good to have there where we all ate meals together (including some of their fresh fish) and were relaxing in the evenings and all. We communicated with them quite easily. 

Finley was really down in spirits. Mr. Eiler was an excellent business coach & mentor. My mother had been his secretary at Eiler's car dealership for years, so we already knew and liked him and his wife. Harold Schmidt made one huge mistake. He had incorporated the Lodge - Katahdin Lodge and Camps, Inc.. In Maine, you cannot own, run any business that is in competition with an incorporated business you are part of. In court, the judge awarded Finley the entire Katahdin Lodge business. As Fin told it, "I got the other half of the Lodge for the price of lawyer's fees." 

Harold had been cheating Fin the whole time. After Fin took over everything, he finds out the Lodge owns land with families in house trailers who pay rent, the hunters were bringing in more cash than Harold let known, and such scamming Fin as that. But Fin won and made his the top bear hunting lodge in Maine. And everybody in the country side and the hunting world knew it and would say so. 

The first season I guided bear hunters, in 1969, with Uncle Finley and true Maine Woodsman Gary Glidden, our paying hunters got 56 bears, and the count for the entire State of Maine was 104 bears. So we got over half. 

BUT! Several lodges were run by out-of-state characters who had hunted in the area the previous season, then came back at the beginning of bear season, bought or rented an old lodge or house cheap, hired a rare drunken lame loser, worn down type, long time Registered Maine Guide, took in paying hunters for the first two weeks, when hunting was most popular and profitable, those lodge owners were complete ripoffs. Then they took the easy money and went back to New Jersey or where ever. 

The Native Maine hunting lodge owners didn't put much effort into their guiding services, because up there they all believed everyone who can afford to travel hundreds of miles to hunt in Maine has too much money, while the Mainers were struggling for work and incomes, so they figured they had a right to chisel out-of-staters.

My faded memory believes maybe Schmidt had actually gone to Maine from Maryland, either the Essex or Edgemere area. Harold was so lazy & lousy at guiding bear hunters, twice, mid week, some of his paying bear hunters came up to Katahdin Lodge begging for Fin to take them in at full whole week cost for a half week, and they did not care to waste time asking Harold for a refund. Finley, damned rightfully, refused to take paying sportsmen from another man.  

All meaning, it were no great shakes we Katahdin Lodge Registered Maine Guides had such a high percentage of bears taken, except for the fact that we were completely honest, never said the bears been at a bait when they wasn't, never showed favoritism towards sportsmen we liked or had came back years in a row and were actually friends with us, or rich guys who we wanted big tips from. It was cash tips mostly in those days, but in olden times, when wealthy doctors, bankers, lawyers, etc came up on the train, before the roads were good, them guys left a nice gun or knife or hunting dog as tips to the guides. 

We worked hard for the money, with Uncle Finley out working everyone, up at it earlier and at it later each day. I can say, beyond a shadow of doubt, that he worked harder for the money than any man who paid to hunt there worked for the price of the hunt. No matter if they was a factory worker, car mechanic, doctor, lawyer, rich businessman, or junk yard owner. I am proud of that. I believe you worked there in later years a bit, even on weekends from Navy Duty, as I recall hearing, so you know how good it feels to have been part of that. 

Finley led the way, and for years now, most everybody who's into guiding bear hunters, or bear hunting on their own, in Maine, is good at it. There's a healthy harvest each season, by out-of-state paying hunters and residents, with the bear population thriving. Shocking to me is - they use stale doughnuts and sweets for bear bait, not rotting cow guts & beaver carcasses, like Finley had us using. When I was up there, no Mainer even wanted a bear. Many people lived off the land - hunting deer, fishing, berry picking, potato farming, but they turned their noses up at bear meat. It's said that the lack of refrigeration used to be a problem that caused fatty bear meat to go bad quickly, but that is not a problem today and many more people eat bear meat than before. We ate it just a few times at the Lodge, and I like it. I ate a lot of venison there, though, delicious. But the Lodge only fed paying hunters regular commercially processed meats, due to laws that prevent over harvesting of wild game meat. Only my perilously low income disability pension, from the Veterans Administration, keeps me from affording to go hunting and harvest wild meat to live on.    

