Darrell Mims moved to northern Maine in 2018 to get a fresh start.
The Baltimore, Maryland, native has been living off the grid. His 200-square-foot cabin is located in Moro Plantation in Aroostook County, on the west branch of the Mattawamkeag River. He is 2 1/2 miles into the woods off Route 11.
The 58-year-old Air Force veteran admits it hasn’t been easy trying to adopt a new lifestyle in solitude.
“I’m a city boy, so trying to get acclimated to outdoor living, so to speak, is a little bit more of a challenge than I thought it would be,” he said.
On June 14, Mims nearly lost his life as the result of an injury at the cabin.
As part of an expansion of his home, he was cutting into the building with a circular saw. Suddenly, the dog he had been watching for a friend bolted past him.
“I didn’t know if something was chasing it or what,” Mims said. “I pulled the saw out — I still had my finger on the trigger, watching the dog — and I just put my arms down.”
The blade caught Mims across his left thigh.
“The only thing I saw was blood everywhere,” he said.
Since moving to Maine, Mims has made new friends and acquaintances despite living in a remote location. Among them is Game Warden Charles Brown, who is a friend of the previous owner of Mims’ property.
While applying pressure to the gaping wound, Mims hobbled inside to grab his phone. Using the electronics skills he learned in the Air Force, he built a signal booster on his property to ensure he has cell service there.
Realizing that an ambulance would not be able to negotiate the washed-out road to the cabin, he instead called the person who had told him he would always be there to help: Brown.
“I was on a vacation day, but when your phone rings, you see it, you’ve got to answer it and you do what you’ve got to do,” said Brown, who was hanging out at home with his family.
The 15-year Warden Service veteran knew from the urgency in Mims’ voice that he needed to act quickly.
“As anybody would be, he was pretty frantic,” Brown said. “He actually said, ‘I think I’m going to bleed to death.’”
Brown called 9-1-1 to have an ambulance dispatched, then jumped into his state-issued pickup truck. It took him 30 minutes to reach Mims, who had used a belt as a tourniquet on his leg and was applying pressure to the wound.
Brown tried to keep Mims calm and keep the mood light.
“He said, ‘if you’re still awake, you probably won’t die.’ He definitely had me laughing the whole time,” Mims said.
Brown was focused on getting to the cabin quickly. In the meantime, one of Mims’ friends had made their way to the home to assist.
“I was focusing on not losing blood and staying conscious,” Mims said.
He was confident enough in his own self-preservation efforts that he took the time to change out of his bloody clothes and footwear — and pack his laptop.
“A man can’t live without his laptop,” Mims said, laughing.
When Brown arrived, Mims was sitting on his bed, waiting patiently.
“I could tell he was in a lot of pain but I think from his military training, his mind was thinking, ‘just ignore that,’” Brown said. “He did have [the bleeding] pretty well controlled.”
Brown helped Mims into his truck and drove him back out to Route 11 to the waiting ambulance.
“I had just got a brand-new truck and I told him, ‘don’t you bleed in that truck,’” Brown quipped.
“He had some horrible jokes,” Mims said.
Brown’s poise and good humor helped Mims stay relaxed and focused on a positive outcome.
Mims was taken to Houlton Regional Hospital, where the emergency room physician marveled at how lucky he was.
“The doctor said, when she saw it, ‘I don’t even know how you’re still alive,’” said Mims, who had come precariously close to severing his femoral artery.
It took at least 37 stitches to close the wound, said Mims, who emerged from the experience feeling fortunate and appreciative for the help he received, especially from Brown.
“He just kind of put on his cape and took care of things,” Mims said, citing Brown’s professionalism and calming presence in dealing with the emergency. “He didn’t have to do that.”
Brown downplayed his efforts.
“Anybody in the same situation would have done the same thing,” he said.
Mims is recovering well and continues to make improvements to his property.
“There’s so much beauty and so much to appreciate here. How can you not love it?” Mims said. “It’s been a blessing.”