On April 1, Maine lost an extraordinary outdoorsman, Lawrence Hurd, who was 101 years old when he died at home in Bangor. In 2011, organizers of the Eastern Maine Sportsmen’s Show in Orono recognized Lawrence’s lifetime spent outdoors by dedicating the weekend show to him. He attended opening night, March 11, his 100th birthday, and everyone helped him celebrate.
Lawrence acquired many of his outdoor skills while growing up in Old Town — paddling, hunting and fishing on Sunkhaze Meadows. Oh, the stories he could tell and write about in letters he called Beaver Grams.
At age 85 in one Beaver Gram he wrote, “I worked at Old Town Canoe Co. from 1929-1936. When I first worked at the canoe shop we worked fifty-five hours a week, five hours on Saturday. Often after work some of us would go home, get our canoes, carry them to Indian Landing and at one or one-thirty we’d shove off. It took us about four hours to get to the Meadows, where we fished for trout. We’d have trout for supper, camp overnight near Ash Landing. We’d get up as day was breaking the next day and fish our way back down the Meadows and home.”
From Old Town Lawrence migrated to Maine’s north woods, where he worked for some 30 years cruising, scaling and laying out roads for Great Northern Paper Co. More stories. In one of his letters to a friend he mentioned, “I was based at St. John Depot in 1941 when GNP started building a canal to connect First St. John Pond with the North Branch of the Penobscot. After I served in the Navy [1942-1946] I went and paddled down that canal.”
Awhile after leaving the Navy Lawrence returned to work for GNP. In the early-to-mid ’50s he was based at Big Bog on the north branch as a forester, “looking after the cutting at three camps in that area.” Sometimes, while camping out between base camps, he volunteered to be camp cook, figuring that was the best way to be sure of getting good food. When he was 94 years old, he wrote about one of those cooking experiences: “I had only one mixing bowl for pastries, mostly biscuits. On preparing supper one evening I couldn’t find that bowl. I looked and looked and when I finally saw it I was aghast — one of our crew was washing his dirty socks in the stream in my mixing bowl. I couldn’t believe it — there was the stream with enough water to wash all the socks in Aroostook, but he had to use my bowl. Well, now, I lit into him with a first class tongue-lashing … Then of course I had to proceed to boil my biscuit bowl.”
In addition to making biscuits Lawrence made a variety of brown ash baskets, mostly pack baskets (See BDN Nov. 1997). He once wrote, “I would take fifty blows, then rest a minute. For a 10- or 11-inch log eight feet long it took twelve to fifteen thousand blows.” He pounded logs himself — sometimes demonstrating at Leonard’s Mills — until he was in his late 80s. He finally started getting strips from a friendly owner of a mechanical pounder.
Several weeks ago the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service conducted a public hearing in Milford to discuss pros and cons of designating part of Sunkhaze Meadows National Wildlife Refuge as a wilderness area. Motors are not allowed in such areas, and nearly all who attended the hearing objected to the motor-ban. A pity Lawrence wasn’t able to attend and talk about his motorless Sunkkaze trips, one of which he described in Tales of Sunkhaze, a pamphlet compiled by the Friends of Sunkhaze.
“In 1930 or 1931 as a friend and I were on our way back down the Meadows we saw a 20-foot White canoe come down Baker Brook with three men in it. They had a motor, but we kept ahead of them across the Meadows. Without a motor we could take shortcuts, but they had to stay in the channel. I’m not much on motors. John Maines never had an outboard motor or Skidoo. I’m the same. I used to work for John at Great Northern. He was a good friend.”
At age 86, paddling with a friend all the way across Sunkhaze from Ash Landing to Route 2, Lawrence still didn’t use a motor. (He did admit that he was “a little lame” the next day.)
Lawrence often remarked that he always tried to maintain a positive outlook. And he seemed to succeed in that. One gray November day he, then 90 years old, and a younger friend were walking across a bridge in Milford. The younger person didn’t think very positively about gray November days, and found herself wondering what a 90-year-old thinks of such days. Even though she didn’t voice the thought, he volunteered as he looked at the scenery, “I like November. The colors are nice and soft.”
Painting was one of Lawrence’s many hobbies, so he was mindful of colors. He took his paint set with him into the Navy. Among other things, he painted the destroyer he served on. He is probably the only person who ever painted Big Bog dam on the North Penobscot. He was mindful of so many things.
We will miss you Lawrence, and will try to emulate your positive outlook, even in Novembers to come.