I must apologize to everyone for this late letter. Somehow I got overwhelmed with work and life and didn’t keep up. We had beautiful weather in September and another family wedding. My niece Heidi married her fiancé Rick at the New England Outdoors Center in, of all places, Millinocket. Both families traveled all the way up there and found places to stay. Pat and I shared a cabin with Kate and Peter and Maggie, Matt, Jay and Anna stayed next door. It was nice to see lots of people we haven’t seen for a while and watch my sister Eileen enjoying herself after so many stressful posts with the State Department. (She is now in Lebanon.)
We stayed for two nights, which gave us a little leisure time to look around. The landscape was spectacular with huge lakes in the shadow of Katahdin. I was surprised at how busy the recreation businesses were. The place we stayed was north of town and bustling with activity. With the paper mills failing, the town itself is depressed. Main Street is virtually abandoned with lots of for sale signs. For those who have resisted the transformation from industrial economy to recreation economy, it is time to reevaluate.
August was filled with loss and sadness, and September gave us another painful loss. Floyd Cobb died on my birthday at the end of 92 fruitful years. It is hard to find words to describe Floyd. He was first a family man with many children, grandchildren and great grandchildren. He hired us in 1981 to work at Cobb’s Camps and changed our lives completely. He was like a grandfather to our children, and he was beloved by us all. Floyd truly loved the woods of Maine and made his life and living in them. He could out-walk and outwork any ordinary man.
When I first started working for Floyd I was definitely intimidated. He expected a return on his employee investment, and he did not tolerate anything less. It took most of the first summer for me to see the soft side of Floyd. I was more interested in fishing than work, but there was little time to fish when your job is to make sure all the fishermen were taken care of. My job started at daylight getting boats ready for the day. It was a relief to be able to sit down for breakfast after my morning chores. As soon as I finished though, it was back to the docks to help everyone off for the day. Then camp chores like stocking wood and kindling in every cabin and keeping fires just right, hauling garbage to the dump, and recyclables loaded in a boat to the beach. I also drove the tote boat to pick up arriving guests and loaded and unloaded their gear. The little hill from the dock to the cabins got a lot bigger when I had made several trips with all I could carry and the dock was still full of gear.
My favorite job was to go into the woods behind camp and cut trees for firewood. I would lay out a trail system that connected all the trees, cut the trees into rounds, some so big that it took two of us to lift it up on to the splitter. In the heat of the afternoon we would be doing the heavy work on most days. My least favorite job was hauling fuel for generators and outboards. We took half barrels for diesel fuel and five gallon cans for gas and on a hot day the fumes were nauseating. Even with gloves, my hands and clothes were greasy with diesel. I was just learning to fly cast, and if I got a moment would throw a line off the dock.
One day Floyd and I were loading the empty fuel cans onto a new barge that Gary Cobb built in his driveway in North New Portland. Just as we were about to shove off Floyd got a phone call and had to run up to the kitchen. I saw my opportunity and grabbed an old fly rod from the gas house. As I was casting I kept looking over my shoulder, afraid Floyd would step out of the kitchen and catch me wasting time. Suddenly I heard the screen door slam and Floyd was on the way down. As I started to reel in, a big salmon grabbed the fly and launched into the air. Floyd heard the splash and stopped in his tracks, staring across the yard. I was about to break off the fish, thinking I was already in trouble when Floyd began to run toward the gas house. As he ran he shouted, “hold on I’ll get a net”. The fish was an old skinny male with a big hook jaw and at least two feet long. It put up a hell of a fight with several long runs that a fat fish could not have made. Floyd seemed even more excited than I was as he finally got the fish in the net. My relief was even greater than my excitement over catching the fish. We went back to our chores with enthusiasm carried over from that sudden surprise.
