SANDY IVES
Poaching

August 16, 1983


 

(Names and other words that could not be transcribed exactly are in italics. Unknown voices are referred to as “man” or “woman.” Comments, explanations, and additional names are in parentheses.)


 

Jane Dudley: So if now there’s no further review, Sandy - - -


 

Sandy Ives: I wouldn’t dare tackle - I hope the guys out on the porch can hear me on this. I wouldn’t dare tackle the whole subject of poaching. There’s just too much - far too big a subject to tackle here, but to put it this way, I will talk to you about something that has to do with poaching that I got tremendously interested in. And, have pretty well got a - oh-h - pretty well along the way toward finishing a book on the subject. Basically, what I got interested in was this. I heard, over a period of 25 years, let’s say, I heard a lot of stories about one particular poacher, a gentleman by the name of George McGoon. And, this is exactly what used to interest me - what happened right here. Mention his name, people start to laugh and then the stories start. It is exactly the sort of thing that caught my attention, and I wondered how come. You know, why should there be a bunch of stories about poachers, for instance, and not stories about game wardens. I’m not saying there are no stories about game wardens, but I would say that probably they - they don’t form a subject matter of their own, let’s say, the way poaching stories do. And, I was particularly interested in this one man because he - well for reasons that I will get on to as I go along here. But, first of all, what do we mean by a poacher. Now, there may be people in this room or on the porch who from time to time have taken advantage of the bounty that nature has offered them at the wrong time, let’s say. I won’t say that there are such people, but there may be. I mean if you are out fishing and a deer walked out of the woods and there it is and you just happen to have your Winchester in the car, and the safety is off and there you are, and well, the freezer is getting a little low - I think enough said. Now, is that man a poacher? He’s a law breaker certainly just as anybody who travels 65 miles an hour is a law breaker or who had a bottle of Beef Eaters during prohibition. But, I’m not sure that that is what we mean when we speak of a poacher. I think we mean something much more than that. I think we mean somebody who more or less habitually is in this position for one reason or another. And, it becomes tied up to some extent to who owns the game. You take the deer for instance. Now, who owns that? And, you see the background of this coming from - well two - two possibilities here. On the one hand, you could say well, whoever owns that land owns - owns what’s on it. And, if he wants to - if a deer is on his land and he wants to shoot it, it’s his land and he can do as he wants. Well, that’s one attitude, let’s say. But, you can take the other attitude would be that no, the game - the land may belong to that man, but the game that is on that land belongs to the state which is to say all the people. And, that a man can - that anyone can hunt on that land, unless the land owner decides that nobody can come on that land. He can control it that way. He can stop people from coming on that land, in which case a man could be arrested for trespassing but that’s all. Ok, now the background in England, we have a system - coming from England which is certainly our background and certainly in this part of the world - generally in America, the situation is one where basically the man who owned the land, the lord, the landlord who owned that land, he also owned the game on that land and he owned the privilege of hunting for it. And, anyone - any peasant, let us say, or villager, either from that man’s land or from off it, who hunted on that land was breaking the law and he was a poacher. And, the rights for hunting were something that were a privilege of the privileged class. Now, in this country, we made a compromise pretty much it seems to me. We didn’t want to get into that situation again, although there are places where that was the situation to some extent, but we worked out the idea pretty much that the game belonged to the state. That, the state could control that. And, that a man could hunt, as I say, anywhere that he wanted to unless the land was posted. It was up to the landlord to say “No, you can’t come on my land.” And, if he did that in a specified way, that took care of that. But, the game that was on that land was the - was not the man’s property. He himself - this has got to be quite an issue and we see a change in this over the years. The landowner himself, by law, at the present time can’t shoot a deer on his own land out of season legally. I ran into that. That was my first experience with this whole thing. I remember I went fishing in a little private pond and we went bass fishing in April, I remember. And, we were caught doing it. We were told it’s my - it’s my pond. You go fish in it any time you want to. We did and the game warden came along and said “No, beat it.” We beat it, I remember. I didn’t feel like challenging him at that particular point - not at 12 years old. But, at any rate - but still, the old concept of the landowner being the one who could do what he wants on that land has certainly lingered and we see that as we see the development of the game laws, the frequency the laws excepted what a man did on his own land. For instance when the idea of hunting with dogs was made illegal, the exception was excepting what you do on your own land. But, if you go off your land, then it’s not legal. Ok, all of that said. Now, this is just a little background to the thing. As I say, the game was - belonged essentially to the