For more than 30 years readers of Maine’s outdoor publications have followed the adventures of a prickly old outdoorsman in Dave O’Connor’s monthly dispatches. Now they can own the entire collection in O’Connor’s book “Huntin’ & Fishin’ With the Ole Man,” which was released several months ago.
O’Connor, 66, now spends seven months a year in Island Falls and the other five months on a south Florida bass lake. He has written for state and national outdoor publications for 45 years and at one point wrote a column that could be read in 48 newspapers.
And for several years — from the 1970s until the early 1990s — he wrote 42 installments of the ‘Ole Man” series that were first published in The Maine Sportsman, and have since run again in The Northwoods Sporting Journal.
O’Connor has written other books, including “Where to Hunt in Maine” and “Where to Fish in Maine,” and said V. Paul Reynolds, editor of the Northwoods Sporting Journal thought publishing a book of “Ole Man” tales made good sense.
The book came out at the first of the year, and O’Connor has been pleasantly surprised by the results.
“Sales have been better than I thought,” O’Connor said. “I thought they’d sell a hundred or 200 copies and stop.”
Instead, a steady stream of buyers has contacted him each month, and sales continue to be strong.
The Ole Man would be proud.
O’Connor said the model for his stubborn, no-nonsense outdoor icon was a local teacher with whom he spent plenty of time hunting and fishing.
“The Ole Man I had the image in mind of was Roger Thurlow, who taught math at Orono High School,” O’Connor said Friday. “His first love was hunting in Alton Bog.”
Alton Bog is featured in the book, and “The Ole Man” is certainly in his element in that unforgiving, soggy environment.
“You had to do things by his rules,” O’Connor said, explaining that hunting with Thurlow was a well-planned event. Participants had to do things as Thurlow demanded. And they had to show up when Thurlow told them to.
“By 5:30 in the morning, your feet were always wet,” O’Connor said with a chuckle.
The “Ole Man” stories ran for years, but O’Connor finally moved on to other writing projects.
“It just evolved. It wound up with 42 episodes, because at some point I thought it had to come to a conclusion,” he said. “But I left it open at the end of whether he lived or died. I just said, ‘He changed hunting territories.’”
Many of O’Connor’s hunting and fishing pals show up in his stories, and he says none has ever complained. One character who engages in illegal activity, he says, is entirely fictional.
And fans of the “Ole Man” stories may have another treat in the coming years. O’Connor is considering writing more “Ole Man” tales.
“Paul Reynolds would like to have me start at any time on [new ‘Ole Man’ stories], but I really don’t know. I told him I’d only start if I were going to do another 30 or 40 chapters, or episodes,” O’Connor said.
For readers who enjoyed following the Ole Man through the Maine woods, O’Connor’s most recent book is a treasure. For those who haven’t yet discovered those tales, the book offers a chance to explore the Maine wilderness at their own pace.
The stories are short, and though many characters make repeat appearances, each story is a self-contained adventure that can be read in a few minutes and savored for hours.
“We originally started it as kind of a bedtime reader,” O’Connor explained. “You didn’t have to be a serious reader. You could pick any of those stories and spend a few minutes and enjoy one.”
The book is 270 pages and contains 43 black-and-white line drawings by Winthrop illustrator John Holub. All books are autographed by O’Connor and Holub.
To order “Huntin’ & Fishin’ With the Ole Man,” send $19.95 to Dave O’Connor, 723 Sherman St., Island Falls, ME 04747.