Floyd expected a lot from his employees but he was always fair and he worked harder than anyone. My girls loved Floyd and I will always remember how they would run to the dock shouting “Floyd is coming!” when they heard an airplane circling overhead. When he would step out of the plane onto the dock, they would swarm around and hug his legs and he would laugh that wonderful laugh of his. Most of my interaction with Floyd was during work or around the dining table. Long after he had retired, he was in for a visit, and the two of us went fishing for a day that lasted into a moonlit night. It is a long story that won’t fit here but it was certainly one of best days off I ever had. It was in September after a cold heavy rain raised the water levels far above normal. The tributary flows were above flood and since it was cold and full of forage bait fish moved into the streams followed of course by big trout and salmon. In thirty years at Pierce Pond I only saw this happen twice. When I told Gary what was happening he said I should take Floyd the next morning since he would have to leave at noon.
The flow coming out of Upper Pond was so strong no one had gone up yet, so of course we went there and had it all to ourselves for a while. We caught fish after fish laughing and shouting with something chasing almost every retrieve. More than once we had two fish on together, and once we both missed fish at the same time while standing. The boat tipped almost rolling over and we both fell into the bottom and could not stop laughing. Other fishermen finally made it in, and they must have thought we were drunk. At noon we came in for lunch, and Maudie could see how excited Floyd was. She decided to delay one more night so Floyd and I headed out again. The day ended in the Thorofare Pool where I watched Floyd hook and lose two huge trout in the moonlight. So many of my fishing days all blend together and I can’t remember much of who and when but that day is like a favorite artwork on the wall that I can look at whenever I like.
At breakfast the next day Gary and I were sitting alone early, and he mentioned that several guests had complained about some loud probably drunk locals who were tearing around Upper Pond disturbing the peace. When they gave a description of the culprits he said he had a pretty good idea who it was and would take care of the problem. Thank you Floyd Cobb for all the gifts you shared with the Drummond family.
September is Moose Rut time, but since it has been so warm in September, we moved our calling weekend to the first of October. In September, though I got a call about a photographer who wanted to get a picture of a moose. Aaron Stets arrived on the 19th and I advised him that it was too early to expect to have calling success, but I had found a couple of likely spots. The next morning before day break we drove to the top of Briggs Hill and when I was about to give up after 30 or 40 minutes of calling, we heard a bull approaching and it came right down to the camera.
We went back for breakfast then headed up “over the mountain,” stopping at the Lanefield pond, which is the first little wetland after the crest of the hill. After a couple of calls. a small bull appeared on the shore across the pond. He didn’t act as if he was going to come closer, so Aaron went to the truck to get a bigger lens. While he was gone the bull suddenly went into the water and started to swim to me. Aaron got back in time to get him swimming in the sunlight and then standing close up on shore. He actually came into the woods next to us, but there was too much cover for a good shot. When he winded us he swam all the way back where he had started from. Neither of the bulls was huge, but we got the photos. The day started with great success, but those were the only ones we could call.
Bob and Thurza Gibbs stopped for a night in September, and we went to Tufulio’s in Carrabassett Valley for a great dinner. They like to relieve Pat of the cooking and spend time visiting on their way to Cobb’s. It is something we look forward to every September. Ron Joseph, Paul Doiron and I went to Spencer Lake near the end of September. The Brook Trout fishing can be great if it gets cold enough, and we weren’t disappointed. The weather was perfect and we got quite a few nice trout in shallow water near shore. One of our Derek Lovitch birding guests came with his family in September, and we had a great time with them. Nils Johansson is a lover of all things outdoors and has a lovely family. His two little granddaughters ran all around the place laughing and playing. It was a most pleasant visit.
At the end of September I agreed to outfit and guide a Distant Journeys group down the Dead River to Grand Falls. It involved three canoes and the Grand Laker with an outboard to tow the canoes back upriver. There are a new land owners on the road to the launching site on the Dead, and their forester put a gate up blocking access to the launch site a half mile away. (After 41 years of access this is a tough blow to take.) He assured us we would be able to access after mud season and gave me the combination to the lock; however, when I arrived to bring the canoes in, the lock had been changed. I contacted the company but was unable to get answers from anyone or replies to my messages. Finally, I gave up and carried the three canoes to the launch. The day before the trip, I took my Grand Laker to the “Big Eddy pool. I put the outboard on and paddled it through the rapids stern first to a safe place near the launch. I was able to guide the trip and then pulled the three canoes in a train right back up the rapids to my truck and trailer. It wasn’t easy, but I can still go!
I’ll follow this with October and November soon.
Greg and Pat