'Good day to shoot a moose'

By John Ford Sr | Jul 09, 2010

In every district there were people who expressed a defiant and snide attitude whenever they were in the presence of a game warden.

At one time or another, every warden experienced this reaction when they came face to face with those who were not fully supportive of the department's mission.

Whether the meeting was in an official capacity or simply a chance greeting along the street, it was obvious some folks weren't about to say anything complimentary when crossing our paths.

When I began my new career in the Waldo County area, especially in Burnham, some of the older residents treated my presence as if I were the black plague invading their territory.

Not all of the folks were that way, mind you. Some were actually pleased to see a new face in a warden's uniform. But, for the most part, old die-hard poachers looked at my uniform and badge as if I were the commander of the enemy Gestapo, ready to attack them in a moment's notice.

It was obvious I was viewed by some as a serious threat to the every day, or should I say every night, lifestyle. They were reluctant to share a cordial relationship or even a simple greeting with the likes of me. To them, I was from the enemy camp.

Those who did offer a friendly greeting or gesture made sure they expressed it when no one from the general public was watching.

At that time, night hunting was a tradition in this small country town and by golly no new badge-wearing warden was going to break that tradition as far as they were concerned.

It took a whole lot of patience and persuasion on my part before I was welcome to wander among them. As years went by during my career, however, Burnhamites became some of the best folks I got to know.

I had the great pleasure of running across one of these defiant folks Aug. 9, 1982, as I exited my cruiser in front of the Unity hardware store. I was minding my own business, not paying attention to anyone, when I heard a loud voice screaming at me from up the street.

I glanced up to see noted law-breaker Moe staggering down the side of the road, attempting to walk my way. It was obvious Moe was higher than a kite in a thundershower

Moe was a big man. I'd estimate him to be about 6 feet tall and a whopping 300 pounds. His shirt was unbuttoned, his hair was messed up, and I swear he had drool flowing from his mouth as he screeched at me.

I was barely able to make out what he was yelling, “Ugh, ugh. Today would be a good day to shoot a moose wouldn't it, John? Huh huh.” I bet if Moe said it once, he said it a dozen times.

It was obvious Moe was trying to tempt me into paying attention to him, but I didn't bite. I simply ignored the fool and went inside the hardware store to conduct my business as I intended.

Moe remained outside the store for a few minutes screaming the same old song, “Yup, today would be a good day to go shoot a moose, John Boy. Ugh, ugh!” He was grunting and mumbling like a pig stuck hip deep in a slop bin.

The previous day, my friend Markie, the new state cop in the area, had been to Moe's searching for an escapee from the Thomaston State Prison. The rumor mill had it that Moe and his buddy, Dennis were harboring the fugitive, but they wouldn't let Markie conduct a search for the missing man without a warrant.

At the time, Mark lacked enough information to obtain a warrant to enter the residence. But it was quite obvious from the way they were acting that the missing fugitive was somewhere nearby.

The next day, Markie shouted on the radio asking if I could assist him along Depot Street in Unity. He'd corralled a man that he assumed was the missing fugitive and had him handcuffed in the backseat of his cruiser. Mark asked me to join him for the long ride to Belfast just in case things took a turn for the worse.

The male in the back of his cruiser refused to give his full name and he would not provide any identification whatsoever. His description matched the missing fugitive to a tee, but just like Moe the day before, this man was higher than a kite in a hurricane.

The only information he volunteered was, “My name is Ray! Some call me Ray-Ray, some call me Gay-Ray but today, I'm just plain Ray – you got it you *#$!holes?”

To put it bluntly, he was being a real wiseass and wasn't about to cooperate.

Long story short, Ray ended up being the escaped fugitive and it was revealed that he'd been safely hidden at a trailer park just outside of town by Moe and his buddy, Dennis.

It appeared as though they'd been having one constant party, day after day, night after night.

Mark quickly obtained an arrest warrant for both Moe and Dennis, charging them with harboring an escapee.

With Ray-Ray safely back behind bars at the Thomaston facility, the next day Markie and I set out to arrest Moe and Dennis ... if we could find them. We were hot on their trail in the Waterville-Winslow area.

It wasn't long before a Winslow Police officer spotted the vehicle but was unable to catch up to it. He provided us with a direction of travel and a thorough vehicle description.

The rocket man placed the cruiser into overdrive and we were off and flying. With blue lights and siren blaring we shot across the road like a speeding bullet headed for its target.

As I did so many times before when I was on a mission with my new buddy, I tightened my seat belt as tight as it would go, sucked my buns on the passenger's seat and made sure I had a death grip on the dashboard. I hung on for dear life.

Moe and Dennis never stood a chance; we were behind them before they knew what had hit them. When they pulled over to the side of the highway, they were both ordered out of the vehicle.

I don't know exactly what happened, but the next thing I saw was a highly inebriated Moe sprawled in the ditch like a beached whale on a sand dune. His arms flailed wildly, but he couldn't get up.

I couldn't resist the temptation to stand over him and scream in the same tone he'd used with me a few days before. “Ugh, ugh. Today would be a good day to go to jail wouldn't it Moe? Huh, huh!”

I made sure to say it over and over so he would get the drift of my message and he, in turn, could see how arrogant his remarks had been.

It was a most enjoyable ride to the crowbar hotel knowing that justice had prevailed and once again the criminal element had faced a minor setback.

It wouldn't be our last run-in with Moe and team. They would provide us with much more entertainment than most folks could comprehend.

I'm not so damn sure I really understood or believed it myself. One thing for sure, my new trooper bud and I were going to have a whole host of memories, many of them involving people just like Moe, Dennis and Ray.

Stay tuned until next time, the show is just beginning.

Like Mark writes at the end of his column, “just another day on patrol.” No two were ever the same. Life for us was very good.

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