Jim Fahey worked for the Maine Warden Service as a seasonal dispatcher, deputy and fulltime game warden from 1990 to 2019. He patrolled districts in Aroostook and Penobscot counties.
I began my career with the Maine Warden Service in the fall of 1992, when I was a deputy for District Game Warden David C. Priest Jr. Dave covered Greenbush, Greenfield, Milford, Bradley and the unorganized townships to the east.
I first met and got to know Dave the fall before. I was living at my father’s hunting camp in Township 32 while attending classes at the University of Maine. I also was in my second hunting season working as a radio dispatcher at the Warden Service headquarters In Bangor.
Dave stopped by one day while I was working around the camp and asked me if I wanted to go for a ride. I accepted and thus began a working relationship and friendship that continues to this day.
However, that is not where the story really starts. Ironically, I knew his parents, Dave Sr. and Lillian, before I knew him. I was introduced to the Priests by Clarence “Stubby” Stubbs and his son John, both of Bangor. John was my high school baseball coach and he and Stubby used to take me fishing upcountry at their camp off the Golden Road. We would often stop and visit the Priests at their home on Route 2 in Winn on our way up north or upon our return from a trip. Dave Priest Sr. was a legendary game warden from the late 1940s to early 1970s.
We would also often stop to see Francis and Blanche Cyr at their home at Chesuncook Dam. Francis was a game warden at the same time as Dave Sr. I remember listening to their stories of warden work and the big woods as a teenager and may not have known it at the time, but a spark of interest began to smolder within me for the Maine Warden Service.
Despite being unshaven and wearing an old shirt and blue jeans, I went for that ride along with Dave Jr. that October afternoon in 1991. We hadn’t gone far when Dave overheard radio traffic that the sheriff’s office was engaged in a possible standoff situation with the occupants of a camp on the other side of the township. We traveled there at what Dave called a “high rate of fuel consumption.” We arrived and observed sheriff’s deputies with shotguns laid out across the hoods of their cruisers. We even saw a civilian armed with a single-shot 16 gauge shotgun come out of the woods and join the deputies. He apparently had been conducting surveillance on the camp prior to our arrival.
They relayed the story to us. The occupants of the camp had taken the civilian’s bulldozer from a nearby woods road construction operation. They tried to fix their camp road but had gotten the bulldozer terribly stuck before they could finish. The deputies had reason to believe the men in the camp were armed and were concerned about contacting them.
Dave and I got back in his truck and drove down the road. He said he knew another way into the camp. I was about to get a lesson in confidence, tact and diplomacy. We drove right into the camp yard. We got out and Dave knocked on the door. A young man answered. There were four or five guys in the camp, all in their early 20s, same as me. Dave began fact-finding. It was true that the men had taken the bulldozer. They wanted to fix their road as a favor to the camp owner, who was the father of one of them. Dave explained that the bulldozer owner was less than impressed with the situation and that the sheriff’s office had been called in. Dave also asked what the men had for weapons. The next thing I knew we were standing in the camp and Dave was holding a 44 magnum Desert Eagle handgun in his hands! Dave further explained that this whole thing would have to be sorted out. The men in the camp understood. Dave radioed to the deputies to drive in. They arrived and began their interviews.
At one point one of the deputies approached Dave and I and asked to have a word in private. He shot me a glance then looked at Dave. Dave explained that I was with him — I wasn’t one of the suspects. My rough appearance apparently misled him. The whole matter was eventually resolved.
It may not have been resolved to everyone’s satisfaction, however. The following spring, Dave swung into the camp yard while on routine patrol. The camp had burned flat.
My first ride along had been a memorable one. I learned about human behavior, that things aren’t always what they appear and how reasonable, and unreasonable, people can be.