Our Hartland Library book group has been going for over four years, meeting at 7 PM on the last Tuesday of each month. When we chose Suddenly The Cider Didn’t Taste So Good by retired Maine game warden, John Ford, Sr. little did we know that the author would become our first ‘live one’ when we talked about the book. Thanks to Bob Davids, whose wife Ellie is a discussion regular, we were able to have John Ford Sr. join us and we opened the event to everyone in the Tri-Town area. Feedback following the event was overwhelmingly positive. I asked John if he would be willing to be interviewed for the Maine Crime Writer’s site and he graciously agreed.
When he joined us at the Hartland Public Library, he came well prepared with a bunch of photo enlargements that amply illuminated many of his stories. It was clear that this is a man who thoroughly enjoys sharing the more colorful experiences from his twenty years in the Maine warden service as well as some follow-up tales from his other career as Waldo County sheriff. While many were humorous, some, like the hunt for killer, Joel Fuller, left many in the audience with goosebumps. The painting, done by Fuller and given to John after Joel was sent to prison, leaves no doubt that had John Ford’s flashlight beam been six inches lower when he was searching along the stone wall, he would be a dead man. John Ford’s ability to develop and maintain respectful relationships with those on the other side of the law certainly allowed him to have a very interesting accumulation of stories to share. His second book This Cider Still Tastes Funny will be published by Islandport Press on May 20th.
John’s ability to get to know his adversaries certainly enhances the stories, whether in print or when he’s telling them to a group. Joel Fuller’s wasted talent stands out as a very sad, but extremely scary one. This photo demonstrates what might have been. Joel carved these antlers from wood, but they look extremely lifelike.
Herewith is the email interview I conducted.
1-How did growing up lead to your career choice?
I grew up in a family of law enforcement folks. My grandfather was the second Chief of Police for the town of Sanford for a short period of time before becoming a Maine State Trooper in the late 30’s and early 1940’s. My dad was a part time Deputy for the York County Sheriff’s office and my Step father was a 23 year veteran Game Warden in the Sanford/ Springvale area..My mother was a wildlife rehabilitator. So I think my career choice was pretty well destined.
2-Best part of being a warden ? Working in the out of doors, under unknown circumstances,. Always wondering what excitement the next moment might bring. Also being able to be around wildlife and enjoying the great wilderness of the region played a big role in my enjoyment.
3-worst part of being a warden? The many changes that came over the years. More structured and regimented working habits. The loss of freedom to work when you were needed and the implementation of shift work. Being told when to work and when you couldn’t. The role of having that freedom to use common sense and one’s own judgment in dealing with issues, suddenly was mandated by policy thus seizing away the warden’s ability to exercise his own judgment in the handling of various situations.
4-What advice would you give a high school student interested in becoming a game warden To pursue the dream, learn as much as he, or she, can about the profession. Keep a clean record, study hard in school, and try to acquaint themselves with someone who is in the profession to see first hand the workings and duties of a warden.
5-One case you wished you could have solved. The whereabouts of a young boy that went missing back in the early 70’s in York County. Douglas Chapman It is suspected that he was the victim of a kidnapping by a sexual predator who was later convicted of murdering another young lad in Freeport and using him as a sex toy, before discarding the body. I believe that individual to have been one of the escapees I was involved in chasing around during the Moody Mountain manhunt in the town of Searsmont, years later.
6-Scariest moment of your career I think by far the scariest moment of my career was after I had retrieved the body of a drowning victim in the town of Palermo, early in the spring of 1988. I ended up in the hospital with what was thought to have been appendicitis. After being operated on, it turned out to be straining on lifting the body into the boat, I had irritated a lymph node next to my appendix that was full of cancer. The next several months was living in a shell where I wasn’t sure if I was going to survive or not.
7-How did the first book come about. I had been writing bi-weekly articles reliving my memories at the request of the Editor of a local newspaper, The Republican Journal in Waldo County. My step father, Game Warden Vernon Walker, had encouraged me to keep diaries of those memories I cherished the most about my career, from day one. Thank God I did. He mentioned at the time that, someday you might want to write a book! Encouraged by others, the book became a reality!
8-Most surprising thing that’s happened while promoting the first book? The great reception we have received in promoting the book, everywhere we go. I always seem to meet up with someone who knows of folks we both are acquainted with, showing just what a small world it truly is. I never would have dreamed the book sales would surmount 10,000 in a year. I still am in shock at the reception it all has garnished.
9-Tell us about the second book. The second book, This Cider still tastes funny, is more of the same. Real life adventures, good and bad, of events I had been involved in during the early part of my young career. Many of them humorous, and many of the laughs at my own expense. I also detail many of the characters I dealt with during that time, in various incidents we were subjected to.
10-anything else you’d like to have in the post? I have enjoyed sharing my life and my career with folks in Maine. Many of them never realize many of the things that have, or are happening in their own backyards. Every law enforcement officer has tales as good as mine, if not better. We all
experience the ups and downs of dealing with the public in a variety of situations. I got to see the best of my neighbors over the years and, at other times, the very worst. I have enjoyed sharing the life I loved with those who are interested in hearing, or reading about it.