Nanny and Gramp
I think Maine is especially unique, and that uniqueness has always been what has drawn me to this state and instilled my desire to live here. Maine has always been a state of rough wilderness with people known for their self reliance, individuality, ruggedness, and a sense of independence. Over the years however, Maine has become increasingly divided along many avenues. I tried to put forth some of it, or at least a microcosm of it in PO Box 311 but I’m not sure how successful I was in getting the point across.
I like that things are different here, and that we don’t fit into any of the big box thinking that happens in more urban areas. It makes me feel unique. For example, when the Federal Government mandated reservoir water filtration in the early 1990′s, the town I live in got a waiver because in all seriousness..having an expensive filtration system was just not necessary here. I like that Maine by and large still represents individual freedoms, one example being that despite threats from the Federal Government to withdraw funding for certain things, Maine still extends the middle finger their way when it comes to motorcycle helmet laws. I’m not going into citing all of them here, but the statistics back up that a large percentage of motorcycle accidents happen during the first year one has a license. Therefore Maine has a mandatory helmet law while on a learners permit, and for the first year you have your license. And while when I had a motorcycle I often chose to wear a helmet, I dearly loved those sultry July nights riding with the wind in my hair and no one else on the road but me and I’m so thankful that I had the freedom to experience it.
Maine has been slowly dividing for some time and there is always the occasional smattering of secession brought up here and there. If you took a random sampling of Mainers, and asked them where the dividing line was I’ll bet that the general consensus would be Bangor. Therefore most people would already be in agreement as to how to divide up the state along north and south lines – which I would think would be a major issue already overcome. I doubt that it will ever happen, but sometimes it’s fun to think about. I don’t think someone from Portland has any business at all voting on something that will effect someone that lives in the Allagash, and vice versa. I would suspect that a good percentage of the Southern Maine folks are originally from another state and carry with them the big box thinking they were brought up with. The dilemma is spelled out eloquently and beautifully in essay form, in a series of books beginning with First Person Rural by Noel Perrin.
It details the dilemma of folks from away moving into rural Vermont for the “charm” and then trying to change everything because they don’t like the smell of the neighbors pigs and some of the other finer details of rural life. As Noel says you should have to live here for 10 years before you’re even allowed to vote…amen. I’ve never been much of a political person, other than voting for who I wanted, but that all changed over an issue that divided Maine along it’s Bangor North/South boundary in 2004. That issue was the bear referendum. Funny thing is, I didn’t and don’t even hunt bears (other than trying for two seasons when the referendum came up)…I just don’t really have any interest. Regardless of where you stand on the issue, and it is extremely emotional on both ends of the spectrum, hear me out, and let me tell you from experience that it isn’t easy. The specific issue was hunting over bait, with hounds, and trapping. This incensed me because by and large, voters would be voting on emotion, and not common sense and the opposition, which was largely from out of state, played on that emotion at every opportunity. This is an exact parallel to what Noel Perrin was talking about in his essays. When the referendum came up I had never tried to harvest a bear before, by any method. But, when I realized that I may lose the freedom to chose whether or not I could, I bought my license, and the proper gear and tried to trap one before I couldn’t anymore. Now this wasn’t just some half cocked plan. Although I don’t go much anymore, I do have almost 10 years experience as a trapper, and I do know what I’m doing. I contacted some folks that do go, and learned their techniques. I gave it a shot…and I failed. Two seasons in a row. So, if perhaps part of the issue for you is unfair advantage, it’s just not true.
In any event, I was incensed that a group of people and outside interests wanted to take away something from the people of Maine. Something that makes us special. In my opinion, and I suspect Noel Perrin would agree with me, if you disagree or have a problem with hunting methods – live in a state that caters to your beliefs. Against trapping? Massachusetts and Colorado agree with you. Why can’t there be just one place left where you can do those things? Why is it some people always want to try to take away something from others just because they personally have a problem with it? I got involved in the process as much as I could including writing the following letter to the director of the Sportman’s Alliance of Maine.
My beloved grandfather instilled in me the desire to live and love the outdoor life, back when a woodsman and a hunter were considered to be a special person. I guess I can’t put it into words better than “special person” but I think you may know what I’m talking about. Hunting, fishing, trapping, camping and canoeing stories were always being told in the garage, where my grandfather went to get away from everyone, smoke, and drink “apple juice” (whiskey). Everybody loved him and he was what you would call a character here in Maine. My grandfather grew up in a time in this state when there was little work and if you did not get a deer in the fall you did not eat well, and for some, a fur check meant whether you had christmas or not. Unfortunately he was too old to take me hunting but his stories and my imagination took me afield as a boy. He died shortly before my seventeenth birthday and I recieved his present in the mail – a new mackinaw plaid hunting jacket, with $20 bills in each of the pockets. I inheritited his Winchester lever action .30-.30 and when I was able to get a hunting license I took it aflield. I had to learn a lot by trial and error, but eventually the day came when I was on the track of a big buck. I tracked him for hours and I knew I was close, and I asked my grandfather for help to get my first deer. Shortly thereafter, he broke from cover on my left. Had he gone left I never would have seen him but he went to my right in a semi-circle around me and I had time to steady myself aim and fire. When I realized he was down I began to shake uncontrollably from the excitement and I thanked the deer for his life and my grandfather for his help. He was 8 points, and 230 pounds. I will never forget that day. I saved the shell and in the spring, buried it at my grandfathers headstone.
I always believed the media when it came to trapping- I thought it was cruel as they told me it was, yet one day I decided to give it a try to see for myself. I got a trapping license, joined the Maine Trappers Association, and learned how to trap, and immediately learned that the media was wrong. The reason I am writing this to you is I am terrified of the upcoming referendeum. I have never previously had the desire to hunt or trap for bear but I understand the implications should this referendum pass. I have given as much as I can afford to the coalition, and explained the facts to those that want to listen. I wish the general public realized that the foot snares used on bears is the same device used by the state to perform research studies and does not harm the bear. In closing, I read in today’s paper about the possibility of a constitutional amendment that any voter initiatives related to hunting, fishing, or trapping must pass by a 2/3 supermajority, and I think regardless of what happens with the referendum Maine needs that amendment.
I still shake my head to think there are actually people in Maine that want to take my rights away as a hunter. I wonder what my grandfather would think.
There are a few things left out, but essentially that’s the brunt of it. I received a nice reply from their office, asking for permission to put it in the newsletter, and that I had made them cry in the office. Thankfully the referendum did not pass, and the amendment requiring issues surrounding hunting, fishing, and trapping never made it anywhere either which is too bad. Most people these days live so far outside of the “basics” that they have no idea what it would take to survive on their own any more.
There are some great thoughts on the issue of bear baiting here.
Things have calmed down since then, and the outside interests have moved on. I know this because after a certain op-ed appeared in the local newspaper I searched for the author and had a lengthy email discussion with them. The person moved here specifically for championing the referendum, and left shortly after it was not passed, as did the others. Particularly infuriating, and thankfully most of Maine voted on the science. However, this is just one issue. There will be others coming down the line you can be sure of that. And I think something needs to change – Portland has such a high population of people, folks in Northern Maine can be easily outvoted on issues that are important to them. Northern Maine retains the self reliance, individuality, ruggedness, and a sense of independence, whereas Southern Maine has only vestiges of its former history, and neither Northern or Southern should be voting on issues that are regionally specific to one another….The two Maines.