I like a good mystery. And I like it even better when the mystery gets solved.

Two years ago, during a June fishing trip to Aroostook County’s DeBouillie area, a fishing buddy and I came across the bare remains of on old cabin along the trail to the fire tower above the lake. It was a lovely June day. Sunny, and the south breeze off the lake kept the bugs down. We lingered about the site of the cabin. We poked around and sifted through a carpet of leaves and old bottles and rusty soup cans. The few remains, a stove lid, a door hinge, an encrusted skillet with a hole in it, all tweaked our curiosity as we tried to piece together the story.

How big was the cabin? Why was it back in the woods and not along the water’s edge? Who lived there? A hermit? A fire tower employee? A game warden? A trapper?

We walked away from the site still trying to imagine when the cabin was built and who lived in it. My curiosity led me to do some cursory research later on. I did learn that in the days before WWII there was a fire tower on the mountain and, though there were no roads back then into this remote area of the county, there was a single telephone wire that went for miles from Portage through the woods and had its terminus at the fire tower above the lake. (Sections of the wire can still be found along the fire tower trail).

That’s about all I could find out. Then this week, right out of the blue, I learned the rest of the story. A former fishing companion, Floyd Bolstridge, who grew up in a one-horse town, not far from this wonderful country, connected the dots for me.

The cabin was a trapper’s winter digs. And the trapper, Walter Bolstridge, was my friend’s uncle. According to Floyd his Uncle Walter would hire a bush plane to fly him and his gear into the roadless DeBoullie area in October. He would stay and trap. In March he would come out with his furs in time to make the Annual Town Meeting. Imagine that! What a special breed of man he must have been.

Here are Floyd’s recollections of Uncle Walter, in his own words:

“He was an old bachelor, he sort of adopted us nephews(I had six brothers) and we in turn were awed by the old man who looked like Santa Claus. He was a great man who always had a twinkle in his eyes and a smile on his face. He was a little man, about 5 foot 6 inches tall. Tough as nails. One Christmas week, when I was in high school, I snowshoed into his camp that was on a brook flowing into Goddard Lake, near Silver Lake. It was nine miles in and I was tired by the time I got there. He had a big stew on, and gave me a bowl full. I ate all of it and took some more. He asked me if I liked it. He told me it was beaver tail stew ! He took the meat from the tail of beavers he had caught, and made that stew. It was some good . That same week, we went out on a trapline he had up toward Three Brooks Mountain. As he pulled a beaver out of the water, he took the hide off right then before it froze up. On the way back to our camp, he stopped and stepped out of his snowshoes and walked up a leaning tree that had hung up in some dense evergreens. He reached down and pulled a hind quarter of a small moose that was hanging in the evergreens.He chopped off about two pounds of meat and put it in his packbasket. We had a great feast that night. He said that the young Game Warden patrolling that area never noticed there was no snow on that leaning tree. He said that if Wilfred “Sleepy” Adkins were patrolling that area, he would have noticed that right off .

I never went in to his camp on Debouille during the winter, since you had to fly in, but I was there during the summer, when we followed the telephone line that ran from Portage Lake Forestry Headquarters to the top of Debouille Mt. where the lookout tower was situated. His camp was at the beginning of the rock slide, and he also had a little building about the size of a large doghouse where he kept his food that he wanted to keep fresh. He used this at the beginning and the end of the trapping season. The building had ice in it year around, that had frozen during the winter. He told me that he took trout from Debouille, and Big Black for some of his food and that he had caught some that ran about ten pounds. Of course, it was illegal to do that!”

By the way, Uncle Walter may still hold the record for having trapped the largest Otter ever recorded. He got his name in the newspaper. The Maine Fish and Game Commissioner at the time, George J. Stoble, said that the critter, which Bolstridge trapped on the Fish River, was a world’s record otter.

One June day, my buddy and I may hike that trail again. If the bugs aren’t too bad, we’ll stop and linger awhile at what is left of Uncle Walter’s winter home. The sight of it will mean even more now.

The author is editor of the Northwoods Sporting Journal. He is also a Maine Guide, co-host of a weekly radio program “Maine Outdoors” heard Sundays at 7 p.m. on The Voice of Maine News-Talk Network (WVOM-FM 103.9, WQVM-FM 101.3) and former information officer for the Maine Dept. of Fish and Wildlife. His e-mail address is [email protected] . He has two books “A Maine Deer Hunter’s Logbook” and his latest, “Backtrack.” Online information is available at www.maineoutdoorpublications.com or by calling Diane at 207 745 0049.


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