How a woodsman tackled black flies and wardens

Comes a letter from Shirley Martin at New Sharon, Maine, saying the black flies make garden work miserable. She says the pests caught a moose and she heard one fly ask, "Shall we eat him here?" Another fly said, "No, let's drag him down in the swamp and hold a picnic!"

I wrote and told her to find a store that still sells Woodsman, a paste you rub on. It stank and kept black flies away, a July application being good right through Christmas.

One year in July I went with Flint Johnson to fish for trout on Spencer Stream. The flies were wicked fierce, but we got some fish. Spencer is a tributary to the Dead River and has native trout; it has never had any hatchery stocks.

Flint used to own a group of camps on Spencer and did well for years until the telephone company bought King & Bartlett Township and got the old K-B set of camps for an executive hideaway. Telephone people thought Flint's camps were too close, so they made his life miserable until he quit in disgust. He let his camps rot into the forest duff and then went downstate, where he started a business shooting insulators off phone poles.

I did the fishing that day, and Flint set me on his pet pool, where I got six lunch trout right away. Flint was the best woodsman I ever knew. He had a lunch place by the pool, with a spring and fireplace, and while we were eating, Flint said, "We got company; a couple of Frenchmen are coming down the trail."

And in about 20 minutes two men came along talking French and they stopped to visit before going on. After they'd gone on I said, "How'd you know there were two?" Flint said, "Woodsman. Too much stink for one man and not enough for three. Downwind, it's easy."

So we dallied at our lunch until our fire had gone to cool ashes, and then came a great snap! from the deep woods behind us.

Flint said: "Gracious sakes alive! It's grown late! We been sittin' too long. It'll be dark before we get out of the woods and back to town." I said, "What was that great snappin' noise?" Flint says, "The black flies are coming up from Joe Pocum Bog to roost in the pines for the night. They break off two, three limbs every evening." I says, "Do tell!"

Flint says, "Eyah. Down to State College, the tree people are working on a new kind of pine that resists black flies." I says, "Can't they just paint the pine trees with Woodsman?" Flint says, "That causes the bark to fall off and the tree perishes. Do you have any more questions?"

There is one story I'll tell about Flint that has nothing to do with black flies and their predatory nature, but still seems to have a message if we could figure out what it is.

One summer, while he was keeping Spencer Stream Camps, Flint went for a walk in the direction of Spectacle Pond. He saw a small fir tree growing in a clump of raspberry bushes, and it was a beautiful Christmas probability. Flint said to himself, for nobody else was about, "I must come and get that little tree for our front room at Christmas!"

And on the last day of open hunting season he had a small handsaw and was on his way to get that tree. As he rounded a bend in the road, he came upon an unexpected sight. A car with Connecticut plates was parked to one side, and by it on the ground was a gentleman Flint did not know. The man was lying on his back, staring up at the sky, and across his belly he held a deer rifle.

His clothing indicated he had come to hunt, and Flint concluded the man had been stricken as he descended from his vehicle. He investigated and decided the man was alive, although inert, so he frisked the poor fellow; found the ignition key in his shirt pocket; unlocked the auto; lifted the man, gun still in hand, onto the back seat; and drove at good speed to Rumford Community Hospital, about 40 miles away.

At the emergency room, there happened to be a game warden who helped the attendants get the man, gun still clutched, onto a stretcher and inside. There seemed to be nothing wrong with the man. He sat up after a time and said he was all right but didn't remember much.

Then the warden arrested Flint for driving a motor vehicle with a loaded gun inside. In Maine this is self-evident of poaching. An attendant at the hospital felt this was a mite ridiculous and phoned the judge to explain extenuating particulars. The judge called Flint to say he was not going to be prosecuted, but Flint said nothing doing, he wanted to be tried so Maine people could see what kind of wardens we have. The judge said he wanted no part of it. Then the fish and game commissioner called to say he'd been talking to the governor, and so on.

Then Flint couldn't find his saw. And when he got a hatchet and went back to get his beautiful tree, he found only a stump. Somebody had harvested his tree.

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