By the way, Fin yelled at Gary one time. Gary almost quit and walked away from Fin standing there hollering. Fortunately for Finley, Gary turned around and said, "If you ever talk to me like that again, I'm gone." Gary was 27, grew up a woodsman, had been 2 years in the Army, came home a crazy, heavy drinking, Corvette owner and wild driver, had some motorcycles too, then he met Cathy. She was as nice as a woman can be. Any woman who did not like her must have been jealous, but I never knew of any. Men adored her, all knowing she was Gary's wife and that was that. Gary settled right-the-frig-down, knowing she was his one chance to have a healthy, long, love filled life, so he never drank alcohol again. Gary was fortunate to have quit in his mid 20's. I ceased imbibing booze at the age of 44, and, at times, it was real rough upon my life. Gary always had a motorcycle, and pickup truck, and Cathy rode on the back of the bikes in Maine and on interstate trips. For decades. 

Cathy worked for Martha as one of the house keeping staff. Cathy had a hereditary eye disease - tunnel vision. She was slowly loosing her peripheral vision, and had hit a moose she did not see on the side of the road, when she was driving up to see her family in Presque Isle. She did not drive much after that, and her brother was already blind from the disease. Not wanting to pass it on, she and Gary did not have any children. Until 1979, when they took the chance and had baby Enoch. He did not inherit the eye problems. But he had a myriad of other medical problems. 

I saw him the day they brought him home from the hospital, at 8-days-old. Right after he was born, doctors said he had hours to live. The next day, it was said he'd not last two more days, then the doctors said he won't last till the end of the week. At day 8, he seemed to be defying all medical wisdom and knowledge, was making it day after day, so his parents decided to take him home. Cathy and Gary sure were loving him. That was the last time I saw any of them, and I left Maine. On the Internet, 20 some years later, I search for an Enoch Glidden, wondering if he made it. I found the list of people who had recently participated in a wheelchair race, and saw Enoch's name. More research got me in touch with the young man. We exchanged some emails, and Enoch told me he has lived through 50 operations. He climbs mountains secured by climbing ropes. He is a pilot of small planes. He sure enough did make it! 

His parents adopted another boy. Who has grown to be a fine young Maine man with a good Maine wife, and two sons. Cathy has passed away, Gary lives in Florida and Maine. He had retired from the railroad in Maine, and still rides his motorcycles. 

Your sister Dawn had friends up there, you made some solid friendships, Jeanmarie nearly fell in love with John Birmingham. 

John was another top Maine Woodsman who worked for Fin and Marty. Fin would holler at him, but John could take it. John got drafted, was sent to Vietnam as an Army clerk, stayed in Saigon, would go to bars, tell bear stories and be bought beers by other soldiers, but never had to fight the VC. He was the best rifle shot anyone knew up there in Maine. He could run like a deer, and track wounded game animals for many miles through the woods - even at night. He shot highest scores in basic training, but the dumb-ass military don't always put you where you're best suited. After the Army, John came back to work for Finley, for awhile.

Problem with John working at the Lodge came when Finley told Martha to give John a raise in pay, but she didn't, so John quit. He stayed friends with them, and most people knew that John was the son Finley never had. John was an Army recruiter for years, down in southern Maine, then he and his Patten, Maine country girl, hearty home cooking wife bought a lodge way back in the woods, next to a public snowmobile trail. They did alright. 

No one in the Clarke family received any inheritance from Uncle Finley and Aunt Martha's estate. Because Fin died first, and Martha had manipulated Finley away from his family ties. I researched the will online, and it had 11 or so heirs listed. By percentage, with Martha's younger sister Janey getting the most - 14%. Several heirs certainly were solid, longtime friends to Fin and Marty, but there were a few heirs just didn't jive with my way of thinking. Neither did it all set right with the one nephew I know from Martha's side. He knew details about some of the heirs whom I did not know, and knew that the Clarke side of the family was mistreated by his Aunt Martha. 

