A Maine Game Warden’s Stories – From Serious to Sublime

“From the serious – tracking a murderer – to the sublime – raising a baby owl – retired Maine Game Warden John Ford shares 35 years of his best stories that will entertain all indoor and outdoor adventurers.”

Those are the words I used on the back cover to describe John Ford’s wonderful book, Suddenly the Cider Didn’t Taste So Good, published recently by Islandport Press.

 

The publisher sent me the stories to read in advance, so I could write the flyleaf promo. But I still got the book after it was published and reread every story. They are so good.

After 20 years as a game warden and a stint as Waldo County’s sheriff, Ford took up writing and he’s good at it. Some will remember John’s artistry, from the many years he produced beautiful drawings for yearly calendars. I miss those.

I also miss the “good old days,” which makes this book particularly enjoyable. Ford was one of the last full-time 24-hours-a-day game wardens, before federal laws and insufficient funding sharply reduced the time a game warden can spend on his or her job, and left many of them working second jobs.

He started in 1970 at $70 a week, working a shift of six days on and two days off, on call 24 hours a day. His wife was his (unpaid) secretary. Complaints and calls for assistance came directly to a game warden’s house in those days.

The very first story in the book is one of the funniest you will ever read, titled “Just Dropping In, Ladies.” I read it to my wife Linda, and we were both gasping for breath we were laughing so hard. I’m not going to spoil it by telling you the story, or any of these stories.

Some of John’s work was heroic, some hilarious, some heartwarming. He’s a feisty guy and he didn’t always get along with his Warden Service superiors – but he maintained great relationships with other law enforcement agencies and officers.

John believed in getting the bad guys and giving the good guys a second chance. He was sometimes disciplined for not giving out enough summonses

“I’d much rather shiver on the edge of a field on a frigid November night waiting for night-hunters than putt-putt around a lake on a beautiful summer afternoon trying to nab a fisherman for not having a license or life preservers,” he wrote.

When his boss demanded that he get onto Unity Pond and check fishermen one day, he ended up with one of the best stories in the book, Leo and the Life Preservers. It will have you in stitches.

One really funny story, involving a rotting deer carcass and dynamite, is called “More Bang for Your Buck.” That’s what you get with this book.

Another Opinion

I got a letter last week from a lady in Winthrop who had just finished John Ford’s book, after I recommended it to her. Here’s what she wrote.

“Regretfully, I have just turned the last page on John Ford’s book, Suddenly the Cider Didn’t Taste So Good! What a delightful read – everyone should read it and I intend to buy extra copies and recommend it to everyone.

“I don’t know when, if ever, I have laughed so hard all by myself. I enjoy humor but usually a smile or chuckle are the extent of my reaction. Well, not the case this time! I laughed til the tears came.

“What a sense of humor and what a special person he has to be! What a gift to be able to do your job and end with congeniality.”

George Smith

About George Smith

George stepped down at the end of 2010 after 18 years as the executive director of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine to write full time. He writes a weekly editorial page column in the Kennebec Journal and Waterville Morning Sentinel, a weekly travel column in those same newspapers (with his wife Linda), monthly columns in The Maine Sportsman magazine, two outdoor news blogs (one on his website, georgesmithmaine.com, and one on the website of the Bangor Daily News), and special columns for many publications and newsletters. George also hosts, with Harry Vanderweide, a TV talk show called Wildfire, now in its 13th year and focused on hunting, fishing, environmental, and conservation issues. The show is owned and produced by Maine Audubon and seen on its website as well as on the Time Warner cable TV station throughout the state.