people. That was the idea. To the state. Not to the landowner, himself. And, to go over the situation around this part of the world, you all know this as well as I do but I’ll run over it. The small subsistence farms - most of these people who lived here - you read down through the census and in the ‘70s, ‘80s, ‘90s on - the ‘90s census is not - not in existence - the 1900 census, 1910 census - through Alexander, Crawford, Wesley, almost all the men described themselves as farmers on the census. Some described themselves as landowners - or not as landowners, but I mean as lumbermen. But, generally speaking they thought of themselves - they were on the census - they were farmers. But, they were not - I doubt if there were many farms around this part of the world that were anything more than subsistence. You know, enough so the man could get by, enough to feed his family which was sometimes a considerable job even so. But it was subsistence farming. And, I won’t say that a man couldn’t subsist on it, but I would also say that most families around here did not subsist on it. They did other things. They went into the woods. Some of them had their own wood lots and they worked those or sold stumpage or something like that to get a little hard money. But, I would imagine - I don’t have any percentage here and it’s almost impossible to come up with something, but I’ll bet 80 percent of the farmers in this area went into the woods either for themselves or they hired out to somebody else for the winter and for the spring drive. After all that’s a slow season on a farm. It’s a - it’s a - it’s the down season and it was an almost perfect arrangement in a way. A lot of these men went into the woods. The majority of them for certain. So, this is one way of getting some hard money. Some men, of course, also trapped. I don’t have too much information on that, but certainly men trapped. In other words, they took - in both cases they were taking advantage of the bounty that the woods afforded them in order to make their particular situation which was a tough one a little more bearable. Farming around this part of the world was hard. It never - I guess they tried everything in a way and they kept - all through the 19th century they kept this idea of farming was the ideal. That was what you wanted. You wanted to people the land with farmers. Lumbering was moral - almost morally wrong somehow. It led to men being lazy. They didn’t - because they didn’t want to work on the farm any more. It’s a lot more fun to go out into the woods than to pick stones on a 40 acre plot. But, all though this time they kept trying to sell this idea. Read it in the newspapers - all the accounts. What a wonderful life farming can give you. But, the reality was that you couldn’t make it - or most men didn’t make it around here only that way. And, there was another way of making some extra money. First of all let’s just take it for granted that if a man needed some meat, he just went out and shot it. We’re not talking about that. But, there was another source of hard money around this part of the country, and to put it in its - to give it the name everybody used then. It was called the Boston Market. The Boston Market were restauranteurs, hotel keepers, and so on in the Boston area, and of course that would cover New York and cover anyplace else, but Boston was the center of it certainly. They needed venison. They wanted venison. They wanted moose meat as well to serve their customers, and they came up here to Maine and they dealt - they bought it. Hunters would go out, and I have accounts of men coming back with, you know, 40 or 50 deer, which they could then sell to the Boston Market. And, ok, so one thing you can say is if this had kept up there wouldn’t have been any deer left in the whole area, which probably is true. I - I won’t argue with that. All I know is that looking at it from the point of view of the man living here, you say ok tell me how else I’m going to raise money. How else am I going to get along? And, then took advantage of this and hunted for the Boston Market. Ok, certain men obviously became more skillful at this than others, or decided that this was a better way to make a living than farming. Although, from the fellows that I have been interested in, most of them also still kept the farm going, worked in the woods from time to time, but again, took advantage of the bounty that nature afforded them in order to get some money. The deer would run - I’ve seen reports of a man being able to sell a deer for $12.00. Well if you shoot 30, 40 deer at $12.00 apiece, you’ve got yourself a nice piece of change. Probably more than enough to get you through the year. That kind of thing. So, this is the background, and I can certainly say that this was never really looked on, so far as I can see, by the local people as a crime. Now, put all of this together with what was going on in the whole nation. We’re talking about the post Civil War period and one of the things that was becoming - growing by leaps and bounds was the idea of hunting for sport. Not that it never existed before, of course. It’s always been there, but it was becoming - it was becoming a market for it. You can tell that by the fact that “Field and Stream,” “Fur, Fish and Game” - I could name on. No, I couldn’t either, but there - there are several sporting magazines that got started at that particular time - in the 1870s. Conservation - a whole - on the other hand, the conservation movement was getting rolling. People looking around saying we’ve got to do something. We’ve got to save this land. We’ve got to save these trees. We’ve got to save these animals, these birds. Once they began to see what kind of havoc was being wreaked along the coast let’s say killing sea gulls for