Waldo Town News
By Tom Seymour
Thanks to a totally unanticipated event, the town of Waldo is forever enshrined in the annals of Maine’s natural history. Here’s what happened.
Last Saturday I was spreading gravel in my driveway in my continuing battle against potholes. It was warm and I decided to go in the house for a drink of water. And then I saw, stretched out on the gravel, a two-foot-long snake, and it was completely black. Since it appeared lethargic, I took the chance of running in the house to fetch my digital camera in order to capture the event.
The snake was somewhat shiny, completely black except for its gray belly. I took lots of photos. Then, not wanting it to remain in the driveway in case someone drove in and ran over it, I prodded it with a stick. It took off like a rocket and quickly disappeared into a nearby thicket.
I assumed that this was an endangered black racer, a snake not known to these parts. So I sent photos to some friends and they all were of a similar opinion. Then on Monday, I sent photos to the endangered species experts at the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (DIF&W). They were stumped as to the snake’s identity and recruited help from other places. I learned their consensus the following day.
A melanistic (rare black phase) garter snake, they said it was. That was their consensus. And since no one in DIF&W had ever seen a black garter snake, they were each and every one excited, wound up and otherwise invigorated. I had to fill out a documentation card and now my sighting is on record, the only one in this part of Maine and to my knowledge, only the second one in Maine, period.
I’m not totally convinced that my snake isn’t a black racer, but I’m not a professional biologist, either. That said, their conclusion stands, officially, and now the town of Waldo is made kind of famous for being home to a black garter snake. Maybe I’ll put a sign out by the road, “Home of famous black garter snake. $3 for a chance to see one.” This entrepreneurial device could possibly bring in tourist money to supplement my income. And then again, maybe not.
Oh, the DIF&W biologist told me that there likely was a family of black garter snakes on my land and to keep my camera ready at hand.
The long and short of all this is that now when someone asks a Waldo resident the inevitable question, “Where’s Waldo?” the Waldo person can say, “Why it’s right there where the black garter snake lives.” I can think of both better and worse things for our town to be noted for.
Yes, friends, the old clock on the wall tells us that it’s tax time again. Well, the clock really doesn’t say that, but rather, Sandra Smith, Waldo tax collector, does. Tax bills have gone out and while the amount of taxes hasn’t changed much, the format of the bill has. It is a simple form with some spartan information asking us to please mail our checks or money orders to Sandra.
While I suppose this basic form saves the town money, it takes bucks out of the pocket of my good friend Bruce Hutchins of Hutchins Printers. And Hutchins Printers was for untold years the supplier of the old tax forms.
One thing I must note, the old forms were rather harsh in their wording, with such words as “demand” and “penalty” interspersed throughout. That is no longer part of the tax letter. We still owe the same amount of money, of course, it’s just that the town is asking for it in a nicer way. The new form is “kinder and gentler.”
Also of interest is the breakdown of billing distribution. Dispensing with fractions, our county tax represents 13 percent of our total bill, municipal, or town expenses 15 percent and local education 71 percent.
It gets even scarier. Another sidebar tells us that without state aid to education and state revenue-sharing, our tax bills would be 50 percent higher. Yikes!
I must once again beg, cajole and otherwise solicit input from Waldo residents for news items. Anything that is important to you is important to this column. Did you visit a friend or neighbor over the holiday weekend? Well, please share your thoughts. Is someone you know or love ill, or better, recovering from an illness? How about sharing that?
Also, I have had some input from other towns, which is appreciated, but people should understand that events and so on are best-suited for the town column in which the event is to take place. I will try to run some of these, but when someone asks for an out-of-town event to run for three weeks or more, that becomes a difficult request to grant.
For the first time since taking over the Waldo column, I have some birthdays to share. Many thanks to Sandra Littlefield for these items.
First, it’s happy belated birthday to Claude Littlefield. Claude’s birthday was this past Saturday, Sept. 8. Next, Rodger Littlefield had a birthday on Tuesday, Sept. 11. Best wishes, Rodger. And finally, I celebrate my birthday on Saturday, Sept. 15.
I’m thinking that this will be a bang-up week for all kinds of fishing. If you can get out there for a while and wet a line, then go for it.
“Keep your eyes open and your camera handy. You never know what you might see out there.” - Beth Swartz, DIF&W.