By David M. Fitzpatrick
OF THE WEEKLY STAFF
Maine author John Ford put in an appearance at the Sunbury Village Independent Senior Living Community last week to promote his book, “Suddenly, the Cider Didn’t Taste So Good: Adventures of a Game Warden in Maine.” And he was a hit with the crowd, getting everyone laughing with his hilarious tales from his career as a warden. In fact, even if you only find his book is half as good as his stand-up comedy routine — as funny as anything you’re likely to see — you’ll find it worth the read.
Published last April by Islandport Press, the book has become a sensation. It’s now in its fifth printing, and a second book, “The Cider Still Tastes Funny,” is due out this May.
“My publisher called me up and he said, ‘We got material for another book?’” Ford told the crowd. “I said, ‘I’ve got enough for another three books.’”
The book actually began when Ford became a game warden in 1970. His stepfather, also a warden, advised him to write down his experiences.
“He told me when I started, he said, ‘John, you want to keep a diary of the things you want to remember,’” he told The Weekly. “’You never know — someday, you may want to write a book.’ Here I am.”
Ford wrote his stories until 1990, when he retired as a game warden and was elected sheriff of Waldo County. During that tenure, he wrote a biweekly column for the Republican Journal and, later, The Village Soup — as well as the Northwoods Sporting Journal. At one point, his editor at the Journal suggested he publish a book.
“A lot of it is my own stupidity, my own faults and things that I did that really weren’t probably kosher in today’s world,” Ford said. “Some of it is wild animals that I raised and cared for. A lot of it is humorous stuff with my own stupidity; some with other people’s stupidity.”
Many of the stories are hilarious, like the time he was stepping down onto a float plane’s pontoon to check licenses on people fishing in a boat — and missed the pontoon and ended up in the drink. There was the time some troublesome locals stuffed white perch in his hubcaps; he drove around for days wondering what the stench was. And the time he didn’t want to move a rotting deer carcass, so he stuffed dynamite into it and tried to float it downriver, only for it to get caught near shore in an eddy before exploding.
Some of the stories are touching, such as those where he detailed raising wildlife, like the pair of hatchling owls or the newborn coyote that turned out to be a fox.
“Whenever I put the uniform on, it was just like going to the movies,” Ford said. “Every time I went out the door, I knew there was a show going to be playing, whether it would be a wildlife show, a comedy show, search and rescue… something always seemed to happen.”
Originally from Maine, Ford joined the Air Force because he wanted to see the world. After training as a radar operator, he received his first posting: Topsham, just 60 miles from home. When the base closed down, he was reassigned — to Charleston Hill in Kenduskeag.
“So much for seeing the world,” he said.
After taking the written exam to be a game warden, he knew that was what he wanted to do, so he stayed in Maine. His subsequent experiences have made for very entertaining reading. Ford is currently enjoying an on-the-road retirement. Last year, he appeared at over 50 speaking engagements to promote the book. The night before his Sunbury Village appearance, he spoke at the MDI Lions Club; this week, he’ll be at Dirigo Pines in Orono, and then it’s on to the Rangeley Library.
“I’m just having a ball going around,” Ford said. “I really like it.”
You can find Ford’s book just about everywhere, including at www.IslandportPress.com.