Along with Fin and Marty's good friends in Maine, plus several out-of-state friends who spent a lot of time with them in Maine (most were my good friends too), a good heir I like is Fin & Marty's alma mater, and yours and Dawn's, Sparrows Point High School - they received a substantial scholarship. A member of the school alumni association once told me it is quite a large amount - stunned her when she saw the paperwork, but she couldn't recall the amounts. I haven't checked on it, anyone can, but I wonder if any black students received any of the scholarship money. I'd be pleased if they did, because Finley and Martha were openly dedicated Jim Crow Racists. 

Martha once said, in 1969, to some Maine women who worked at the Lodge, plus a few hunters, we were relaxing around the long wooden dining room table, while dinner finished cooking, Martha said,"I still think when a colored man walks past a white women on the sidewalk, he should tip his hat and step down off the curb, until she passes." If a black man called about a bear or deer hunt, and she knew it by his voice, he was told, "The hunts are all filled up."

Finley talked about giving black soldiers a hard time in Korea. Telling them about deep holes in the earth they might fall into, while walking around at night, and other crap. He was tickled to instill unnecessary fears in them. Personally, and I'm not a combat vet, but, I believe I'd treat soldiers who are going to fight beside me - actually any soldiers on the same side in a war as I - to be the most bad ass warriors we can be. 

1970-71, I served as an Army photographer on Okinawa. I worked with a Puerto Rican guy from New York City. One of the best work partners and friends I'll ever have. Puerto Ricans were drafted into the U.S. Army. Summer of 1969 in Maine, Finley told a story about drafted Puerto Ricans trying to get out of performing duties in the Army by not speaking English. The drill sergeant handed the Puerto Ricans a shovel each, motioned for them to dig a hole, and said they can stop digging when they learned to speak English. A couple feet down they were speaking good enough English. I don't appreciate the Puerto Ricans doing that, but, to Finley they're all like that, and he would not have welcomed my Puerto Rican friend and his family, if I invited them to see Maine. Which I wanted to do. Then I get to visit their neighborhood in New York. 

A friend on Okinawa was a Vietnam Vet who hailed from South Carolina. He told a few of us white guys that he had been in the KKK. His father and brothers were still in, but he won't be able to do that when he gets back home, because he had fought side by side in the trenches with black guys, and he could never disrespect the combat hardened bonds he felt with those black troops. 

I had black friends on Okinawa, and I knew I would not be going back to Maine after receiving my military discharge, knowing my brown and black friends were not welcomed by my aunt and uncle, at the Lodge. It was the final, tipy-topy reason, after living on the other side of the world, away from my family, nearly everyday thinking about Uncle Finley and Aunt Martha's abuse, disrespect, outright lies telling people I'm a dummy, when I was acting responsibly in a position where one bad mistake or stupid foul up could ruin Katahdin Lodge's business and/or high standing in the community. 

Most of the Mainers liked me a lot, many being great friends to me. Even though I was "from the outside." Never was much fighting there, and I knew if I got into a fight with one, the entire town would turn against me. Win, loose or draw, after a fight, the entire population - for many miles around - wouldn't have allowed me to live there. I hung out in town on Saturday nights and Sundays, driving around in a Lodge pickup truck. Four wheel drive is handy when you want to take a girl "parkin." I went to all the dances and parties. Got drunk with other teens in town. The town cop never said anything; and we never made noise, littered or drained our bladders where it would offend store owners or customers the next day. Us young men could sit on Main St. in our vehicles hangin' out sippin' beers half the night. The girls having been taken home by 11 pm, as ordered by their parents. When leaving our vehicles to set, while riding around together in one guy's vehicle, we left the keys in our ignitions, as everyone did anytime, because there wasn't any theft in the Patten area.

The country girls and I got along famously. Wish I was earning that reputation again today, with the Baltimore women. Back then, up in Maine, one unwed unwanted pregnancy by me could have spelled social disaster. She and I would have had to get married, and may have had to move away to live anywhere else. A bad road wreck, with me driving, especially if Mainers got hurt or their property was damaged, was it - I had to leave and never come back. It was all good, though, thankfully.

