Sunday morning I walked out into my yard to find a fresh hole in the ground. A horseshoe post had been dug up during the night, the shovel marks apparent, post missing. Since this was one of many acts of mild vandalism that have occurred over the last dozen years to our property, I reported it to the police.

We’ve had chopped animal bones sprinkled in the garden in bizarre patterns. A sawhorse was stolen. Special bulbs like calla lilies and dinner plate dahlias were pillaged from the weed strip. My 40 newborn sunflower plants were driven over intentionally before they could reach adolescence. Someone carefully braided long weeds through a pile of brush, and so on, but the single horseshoe post was a true enigma.

I asked the police the rhetorical question, “Why would a thief steal just one?” Not that two makes a lot of sense. After all, it’s just a metal rod painted white attached to a wooden block. No one is going to retire upon that caper. Might be the first stolen horseshoe post in Belfast crime history. The officer and I chuckled over that one.

The occurrence brought to mind New England eccentrics, particularly here in Maine. I’ve known a few.

One cold evening I was talked into going smelting with Greg and Andrew. As it turns out “go-in smeltn” for those guys was a drinking trip with a subliminal, virtually undetectable fishing problem. We were about halfway up Route 26 in the wilderness near Grafton Notch when Andrew spotted a bear along the side of the road.

He yelled for the pickup truck to stop, unzipped his pants, hauled it out, and then ran after the bear, waving it energetically in a spiral and whooping. The bear ran off. I wasn’t sure what the logic or point to this was. Greg was laughing hysterically as if he understood this bizarre procedure, so I hesitated to show my ignorance by asking. The clincher, however, was that upon Andrew’s return, the truck would not restart.

After analyzing the usuals, mainly checking the gas gauge, I smelled something suspicious, and following my nose, crawled under the pickup for a look. Part of the exhaust system was as radiant as a generously burning jack-o’-lantern. Greg decided instantly that I’d found the culprit and it needed extraction.

Within minutes, he was standing on his front bumper, leaning across the mute engine and ferociously harpooning the incandescent catalytic converter with a 10-foot section of iron pipe. We couldn’t stop him. He was like Ahab who had finally found the white whale, and there was no way he wasn’t going to murder the thing. Wang, wang, wang!

Well, the truck never did rouse, but I had to hand it to Greg — that converter was never going to bother anyone again. At least until he received the repair bill, the actual problem being an inexpensive sensor under the dash.

Now there was nothing to do but hitchhike back, as darkness descended and stray smelters began to meander down from the north about every 15 minutes. Greg and Andrew jumped in the first car that pulled over, jam-packed as it was, and just left me there. They took the last of the beer too. When the vehicle had disappeared in the distance, I began to envy the warm interior of the overcrowded car because … snow. I stood in the fluttering flakes, wondering if the insulted bear might be back. It was simply too cold to expose myself.

Half an hour later, I got a lift. I was pressed against a rusty tailgate, the bulk of the bed taken up by pails of jiggling smelt and fishing gear, not much of a wind block. When my saviors finally stopped to let me out, I actually fell to the ground because my legs had no feeling from a wind chill that must have reached below zero.

As an aside, Andrew was one of Maine’s finest newspaper reporters until a tractor ended his life, and Greg continues to create stunning 18th-century-style furniture utilizing only hand tools. His best pieces have the charm of a Robert Louis Stevenson short story.

More eccentric than Greg was his dog, Bear. A great shaggy pound mutt with a friendly, joyous personality, old Bear had an obsession. When he swam in the local pond, he’d suddenly dip under the surface like a loon. “My God, I think your dog just drowned!” someone would yell. “Oh, he’s just getting a rock,” Greg would respond calmly, concealing his delight.

Long moments later, Bear would resurface, nostrils sucking air to the point of hyperventilation, and under he’d go again as if suctioned to the depths. Eventually, near the shore, the top of his head would become visible, then the nose drawing precious oxygen, and soon Bear, walking along the bottom of the pond, would appear carrying a boulder in his mouth. The size of the thing was simply inexplicable, usually more than 10 pounds. The instant he reached the shoreline, he’d attempt to herd the boulder toward dry land with his nose, growling with delight, tail a blur.