millenary, suddenly somebody said, “M:y God, we’ve got to have some laws to stop this.” And, somebody lost income by this, of course. You know, the local people who were able to make some money. You’re seeing a repeat of this whole thing in the business with the seal hunt in Canada. It’s the same old thing again. And, I - having known men who were sealers and talked with them and heard their hot anger at people like Jane Fonda, let’s say, because she and her friends were people from away who were taking their living from them. You can say that’s a narrow way to look at it, but you’ve got to look at it narrowly if you’re living on the margin that those people were living on. And, I will transfer that to here and say this we should look at it that - we have to look at it that way here. Ok, but conservation was becoming a big thing, and also amongst the leading conservationists were the sportsmen who wanted very simply to be able to hunt for pleasure - not for food, not for money, but for the fun of it. For other values, let’s say, than making a living or making money. And, in general these men were better off. They were men from the cities who wanted to get away, who wanted to get into the woods and - and recoup, lets say, and so on and hunting was a favorite way of doing this. Nothing new. But, hunting was to - hunting was a sport. Can you imagine a farmer from around here shooting a flying - wasting shot at a flying partridge. They waited until they came into the spruce trees when they were budding, let’s say. They’d get right under that spruce tree with a shot gun and they’d shoot right up into it. You know, you could get several of them that way with one shot sometimes. But, I grew up - I’m a city boy. I grew up believing that shooting anything that was sitting on the ground was very, very beneath your dignity. You shot at a flying - you shot at a bird on the wing. Ok, enough of that. The point is that it was becoming - men who were in influential positions, who had the ear of the legislature, much more than your local farmers around here were beginning to say - and I’m simplifying this - were beginning to say “My God if we don’t something, why we won’t have anything to hunt in 50 years.” And, there began to be much more stringent laws passed for hunting. Now, all of this was done - you read the editorials in the - say even in the Machias Union, let’s say - and remember the Machias Union - we’re talking about the city to some extent there. When you’re talking about this area, I mean a man from Machias was almost as much a man from away as a man from Bangor or a man from Boston, let’s say. But you read the editorials and they are - there’s this attitude about don’t these people realize that we are really trying to help them, too. That how, we are - we are trying to save the game for everyone. And, a good deal of that attitude and it’s understandable and I’m not arguing with it. All I’m saying is that from the point of view of the local farmer here I doubt that that buttered many parsnips - that kind of talk. However let me just give you an example of what was happening here. Far back as I can find, there were laws - there were game laws. When Maine became a state there were laws. At that particular time that had been passed by the Massachusetts legislature that said during the years - during the months from - I think it was July through September. I’m not sure of that - no one was to kill deer anywhere. And, anybody - now how was that enforced? Well, it was neighbors. That is if I caught Jack Dudley here shooting a deer during the closed season, I could then go and turn him in to the local authorities and he would get fined. He would be hauled into court and he would be fined $10.00 for it on my say-so, and I would get five of those $10.00. I don’t think that I would be - knowing Jack Dudley, I don’t think I’d have been particularly anxious to hail my neighbor into court on those terms unless I was also willing to spend, you know, 24 hours a day guarding my barn. That kind of thing. So there probably needed to be enforcement of that law. It was pretty lax. But, even so, there was the tradition of having laws to protect the game going back at least that far. Then in 1873, the law was extended from - oh, by the way, if I’d have turned you in back then, I was wrong. I would only have gotten two dollars and a half out of a five dollar fine. Hardly worth my while, somehow, even then. But, ok, so in 1873 the law now said the season was closed January to September. See how that is lengthening out? (Clock chimes in background) Good thing it isn’t a cuckoo clock. And, the fine would increase to $40.00. Now, that is a piece of change. You know, they were beginning to be more concerned here, to make it a little more attractive, but still the idea was you’d be pretty much turned in by your neighbor. They did have one warden. They called him a moose warden. He covered this whole area here, almost the whole of the Machias Valley. For two years after they put that job up, they couldn’t find anybody to take it. Ok, things - little by little, let’s say, things began getting more restrictive and more restrictive until finally in 1883, 100 years ago - that was the big year. The fine for killing an animal out of season went up to $100. Worse than that, the - they put a - they put a bag limit on. They said you could shoot - in one year a man could shoot one moose, two caribou, or three deer. That was it. This - of course the roof just caved in. Then as far as the whole Boston Market thing was concerned. Many more restrictive laws about what you could do with the game, how - how you could sell it. Nobody said you couldn’t sell it at that time. That came later. Now, I believe it is utterly illegal as I remember to sell any