At the Lodge, we men worked no less than 9 hrs a day 6 days a week. When bear season began, on June 1st, we guides worked 16-18 hrs a day, 7 days a week, for 3 weeks. I was guiding bear hunters, by myself at times, tracking wounded bears at night by myself, unarmed and never did anyone get hurt, become lost in the woods, or have an unsuccessful hunt because of my actions. I was fukin good at what I did up there, but Fin and Marty never said anything about that, to me or anyone ever, because it would mean they had to admit owing me for the job I was above average at learning and performing.  

In the winter of 1968-69, Fin and Marty made their first trip back to Maryland together, since moving to Maine. They left me by myself to take care of the Lodge. With its wood stove heat, I love so well, is more dangerous than suburban central heated homes, but I had quickly gotten into enjoying splitting and stacking firewood, tending wood stoves, and the dry penetrating heat it gives. Everything went A OK, then they returned to what they left the way they left it. But they'd never say it was that way. 

After my discharge from the Army, it was 6 years before I went back up to Maine. When I had to get back up in the deep & wide woods, to be with the country folk. In '77, I worked at the Lodge again for the summer bear season. In the fall, I went to take classes at the University of Maine Farmington, intending to use the GI Bill for funding. I already knew that the first VA check didn't come till after you've been in school 2 or 3 months. I expected to be paid by Finley and Martha for several months of work. I received a begrudging $150, after Fin had said it should be a hundred bucks. Not enough to pay my way into university classes. I took a job near Farmington as crew boss for an apple harvest, had a wonderful time there, nice apartment, cool landlord, good people all around me. After the harvest, I moved back to Maryland. 

Also, I had never been paid in full for working at the Lodge from November '68 to November 1969, when I entered the Army. 

People think of young relatives working for older relatives, who own a vacation lodge, as the young ones are washing dishes, mowing and cleaning up the yards, showing paying guests to their room or camping spot, sitting around a lot with their feet up on a porch rail - no hard, dangerous, multifaceted work. I willingly did all the mowing at the Lodge, because I had had a lawn mowing business as a teen in the Baltimore suburbs. At the Lodge, I fed and watered 7 hound dogs, 1 horse and 2 caged bobcats, plus cleaned up their poop, and felt good caring for the animals. Especially my buddy Bobby the Bobcat. Also, us men regularly performed building maintenance and upgrades. Plus minimal motor vehicle maintenance.

Also at the Lodge, we're talking about tracking wounded bears at night, no gun - that's illegal at night, just a flashlight and Buck Knife. Bears have 20 'Buck Knives', 5 claws on each paw. My bear skinning skills are something to be respected. I'd like to have copies of some of the many photographs, the several clips of old 8 mm movie footage, and the one video I know was shot of me skinning bears. I was firearms safety man at the Lodge's rifle range across the road for the hunters, and also when driving to the bear baits with hunters; then getting them safely in and out of the woods. One time, a freaked out Washington, D.C. rocket scientist nearly blew my head off with his hunting rifle. Good guides - like me - know funny, crazy, sad, tragic, heart warming, and/or life lesson stories of the surrounding countryside, the local people, the tiny towns, and the ways of the woods. 

Mid-week, a hunter would say something about Baltimore, or I would, and we'd talk about it, after they asked if I was really from there, not Patten, Maine. I'd laugh and ask, "Don't you realize I don't have a Maine accent?" I knew the area so well, and loved it and the Mainers so much, it seemed to some other out-of-staters that I lived there my entire life. Especially by the highly skilled way I handled a vehicle on the country roads and woods roads. There are very few roads, we traveled them a lot and knew them well. All newcomers, including when I had been new to the area, get scared by the way they drive up there. Most of us quickly realized the fastest drivers were highly skilled at it. Then we enjoyed it like an amusement park ride. Route 11 between Patten and the Lodge is a true roller coaster ride. Sure-as-hell was with me at the wheel. Most of the paying hunters considered riding with Finley, Gary, or me to be a whole lotta' extra added vacation fun. 

Maine drivers taught me driving techniques that allow me to drive in snow and on iced over days, when I am one of the few on the road. We 'walked' our Katahdin Lodge trucks, easy like, on muddy woods roads, so as not to make it rutted rough riding for us and our paying hunters. I have driven two wheel drive - on worn down tires - where most owners of four wheel drive - with new mud & snow tires - would become stuck. 

