Sunday, May 13, 2012

Once I lived in Maine

A few decades ago a man lived in the woods in an economically declining area of Maine. He found an old abandoned house on a place called Appleton Ridge and with his few possessions he moved in. The next day he went around knocking on doors to find out who owned the house. He was directed to a trailer wrapped in plastic that sat on a barren patch of ground along the paved road west of Liberty. The man who owned the house was Willis Ladd. When the stranger asked Willis if he would sell the house, Willis said,"$500.00, and it comes with five acres and a sweet water well that's always high and cool even in the hot of summer." The stranger counted out 25 twenties and handed them to Willis. "It's yours," said Willis as he scratched something on the deed and handed it to the stranger.

The house was in the middle of a vast forest of second growth trees that had sprung up since the abandonment of farming in that region some ninety years ago. The population had shrunk to a minuscule size as children had grown up and gone to the city leaving the old people to carry on. The animals had returned and marten, fox, fisher, otter, deer, rabbit, grouse and pheasant roamed the woods. And black bear.

As was his custom in the evening, the stranger read by the light of a kerosene lamp. He was sitting on an old crate with the open book turned toward the light when suddenly the door to the house burst open. A large black bear stuck its head in. Before the man could move the bear shuffled into the room and stood up towering over him. The man did not move.

The bear lowered itself and proceeded past the man into the kitchen. Following its nose the bear tore the kitchen apart eating every scrap of food available. The man edged away from the scene and climbed the narrow staircase to the loft where he kept a rifle. He loaded the gun and stood quietly gaining control of his breath, slowly inhaling and exhaling. He heard the bear rampaging around below for a while and then it became quiet. The bear was gone.

The next day he fixed the door which had been torn from its hinges and set a bar across it.

Several days later a hunting party from New Jersey passed the man's house. "We're looking for black bear,"one of the men called out to the stranger, "Seen any around here?"
"Not around here," replied the stranger, "Been decades since bear roamed these woods."
The hunters gathered around their four wheel drive vehicle, conversed briefly, then left.
The bear and her two cubs watched from a thicket in the woods.

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