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.

The Rocket Scientist

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.

Monday, May 09, 2016

Day I Fell In Love With Patten, Maine

You'd be hard pressed to know another story where a murder-minded individual convinced a country village new comer that that small town was a great place to be.

From Magic City Morning Star
The Day I Fell In Love with Patten, Maine
By David Robert Crews
Jul 31, 2005 - 10:59:00 PM

Disclaimer for Patten Mainers: I can’t remember the exact name that Pa’s Pizza and Subs was called in 1968 and I believe that it is the place that I call The Pizza Place in this story. I remember that one Glidden girl was named Rachel and I believe that her boyfriend was a guy named Charlie. If I ever find out for sure, I’ll use all the right names in a rewrite.

Patten, Maine is a little village way up in the Katahdin Valley. The first time that I ever went there to check out its small-town social life was during the summer of 1968. I was an eighteen-year-old high school graduate, from suburban Dundalk, Maryland, visiting my aunt and uncle at their hunting lodge - Katahdin Lodge and Camps, in Moro, Maine. The lodge is located ten miles north of Patten, where the closest stores, restaurants, gas stations, and post office are. It is an easy, eleven-minute drive between the lodge and town.

Gary and Cathy Glidden were a married couple from town who worked at the lodge. Gary guided hunters and Cathy helped my aunt clean and cook for the paying guests who stayed there. They took a liking to me, and Gary had two of his sisters have one of their boyfriends drive them up to the lodge and take me out to meet some of the local kids in town. Both sisters had steady boyfriends, so dating them was out of the question. But they were willing to see if I could fit in with their small town way of life and introduce me to some of the unattached young ladies living there who might be interested in dating me. They also wanted me to meet any of the other teenagers in town.

We all were glad to meet one other. I was a good-looking lad who thought that northern Maine was extremely beautiful, and that the people living there were downright interesting. Best of all, I was devoid of the unwarranted uppity attitude that city dwellers vacationing in Maine too often display, which disgusts the Mainers. The three Maine kids were bright, happy, good-looking, friendly and dressed in the same style of clothing that I wore. It was a natural match.

We drove into town on that warm, calm summer evening, eagerly talking about life as we each knew it, all along the way. They wanted to know what life was like in the suburbs, where I was from, and I was curious about their tastes in music; and we all were interested in the usual things that any teen wants to know about another, when they first meet.

Then there was the difference in our accents, which we all got a kick out of. They would ask me to repeat a word that I had just said at the rate of about one word per every four sentences. That continued, and then increased as I was introduced to more kids in town, and it was mostly the girls doing the asking.

We parked in front of The Pizza Place on Main Street, and some new teenage girls came into the conversation. There were then four of them leaning against the outsides of the rear doors of the car, two on each door, with their shapely female bodies bent forward and their pretty young faces beaming flirtatiously in at me through the open windows. They joined right in on having me repeat words that I had just spoken. Then they began to ask me to say words that they thought they might enjoy hearing pronounced in my accent, as if they couldn’t get enough of it. The funny thing is that I never knew that I had an accent until that evening in Maine when it made me the center of attention for six bodacious babes.

The attention that my Bawamore (Baltimore) drawl received made me feel real good. I enjoyed theah (their) well known shap (sharp), r-less New England accent so much that I simply sat there and took it all in like a happy bear snacking on wild blueberries.

The four new girls intermittently shared some laughs with all of us sitting in the car and chatted with the Glidden girls about the latest hot topics on the local gossip circuit.

One newest news tid-bit got them giggling, wiggling and excitedly inhaling and exhaling hard, between spoken sentences. It was about two Patten natives who were having an extramarital affair. A certain thirty-five year old married woman was cheating on her husband with a bachelor who was ten years younger than she was. Her husband had found out about it, and he was angrily hunting for the cad who was her lover man. The cheating wife’s jealous husband was ‘out for blood’ and had, earlier that day, showed his brother a loaded .44 Magnum pistol, hidden under a rag on the front seat of his car, which he intended to shoot his wife’s lover with and send the scoundrel straight to hell.

Not more than ten minutes after the gossip tid-bit about the jealous, murderous husband had graced our ears, the scoundrelous lover man comes sidling out of The Pizza Place with his head down and his hands shoved deep into his pockets. He knew who had what and was out to get him.

The lover man hadn’t gotten more than ten steps out The Pizza Place’s door and towards the street when, Lord have mercy, the jealous husband drives up on the other side of the street, wheels around, pulls up next to the sidewalk and stops right there smack dab in front of us teenagers. He reached across the front seat of his car, opened the passenger door, called out to the target of his bloodlust and motioned for him to come over there.

Actually, the husband’s car was a little to our left, as we sat in the boyfriend’s car with its front bumper facing the street and about one car length back from the edge of the street. It was dark enough out that an overhead lamp pole on The Pizza Place’s parking lot was shining a cone shaped beam of light down around us. There were no street lights near by, and it was much darker outside of the parking lot light's area of illumination, so the cone had a fairly defined edge to it.