Katahdin Lodge got some of its bear bait, slaughter house leftovers, from Cry Brothers Meat Packing Plant - at the edge of Caribou. From the Lodge to Cyr Bros. was 71 miles on the odometer. I made that run in less than an hour, 4 times just after daybreak, which includes 35 miles of uninhabited woods. I had to slow down for several tiny towns, which meant I needed to travel 80-90 mph most of the time. It was rare to see another moving vehicle, so if I had wrecked in the woods, it would have been awhile before anyone came along to help me. If I was alive, which ain't likely. I have a written piece published about that high precision, oft wild and woolly, driving - Driving Northern Mainer Style

I heard Finley tell this twice, but I can't recall it all. He had been going to the State House in Augusta to fight for better roads up there, he established a one bear per hunter per season limit, but no cubs or females with cubs to be shot. In those times, Maine Indians were also often at the State House fighting for treaty rights and benefits they - legally & morally - have coming to them. They got free bus service to stores, college kids were given a credit card for purchasing a pair of shoes and other needs, and they had to stand up, speak and fight for it; sometimes, while Finley waited his turn to speak to the assembly. He hated Indians. 

One day, in the State House lobby, crowded with people waiting for the doors to be opened, so they could go in for session, were: citizens like Finley, politicians and their aids, paid lobbyists, news reporters, and one of the regulars, like a politician or an aid, bombastically says to Uncle Finley, "Well Finley! What are you down here for this time?" 

Finley's loud, forceful answer,"WELL I TELL YA'. I'M TIRED OF THE INDIANS AND THE (insert the N-WORD) ######S AND....." Man, I wish I could remember it or somebody'd heard it tell me the rest of that part, but the next part was, "and you should have seen them all moving away from me." He recounted it all with a great big chuckling smile all over his face and his hands and arms sweeping outwards, like he was Jim Crow Moses parting the waters of a segregationist coloreds only swimming pool - just to be mean to the people in the pool. 

Ever since I was a child, that Jim Crow crap stinks to high heaven to me. I was about 7, my parents took us downstate Maryland to an old time little restaurant that was known for great crab cakes. Worn out wooden screen doors days. You've seen the 1957 era guy behind the cash register portrayed in movies. Stout white guy, pre-air conditioning perspiration stained white shirt dingy tie, half chomped & smoked cigar, owns the place. A sign behind him reads, "We Reserve The Right To Refuse Service To Anyone." 

I asked what that meant. My mother became a bit tense, touched me on the shoulder to try and stifle my curiosity, cash register guy sorta grins/sneers down at me. Then, Mom is sorta struck in the middle (yep, struck), she tells me, "It is because they do not serve colored people here." Now, I'm an American boy, been told many times to wash my hands before I set down to eat, so I asks, "Why, because you can't tell if they washed their black hands or not?" No answer. 

Up across the dining room, is a half wall of wood, then about a quarter of wall of glass. The "colored" cook is there where she can see and hear what is going on, can maybe look down and judge what the customers want or need from that advantage, she has her hands in a mixing bowl working up a batch of crab cakes. She's looking down at us, with hard life unfairly written all over her face, along with a look in her tender eyes of, "Young man, you are learning a serious evil in our lives." Inside my head, I hear, "If that colored woman can put her hands in our food, why can't she sit at a table next to my family with her family? It don't make sense." 

All I meant to do here was tell you about the will and Martha being a wicked - you know what - to our family - a wicked ..... with a w or b is the way I see it, but you may be more forgiving and not want to witness bad talk about the dead. The one decent thing that Martha would not have needed including some Clarkes in the will to do was notify our family that Uncle Finley died. That is low. Her nephew told me, months after Uncle Finley passed. Then I informed the rest of the family.

It was a near million dollar estate, but the lack of percentages of it for our side of the family doesn't lay waste to all our good memories and our individual love of the people and lands of Northern Maine. We'll have that till the day we pass on to the other side. 

Here is the link to my online photo album of Maine.