Paul J. Fournier spent much of his adult life in Maine’s wild places, first as a bush pilot, guide and sporting camp owner, later, for 20 years, as the public information officer for the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife.
It’s no surprise, then, that Fournier amassed a sizable pile of stories worth sharing. The result: “Tales From Misery Ridge, One Man’s Adventures in the Great Outdoors,” which was published by Islandport Press and hit bookstore shelves this week.
If pressed to find a complaint about the book, I do have one (which, I’m confident, Fournier wouldn’t take offense to): It’s just too short.
I was hooked by page five, as Fournier recounts the beginnings of his love affair with the Maine woods — the $25 purchase of a beat-up canoe helped him along his way — and by the middle portion of “Tales,” I was ruefully aware that the number of pages left to savor was quickly dwindling. Unfortunately for me — and, I’m confident, for other readers — Fournier only provided 195 of those pages for us to enjoy.
Fournier’s “Tales” is simply an outdoor gem, a must-read book for anyone who loves spending time afield in Maine, and who likes hearing stories about the way things used to be (and, perhaps, learning more about how they got to be the way they are).
“There’s some magical, intangible thing about Maine and its woods that just inspires tales,” the 82-year-old Fournier wrote in an email Wednesday. “I was smitten with it as a youngster (I no doubt set a record for truancy as a kid; hated school and spent much time in the woods rather than the confines of a classroom). The Maine woods and its creatures continue to fascinate me.”
In simple, efficient prose, Fournier shares 13 tales about a variety of topics. Whether living without electricity on Brassua Lake or flying small planes into remote trout ponds, Fournier’s book clicks. When he recounts interesting stories about rampaging black bears or many moose antics, the reader is drawn along for the ride.
“My hope is that readers of the book will come away with some of the love and compassion I have always felt for the Maine wood and its denizens — and will continue to protect it for future generations to enjoy,” Fournier wrote.
Some of Fournier’s “Tales” have been published in magazines years ago, others were simply pieces he felt compelled to share.
“I just felt that I have been blessed with so many wonderful life experiences and felt like sharing them,” Fournier said.
Fournier tells the seldom-heard inside stories of a couple of the state’s most well-documented wildlife reintroduction efforts. One turned out well. The other, not so well. Fournier tells readers about both, and the result is an entertaining and informative look at two important historic events.
In the first, Fournier tells readers how the state helped restore its bald eagle population. The chapter involves transferring eggs purloined from Minnesota nests, transporting them to Maine, and enlisting this state’s nesting eagles as foster parents.
In the second, the author follows biologists and veterinarians from Newfoundland to the University of Maine during an ill-fated caribou reintroduction project in the mid-1980s.
Fournier was on the scene during much of the project, coordinating media coverage and documenting the process with still and video cameras. Today, some 25 years later, the monumental undertaking is still riveting, even though the unfortunate outcome is well-documented.
All said, Fournier’s “Tales” deserves a spot on the bookshelf with other Maine outdoor classics. And though we may wish the book shared more, that Fournier took us along on more of his journeys, there is some good news to share: The author says he’s got another book in the pipeline, and it will be released next year.
“Islandport has contracted to publish another book next year,” Fournier said. “Working title: ‘Birds of a Feather.’ That one will be more oriented to nature study and observation, and will include several more nature articles reprinted from magazines. And my files are full of story ideas.”
I, for one, can’t wait.
RGS dinner planned
The Ruffed Grouse Society is celebrating 50 years of helping manage forest habitat, and Mainers can show their appreciation for the organization’s work by supporting the group’s coming banquet.
The Central Maine Chapter of the RGS will hold its annual sportsmen’s banquet on Nov. 19 at Jeff’s Catering in Brewer. The evening begins at 6 p.m. with cocktails and raffles; dinner will be served at 7:30 p.m.
The cost of an individual RGS membership and a dinner ticket is $55. A family membership, including two dinners, costs $100. Each additional dinner can be purchased for $30. For information, contact Kim Gray at 862-5069.
Salmon banquet approaching
While we’re talking about banquets, you might want to mark Oct. 22 on your calendar as well. That’s the date of the unified salmon club banquet, a cooperative effort of the Penobscot Salmon Club, the Veazie Salmon Club and the Eddington Salmon Club.
This year’s event will be held at the Bangor Motor Inn on Hogan Road. Doors open at 5:30 p.m. and dinner will be served at 7 p.m. The cost of dinner is $35.
To get tickets, contact a local salmon club member. And if you don’t know a member, drop me a line here and I’ll put you in touch with someone who can help.