HOLDEN, Maine — A half-hour before legal shooting time, the parking lot of the Eastern Maine Snowmobile Club was dark — but full of trucks. The scent of fresh-cooked bacon wafted through the chilly air, the result of a box fan that the kitchen crew had placed in a window for ventilation.
The drone of portable generators told the rest of the story and explained the dim light inside: The club lost power on Thursday. It hadn’t been restored as of Saturday morning, the residents-only opening day of deer season, and the day that the club has traditionally hosted its annual hunter’s breakfast.
Luckily for hunters (and others), that didn’t matter a bit: The breakfast was served without a hitch.
“It hasn’t changed anything for us,” Jan Logan said. “We have generators instead, and it’s great.”
Logan was in charge of a grill that was covered with piles of home fries, bacon and sausage. As each order was relayed to her, she cracked eggs and cooked them to the customers’ preferences. A few teenage girls then took the heaping plates of food into the dining room, calling out the the customer’s number and delivering the meals to the proper spot.
Operating on emergency lighting and generator power while cooking for a hundred or more hungry hunters may sound like a recipe for disaster, but club members said it’s become old hat in these parts.
“Two years ago we had the big storm, and we did it without power,” longtime club member Charlie Roberts said, admitting that at the time, there was a bit of discussion about whether the breakfast could or should be held.
“We talked about it for a few days, and then we said, ‘Let’s do it,’” Roberts said. “So we rounded up generators and figured out how to make it happen.”
They made it happen back in 2017, and on Saturday, as parts of Holden remained in the dark two days after another autumn blow, there was no doubt that the breakfast would be served.
“This time it was easy,” club member Larry Lafland said. “We knew what we did two years ago, and we just did the same thing.”
The club has been staging the breakfast as a fundraiser for as long as anyone could remember — at least since the early 1980s, according to Roberts, and maybe since the late 1970s.
Attendees didn’t seem to mind the fact that the lights were a bit more dim than they might have been. A fire in the stone fireplace took the chill off the dining room, and a steady stream of eager eaters made their way past the table where they ordered and paid for their meals.
Some years, the majority of those patrons might be hunters. This year — and in 2017 — things are a bit different, club member Ann Verschoor explained.
In years like those, they’re apt to see almost anybody stop by for a hot meal.
“People are hungry this morning, and because they don’t have power, they’re coming here,” Verschoor said.
There were a few subtle differences between the hunters in attendance and those who were just stopping by for a bite.
The hunters were more apt to be wearing flannel shirts and orange caps, for one. And those same hunters seemed a little more eager to finish eating and hit the road, while the assorted others were content to linger and have a second cup of coffee.
This was a hunter’s breakfast, after all. It was opening day of firearms season for all except the junior hunters who took part in last week’s Youth Deer Day.
And on opening day, it doesn’t pay to linger at the breakfast table.
Deer were waiting. Somewhere. Maybe.
And the hunters weren’t going to find them without pushing away from the table and heading into the woods.
Then it was back to the parking lot, the trucks, and a day in the woods. Bellies full, adventures ahead.
And you don’t need electricity for any of that.