game in any way any - any game fish or - or game animal. I don’t know if a man wanted to sell a few rabbits that he’d shot whether anybody would say much, but you can’t sell a deer now once you’ve shot it, I believe, can you? Utterly illegal. Yes. ut, that had to come in time. It was not illegal back then. Also, another thing that increased were the wardens. Many, many - I’m not going into detail here at all, but there were - they increased the warden force and began - little by little wardens began getting salaries, not just - first of all they, your warden got half of whatever he collected in fines. Later on he ultimately got a regular salary. But, the warden force was increasing, and I can say by leaps and bounds. Many, many more wardens in the woods. Ok, furthermore, they were restricting how you could hunt. For instance, the old and noble sport of -of dogging for deer - now all that meant - people still - I -I- I probably - I blush to describe it to this group because I think most of you understand what I mean by dogging for deer. It’s simply setting a dog out - turning him loose in the woods and he will chase that deer until the deer comes into the water. You sit out there in your canoe. You wait. You go up behind him and you put a bullet in the back of his head, and you go home. But, it’s an old time - using dogs to catch animals is a fairly old idea, and all of it really - became illegal in this state. For a while things - things stood again that you could hunt with dogs on your own land, but not off it. And then finally they said no dogging at all, and that was - at the same time, the wardens were evidently putting out poisoned bait presumably for foxes and that sort of thing, but an awful lot of deer - an awful lot of dogs were picking up this poisoned bait and if there is any way that you want to get a little ill will, just kill a man’s dog. That, of course - that was one of the things - if a warden saw a dog, or if anybody saw a dog chasing deer, he came in time to have the privilege of shooting that dog. Once again, there is almost nothing that I can imagine that could be calculated to get people angry. I think one of the few times I have been - I say this quite advisedly. It may - it’s not - it’s not the only time, but one of the few times I have been angry enough to even understand the idea of killing a man was when somebody took a shot at my dog. I had a golden retriever and he shot at him and said “Gee, I thought that was a deer.” And I - I told him - I said, “Well, you’re very lucky that you didn’t hit that dog because I don’t know that you would have survived it.” I was scared. I was really scared when I saw what happened to me. I think this is - that most men - certainly many men feel this way about an animal. If you kill an animal it’s almost like killing a child in a family. It can be that. But, there was a good deal of this going on and a good deal of anger about it. 1894, the fine went from $100 to $500 for killing an animal illegally. 1895, we saw a law against jacking - against night hunting - headlighting as I’ve heard it called around here more often than not, and - but that became illegal. Now, it didn’t become illegal until 1895 and I discovered why. Or, I think I discovered why. I was interested. Why didn’t they get after that earlier. For the simple reason that there was no effective light that people could use in the woods in a headlighting situation - hadn’t been invented. Suddenly, you begin to look in the Sears Roebuck catalog and there’s all kinds of lights. You can just strap them on your head and take off into the woods. They were perfect for hunting. You just light up a pair of eyes and it wouldn’t shine the whole animal. They were wonderful. Next thing you know, you’ve got a law prohibiting jacking. One man I was talking to said that he was talking to a warden one time. This was around - he said - oh, I guess we’re back around 1900, 1910, and he said to him - he says “Hey, what do you do about jackers around here?” The warden said, “I don’t do anything about them.” He said, “They have to work awful hard in order to do that - carrying that light around on their head.” He said, “They’re heavy and they smell and all of that.” He says, “They get their own punishment from it.” The guy looked at him and said, “Boy, I guess you’ve jack-lighted some.” That kind of thing, and I guess they had. Ok, then by 1897 then we had a mandatory four months in jail if you shot a deer out of season. Imagine that - I mean - mandatory. You had to send that man to jail for four months. That lasted two years and it went back to $500 to $1000 fine or four months. A man had his choice. But, even so - ok so this law would take a farmer out of circulation for four months, and - oh, as I say, the law - the law is getting increasingly restrictive and there’s getting to be very simply a lot of very, very strong resentment of those laws by the local farmers. Just a few examples here. Quotations from the - from the newspaper - from letters to the newspaper. You would find occasionally this particular sentiment being voiced within the newspaper although the official side is what you would find more often, but here is just a quotation from a letter to the newspaper. “There is a strong feeling against the game laws. I have frequently heard intelligent men say that they thought these laws were oppressive; obnoxious; favored the rich and hindered the poor. There are men who farm and in the season pick up a few dollars by hunting. There are men who are obliged to do this in order to support their families and keep ahead, but the law and the wardens keep them down.” Your metaphors there are important. Keep them down. This is an oppressive law. “The poor people who live in the woods will demand their - - -


