Guiding for me is about passion. A passion to be outdoors, to be singularly focused on a task, and to share my love of the Maine woods and waters with others. Unfortunately for me I always have to temper my desire to guide with my responsibilities as a father, husband, and with my career. I don’t guide full time. Simply put, financially it makes zero sense. Would I if I could? Without a doubt. Someday soon maybe I will, but until then I’m what I’ve heard referred to as a “part time guide.” I’ve even been told that full time guides look down upon us part timers. That makes me laugh. I’ll match my woodcraft against anyone’s.
I will admit this bear season I was starting to doubt my crazy passion to guide. I burn almost all my vacation time to guide. I get up at ridiculous o’clock to run bear baits in the dark. I then race to my real job, and pound coffee all day long pretending I’m wide awake and loving every minute of it. As soon as it’s quitting time I jump in by truck and commence to beat the hell out of it down some old logging road trying to find the perfect place to hang a tree stand for archery hunters. At dark I drag my ass home shove some food down my neck, grab a beer and head to my shop to tune fishing equipment, tinker on the ice auger, and otherwise move stuff around making sure I’m ready for the next day. After the third week of bear season, as I was driving the 30 miles to my bait sites with a truck bed full of donuts, a busted windshield in the truck I’m still making payments on, and a pounding headache I said out loud, “what in the fudge am I doing this for?” (Except I didn’t say fudge.) With all this burned vacation time I could take three trips to the tropics this winter. I could spend more time at camp. I could do whatever I wanted that didn’t involve friggin donuts. I’ve come to hate the smell of donuts.
Then it happened. The week four sports arrived. Out of their truck came a young lady I will just call “L.” See L is in a fight for her life. I won’t tell her story. That’s for her to tell, or not to tell. To provide some background the treatments she’s going through are not fun, leave her with fatigue, pain, and a general miserable feeling. Amazingly, you’d never know. With her million-watt smile, and a hug that gave no hint of her weariness she greeted me as an old friend. With L leading the pack her and her two friends bounced up the stairs to camp, and showed almost uncontainable excitement for the hunt to come. I stood outside for a minute pretending to put wood in the campfire, and thought, she is why I guide. All the doubt went away.
L is a badass. She’s travelled to Africa to hunt. She’s an off shore charter captain, and an EMT. She’s also sweet as the molasses cookies she brought to camp. As we sat around the campfire she peppered me with questions, about how things were going with my family? How we enjoyed the new camp? How I was doing? I answered them all the entire time thinking, “Christ how am I doing? I’m fine, you’re the one in the ring fighting.” Never once did she mention her fight.
The next day we headed to the range to make sure that the rifles were good. L hit the target middle middle with her first shot, and declared herself good. Who was I to argue. From there we were off to the baits. It’s a 30-mile dirt road drive to the baits. If you’ve ever ridden with a bear guide going to the baits you’d remember it. We don’t spare the horsepower. The bumps are smoother if you go faster right? Sitting in my passenger seat I could see her grimace out of the corner of my eye if I managed to nail one. She never complained once. For two days she sat as still as a stone waiting for her bear. On the third day, the last day of her hunt, I could tell it was taking a toll. Undaunted she went up the ladder, buckled in, and gave me the thumbs up. A few hours later I got a text from her saying she didn’t think she could sit the rest of the night. I replied call me if you need me. About 10 minutes later she did. I raced over there thinking I would find her weeping and sad. Wrong again. She was pissed. Pissed at her body, pissed at her situation, and pissed she had to call me. I stood at the bottom of her stand as she lowered her rifle and thought, I’ve seen tough people. I once told a Marine with his feet mangled from and IED to, “shut the fudge up so I could think.” (Again I didn’t say fudge.) I doubt I’ve seen anyone tougher than L.
After she was able to move around a little she was better. The rest of the night was fairly uneventful. We had a great dinner, sat by the campfire and laughed like loons at some of the stories that were told. The next morning L said, “I can’t wait to come back next year.” In my mind I thought, “I can’t wait to see you here next year, with your million-watt smile, your infectious attitude and your general love for the outdoors.” People like L are the reason I guide, even if only part time.
Note: L wasn’t always an outdoors person. Sometime in her life she stepped out of her comfort zone, tried something new, and found a passion that many of us would envy. Thank you L for the privilege of guiding you.