Wednesday, November 04, 2020


Lovell in October

There’s a familiar feeling I get in the fall when the air is cool and the wind is blowing. Fond memories are triggered from over forty-three years ago when I moved my young family to rural Lovell, Maine from Massachusetts. We got to our new old house in August, 1977 and by early October we were settled in. I had a few weeks in my new job behind me and took my shotgun into the woods after school to hunt partridge.

Western Maine in October

It was only a short walk to the overgrown farmland down the street that was promising habitat, but I only had about ninety minutes before the sun set and I would have to walk home for supper. No one freaked out to see a young man carry a shotgun down the road. In the Massachusetts I had left, some might have called police but that wouldn’t happen in Lovell. My formerly-rural town twenty-five miles outside of Boston had turned into a suburb while I was growing up. It changed and I didn’t belong there anymore. Rural Maine became my home and I’ve been here ever since.

My house in Tewksbury now

As a boy in then-rural Tewksbury, Massachusetts, I would accompany pheasant hunters in the woods near my house. I don’t remember their names; I met them while in the woods with my homemade slingshot and pockets full of smooth stones of appropriate size and shape. I was a hunter too. They knew that when noticing my armament and demeanor. Memories of one guy are still vivid. I saw him before he realized I was there. I was waiting to get a shot at a squirrel when I heard him in the dry leaves.

He asked me where I’d seen pheasants and I directed him to an area along a stone wall. I walked along behind him looking to right for squirrels and was startled by a shotgun blast I wasn’t expecting, but turned my head around to the left quickly enough to see an explosion of feathers. The shotgun fascinated me and I would have loved to have one of my own. My father wasn’t a gun owner and my mother, despite my begging, would not let me have a BB gun; hence my slingshot. Over and over, I practiced enough so I could hit what I was aiming at. After that, no squirrel was safe.

Lovell in November

November in Lovell, Maine was wonderful. By the time I got home from school — I was a teacher — there was very little time for deer hunting after Daylight Savings Time kicked in. I had to be out of the woods when the sun went down, but Saturdays and Veteran’s Day I was out there sunrise to sunset. Sundays, the family and I worked on the woodpile. When my brothers moved to Maine a few years later, we hunted together and that was nice. After a while though, I preferred going out by myself. 

I liked the solitude. Seldom did I see a deer but I explored a lot of territory. Leaves were down and, while walking for miles up and down hills, I could see a long way. After supper I would re-study USGS maps of the area and commit them to memory. Though I saw no houses or people where I went, I did see cellar holes. Those wooded hills had once been cleared of trees and covered by farms. Stone walls snaked up and down the hills. Crops grew and animals grazed. The walls were still there. Strands of rusty barbed wire seemed to grow out from the middle of tree trunks like dead branches, but the hills were all wooded again. Farm families who lived and died there were long gone.

Eventually, though, I stopped hunting. Maybe it was because my daughters refused to eat venison. They could always taste it, even in meatballs spiced and cooked in spaghetti sauce. Maybe it was because my testosterone declined with age. I don’t know, but I just lost interest. I still like to shoot in the woods, but now it’s with a camera. I still shoot squirrels which can cause a lot of damage to my property and the other properties I look after. In a way, I’ve come full circle. I can still hit things with a slingshot, but it’s a store-bought one now. I use it to dissuade Canada geese from coming ashore on the lakefront property I manage — and I prefer a .22 for squirrels.


CaptDMO said...

Were those photos from THIS year?
The foliage over the hill in NH didn't even come CLOSE this time around1
Of course, Chinese Wuhan Novel Coronavirus-19 ALSO dampened the annual leaf peeper/ apple picking/ quint BandB siege.

Tom McLaughlin said...

The top two photos are from this year, a few weeks ago.

Gabe Gunning said...

Tom! or Mr McLaughlin? wow so cool! no skynet yet eh? Just playing my young friend and teacher - you are still teaching me at least even to this day - i am married and Lotus my wife and I live in rural southern Maine having moved from Farmington where i have been a rescue medic and ski patroller for 15 years.

Dave my dad died on Mark Royer’s birthday in early spring. Mark and Faith are married and have an awesome son Miles. Lotus and i are panning and hoping for our first human child next year. Nancy is a Gramma already though as our niece Newnew and Lotus‘s sister are not able to return home. They have been here since January stuck. Newnew goes to New Suncook and home is where the heart is. They hunt for mushrooms and the ever elusive Chaga. My mother and father in law live with Lotus and I for now although they want nothing more than to return to their hometown in the mountains so they can see their brothers and sisters and nieces and grandsons etc. Selfishly i want those two gentle souls to stay so they can help raise our children the right way. Okay likely enough for meow.

Peace and respect-
Gabe - FA 1998

ps sweet pics and also regards to your family

Kafir said...

I gave up hunting as a freshman in college after learning one of my best friends tripped over a log and his rifle discharged into his neck which killed him. That doesn’t mean I’m against hunting whatsoever but, as we all know, accidents do happen. Nothing compares to being in the Allagash on a beautiful autumn day. I can assure you that if I were in those woods today, I would NOT be wearing a mask.

Brian said...

I agree with Kafir about the WAY am I wearing one when when I am out in the woods, which I am a lot. For some reason this November seems extra special...the air smells sweeter this last week! Nice photos!