 

TAPE TURNED OVER. SOME CONVERSATION LOST.


 

“ - - - rural parts have never been fairly represented for lack of scholarship while nearly all the power of wealth and business is on the other side. I wish to see a full discussion of this code. I can’t believe a single person realizes the deformity, tyranny, and I might say outlawry of these laws.” These are strong words, and another here. “We believe the people are getting disgusted with the idea of having deer wardens prowling around day and night watching for a chance to poison their dogs or to find a piece of meat.” That is confiscate some deer meat, you know. “Which they can carry home with them for their families to eat. They are so well known that when one passes through a town, the little boys will begin to whistle for their dogs for fear of their dogs being poisoned. Is not this an honorable position for the state officers who are paid by the state for protecting game? Is it any wonder that people oppose the game laws?” And, so on. You know these are strong - but on the other side, you know. And this is not only expressed in these things, but take 1885, 1886, just about 100 years ago tempers were boiling around here - and boiling over. In 1885, in April, a man by the name of Monson - first name escapes me at the moment, but it doesn’t matter. Man by the name of Monson down in Wesley - there were a lot of them - decided that he wanted to become a game warden so he became a game warden.


 

Woman: Didn’t last long.


 

Sandy Ives: What’s that? No, he did not. What happened was he came home one night and found somebody - he had a whole bunch of fruit trees out there - somebody had girdled every fruit tree. He found his crops pulled up. Then he also found that his barn - came home one night and found his barn burned down. They blamed this on a man by the name of Wilber Day who lived in Wesley, and a whole group who called themselves “The Shackers.” And, the state - this is the interesting thing there. Many of you know the story of this whole little incident. It became quite famous. And, what happened was ultimately that they got a conviction against Wilber and they sent him to prison. He went to - he went to Thomaston, and he was there for - I forget. He was supposed to get - I think it was 12 years. He was out in three with a complete pardon. He evidently - whether he did it or not is still one of those things that is up in the air but my own feeling at the present time is that he probably didn’t, but he probably knew who did. You know, that sort of thing. The fact is though, Wilber Day came back to Wesley and lived there all his days. Well, this fellow Monson left town almost immediately. I mean that seems to me symptomatic of what - what the local feeling was on all of that. Then in 1886 a man by the name of Calvin Graves who was from around Ellsworth area - Hancock, as a matter of fact, came up to Fletcher Field, up on the Machias here, to go hunting. He and his friend with him, a fellow by the name of - what the devil was his name - McFarland came up here and went for a week of deer hunting. And, they brought a horse and wagon up, moved into Fletcher Field and stayed there - Fletcher Field House there - and stayed there for three or four days. Hunting was lousy. They didn’t get a thing, but they had a dog with them. Well, this Graves vowed he was going to use him to scare up a few partridge. The wardens came into camp and saw that and said, “We’re going to confiscate that dog. You’re using that on deer.” He says, “No.” They said, “You’re not allowed to have that dog in here.” He said, “I am too. There’s nothing illegal about having a dog in here. I just can’t use it on deer.” They said, “Well, we’re going to confiscate it.” And, essentially he told them no and they reached out for the dog and he shot one of them - killed him - and the other one looked, Grover drew down on him and shot him, too, and left the two of them there in the woods. And, the other fellow went right - just about went right away and turned himself in. Graves escaped. Got all the way to California. And, when he came back - I won’t say he was a hero. The two men who were shot were local men. Both of them. One of them was a one-armed Civil War veteran. I won’t say that Graves for shooting two game wardens became a hero. He did not. The shock was too great. That’s too much. You know, probably shooting a man, that’s pretty severe business. So, but in time, by the time they finally caught him and brought him back here he was almost a celebrity. And, when they finally - they did not hold the trial in Machias, they held it in Calais. And, they kept a 24 hour watch on that man because there were definite rumors that there was going to be a raid on the jail to get him out. This was something. Well, they finally sent Calvin Graves up for life. But, again, he was out in 19 years. And a whole collection - I’ve heard story after story about Calvin Graves did this, and very clearly - while I won’t say anybody approved of murder or that any -- I never heard anybody say that those wardens - that it was a damn good thing to shoot those two wardens. I have heard it said, “Hey you know, not a good thing, but they pushed him too far. They didn’t have to shoot that dog.” Little things like this, you know. One man even told me. He said, “Why that dog was just a little lap dog.” He said, “Was just his wife’s pet.” Another man told me, he said, “He had that dog trained. He had a crippled child.” Which he did. “And, he had that dog trained to pull a cart so that it could take that little crippled child to school.” And, that’s the dog they shot, you know. That kind of thing. The sympathy was definitely - you could - you could see they were doing everything they could to extenuate a murder. You say, well he shouldn’t have done that, but they shouldn’t have done what they did, either. That sort of thing, you know. Ok, this is your background, but at the same time remember still, that the State - by the way, the State spent almost its entire budget for the fish and game people - almost the entire budget for that year was spent convicting Wilber Day. I mean, they were going to make a case out of it here. And, it’s fascinating to see how much they did spend on that one case. And, the State kept up - they were - they were going to pass these laws, and that was the wave of the future. There was no question about that. I mean the - your local farmers simply did not have the power to do this, and I’m not going argue that the game laws are bad or anything else, but I am going to say that locally they were looked on as oppressive but the State, itself, actually - actually said that it was at war with the poachers whom they characterized - well, let me give you a couple of examples. Here we have in the annual report of the Fish and Game people for 1883. That was the year of the big crunch when the bag limit was finally put on. “Our market hunters,” says the commissioner. “Our market hunters are a peculiar class of hoodlums made up in the great part of men without an occupation and among them we find the skedaddler, smuggler, thief, fire bug, and lazy squatter who lives from what lumber he can steal, berries he can pick, fires he can fight after setting those fires or anything save honest labor. Market hunting is a nuisance. It destroys by a few what belongs to all. It encourages idleness, lawlessness, and is a school for vice. It is not, nor can it be, a respectable business.” Another fellow talking about, and this man was from Machias by the way. He was talking about the po - about what he called the poachers by this time. Now these are his words. “They personate lawlessness in everything. They are ready to shoot the mother duck or the partridge from her callow brood, cut the throat of the gravid doe in March, steal knees and sled crooks from other men’s timber, set fires to pine lands and rob lumbermen’s camps thinking and boasting that the law cannot reach them here.” That kind of thing. I mean this is - you know this is strong language and if you know, as I have come to know, some of the men - I’m thinking particularly of George McGoon - that is not a good description of a man who, coming from just about nothing managed to raise nine children on a farm up here - was a local selectman in his time, you know - fence viewer - all the other things - very much a local citizen. It doesn’t like the man they’re describing here at all. Then - well I think they’ve done - but what I’m getting at here really is all - they’re just sort of setting the background for this thing and many, many of the stories that I have collected about George McGoon - they’re a funny mixture of stories, but your reaction is just exactly what I’ve seen so many times - in other words say exactly. You mention George McGoon to somebody, the first thing they do is laugh.


