(This was published many years ago by my roommate Ted Williams.  Its original title was “He Ranted in the Enchanted.” He describes me to a tee.  When you see something in parenthesis, it is my comment)

Every trout fisherman I know has his woods, having one’s woods is important–like having family or a country.  Mine are the Maine woods. And the excuse I use to get into them–brook trout–is as beautiful an excuse as anyone could find.

At night I like to lie by the spring that feeds ice water and trout fry to Secret Pond and watch the meteors amidst brilliant stars and planets undefiled by ambient light.  Or listen to barred owls conversing between mountains. Two miles north are the Canadian Pacific railroad tracks–the only link with rural civilization other than thirty-five miles of jeep road.

Canadian Pacific.  Even the name conjures the romance worth of these woods.  You can hear the train for half an hour until it finally threads behind Megantic Mountain in Canada, and, as in the song, you are carried three thousand miles–then brought back suddenly by the crack of a beaver, the outburst of peepers, or the demented laughter of a loon.

Sometimes, when you jeep the surroundings valleys by day, you catch the glint of this and other trout water nestled between granite-strewn mountains.  On the foot trails that lead into it you climb quickly out of the cuttings into big, wild boreal forest. From the ledge where an eastern cougar stared coldly up at George Young as he circled in his float plane, you can gaze out over Canada and back to Maine’s flat middle–and see nothing but forest and lakes.  It is beautiful, curative country and I can never get enough of it. They call it simply The Enchanted..

(This is creative writing and such writings are not bound by the rules of grammar or punctation.  For instance he says “Canadian Pacific” with nothing else. That would get you an F in eight grade grammar, butt it is totally acceptable in this type of writing.  He does it a lot in this article)

It is so named because one dark winter night–while one hundred loggers, all in the prime of life, were eating supper–His Satanic Majesty danced and sang on the camp roof.  The performer, although not to be confused with the rock group of the same name whose work is advertised as “forth minutes of noise,” nonetheless crooned arrangements that, apparently, were strikingly similar in tone and composition.  It happened when western Maine was still clad in virgin white pine.

My friend the writer-poet Arthur MacDougall, barely out of high school then, stood on a sidewalk in Bingham while John Kelly reproduced as best he could the hideous caterwauling he and the other men had heard, and then recounted how they had searched with lanterns from Dead River landing for miles in all directions and never found a human footprint in the new snow.  Yes, MacDougall, No-Birds, and I may doubt that it was actually the devil, perhaps dismissing the whole episode as the excess of some night-tripping catamount or dog fox. But, as MacDougall writes in the introduction to his Dud Dean, Maine Guild, “we weren’t there.”

And who, you ask, is No-Birds?  He is my old Colby College roommate, Robert J. Daviau, a Philadelphia lawyer from Waterville, Maine.  He is called No-Birds because that’s how many “pa’tridges” he always kills whenever they manage to get into the air before he shoots and usually even when they don’t.  I’ll venture that half the doctors and a third of the paper barons in Kennebec County have been sued by him or his father, Jerome; and whatever they say about the Daviaus, which is plenty, it is never that they failed to do their homework or don’t know where to fish for wild squaretails.  “It’s going to take them quite a while to spoil The Enchanted,” No-Birds always says.

Back when Jerome still came into the office, No-Birds used to live in terror that the Old Man would learn that his own flesh and blood had divulged to me the very pond that he, Jerome, had been given by  Aimé LeCours and which he, in turn, had lovingly passed on to young No-Birds (after he had fished it out, of course).

It was not that his father disliked me a great deal, No-Birds kindly explained.  It was just that my home, at least in the legal sense, was in Massachusetts–the void, the nether world, the primal chaos into which the southern border falls away.  That made it about sixty times more sinful than telling someone from Maine, a heinous offense in itself.  To make matters worse, Jerome knew that the pond had long ago recovered from the pounding he had given it.  No-Birds used to plead with me to call it Secret Pond, even when it appeared that only he and I were present.  We’ve renamed the river and the surrounding townships, too.

(My father and I never fished that pond out.  The limit was fifteen trout and we always got our limit.  Usually, there were four of us and we came out with sixty trout.  We probably went there five times per year—that is 300 trout per year.  Another guy fished it hard and he may not have stopped at fifteen. Let’s say he took 300 trout out for a total of 600.  No loons, otters, fish eating ducks or anything that hunted trout were allowed on the pond. I have never killed a loon. A loon eats four trout per day and is there for 200 days.  Two loons eat eight per day for a total of 1600 trout, and I have been to that pond in recent years and seen four loons on it. The pond cannot take that, especially when the trout gather on the spring hole where I want to fish.  To exasperate me even more the loons have no fear of me or any other human.)


One mid-September Monday, No-Birds and I struck off into The Enchanted in my old blue Bronco on a washed-out jeep trail that soon grew slick in the soft rain.  A hard frost had killed most of the deerflies, and the swamp maples had gone scarlet. Big, gangly varying hares trotted across the road and sat, scratching at fleas and cleaning their ears.  About thirty miles in, a pileated woodpecker dipped out of a dead spruce, turned, and bobbed along in front of us for fifty feet before veering off into the forest. The warm air was perfumed with balsam and that delicious woods scent of dead leaves and damp earth.

