End of a journey

By John Ford Sr. | May 05, 2011

The biweekly rants of “Memories from a Game Warden's Diary” originated several years ago when then-editor of The Republican Journal, Beth Staples, proposed to yours truly the prospects of creating a column about actual law enforcement events and episodes that I'd carefully documented in daily diaries during the 20 years of my rewarding game warden career.

I recall wondering at the time who in their right mind would possibly be interested in the capers I encountered as I performed a public service for the sportsmen of Maine and for the fish and game agency. But, after listening to the persuasive pitch of this highly skilled and charming editor-in-chief, I was convinced to give it a try.

So it was in November 2003, the column “Memories from a Game Warden's Diary” came to be.

I served the public in a career that was the fulfillment of a childhood dream. The journey over the years was an extremely rewarding one to say the least. During that era I occupied a front row seat to life. I was able to do it in the very community and the state where I lived.

I saw firsthand the best of people and sometimes the very worst. But through it all, I befriended some of the best folks and co-workers this country has to offer. I was indeed privileged and honored to have dedicated a lifetime of being in the great out-of-doors, living a dream envied by many.

As I presented each column the past eight years, I relived that career and shared with readers a side of what being a game warden was truly like.

From the many personal notes, comments and emails I've received, apparently many readers never really understood just exactly what those duties entailed. More so, they never realized what being an officer of the law consisted of, day in and day out, and the many sacrifices an officer has to make to adequately perform his duties.

There were personal tragedies, many of which I'd just as soon forget. There were also many triumphs, times when situations fell into place when justice was served and the best interests of the public were satisfied.

There also were times of personal embarrassment when things didn't go exactly as planned, times when I swallowed my pride and laughed at the crazy antics I suddenly found myself mired in. It was a part of the territory. After all, it's pretty hard to laugh at others when sometimes I was at the center of the humility. God knows, I encountered those scenarios more often than I cared to.

Every other week, I'd send my rough copy along to Beth who, thanks to her skilled expertise, somehow managed to prevent this old retired woods cop from a libel suit. Through her undying patience, she managed to clean up the ramblings in a way that was presentable to those of you who, over the long run, have been faithfully following these rants as they played out in real life.

I can't thank Beth enough for her tireless efforts and for the great opportunity she presented. But like all things in life, changes come along. As Beth moved from The Republican Journal to VillageSoup's Citizen, I moved along with her. June 23, 2004, the journey with VillageSoup began. That journey has continued until today.

I am extremely thankful to the staffers at VillageSoup for the great opportunity of allowing me to share and interact with the community the past seven years. It has been a journey like none I'd ever dreamed about as I got to tell tales about trudging through the woods and thickets of Maine at all hours of the day and night.

Beth, my guiding angel in this so-called journalistic career, is moving on to newer and better things with the Morning Sentinel in Waterville in what hopefully will be a career change that will reap her rewards and benefits.

I wish her well with this latest journey. I fully expect in the days and months ahead we will read and see more of her work that will hopefully display the great skills and talents this former editor and reporter has been blessed with.

As Beth moves on, I have decided it is time to retire from yet another career; this article will be my last.

I wish to thank those of you who have been so kind and who have followed my columns. You have made the effort well worth the time invested and I sincerely thank you for the tremendous support.

The Warden Service of today has by far a great team of wardens, as it did back in 1970 when my career began. Times have certainly changed, as have the duties they are expected to perform.

The agency today is more sophisticated and far better equipped. Forty years ago, a beat-up compass, a small-caliber handgun, a badge, a flashlight and a cruiser were our big items. These skilled professionals now have cell phones, GPS devices, computers, air-boats and other modern technology to aid them in their job. The modern era has indeed brought the game warden's job to the forefront.

The young men and women, all of them, are well-trained and highly skilled. They are among the very best in the country.

The state of Maine Fish and Game agency has survived 130-plus years of serving sportsmen and the public. Citizens can be extremely proud of this group.

I hope as you travel throughout the state that you will honor these employees for the many services they provide — and that you will remember the sacrifices they make to keep you safe and sound while you enjoy the many resources our state offers.

I certainly enjoyed my reign in the wilderness — as I have enjoyed sharing some of those times with you. Like back then, I knew when my time had come. I was able to retire and move on to another law enforcement career in a different field.

This journey as a biweekly columnist has been a good one — but like all trips, there comes a time when the journey has to end. I reckon this is the time.

Perhaps, though, there are still a few more chapters to write. I am seeking to have a book published describing these memories. I certainly enjoy introducing the public to what it was like sharing patrol with some of Maine's finest.

In this, my final article, my heartfelt thanks to Beth and to those of you who have enjoyed the trip. It's been a good road we've traveled together and we certainly have shared many laughs along the way.

To my good friend Beth, my very best wishes to you as your new journey elsewhere commences.

To the rest of you, may you stay safe and enjoy the great outdoors. We are very fortunate in Maine to have it all.

John Ford Sr. is a retired game warden, Waldo County Sheriff and Chief Deputy. The wildlife artist and award-winning columnist lives in Brooks with his wife, Judy. He may be reached at jonnylaw@fairpoint.net.

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