Tuesday, July 03, 2007

For Eddie, Who Taught Me So Much







This week I learned of the passing of a dear and wonderful man who took me under his wing at a time when I sorely needed direction in my life. It was the beginning of the summer that I left the farm to strike off on my own as an emancipated youth. This was the actual title assigned to my status as a youth of at least sixteen years of age, but not yet eighteen. This allowed me to live on my own freely as if I were an adult. I sought this mainly so as to sample a bit of life beyond working long hours at the farm and before joining the military, which was my post-school goal. I lived with a friend who had recently been honorably discharged from the US Navy after four years as a UDT Diver. He had always been sort of an older brother to me as we lived on farms rather close to each other and often were "drafted" to help out on both his place and ours. I continued to attend high school, worked evenings in a garage and at a lumber mill on the graveyard shift. My spare time, what little there was, was spent doing odd jobs or working for Eddie to get extra cash. If I had an opportunity to go with Eddie for a big trip, both my bosses were nice enough to allow me the time off to go. Seems they both thought it was worth it in the long run, as I worked hard and wherever they asked doing anything they asked.
This was a terrific opportunity for me, as Eddie was a Master Maine Guide for fishing and hunting. He was one of the "Old-Timers" who was a guide prior to WWII, and during the war he taught survival skills to military and civilian personnel for the US Federal Government. For those who are unfamiliar with the term Maine Guide, this is an excerpt from a National outdoor sporting magazine: "To become a Master Maine Guide, a guide must have been working as a guide for ten years, and have had at least five years professional experience in their specialized classification. It should be noted that the process of obtaining a License as a Registered Maine Guide is the most difficult in the country, which is why Maine Guides are held in such high regard." Eddie definitely fit the description to perfection.
Eddie was a close friend of my Uncle "R" and "F" from their younger days, having gone to school with them until they left school to work on farms and he left to work with his father, who ran an "up-lake" hunting and fishing camp. The camp was only accessible by foot or water, and catered mainly to wealthy "out of state" men and women looking for an adventure, fishing, or just plain relaxing. Whatever they came to do, they came loaded with money and very few outdoor skills and always employed guides retained by the camp for that purpose. The guides were independent of the camps, but would pay an "engagement fee" to the camp for arranging guide work for them. This occupation was so lucrative that a boy such as Eddie was easily swayed by the possible monetary gains, and many of the "Old Timers" left school and started out this way, learning at the feet of the Original Maine Guides, a group formed and licensed by the state starting in 1897. For Eddie, it was a natural choice, as he despised being trapped in a school house all day and he had an easy foot in the door with his father owning one of the premier camps in the state.
Eddie started taking me on trips while I was still young and living on the farm. He had no children of his own and took quickly to me for some unfathomable reason. By the time I left the farm, I was already well versed in the ways of the great outdoor and possessed a "mental map" of the huge areas of the state which we'd visited on our trips. My going on the first "money" trip for Eddie came about quite accidently. His regular partner had gotten married and left the business without notice, after the new bride raised a fuss about him continuing in what her "city family" termed irregular and unreliable employment. The next pieces to fall into place were the lumber mill closing for a week for yearly vacations, and the garage business being a bit slow at the same time. Added to the string of lucky, for me anyway, events was the fact that Eddie had earlier that year committed to guiding a party of ten novice "city folks".
Anyway, Eddie asked me to help and offered to pay me 3/4 of the going daily rate, a considerable sum at that time, plus all tips given specifically to me and a portion of joint tips. This was just too good to pass up, especially since I knew from Eddie himself that successful fishermen were often inspired to tip up to $100 for a really good catch. If several had really good days, the $100 multiplied by the number of lucky anglers. This also worked the same with hunters in the fall and winter months. This was like taking candy from babies, as Eddie knew where the best fishing and hunting were to be found. Something he'd shown me as well. My duties generally comprised helping paddle canoes, carry gear, pitch camp, and assisting them in their pursuit of fish or game.
This continued until I left the area thirteen days after graduating from high school, but the lessons learned served me well in my chosen career field and remain with me to this day. The entire time I was "away" from the state, Eddie kept in touch more regularly than any relative ever did, and he was one of the first I visited upon my return. The day I got "home", after retiring to another part of the state, I had called him, and two days later we were up-lake in his ancient Grand Laker Canoe for three peaceful days of camp life and fishing. It was doing that very thing several days ago that saw Eddie pass on peacefully in his sleep after a successful day fishing. I was told that when they found him the next morning he looked like he was simply sleeping and had a big grin on his face. I hope he'd just caught "the big one" he was always talking about. Eddie was one month shy of his ninety-seventh birthday. To a life well lived Eddie. Until next time, take care.

11 comments:

Mies said...

Sorry for the loss of your dear friend and mentor. Sounds like he lived a long, happy life doing what he loved. A good story befitting the 4th of July...Very pretty photos, also...Thank you

Hahn at Home said...

I'm sorry for your loss, but happy, very happy that you knew him and had that experience.

Patricia said...

There are some people who have been in our lives, usually when we are young and still forming our ideas of what life is all about, that never, ever leave us.
They are with us always, though we may not see them for years, and they may have even passed on, but what life lessons they gave us stay on, and hopefully live in our children and their children. You are lucky to have an Eddie.

Brother Tim said...

Wow----Great story, Mike. Sorry about your loss. That's one of the cruelest things that come with age; the older you get, the faster your friends pass on, or at least, so it seems. The brighter side though, is as long as you're alive, his memory shall live on. You're in my prayers, brother, and so is Eddie.

The Guy Who Writes This said...

Nice tribute, Mike.

Jim said...

Lovely tribute to a man who will forever be an important part of your life.

Jim

Ann said...

Sounds as though Eddie lived a fully generous life. I can understand why you count yourself fortunate to have known him.

Rodrigo said...

Oi, achei teu blog pelo google tá bem interessante gostei desse post. Quando der dá uma passada pelo meu blog, é sobre camisetas personalizadas, mostra passo a passo como criar uma camiseta personalizada bem maneira. Se você quiser linkar meu blog no seu eu ficaria agradecido, até mais e sucesso. (If you speak English can see the version in English of the Camiseta Personalizada. If he will be possible add my blog in your blogroll I thankful, bye friend).

Rodrigo said...

Oi, achei teu blog pelo google tá bem interessante gostei desse post. Quando der dá uma passada pelo meu blog, é sobre camisetas personalizadas, mostra passo a passo como criar uma camiseta personalizada bem maneira. Se você quiser linkar meu blog no seu eu ficaria agradecido, até mais e sucesso. (If you speak English can see the version in English of the Camiseta Personalizada. If he will be possible add my blog in your blogroll I thankful, bye friend).

Red Hog Diary said...

You know Mike. It is these glimpses into your life that make me feel fortunate to call you my friend. From the look of the other comments others agree. I am sure Eddie looked upon this post and smiled. It sounds like he may have been a guy without much time for the internet but I bet he loved that post. Be well my friend.

Leiselb said...

Beautiful tribute. I'm sorry for your loss...