“The net was nearly full when it came out of the water, a shimmering, writhing mass of finger-sized fish,” reads a passage in “Rolfe Brook Smelt Run,” one of 20 stories in New Hampshire writer Daren Worcester’s “Open Season: True Stories of the Maine Warden Service” (Down East Books, 2017, $16.95). “Nat waited. At the rate the men were shoveling smelts into buckets, they’d be ready to split in a couple minutes — tops.”
Nat is Lt. Nathaniel Berry, who served the Maine Warden Service for 34 years. Berry, another lieutenant, two colonels, two sergeants and four district wardens’ memorable stories from their careers are told by Worcester in “Open Season.” Berry figures prominently in the book because he is the author’s son-in-law and a great storyteller.
Storytelling is an art form in Maine and those riveting, hilarious tales, often delivered in a paced, deadpan voice, are rarely taped or captured in video.
Through “Open Season,” Worcester has preserved some of the best he’s heard. They vary widely, from the 1975 search for a missing hunter Ludger Belanger in the Waldo County town of Washington to warden pilot Gary Dumond’s rescue of two heavily injured snowmobilers from Aroostook County’s Spider Lake.
Warden diver Dennis McIntosh’s winter search for a 6-year-old boy “who wandered off” is especially poignant.