When you work in the newspaper business and you share your opinions with thousands of readers on a regular basis, you’re bound to hear back from some of those readers once in awhile.
Included in Thursday morning’s mail: An envelope, with no return address. In the journalism biz, that’s not good. In fact, in most cases, envelopes like this carry angry, anonymous screeds. Buoyed by a sense of invincibility, the writer often resorts to name-calling, and tells us ink-stained wretches exactly how stupid we really are.
Expecting the worst, I slowly opened the letter, peered inside, and tentatively pulled the contents out.
I quickly realized how misplaced my apprehension had been.
First out of the envelope was a piece of birch bark, folded in two, that served as a protective sheath for the two fishing flies inside. And with those flies was a brief letter that made made perfect sense. I’m pretty sure the signature line was misspelled, and the sender wanted to be known simply as “The Phantom, 04921.” Trusting that the final five digits are a ZIP code, I know that the writer is from Brooks.
But that’s all I know. Here’s what he or she had to say:
“Just a note to explain,” the letter began.
“Over time, people have tied flies to remember certain people, like the streamer ‘General MacArthur’ and others.
“At my age, it’s more difficult to tie good flies. ‘My hands don’t mind my head.’
“I did think it would be nice to tie one called CPL Cole, who was so well-liked and respected.
“Maybe you can find someone who can do a better job, and pass the pattern along.
“You may take these and give them to his family, or Somerset Sheriff Dept. or what may please you.”
The writer was referring to Somerset County Sheriff’s Department Cpl. Eugene Cole, who was shot and killed in the line of duty in April. The letter also included an explanation for the colors used in creating the special flies.
“The dark blue is for the uniform he stood for, the golden pheasant cheeks for how great he was, ‘golden’ as the gold tinsel body,” the letter reads. “I know he practiced ‘catch + release’ with the good people. Maybe those who catch a fish will do the same.
“Thank you. The [Phantom] 04921.”
The enclosed streamer flies are beautiful, and a wonderful gesture. If The Phantom wants to check back in and share the fly’s recipe with me, I’ll see if I can get a few dozen reproduced by a local fly tying genius. (He knows who he is — I just have to say nice things about him so that he’ll agree to take on the job).
And after that, I plan to reach out to a state game warden to see if he can arrange delivery of these first two flies, along with the letter, to Eugene Cole’s family. It was, after all, the first option The Phantom suggested.
Moose lottery on tap
If you’re one of the thousands of Mainers who entered this year’s moose permit lottery, Saturday may be your lucky day.
Of course, it may not. That’s how lotteries go.
But for now, let’s assume that all of our BDN readers are going to win a permit, and will end up going on the hunt of a lifetime. Let me be the first to say, ‘Congratulations! Long overdue! You deserve it!”
This year, the lottery is taking place within a convenient drive of these parts, just down Route 2 in Skowhegan. Feel free to join me down there, as the BDN will once again be on hand to bring you all of the excitement.
The town has rolled out the red carpet for the Skowhegan Moose Festival, and all kinds of events are planned, beginning Friday and running through Sunday.
The actual lottery takes place at 2 p.m. at the grandstand of Skowhegan Fairgrounds. We’ll have the complete results up on our website beginning at 6 p.m.
Not that you really need to check, mind you. I’m confident that all of you will finally be drawn for a permit this year.
John Holyoke can be reached at email@example.com or 990-8214. Follow him on Twitter: @JohnHolyoke
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