Characters

Paul Doiron here—

I often get asked about the quirky characters in my books. To some readers they seem like genuine Maine people (of a kind that don’t make it into novels all that often). To others they seem like improbable grotesques.

To all the doubters out there, please allow me to introduce you to Bob Wagg.

Wagg and his buddy Walter Lane were the “stars” of one of my all-time favorite Maine documentaries, Dead River Rough Cut. This 1976 profile of two North Woods trappers living in the woods near Spencer Lake is a profane and hilarious classic, well-worth seeking out if you’re not easily put-off by the antics of a couple of potty-mouthed, beaver-trapping, dyed-in-the-wool chauvinists.

Wagg and Lane have a brief, unnamed mention in the prologue of The Poacher’s Son. They were the two trappers who were illegally squatting in the cabins at the old Hobbstown German POW camp before Scott Paper finally decided to burn the buildings down to save itself from a negligence suit. (Wagg and Lane used to dwell in separate cabins on the property so that none of the locals would accuse them of being “queer.”) The scene in Dead River Rough Cut where Walter lights a fire in a stove on the back of his snowmobile so he can keep his ass warm as he rides around is one of my all-time favorites.

I never met either man, but a friend of mine knew Bob Wagg back in the 1970s he was a regular fixture at Berry’s Store in The Forks. If you want to meet a sub-species of North Maine woodsman who’s slowly going extinct (for better and worse, some might say), this clip from the movie is pure Wagg.

Home Dentistry

What a character!

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5 Responses to Characters

  1. MCWriTers says:

    I think Maine people pride themselves on being characters, at least that’s how it seemed when I was growing up. Of course, my mother was a character-in-training herself, and often scandalized my father. Especially the time that the garters had come off her rubber girdle and she didn’t have the money for a new one, so she took it down to the local garage and had the girdle vulcanized. Once they got over their shock, guys at the garage were happy to do that “repair,” but my father swore he’d never be able to hold his head up in town again.

  2. Dress Wagg in a ratty sweatshirt instead of a perma-press from Levinsky’s* and he could be any number of older fisherman from my husband’s home town of Stonington. Complete with missing teeth and cigarette that seems Krazy glued to his fingers.

    *Maine’s favorite Army-Navy surplus store, for those of you from away. Now it’s gone all upscale and has soft cotton knits and stuff that “wicks away perspiration,” but back when I first moved here, the clothes in Levinsky’s could stand up and salute you. “Technical fabrics” for the outdoors? What the hell for? Wool and oilcloth were good enough for your granddad and they should be good enough for you, too.

  3. Maine characters are definitely not confined to the North Woods.

    My husband and I (and our three kids) were “lucky” enough to meet one of Penobscot Bay’s craziest lobstermen, notorious for, among other things, firing several rounds at the Coast Guard. Our sailboat’s anchor chain was tangled in his trap line, a discovery we made just as his boat began speeding towards ours. Although we figured we were goners, all he said was, “Looky, looky, I caught me a sailboat.” He then cut the line and gunned his engine, leaving us quaking in our flipflops.

  4. Barbara Ross says:

    Southport had a restaurant owner named Gus who didn’t like “strangers” coming into his establishment, which always seemed like an unusual attitude for someone in the hospitality business to me. My mother-in-law once threw her arms around my startled accountant and his wife and declared that they were cousins in order to get them in. The restaurant had a single candlepin alley inside and those kind of gas pumps with the round tops like in a Hopper painting out front.

    I have always wanted to put Gus and his wife in a story.

  5. peter lilly says:

    I know every one is a critic, that’s ok but Walter Lane was not perfect. just a product of his time. He was a veteran who fought in world war two and a smart man. He loved electricity even he built a rotary phase converter. He welded and built a small crane. That being something anyone here could never achieve by your self’s. Simply to say he was a science geek like me. I love the comment Mainers are just mostly putting on a act or portraying. No act, we are just people brought up in a world and a simple product of it. How do i know this he was my grandfather” walter Lane”. Father to Rebecca lane AKA Rebecca Lilly my mother. I cant speak on waggs behalf. I am going say on behalf of real Mainers. We were taught not to judge and if you have nothing nice to say don’t say it at all. so do us a favor please stop buying up our on shore real state and pushing out family’s that have been there for generations with your creepy its not pretty rules while we make a honest living. Hell! that’s what made you rich in the first place…. off the backs of people that actually work hard. Thanks for your money that’s about all you have to offer oh!! and the lack common decency…My names Peter Lilly and I approve this message

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