 

Woman: I’ve lived in Crawford most all of my life and I - - -


 

Sandy Ives: What’s that?


 

Woman: I’ve lived over there - - -


 

Sandy Ives: Yes.


 

Woman: - - - and I’ve heard a lot of stories.


 

Sandy Ives: And they’re - they - they bring a chuckle in every time. I have never found yet a person who has - who has told me - you know, who has really criticized this man. They laugh. They think he was funny. He might have been a bit odd. A few things like that, but not a - - -


 

Woman: Run like a fox.


 

Sandy Ives: What’s that?


 

Woman: Run like a fox.


 

Sandy Ives: Oh my goodness - oh my goodness, yes. You couldn’t lose - you couldn’t lose the man in the woods. You know, he was a - but the stories - well, as I say. All right, let me go on here. Why did this body of stories exist at all? I’ve heard so many of them, and most of them are quite local here. Not - you know, this isn’t something that’s spread all over the country or anything else, but mostly I’ve heard these stories from among men who were small farmers, let’s say - in this area whose roots go back some time around here and the stories are a mixture of - of funny and daring, I would say. Now, George McGoon was born in 1850. He died in 1929, buried right at the head of the road up here. Well, no, no, buried right down in Crawford. I get this mixed up with Crawford Lake sometimes. But, 1850 - now as a young man, you see, he grew up in a time when there were no game laws - when hunting for the Boston Market was the most - was a perfectly respectable thing to do - what everybody did. And, I think that, you know, when the laws began to come in he just - he was a man like many others around here who simply couldn’t believe that a moose wasn’t there to shoot. And, he did, he shot plenty of them. But, he also would go around here - he’d buy moose meat from people. He’d buy deer meat from people. He’d take it down to Machias and peddle it on the streets down there. He had - this was his way. He was - he was to put it another way, he was an enterprising man. He had - he had a big show to keep on the road, and this was one way he was going to keep it on the road. But, one of the things that I find about the stories that I’ve heard about this man, and one of them, one of my favorites has always been the one about how he was - they had him on moose racket - remember Lewis Lund down in Jacksonville telling me that. I think it was Lewis and telling me that one time they had him up on moose racket in court down there. He had been selling meat along the street there in Machias. Game wardens brought him up, said to him, “Mr --” The judge said to him, “Mr. McGoon, these men say you were peddling moose meat on the street.” He said, “It wasn’t moose meat at all. It was nothing but a damned old heifer.” He turned to the game wardens. He said, “Well, how about that? Could you swear that it was moose meat?” They said, “Well, no. No, but he said it was moose meat, you know.” He said, “But you can’t prove it was moose meat?” “No, we couldn’t prove it - you know, he said it was moose meat.” He said, “Well, if you can’t prove it was moose meat, I’m going to have to let this man go. Now, Mr. McGoon, why if it wasn’t moose meat, why did you go around saying it was moose meat?” “Well, Judge,” he said “it sells a good deal better that way.” Things like that, you know. Little things, but then comes the last or other stories. One of them that I remember - just quickly - there was another game warden around here about whom there are some stories - a man by the name of Templeton who - the first man in this part of the world ever to go around on skis. Everybody else was on snow shoes, and he was on skis and he - two things he used. One of them was skis and the other was a motorcycle. And, he struck terror into the heart of the people around here as a game warden evidently. But, he one time was doing his rounds and suddenly he saw George McGoon come walking out of the woods. And, he walked up to him and they started to talk and they come down the woods road there to the main road, and finally he said to him, he said “Now, Mr. Templeton, I’m an old man and it doesn’t matter to me much which way this goes, but my sons are in there and they’ve got a moose on a sled and they’re bringing it out of the woods, and they’ll be here in five minutes and I would just as soon you weren’t here when they arrived.” He left. That sort of thing. Facing down the wardens on the one hand. The other stories - the main stories though, just - not only facing down the wardens but the idea was they couldn’t catch him. Story after story about - about his speed, his agility. One man chased him for - they hired - they supposedly hired a man - well the whole story is that they had a - he’d escaped from jail and they had him - he was up in his home there, and they went up after him. And, he had a son. Evidently he was built just about like he was, and he told him, he said, “Now, Frankie.” He said, “You head out that way.” He said, “And that - - -” Oh, they brought a runner with them. That was the thing. They hired a man who was a runner, and they hired him to catch George. He said, “You go up there. You run up that way, and as soon as they start they start chasing you, I’ll duck out the other way.” So, sure enough, he did and they had that - that runner just took right off after Frankie and caught him. He said, “Mr. McGoon.” He said, “I’ve got you.” He said, “Well, now that you’ve got me, what good is it going to do you?” He said, “What do you mean? Aren’t you George McGoon?” He said, “No, I’m not George McGoon.” He said, “George McGoon, there’s the fellow you want there running down into the woods over there.” So - - -


