John Holyoke, outdoors columnist for the Bangor Daily News for the past 17 years, follows a long succession of the newspaper’s well-known outdoor writers — Bill Geagan, Bud Leavitt and Tom Hennessey. Like some of those before him, Holyoke started out as a sports reporter for the BDN.
The Brewer native, a recent guest on my Sunday night radio program “Maine Outdoors,” said that the outdoor post — to his surprise — was offered to him one day by the executive editor when Holyoke returned from a fishing trip. He snapped it up and has been writing regular newspaper columns about the Maine outdoors ever since.
John has just released his first book. Published by Islandport Press in Yarmouth, it is titled “Evergreens – A Collection of Maine Outdoor Stories.” The book is a collection of the author’s favorite stories touching on family, people and animals.
As Holyoke assures you in the book’s prelude, whether you describe his work as that of a reporter, columnist, feature writer or sports reporter, or what have you, he is in essence simply a “storyteller.”
Asked about the best part of his job, Holyoke said. “Every day is a new day. You never know where the assignments will take you and what new people you will be writing about.”
“Evergreens” is comprised of six subsections: Camp and Camping, Memorable Mainers, Laugh a Little, Gone Fishing, On the Hunt and Family Matters. While I found the entire book to be an entertaining and worthy read, the section about Memorable Mainers was the high point for me. In it, Holyoke draws skillful and poignant word portraits of truly unforgettable Maine outdoorsmen whom I have either known or have known of over the years: men like Wiggie Robinson and his son Jay, and the man from Munsungan, the late Jim Carter.
As a storyteller, Holyoke is at his reportorial best when he writes about the engaging and at times crusty characters who make up the human component of the Maine outdoors community. Holyoke quotes Jim Carter reflecting on his sporting camp at Munsungan. “It’s the location. It isn’t me,” Carter says,” I cook late, bitch at my guests. It’s the location and the aesthetics of the camp that draws them, and they have to put up with me to get it.”
What is clear in “Evergreens” is that, like most successful storytellers, Holyoke can find a story wherever there are outdoors people doing what they love best. His book reflects this, as well as the outdoor columnist’s passion for his craft and his genuine respect for others.
“Evergreens” is an authentic slice of the Maine outdoors heritage and Holyoke’s best writing over his career, a wonderful addition to the bookshelf of any outdoors person. The book is available from a number of Bangor area bookstores, as well as from the publisher, Islandport Press in Yarmouth.