BOOK REVIEW

Rangeley outdoorsman’s colorful life a good read

Posted April 02, 2011, at 12:36 p.m.

“Joshua Gross Rich (1820-1897): The Life and Works of a Western Maine Pioneer and Wildlife Writer,” Northeast Folklore XLIII; illustrated; edited and introduced by William B. Krohn; The Maine Folklife Center, Orono, Maine, 2010; 209 pages, trade paperback, $14.95.

Joshua Gross Rich was a mid-19th century outdoorsman, guide, writer, judge and businessman who was among the first white people to settle the remote parts of the Rangeley Lakes region. His propensity for wilderness adventure, along with his ownership of one of the first fishing resorts in the area and his copious outdoor writing which appeared in many newspapers and magazines of the time, garnered him reknown among sportsmen in Maine.

William Krohn’s meticulously researched and extensively annotated book offers a detailed biographical introduction to Rich and a selection of his writings, covering hunting, trapping, fishing, exploring and general voluntary placing of oneself in harm’s way in the Maine wilderness.

In one article published in The Bethel News in 1895, Rich recounts coming upon a bear caught in one of his traps and, when the bear pulls his toe free of the trap, without considering the possible consequences Rich grabs the bear by the fur of its behind and starts wrestling it, calling to his trapping companion to help him. The bear tears his clothes off in the process, and by the time his companion shoots the bear in the head, Rich thinks his own guts have been torn out. They head back to camp only to discover most of the blood is the bear’s. “It was a lively scrimmage!” Rich writes with Brad Viles-like chipperness, and concludes wryly (I think), “I never fancied killing bears by hand after that.”

Twenty-first century naturalists and outdoorsmen are likely to find this book an entertaining and authoritatively informative look into the original taming of the western Maine wilderness.William Krohn, a wildlife biologist with the U.S. Geological Survey, also compiled “Manly Hardy (1832-1910): The Life and Writing of a Maine Fur-buyer, Hunter, and Naturalist” for the Maine Folklife Center, in addition to writing many articles and papers on wildlife. “Joshua Gross Rich” is available directly from the Maine Folklife Center at http://umaine.edu/folklife/publications/order-form.

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