The Hospitality of Old Chief Pierpole

EDDIE and I were sweet 16 the summer we called on Chief Pierpole. We were on our usual late summer hike to nowhere and were walking along Maine's Sandy River. The Sandy is a lovely stream, flowing out of the Sandy River Ponds and coming leisurely to join the bigger Kennebec River at Indian Old Point, where Father Sebastian Rasle held sway in his time. Eddie and I gathered in all the lore we could about the places we went, and now in the vicinity of Maine's town of Strong, we had heard of Chief Pierpole. His feats were prodigious and his reputation enormous. About 1801 he had pulled up his tepee stakes and gone to Canada because he didn't like the way people were moving in and crowding his serenity. The town of Strong was named for Governor Caleb Strong of Massachusetts. In his first term, about the time Pierpole was going to Canada, Governor Strong had signed the order creating this new community up in Maine - the first official act of his office - even though he had no idea where Strong was. At the time there were those who felt the place should be called Pierpole and not Strong, and it has been suggested that a second reason Pierpole moved along was his displeasure at being second-fiddle to a governor. As if to compensate for this, the good folks of Strong have always had their own version. Namely, that the town is named Strong not for the governor, but because that's the way Pierpole smelled. Somebody we met along our hike told us about Pierpole, so Eddie and I went looking for his one-tim e camping place. It wasn't hard to find. As we came along the west bank, working upstream, we saw the place where a small brook weaves into the Sandy - just as the spot had been described to us. Our side had a steep bank and a swift current, whereas across the stream we saw a sandy beach and still water where the brook made in. It was appropriate, we felt, that a trout splashed for a fly in that still water, as if to welcome us and speak highly of Chief Pierpole's hospitality. Eddie said, "What-d'-y-think?" I said, "I think we're on the wrong side of Sandy River." Eddie said, "So we have a choice - downstream or upstream, we need a place to wade." We chose downstream, and backtracked until we found a place where we could cross without danger of wetting our gear. So we came after an extra mile or so to Pierpole's Pool, where a grassy place suggested we had found the very spot where the ancient chief had dwelt. We got our tent up, laid some stones for a cooking place, collected firewood, and cut the fir boughs for our beds. We were maybe 50 yards from the road, and when we were sweet 16 the traffic was feeble. We could have been miles and miles away . Eddie cut a willow and tied on his line, and made the usual angler's promise of trout for supper. I said I might take two, but no more. We lolled, awaiting evensong. Eddie and I liked to make camp in the shank of the afternoon, to rest from our day's hike, and to converse and meditate as the crepuscular period approached. And as the sun descended and a shadow came across Chief Pierpole's Pool, activity began. Trout began to rise. But funny about that - Eddie couldn't get one. Whatever natural food they w ere after satisfied them, and they had no interest in Eddie's invitations. He was shortly talking to himself. I had laid our frypan over our cookfire heat and had arranged an adequate quantity of salt pork scraps, but now I removed the pan from the combustion area and went to stand by Eddie and offer him an expert's advice. Dark came, and then I started the fire again and boiled two potatoes and opened a can of Vienna sausages. After our collation we sat staring at the embers, and wondering what we had done to offend old Pierpole. His hospitality left much to be desired. Eddie recalled the Arabian Nights tale where the "guest demand" provided a camel in an amazing fashion, and we consoled each other by observing that trout are like that, anyway. When we got in our blankets I heard Eddie snicker a small chuckle to himself, and I said, "Something's funny?" Eddie said, "That should teach everybody a good lesson." And was that Old Pierpole we heard sighing in the trees? We were certain it was not Governor Caleb Strong.

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