As supervisor of the Allagash River corridor, Tim Caverly paddled the 92-mile Allagash Wilderness Waterway for 18 years and lived in the woods with his wife and daughter. In 140,000 acres of wilderness, countless tales were born, and now they flow freely, to be shared with children throughout the state.
Caverly’s third book of stories, “Allagash Tails Vol. III: Wilderness Wildlife,” was introduced to Maine stores last month.
“A number of these stories are tales I wrote for my daughter when she was little,” Caverly said. “I wrote them in the night, under the gaslight, and put them away for a while.”
His daughter, Jacquelyn, is now 28 and has a 15-month-old daughter, Olivia. Both inspire characters in the fictional stories.
Caverly’s first book, “Allagash Tails Vol. I,” was published about 18 months ago. The second book, “An Allagash Haunting: The Story of Emily Camille,” soon followed.
“This [third] book, I’m really proud of. There is so much fodder in the Maine woods,” said Caverly. “Either I see animals doing some kind of action and just build upon that, or I get stories from rangers.”
Franklin Manzo Jr., Caverly’s partner in the series, has illustrated all three books. His detailed wildlife drawings are informed by his time hiking in the Maine woods. A former software engineer, he built the series’ website, www.allagashtails.com.
Caverly doesn’t consider himself an author; in fact, he hated English and grammar in school.
“But I do enjoy telling stories,” he said. “It doesn’t always come easy to me, but it is getting better. When you live in the woods and you don’t have electricity or computers, other than reading, writing seemed like the natural thing to do.”
He grew up in the Maine forest. His father was a park ranger and his brother, Buzz, became director of Baxter State Park in 1981. Caverly has been hunting and fishing the Allagash waterway for 38 years and has managed Aroostook and Cobscook Bay State Parks.
In 1999, he retired from Maine’s Department of Conservation. He and his wife, Sue, now live in Millinocket and work for the Millinocket School System.
“The reason I started writing is there’s a lot of kids in school that don’t like to read,” he said. “Now I have kids coming up to me and saying, ‘We don’t like to read, but we like to read your stories.’ And I think it’s just encouraging.”
Caverly called upon seven elementary, middle and high school students to help edit and illustrate his third book.
Besides bolstering students’ urge to read and write, he wants to impart a little knowledge about the Allagash River, known around the world as a destination for paddlers. And he wants to build curiosity about Maine heritage.
“All of the places I talk about actually do exist. It’s fiction based on things we’ve seen,” he said.
Woven into the stories are boldface words — paddling terms and wildlife names — defined in a glossary at the back of the book.
“Allagash Tails Vol. III: Wilderness Wildlife” is a series of three stories. The first is an introduction to the waterway through the eyes of Carl the canoe. The craft’s amusing banter with a beaver and black bear is juxtaposed with a lesson expressed through an anecdote about Wally the Woodpecker.
Between the copyrights, expenses and finding a suitable printing company, Caverly found it extremely difficult to self-publish his first book, but it has becoming easier. He now has books in 100 stores throughout Maine, and he’s putting 1,000-1,500 miles on his vehicle each month to keep them stocked.
Allagash Tails books have been sent to China, Germany, the Philippines, Alaska, Hawaii, Australia and, this past weekend, to a soldier in Iraq.
“An Allagash Haunting: The Story of Emily Camille” has been performed in readers’ theaters twice and will be made into a stage play to be performed in Houlton on April 24 and Millinocket on May 8. In the book, a Canadian lumberjack’s ghost meets a 10-year-old girl and takes her back in time to a lumberjack dance.
Caverly’s next book, “Vol. IV: A Wilderness Ranger’s Journal,” will be a sequel to “An Allagash Haunting,” and is already half-finished. The book, scheduled to be published late summer or early fall 2011, will include wilderness anecdotes, Native American legend and lumberjack history.
For information, visit www.allagashtails.com.