That edge went right down into the front seat of the angry husband’s car, lit the bottom half of his body, but not his chest and head, and revealed to us surprised teenagers that his right hand was placed firmly on top of a rag which obviously covered a large revolver. He was holding the big boomer by its pistol grip, trigger guard, and hammer with the barrel pointing towards the open passenger side door in a way that would permit him to raise and shoot it as the rag draped off to the side and out of the way of the cocking hammer.

There was no place that the scoundrelous cad could have run where the murderous husband wouldn’t have had time to raise his gun and fire. The cad was cornered.

The cad also had to instinctively, subconsciously realize that if he were to run, and the already steaming mad, cheated husband were to fire a shot at him and miss, that the evasive action would most likely cause the mad husband to furiously go past the point of no return. Most likely, the cad-hunting husband would have chased after his fleeing quarry, not stopping until he had committed a bloody murder. That would have obliterated any chance that the cheater might have hoped that he had of talking his way out of being shot to death.

That cornered cad musta’ been ready to soil his trousers.

The lover man sat down in the car with his right foot placed solidly down out on the curb and the lower left side of his trembling body barely sitting on the outer edge of the car’s front seat. He looked like a terrified little bird caught in a bobcat’s mouth.

At the split second when the husband’s car had stopped at the curb, the girls standing outside of the boyfriend’s car had instantly recognized who it was in the driver’s seat, then glanced over at the lover man and shockingly realized what they were in the middle of.

One girl had quiveringly giggled slightly and hushidly exclaimed, “Oh no, let us in!”

All four of those fine young females had yanked open the rear doors that they had been leaning against, pilled into the back seat with me and the Glidden girl whose boyfriend wasn’t there, and hastily pulled the doors closed around us for protection from any hot lead that might come flying in our direction. I was crammed in there between two girls on each side of me and one sprawled across our laps.

It was some kind of deeelightful, let me tell you! They were really wigglin’ an’ gigglin’ now.

The jealous husband started talking straight and dead seriously to the subject of his justified anger. The captured cad kept nervously glancing down at the hand on top of that rag-covered gun while trying to comprehend what that boiling kettle of manhood sitting next to him was saying. He appeared to be ready to bolt and try to fly faster than a speeding bullet at the slightest twitch of that hand full of hell at the end of his lover’s husband’s right arm. But he was scared stiff and wasn’t about to move until the justifiably angry man talking to him gave him permission to. He sat there nodding his head ever so slightly in agreement with what the angry man was saying to him. He was too tense to take very much air into his lungs, and he couldn’t exhale hard enough to make much of a sound, as he tried to say yes to any terms of reprieve from his death sentence that the husband was dictating to him.

The color had completely drained from the scoundrel’s face. With that parking lot light shining down on him like it was, his face looked so pale that it appeared that he needed an undertaker to powder his nose.

The steaming husband saw that his wife’s lover was too scared to move. He raised his hand from the rag covered pistol and began to punctuate every demand that he made by practically poking his right index finger into the bachelor’s pale face.

As I sat there in my warm cocoon of bodacious babes, it became apparent to me that if the cad character got his head blown off, by what looked to be the powerful handgun available at the time, his white brain matter and the red blood from his exploding cranial cavity would blast out the open passenger side door and form a weird cloud made of human head particles in the middle of the lot light’s bright cone. It would then drizzle down onto the crushed gravel of the parking lot like a little pink snowstorm.

I doubt that any of us in the boyfriend’s car saw that as an inevitability. But we sure as hell weren’t taking any chances. We watched with all of our might to see what was gonna happen next. Nobody uttered a word. No bets were placed. No predictions were registered.

Patten is a peaceful place. It absolutely has one of the most non-violent populations of people in the whole wide world. Even though it’s full of big brawny lumberjacks and wild woodsmen. I knew that from what my aunt and uncle had told my family and me about the town, when we had vacationed at the lodge during the two previous summers. I didn’t think that the girls believed that there would actually be a murder committed, right there in front of them, in their easy goin’ little village. But ya’ never know.

Time loses all of its effects on a person’s senses in a dynamic situation of that sort. However long it did take, before our minds could process the whole thing as being real, the husband had satisfied his blood lust by having a levelheaded talk to the object of his murderous intentions. The cad had accepted the husband’s demands: the cad agreed to stay away from the angry man’s wife; the angry man’s plans to murder him were put on hold pending any further marital cheating with the man’s wife. Then the husband gave the bachelor permission to get out of his sight.

The barely breathing bachelor quickly removed himself from the very farthest outside edge of his former lover’s husband’s front seat and fluttered on down the sidewalk like that bird would have done if the bobcat belched.

The girls were in no hurry to dislodge themselves from all around me, but eventually they did. Not, of course, because I asked them to.

I laid in bed that night thinking about how easy goin’, peaceful and levelheaded Patten People are and how bright, happy, good looking and friendly the teenagers in town are and I went to sleep that night knowing that I had fallen head over heels in love with Patten, Maine.

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