 

Woman: (Indistinct words)


 

Sandy Ives: He took after him. Yes, he took out after - the runner took out after him and evidently he just ran and ran and George ran down this woods road and according to the runner he ran through two brooks finally. Came up on the other side and the runner came back and said, “I can’t do that.” He said, “I’m not chasing a man, I’m chasing an otter. He said, “And, I quit.” And, that was it. But there are all kinds of stories showing the man’s tremendous physical strength, his agility, his - and of course it’s just - I don’t think George - no - no way could I find that George himself was ever a story teller. Wilber Day so far as I could figure out was a great old story teller. Everybody talks about his stories. And, the hero in a good many of his stories was Wilber Day. And, I know that he told stories about George McGoon as well. But, you see, he comes off - George would come off as a - as a comic figure in those stories. At any rate, one of the things that I figure that this whole thing did was - really a lot of people - it was a nasty situation - these game laws that were unpopular. But, most people don’t just plain go out and violate the law. But, if you can tell stories about a man who did and got away with it, somehow you are sort of vicariously getting away with it yourself. And so a lot of people - I guess having stories of this sort around, people could tell stories about this situation without really taking sides themselves and yet at the same time get rid of some of their feelings of frustration about game laws and all that sort of thing. I think also the guy was ideal because he was very common. He was a small man first of all - never was, you know. He was an uneducated man, very unprepossessing. I have pictures of him and he looks just like anybody’s grandfather, you know. One picture I have of him shows a man who is obviously having trouble with his teeth wearing little steel rimmed glasses and somebody’s trying to take his picture and he’s beginning to hold his hand up like this, but with a smile on his face at the same time. You know, kind of like that. Very definitely - well, as I say, somebody that people could identify with to a certain extent because he was one of us, sort of. And, let’s face it, he gave the outlaw if you want to call him that and I’m not going to, but he was - the outlaw has always been an attractive figure to common people, because whether we feel - I think all of us admit on the one hand that laws are good things. You know, they ought to catch these people who are breaking the law. But at the same time, they - laws restrict our freedom and the man who defies the law is somehow freer than the rest of us. And, we secretly admire at the same time as we distrust the law - the law - look at - I remember when John Dillinger finally got caught, when Melvin Purvis and the boys finally gunned him down. I had mixed feelings. I was certainly glad that they caught this terrible law breaker but I was also sorry to see it all over with, you know. I mean, this man - nonetheless there was something about him, something about the man who defies the law. And, we can take this right back to Robin Hood and all the way back. Jesse James stole from the rich to give to the poor, all of that. So that kind of person has always been attractive to all of us who find ourselves frustrated by laws that we have to obey. And, the person who just defies those laws, well - you know, that’s bad but that’s good all at the same time. And, just by telling stories about these people, well we can identify with them while we are telling the stories or while we’re listening. And - and, that’s good, too. As I say, it’s a - it’s a kind of - these stories are an expression of all of our frustrations with that conflict that always comes between individual freedom and the knowledge that in order to be as free as possible we’ve got to give up some freedom and say there are certain things we can’t do. I can’t drive down the highway at 100 miles an hour even if I want to, you know, and I realize that that’s a good law so I don’t drive down the highway at 100 miles an hour, but sometimes I do drive at 60 miles an hour. I’ve been know to go as high as 65. Well, at any rate, I think the final thing here that I want to say. Just one final touch on the whole thing is what a friend of mine wrote about history. He said, “What we must remember is that what actually happened is often less important than what we think happened. We are motivated not by actual fact but by what we believe to be fact. And, if we believe something to be true that belief will have consequences in our lives and the lives of others.” And, I’ll leave it at that for the time being. Anybody got any questions or comments? Good Lord, I’d be only too anxious - - -


 

Woman: I was thinking you didn’t have the story about the time he hid the partridge in the churn.


 

Sandy Ives: Oh, you’ve been talking to Bertha. Right?


 

Woman: Bertha told me.


 

Sandy Ives: Bertha tell you that? Oh no, that’s a lovely story. I think we’ll tell it. I remember her telling me that - Bertha would never let me - I had my tape recorder with me, but she would never let me use it.


 

Woman: No.


 

Sandy Ives: But, that’s all right. I mean, she talked. That was no problem. But, but I was a little sorry because I would have - she told it so well.


 

Woman: She used to be up home a lot.


 

Sandy Ives: What’s that?


 

Woman: She used to be up home a lot


 

Sandy Ives: She was a great person, and I remember I went up there and - first time I ever visited her, she told me this story, and once again, the reaction when she started telling stories about her father, her whole face would light up - - -


 

Woman: Oh, she was just a - - -


 

Sandy Ives: Just I mean with a kind of a - I mean you would see her eyes all of a sudden sparkle and it was all because there was - these were great stories but there was something funny about them, you know. Something always just a little - and she was telling me about the time that her father came home from - I think it’s a story not so much on George as it is on her, really.