At Secret Pond cutoff, No-Birds slogged out into the middle of the Cold River, directing me across the ford with hand signals and dramatic facial expressions, high-stepping backward toward the far bank as the spirited vehicle crashed and splashed over the smooth boulders, shipping water through the left door and voiding it through the right.  The Bronco cavorted up the bank and plowed through thick alders, with the metal canoe banging obscenely against the roof and water gurgling in the exhaust system.

Back on the trail again, I stopped and dismounted.  While No-Birds walked back across the river to sweep away our spoor, I cinched down the canoe and, rubbing my head (which had also banged obscenely on the roof), tried to decide what to do about the windshield wipers that were now bent rakishly back over the cabin like cricket antennae.

No-Birds appeared, studied the antennae curiously, and said, “Let’s go.”  He climbed aboard and started knocking his knees together as he always does when impatient or bored. Once-when we had decided to attend Indian Thought class and were listening to the professor explaining, in broken English, the “Noble Eightfold Path”–a girl had turned around and asked No-Birds to please hold still because he was making her “seasick.”

I shifted into low range and ground on up the mountain, holding down the brakes to dry them out.  All the little brooks that cut across the road were quickening, and hidden under lush sumac and raspberries were jagged rocks and potholes that jarred our teeth and kept the spare tire trading between roof and toolbox.  We fishtailed up the higher slopes, slicing the black earth.

“Roads got worse,” I grunted.

“Good,” declared No-Birds.   “River scares off some of ’em but not all of ’em.

“Once it scared you off,” I said, recalling the time he, Francis Carter and Bill Violette had come onto it in flood and driven all the way back to Elmont (population one), walked the tracks down to Tinkumtown (population zero), tried to hike in over Range 7, and gotten lost.  No-Birds had ranted about it for a month. I’d asked him how come they hadn’t left the truck and just waded across the river. “Eee Tabernack!” he’d shouted.  “It would have taken away your house!”

No-Birds’ favorite stretch of the Secret Pond road six miles in, just as you turn off for the final, downhill mile.  Here the beavers have engineered things so that about fifty yards of road is under two feet of water. It looks dreadful, but it’s all hardpan and there’s usually nothing to it.  According to No-Birds, it turns back 80 percent of the 20 percent who are foolhardy enough to ford the river.

Even so, No-Birds points out grimly that there are still “traffic jams” on this, his favorite grouse road.  “You ought to see the bird hunters up here in October,” he laments. “It’s crawling with ’em.  That’s how they find the pond.  I’ll get all the way in here at eight in the morning and there’ll be a jeep in front of me.  And then one’ll come up behind me, and I can’t turn around, and they poke along, and I get pissed . . . . Eee Seebwais.”  (If you want to rile up No-Birds, remove the breast meat from a pa’tridge, hang the empty carcass on a forked stick, spread the tail, and prop it up along one of his ground-sluicing roads.  Then drive in with him and let him do the shooting.?

We slid down the last few yards of road, sometimes with the brakes locked, No-Birds muttering and spluttering about the perversity of precipitation–how rain adjusts itself precisely to coincide with his golf and fishing and how snow refuses to fall until after he hunts deer.  “The luck of Daviau,” he solemnly intoned.

But no sooner had he struggled into his waders and slicker than the rain stopped and sunlight, diffusing through the low overcast, turned the forest smoky gold.  “I’m keeping them on,” he announced defiantly. “If I take ’em off, it’s gonna rain again.” Then he trudged off down the path with the cooler and tent.

As I fumbled with the canoe straps, I caught little glimmers of Secret Pond through the dark, tall spruce that lined the path.  No leaf or blade of grass stirred, and all around was ringing silence broken only by the distant telegraphing of woodpeckers and the occasional lament of a white-throated sparrow.

I had the canoe on the ground and was filling it with fishing gear when No-Birds yelled from the pone.  “Williams, c’mere quick, and bring your camera.” Expecting a bear or at least a bull moose, I snatched up the metal ammo box and dashed down the path.

It was only the foliage.  On the high banks all around the pond, maple, beech, and mountain ash glowed with impossible shades of red and yellow.  It was reflected with undiminished brilliance in the still water. And in the middle of it all: the purple top of Secret Pond Mountain.  If autumn in Massachusetts is, as is unceasingly reported, “a riot of color,” then this was civil war. As I admired it, I also took time to notice that no trout were rising.  “Look at that,” declared No-Birds with a grand sweep of his arm.

“It probably would have waited,” I commented as I chewed the cap off a plastic film canister.

The beast that No-Birds fears most –a leech, nearly trimmed with orange like a fancy bookmark–undulated over a sunken log.  I picked it up and flipped it onto his slicker.

(Remember the original version was HE RANTED IN THE ENCHANTED.  I would soon be ranting at all the things that would and did go wrong.  Nothing serious, but irritating like the loons)


Has made a good comeback because the world does not believe that a serious tariff war would be conducted by anyone.  Additionally, the Fed has turned very dovish, the term used when the Fed is talking about lower interest rates. This is a world I do not understand.

Comments are not available on this story.