August is hot and dry normally, and it has been a normal August. The garden that we worked on all summer is finally paying off. The hot sun in August finally speeds up the ripening process. The deer usually take an interest in the garden smorgasbord by now, but we have a guardian who protects it. Anna and Jay’s little dog Tula patrols the yard, and we have not seen a deer in daylight for weeks. When we let her out early in the morning there are deer under the apple trees and she drives them into the cover of woods immediately. They are too nervous to get caught inside the garden fence so nothing has been bothered. There have been raccoons around but they also must be intimidated since we have only lost one chicken this summer. In August when the length of daylight shortens and the sun gets lower, I often feel nostalgic. It is the season when I am most aware of the passing of time.
This August has been much sadder than most. In August my friend, Scott Hutchinson, died. I first met Scott and Audrey Hutchinson when I was a new guide at Cobb’s Camps on Pierce Pond. I’m not sure what year it was exactly, but it was in the early years around 1983 or ‘84. They were fishing with other couples, and each couple hired a guide. A more senior guide got Scott and Audrey; I can’t remember the names of the couple I went with. We would all fish near each other and cook our lunches together so I got to meet them. I felt at ease with them, and they must have with me because the next trip they made I guided them… and almost every trip they made after that. It became a regular thing, a week in June and a week in September for nearly 30 years. Even after Pat and I stopped working full time at Cobb’s, I would go in for Scott and Audrey.
Scott was the president of a bank and I couldn’t at first reconcile my notion of what a bank president should be with the man who sat in the bow of my canoe every day. Audrey is from the family that made Bath Iron Works the ship building force that it is today. The two of them are among the most influential and powerful people in Maine but more important than that, they have been wonderful, compassionate, and generous human beings. Most important to me is that they are loyal friends of mine. You get only a fleeting few of those in a lifetime and I am so fortunate that our paths crossed.
I hope Audrey will be able to spend more days together with us in the future, but they will never again be the same of course. I have tried to estimate how much time we spent in the space of my canoe, and it comes to nearly a full year. I can’t think of anyone outside my immediate family with whom I have spent so much close time. We shared nearly everything and had too many great adventures to tell the stories here.
When I saw Audrey after the funeral I was at a complete loss of words. What can you say to someone who has lost a partner of nearly 60 years? Audrey has skills of a diplomat and a host; always knowing what to do or say in any situation. I knelt beside her chair on the back lawn of their farm in Litchfield. All I could think to do was hold her hand. She looked me in the eye with both of us streaming tears and said, “Oh Greg, didn’t we have so much fun”. She said all there was to say in one short sentence.
Soon after Scott’s passing, I got word that another old friend had died. I met Carl Van Husen at Cobb’s also. He was a fellow woodsman with a long career as a forester. We both shared a passion for hunting and fishing and being in opposite political camps, we had some lively discussions. I guided Carl and his son several times over the years and enjoyed our adventures. He had enough skills that he didn’t really need a guide but he hired me anyway. Our local communities have lost a valuable member and I, another old friend.
Enough of the sad stuff. During the third weekend in August we had a great celebration at Claybrook Lodge. We have a loyal group of guests, most of whom have been with us for 25 years or more following me around through woods and waters on some great adventures. I have dragged our guests on skis, bikes, canoes and on foot on some torturous trails, but in spite of it all they have returned over and over for more. I guess people will endure a lot to enjoy Pat’s cooking. Pat has never been able to join us on our adventures because if she did there would be no dinner.
We decided to offer a free weekend to honor our 25 year veterans. They brought their own food to free Pat to join in the fun, and we spent two days paddling the length of Flagstaff Lake. Using the big van for a shuttle we picked up everyone at the halfway point and had a luxurious night at the lodge with enough food to feed 50. I have often proposed this very trip and finally we have done it. None of the million things that could have gone wrong did, and it was a perfect trip. The water was flat the sun was out, the distances were just right and Pat got to enjoy the entire thing. I can’t thank our guests enough because they have become such good friends and I have no doubt that without them Claybrook Lodge would have failed long ago.
My last activity in August was the wedding of my nephew, Scott Bonnell, to his fiancé Angela. Unfortunately Pat was unable to attend so I went by myself. It was a beautiful wedding with most of our families in attendance. The weather was near perfect, and the setting was beautiful. With all the sorrow and sadness that occurs every day, the gathering for a wedding is so uplifting. I can’t recall the last time I danced and laughed so much. The good part is there is another wedding coming up in September.
Levi and Flynn continue to grow and prosper, Pat has gone into preserving mode, I am cutting logs for the new bridge at Aunt Margie’s, and all is well.
Greg and Pat