 

Woman: (Indistinct words)

Sandy Ives: Yes, because the - the - he came home with three or four partridges.


 

Woman: They was hanging up in the shed.


 

Sandy Ives: What’s that?


 

Woman: They was hanging up in the shed.


 

Sandy Ives: That’s right, yes. Well, you tell it. Go on.


 

Woman: Oh no. Go ahead. You can do it better than I can.


 

Sandy Ives: You check me if I’m wrong.


 

Woman: Ok.


 

Sandy Ives: All right. And, wardens came in looking for something else. They were looking for - they were looking for meat, you know. “Oh sure, sure,” George says. You know, let them look all through the house because I don’t think at that time he probably had any around. A perfect time to let them look. But, Bertha remembered those partridges, and I guess George did, too. But, she took those partridges - she was churning - had an old rocker churn there. She was churning butter. She took those partridges and dropped them into the churn. And, just kept right on, you know. They looked all over the house for things, and George evidently was getting a little bit surprised himself. He looked up and didn’t see those partridges there and then finally the game wardens left and he came in to her, “Bertha, what in the hell did you do with those partridges?” She opened up the churn and his favorite expression was, “Oh my Jesus.” You know, he looked in there and that churn was just full of feathers and took - she said he spent the rest of the day out there scalding that churn. That was all he could do, but such a mess. Now, there - that sort of attitude as well. You know, the family - the whole family working with it in this particular case.


 

Woman: He used to hit the game wardens over the head with the flashlight.


 

Sandy Ives: What?


 

Woman: He hit the game wardens over the head with a flashlight one night.


 

Sandy Ives: It wouldn’t surprise me.


 

Man: She was the most independent woman I ever knew.


 

Sandy Ives: Who? Bertha?


 

Man: She was a fine person, I thought, and she was - she was a relative of mine. They were relatives of mine.


 

Sandy Ives: Is that right?


 

Man: Oh, yes.


 

Sandy Ives: Are you a Love or - - -


 

Woman: I was thinking about that the other day.


 

Man: My grandmother was a Love.


 

Sandy Ives: Yes.


 

Woman: That’s right. I thought - that’s what I thought.


 

Man: Yes, yes. And, I’ll never forget Franklin with his voice. I didn’t know George. I don’t know if I ever met George, but Frank I can always remember that -


 

Woman: He had a tenor voice.


 

Man: Yes, yes.


 

Sandy Ives: High voice, you mean?


 

Woman: Yes.


 

Man: Well, it wasn’t about the fox. I thought someone asked him if he could run as fast as a deer and he said - well, I won’t use the words he used - he could run as fast as two deer, though. But, the other stories, I remember. (Indistinct words) Yes, I remember - I was just - I was very small.


 

Sandy Ives: Those stories have lasted for two generations, too, anyhow, you know.


 

(Several people talking at the same time - can’t be transcribed.)


 

Second Man: I spent two winters in the woods with Frank McGoon.


 

Sandy Ives: You did, eh?


 

(Several people talking at the same time - can’t be transcribed.)


 

Sandy Ives: Is that what it says on his - it says that on his stone?


 

Second Man: On his stone, yes.


 

Sandy Ives: Where is his stone?


 

Second Man: Gardiner Lake Cemetery.


 

Sandy Ives: Where?


 

Second Man: Gardener Lake Cemetery.


 

Sandy Ives: Right. Ok.


 

Woman: What? George McGoon’s buried down in Gardiner Lake, did you say?


 

Sandy Ives: No, no, (Indistinct name)


 

Second Man: (Indistinct name)


 

Woman: Oh, I thought George McGoon was buried in Crawford.


 

Sandy Ives: He sure is.


 

Second Man: (Indistinct words) remember the game warden.


 

Sandy Ives: He gave his arm to his county and his life to the state. I guess he did, too.


 

Other Woman: George McGoon was in Washington one time, up in the State of Washington, when they all moved out there. And, he was losing all of his money. He doused the lamp and grabbed the - the cloth that the money was on and escaped through the window with revolvers all around the table and come home, and that’s how he got his start - from all that poker money.


 

(Several people talking at the same time - can’t be transcribed.)


 

Man: You heard that - that he came home from - - -


 

Other Woman: From Washington - State of Washington.


 

Man: State of Washington.


 

Other Woman: When they all went up there from Crawford and all the surrounding - to work in the redwood forests. He was a great poker player.


 

Sandy Ives: Oh, yes, absolutely. Loved it.


 

(Several people talking at the same time - can’t be transcribed.)


 

Third Woman: Was he ever a game warden? Ethel? Was he ever a game warden?


 

Ethel: I don’t think so.


 

Third Woman: A lot of times - - -


 

Man: Who, George?


 

Third Woman: Yes. A lot of times the poacher is a game warden.