Typically, as a teen-aged hunter and fisherman I never gave a thought to the gift of good health that enabled me to follow the tracks left by generations of Maine sportsmen. That is, until I began fishing at the Bangor Salmon Pool. At that time, the storied fishing ground was overlooked by Eastern Maine General Hospital, then comprising only the original stone building and two larger brick buildings. Today, of course, the ever-expanding facility is known as Eastern Maine Medical Center.
Having twice been a bed-and-breakfast patient at EMMC, I’m deeply indebted to modern medicine. Nevertheless, I have to say that, in spite of the limits of memories I’ve landed while fishing at the salmon pool, the presence of the populous hospital has been disquieting in reminding me that the gift of good health can be lost in a heartbeat. Considering, then, the physical demands of hunting, fishing, trapping and the many associated activities, sportsmen should be mindful — especially during the festive and spiritual season at hand — of the diseased and disabled who spend their lives confined to hospitals, health-care facilities and their homes. Think of them when, from a deer stand or a duck blind, you watch the face of dawn blushing behind a veil of mist, or when you shrug a canoe onto your shoulders and carry it to a trout pond or beaver flowage. Think of them when you’re fishing on frozen water or trolling for landlocks right after ice-out.
Likewise, the next time you strap on snowshoes to follow the bellowing of beagles trailing hares, or pull on waders to dip smelts or cast flies for salmon fresh in from the sea, think of the invalids who would pay to be in your boots. Moreover, when you deftly tie a fly, sew on a smelt or lace up your leather-top boots, think of the young men and women who lost arms and legs on the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan. Think of all the shut-ins and the physically challenged, as they say nowadays, many of whom were once healthy, avid sportsmen, and join me in wishing all of them a heartfelt Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
Tom Hennessey’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org