I called Greg to confirm this, and he has one of Bear’s last rocks. He gave me all the measurements and took it to the post office to be weighted. Sure enough, 11.3 pounds. Greg also reminded me that when Bear had completed his ritual with the rock, nosing it back and forth along the shoreline in a 10-foot pattern, he would always walk over and uproot a small sapling about the diameter of a thumb.

My old mentor Hal has lived in the woods for more than 40 years, his home a one-room cabin chained to a pine tree. No running water, just a well with rope and pail, an outhouse, electricity only in the last years. Hal has always been fascinated by Japanese culture, and after reading a rare volume on the Zen tea ceremony, he believes you can’t allow water for tea to come to a rolling boil.

The water must be on the precise verge, like a fishpond with koi just under the surface. I’ve witnessed him standing by the kettle with a flashlight, rejecting overly boiled water for up to an hour. Convincing him otherwise? Nope. Not to mention he runs the tap for 10 minutes each time to wash the lead out of the pipes.

Hal is retired from his job as a park ranger, and I try to lure him into visiting when I can, yet he leaves the perimeters of his land reluctantly. After years of convincing, he finally agreed. Since he was on his way, I headed to the grocery for beer and extras, but on my return I found a message on the answering machine:

“This day has not been going good. This has not been a good day so far. I’ve had a flat tire.” Huge sigh. “And I’m going back to the cabin. Just got to try and relax.” Another massive sigh. “I can’t promise, and I can’t say, at any time, when I’ll be up to visit.” It was almost six years later when Hal finally made the trip.

I telephoned him yesterday to ask if he would mind being included in a column about New England eccentrics, and got his machine. This was the outgoing message:

“This is Hal — Harold. Well, it hasn’t been much of a summer, I can tell you that. Didn’t get enough work done, that’s for certain. I’m hoping to get a waterline dug from the well to the cabin. That’s happening awful slow. I did have a good time at the community supper, though, and I thank everyone for the evening.”

When he called me back he said, “Well, I suppose you can use me in the column, but it’s pretty ridiculous, because I’m certainly not eccentric.” True eccentrics never seem to believe they’re eccentric. Or at least they won’t admit it.

As an aside, Hal has written some of the most resonant lines of poetry I’ve ever read. His slim self-published volume “Yowdendrift” is one of my favorites, impeccably printed in handset type and bound with marbled endpapers.

This summer I finally did something I’ve wanted to do for years. I installed a poetry clothesline outside along the porch. The idea was to hang up poems to dry, to allow the things to get some air and sun. Poems tend to have a pretty hard life locked up in mildewed books, either ignored or dreaded for the most part.

So I printed up some poems in strips, taped the narrow sections together, and hung them on the line with wooden clothespins. One Wordsworth, my wife’s addition, ran about five feet brushing the porch boards in the breeze. A few passersby thought they were prayer flags. Maybe in a way they are.

My concept was that visitors could bring poems to attach to the clothesline and take away any they liked. One neighbor sent a few poems, which I printed out and hung, but the true poetry lover turned out to be the last rainstorm. By morning the poems lay scattered throughout the lawn in damp bits. I mowed them in, mulching all those wonderful words into the soil, wondering if the grass will somehow vibrate just a bit differently next season in the spring sun.

I have a sense that New England tolerates and respects eccentrics more than in other parts of the country, but I’m just guessing. At least we have a history of them and I like that. Actually, I prize eccentrics because they aren’t boring. People who are more open, unusual and take social risks allow me more freedom in their presence, and they always seem willing to laugh.

There’s a beauty and poetry to eccentrics, because they are living life with heartfelt passion and by their own rules; William Blake was probably the archetype. But each eccentric is unique: a human being who has created a fresh personality that refuses to be conditioned into sameness, and is usually only fully appreciated after he or she is gone.

So, if you notice yourself becoming eccentric, and people begin muttering behind your back — it’s likely only a minority appreciates eccentricity, even in Maine — know that some of us understand, even if your relationship with bears, rocks or lone horseshoe posts verges on the inexplicable.

Eric Green is an artist and freelance writer who lives in Belfast.