SUDDENLY THE CIDER DIDN’T TASTE SO GOOD: ADVENTURES OF A GAME WARDEN IN MAINE by John Ford, April 20, 2012, Islandport Press, 218 pages, $16.95 softcover.
For years, outdoors enthusiasts around Maine have enjoyed the tales of John Ford, which were published as newspaper columns and in the Northwoods Sporting Journal.
Now, thanks to the release of his first book, a legion of new fans will be introduced to the self-deprecating Maine wit of the retired game warden.
In “Suddenly the Cider Didn’t Taste So Good: Adventures of a Game Warden in Maine,” Ford shares many of those tales in an entertaining book that will leave readers chuckling, speechless or both.
Ford is a natural storyteller with an atypical approach to the well-worn cops versus robbers genre. In Ford’s cases, the “bad guys” are often not that bad at all, even though many of them are trying to put one over on their local warden, flouting the state’s fish and game laws in the process.
In fact, while Ford took great pride in catching those characters in the act, he refers to many of the culprits as “friends,” and admits that outside of hunting season, he actually enjoyed spending time with some of his most pesky antagonists.
The secret to Ford’s success are simple: He knows of what he writes. And he kept good notes in a diary during his career as a warden, realizing that someday, someone might want to hear his stories.
That’s all great news for readers, who will gobble up his collection of stories. Some are hilarious. Most are offbeat. And at least one is downright scary: Ford tells the tale of an escaped murderer who admits that during the ensuing search, he nearly shot a warden he assumed was Ford.
In all, Ford shares 35 short stories here, each brief enough to have appeared in newspaper columns. Each is also worth reading again, if you happen to be one of those people — like this reviewer — who has been laughing along with Ford’s antics for years.
Ford’s delivery is straightforward and his words chosen carefully. And though the tales are personal to him, this is not an “I caught all the bad guys” kind of warden memoir. Instead, it’s often a lighthearted piece of self-reflection by a former law enforcement officer who is refreshingly able to laugh at his own shortcomings.
From enduring unwelcome personal visits from his warden service superiors to experiencing a hair-raising flight with a fearless warden pilot, Ford celebrates his career, as well as the history of the Maine Warden Service.
When Ford successfully captures an intentional violator, you’ll want to cheer. When he raises an orphaned owl or fox in his own home, you’ll smile. And when he tells the title story, and you learn why the cider didn’t taste so good — well, you’ll have another understandable reaction.
Alas, you’ve got to wait until the end of the book to get to that tale.
The good news: It won’t take you too long to get there.
All of the stories are “keepers,” and you’ll likely whip through them faster than you intended.
And if, at the end, you’re left wanting more, and wondering whether Ford is planning to publish another book of stories from the Maine woods? Join the club.