The title of Clinton Townsend’s memoir is both ironic and wrong. The book is titled Trouble Maker, and Bill was not that. He was one of our state’s greatest conservationists and an inspiration to many, including me.
But I get the title. Bill was certainly an environmental agitator, pushing us forward on my important issues and projects.
The first part of the book is about his personal life, while part two takes us through his many years of practicing law. I learned a lot about Bill in these two sections and they were very interesting.
It is in section 3, titled “Environmental Advocacy,” where the Clinton Townsend that I knew emerges. Bill was a leader in many major environmental projects and for many groups including the Natural Resources Council of Maine. That section could stand alone as its own book.
From the protection of Bigelow Mountain to the creation of the Land-use Regulation Commission, and from his advocacy for the Allagash River to his participation in the Land for Maine’s Future program, we all owe Bill so much for all that he did. He was given many awards for his wonderful work.
In the “Environmental Advocacy” section you will also be impressed by his effort to remove dams where they were preventing fish passage, but most of all I appreciated his work on my favorite river, the Kennebec. Bill started his environmental advocacy back in 1960, “a time when Maine was very different than it is today.” And he gives us a history of that time took me right back to it.
But I have to say his final two sections, one on fishing and one on water fowling, were my favorites. Bill hunted and fished all over the world and he takes you with him to all of those places in a style of writing that really puts you right there with him.
Bill especially loved Atlantic salmon and traveled near and far to catch them. One of the most amazing stories was in the spring of 2008 when he had serious and multiple medical problems, mostly related to heart disease. His family doctor told him he should not go to the St. Paul’s River that July.
But then he met a new Dr. who happened to be a fly fishing addict and who located in Maine specifically to fish the Kennebec. And she told Bill it would be okay to go if he gave himself plenty of time to rest. So of course, he went, but he forgot to take one of his medicines and got terribly ill.
He was very lucky that there were three doctors in his fishing group and they all agreed that he had to be evacuated immediately, which he was. That wasn’t his only health challenge but nothing seemed to hold Bill back from getting out there to fish and hunt. I especially enjoyed his stories of fishing in South America.
The final section on water fowling features his awesome hunting buddies, his dogs. Good stories all. At the end of the book Bill tells us, “Names are all real. All of the dogs and many of the people have died. Some of the people have moved away or otherwise departed from my view. Others are alive and well. As for any crimes related herein, the statute of limitations has long since run.”
Even at the end of the book Bill maintained his wonderful sense of humor. Bill has now passed away himself, but will always be remembered. I am so pleased that he wrote this book which will inspire future generations. Today we need Bill Townsends more than we ever have.