How times have changed.

Recently I was notified that a trooper who patrols Down East got in trouble for chasing a  driver suspected of operating under the influence from Maine into Canada.

A friend told me a story in the Bangor Daily News detailed the facts of the case. Reading it reminded me of a trip I had made many years ago to our friendly neighbor to the north.

One day, I got a call from our then-colonel. It was in the very early ’80s, when I patrolled the northern portion of Piscataquis and Somerset counties.

Whenever a trooper gets a call from the colonel that he wants to meet in his office, it can’t be good news. I thought for sure I had done something wrong and was about to be reprimanded. 

Still expecting the worst, I met the colonel in his office, and he told me that he had a little chore for me to do.

“I need you to go over to the Legislature and meet with the Senate president and House speaker. They have a problem, and I believe you can take care of it for them,” he said.

“OK” was about all I could muster at the time, being rather relieved to learn that I was not in hot water.

For me, though, going to the Legislature was like going to the moon.

It was completely foreign; I did not know my way around. Plus, I did not like hanging out or being around politicians. I really enjoyed just working and staying up in the north country where no one bothered me, and I could pretty much stay by myself.

But since the colonel had assigned me the chore, I wandered over to the Legislature and met with the two gentlemen who had requested to see a trooper from the north country.

It seemed that one of them operated some sporting camps in Piscataquis County. A Canadian outfit had rented several of the cabins for a lengthy spell, and when the campers all left town, a check had been written to cover the bill.

The problem was that the check had bounced higher than a superball. The legislator was stuck with several thousands of dollars being owed to him. The Canadian camper apparently felt quite comfortable staying on his side of the border and refusing to make the check good.

I was supplied with copies of the rubbery checks and was asked if I could do anything about it.

“You realize it is Canada, right,” I sarcastically mentioned.

“Yes, I do, but can you do what you can with it and see what happens?” the sporting camps owner/legislator replied.

Leaving the Augusta area armed with some bad checks and seemingly the permission of the people who most mattered, I figured I had carte blanche to do what was necessary to bring the rubber-check writers to justice.

Never mind the matter of the international border.

I promptly drove to Greenville and started working on the case. As a courtesy to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, I let them know what I was about to do. They were extremely helpful, advising me they were well aware of this particular company — including what it was and where it was located.

After gathering the information, I jumped in my cruiser and headed for the city of Saint-Georges, Quebec, crossing the border above Jackman. I remember the funny looks I received passing through Canadian customs, but I told them I was on official business, which got me right through without any holdups.

Upon arriving in the city of Saint-Georges, I drove to the place of business and entered the building. A secretary met me, and I told her that I needed to see the owner of the company.

“May I say who is calling on him,” she asked.

“Tell him the Maine State Police are here to see him,” I said.

I don’t think the door had even closed behind her before it swung open again, and the owner came right out and invited me in his office.

“What can I do for you sir?” he asked.

I opened a folder and placed all of the bad checks on his desk.

“We have a problem. You owe this person all this money, and you are apparently ignoring him. Where I come from, you can’t write a check without having money in the bank to back it up. If you do, then you go to jail. When I return to Maine today, I am either going to have this amount of money with me, or I am going to have you with me. And I don’t take checks.”

Of course I was bluffing, but it seemed to work. He quickly gave me the amount he owed in U.S. currency.

“Is this the last I see of you?” he asked.

“As long as you don’t write any more bad checks,” I replied.

With that, I left his business, thanked the Royal Canadian Mounted Police who assisted me and headed back to the great state of Maine. And I didn’t get in any trouble for crossing the border.

How times have changed.

Just another day in the life.

Mark Nickerson is a retired Maine State Police Trooper. The 28-year veteran lives in Unity. The award-winning columnist may be reached at menick@uninet.net.