Nothing beats a good outdoors tale
By V. Paul Reynolds
Bob Leeman, the cohost of my weekly radio program Maine Outdoors, and I were invited down to Grand Lake Stream last week to be front and center and tell, what were advertised as, “outdoor tales.”
Now Bob and I, as you might surmise, love attention. Neither of us ever met a microphone we didn’t like. Our wives contend that we are both “legends in our own minds.” So, did we accept the invitation to be the main attraction in the Grand Lake Stream ball field, where we were told there would be a small gathering of folks around us, a campfire and some free s’mores?
You know it!
Truth be told, Bob was more comfortable with this assignment than I was. As much as we both like to talk, two hours is a long time to hold court, at least to my way of thinking. If an invited studio guest for my radio program is late to show, I tend to pace about the studio and perspire. Bob, on the other hand, says, “Not to worry, my man, I can fill an hour all alone. No sweat.”
If you are a broadcaster, self-confidence that borders on cockiness, can be useful. In one of these public-appearance gigs, Bob has the edge. Not only is he pretty sure footed with his mouth for a man of his tenure, he just thrives telling stories, and he has an endless supply with a capacity for recall that never ceases to amaze me. No wonder he did well as a traveling salesman!
We showed up at the appointed time, 5 p.m., after having hastily wolfed down a burger at the nearby Pine Tree Store. The storm clouds had lifted. Some young deer were grazing on the edge of the ball field. The puffy white clouds and moderate temperatures made for a pleasant setting. Sarah Cote, our hostess, never said what to expect for a crowd. Bob and I were both slack-jawed by the turnout. We expected maybe a dozen or so curious souls, with nothing better to do, would stop by to check us out. As Bob and I sat down before the microphone, we saw close to 100 people awaiting our “performance.”
When the crowd is friendly, you know it within minutes. Many of them were followers of our radio program, readers of the Northwoods Sporting Journal and people who knew how to fish the Stream or start a campfire in the rain.
Bob was on his game and told three outdoor tales to my one. He has the timing of a seasoned comic, and knows how to get a laugh with a punchline. Eventually, the topic got around to scary outdoor adventures. As I told our audience, you don’t spend nearly a lifetime in the outdoors in all kinds of weather without coming back with a close shave or two. They all nodded in the affirmative. During a fishing trip on a stream in a canoe, Bob recalled, a pair of hip waders nearly spelled his demise. His bow buddy, trying to retrieve a fly snagged on an alder branch, upset their canoe. “My damn hip waders filled with water and dragged me under. The more they filled the harder I struggled,” he sputtered. Underwater he was just able to touch his toes on the bottom and propel himself back to the surface for a gulp of air! He saved himself by grabbing onto some stream side grass and holding on ‘til his buddy was able to drag him and his water-filled waders to safety. Yes, a story with a moral: never, ever wear hip waders in a canoe.
My outdoor experiences, like Bob’s, have not been without a few close shaves. One of the scariest for me took place during a dark, wintry night on a snowmobile lost on Schoodic Lake. Me and my companion wound up doing endless circles on the lake amid one of the worst winter blizzards of the late 20th century. As boaters in a fog know, you can’t go in a straight line if you have no point of reference. Through sheer luck, we eventually found the East shore on that big lake and survived. That same night on that lake, however, another lost snow sledder, who became disoriented like us, never found the shore. He perished from exposure.
On a happier note, our audience seemed to enjoy our stories and we enjoyed interacting with them all. Looking back at our visit with the good folks of Grand Lake Stream, it’s hard to believe that the two of us – old, trail-worn outdoorsmen – actually filled two hours by simply sharing outdoor memories with kindred souls. I don’t think it would have worked for us if we had gone solo.
Bob joked afterward that maybe we should rent ourselves out for weddings and bar mitzvahs.
Thanks for having us, Sarah Cote and all the wonderful, warm folks at Grand Lake Stream. And thank you Sue Whiteley for accommodating Bob and me with a place to sleep in a lovely streamside cabin. And a dish of warm apple buckle topped with ice cream just before bedtime!
The author is editor of the Northwoods Sporting Journal. He is also a Maine Guide and host of a weekly radio program “Maine Outdoors” heard Sundays at 7 p.m. on The Voice of Maine News-Talk Network. He has authored three books. Online purchase information is available at www.sportingjournal.com.