Apparently retired game warden/sheriff John Ford is never going to run out of stories. His third book, Deer Diaries, published by North Country Press, includes a hilarious tale (and I use the word tale deliberately) about the time he was wrestling a lawbreaker to the ground in the middle of a busy Gardiner intersection when he ripped out the seat of his pants, much to the amusement of the big crowd gathered around.
John’s first two books have been best sellers and he’s become a real celebrity as he travels the state presenting book talks. He is a really funny guy, very entertaining.
You don’t have to have read his first two books to enjoy this one, because some of the stories in the first two books are repeated here, along with his personal history that many of us are now familiar with. All of his books include both funny and sad stories. I particularly appreciated the Conclusion in Deer Diaries. It’s a sad explanation of why John retired from the Maine Warden Service.
“The job was no longer providing the enjoyment it once did,” he wrote. “The changing times and new politics associated with the profession were certainly not in favor of those of us who once thoroughly enjoyed our professions. Shift work has been implemented and ridiculous and totally unmanageable mileage restrictions were a serious deterrent to maintaining our patrol techniques – techniques that had been so effective in the past.
“I was finding myself being disciplined for doing the job I’d been hired for, for driving more miles that I was allotted, and for a whole host of other dictated work habits.” Ford also complains that, “The courts were no longer taking many of our cases serious.” He goes on for several pages and it’s an eye-opening rant.
Some of John’s stories are hilarious, including one about a very large woman he stopped for drunk driving. After cursing him out, she stepped out of the vehicle, pulled down her pants, and proceeded to pee. Then there was the time his warden supervisor took him on a “trash can patrol.” His supervisor had discovered that truckers, just before arriving back home, were stopping at this particular rest area and dumping girlie magazines in the trash barrels.
I especially enjoyed the story of the game wardens trying to get a cow moose out of the forested land lying between the north and south lanes of I95 without killing themselves or people speeding by. They succeeded after a massive effort, but got a call the next day that the cow had returned to the median strip!
The Great Pheasant Catastrophe is a good story too, as is the time he and a fellow warden secreted themselves in a railroad box car to try to catch one of the engineers who poached deer as the train moved along through the state. Ford and his companion nearly froze to death and discovered later that the poacher had the flu and had not been on the train.
Of course, there are stories about tragedies as well. One of the most touching is about a small girl whose puppy was deliberately poisoned by a neighbor. Ford was outraged when the guy got a very small fine and no jail time for his horrible and cruel offense.
Linda Lord, retired Maine State Librarian, describes John well on the back cover, “Despite years of dealing with the most unpleasant sides of human nature in his careers as a game warden and sheriff, he has never lost his faith in humanity or his sense of humor.” That’s a blessing for all of us who enjoy John and his stories.