It seems like only a few years ago, but looking back is was close to five decades ago when we made a quick decision to purchase some land in northern Maine. My late brother-in-law, Jim Mackenzie, and I were working overtime in my business on Saturday night when a good friend, Ken Pechel, asked if we were interested in purchasing some land in Maine.
Both of us were mildly interested but when he mentioned that a huge timberland holding company was liquidating their holdings at a price of ten dollars an acre, we were hooked. There were two small pieces (small in their holdings of thousands of acres). One was supposedly 80 acres and the other 120 acres.
That next morning, a blinding snowstorm Sunday, Jim and I headed out about 5:30 for the close to 400-mile trek. It was snowing so hard that we pulled into a tire store in Portland and had studs applied to my new snow tires.
It was quite the ride but our spirits were high when we met the field rep for the company and quickly were walking some of the 80 acres. "There's an old camp here that they don't even know exists,'' Joe Davis advised us. It took me all of about 15 minutes to tell him that I'd take the land. And it took Jim less than that to decide that he and his brother, Howard, would purchase the other piece - that was approximately 120 acres.
Both of these properties had considerable frontage on a great trout and landlocked salmon stream. But it was the possibility of some great big game hunting that had both Jim and I dreaming about what the future would bring us in our new acquisitions.
That next spring, along with Jim, brother-in-law Roy (Leap) Syphers, longtime outdoors partner Brad Conner and a bunch of our kids, we had a blast for about a week, fishing the waters of the Fish River Chain a quick hour's drive away. We caught plenty of trout and salmon in some of the most beautiful and semi-remote settingsyou could imagine.
That fall, we mounted our first big game hunt there. As it turned out, the deer herd was at a low point but there were bear and all the moose you could ever want to meet in the woods, but no hunting season for them yet. After a few years of discouraging big game hunting, we gave that up but the fishing season always saw us at that old camp.
Fast forwarding we had two years in a row when a bunch of local kids, spawn of the Air Force staff at Loring Air Base, had found the camp, leaving in it in squalor. They virtually destroyed the camp, even stole our old cast iron kitchen range and the rusty stove pipe as punishment for us having turned the local law enforcement on to their criminal activities. So we kind of abandoned the camp for about 20 years, only paying a very small land tax and visiting the site occasionally on our way to New Brunswick, Canada, where some friends had built us a great deer and bear hunting camp. There were plenty of both for our party to appreciate.
After about 20 years of abandonment, word was seeping back to me about quite a lot of small game and waterfowl being hunted around the old camp. Renting a camp for two years in a row confirmed this fact so we decided we'd build a new camp on the old property, which was done quickly and totally funded by a forest product harvest on my land. And two years in a row another partial cutting funded two small additions to the camp as well as a new well, pump and indoor plumbing (except for keeping our famous out-house, which because of local ordinances had to be sited on a septic tank).
So for something like 18 years, we've been enjoying some fine waterfowl, partridge and occasional deer hunting at the new camp and we've hosted friends from as far away as Spokane, Wash., and New Jersey. And we've become friends with dozens of the locals and often hunt and fish with them. Also my kids and grandkids and now great grandkids look forward to trips to the DoDuckInn whenever there's a chance in their busy schedules to join us there.
You gotta love it!
Dick Pinney's column appears weekly in the New Hampshire Sunday News. Email him at DoDuckInn@aol.com.