Text and photos
by Rachel Morin
John Ford came to the Auburn Public Library at the end of July to tell the story of his 20 years as a game warden in Waldo County. A native Mainer, with the endearing accent to prove it, he had wanted to be a game warden from early childhood.
Most of his family was in law enforcement, and his mother worked for the Dept. of Inland Fish and Wildlife. He grew up loving the land, nature and animals. You could say he was born to be a game warden.
John, now retired, is a warm, friendly and an all-around good guy who the audience could not help but smile, laugh and just be “down home” with. He is a gifted storyteller and humorist with the stories rolling off his tongue as quickly as they came to mind. His descriptive phrases were so vivid; you felt you were right in his stories.
He has written a book about his adventures as a game warden, 35 stories, all wrapped up in an easy-to-read style that had me laughing out loud several times. His “Suddenly the Cider Didn’t Taste so Good: Adventures of a Game Warden in Maine,” released in April, is now in its third printing by Islandport Press. You are hooked from the first paragraph.
The stories are humorous, dramatic, all are heartwarming and about the folks he has met and has grown to care for deeply. He told us he saw the best side of people and the worse side, and he treated everyone with respect and dignity.
“Each day would produce a show!” he said. “I never knew what it would be. It could be comedy, drama, tragedy, but I always knew it would be a show.” It was clear throughout his presentation that he loved the job and the people.
When he first started out working as a game warden, his stepfather, Vernon Walker, advised him to keep a daily diary of the stories and adventures he had, as he would not remember them if he didn’t. “You might write a book about them sometime,” his stepfather added. And that is just what happened!
While John experienced many sad and traumatic adventures, he chose to write only about the good, funny and happy times. You can’t help liking the characters he writes about, even the poachers and night hunters, who were always trying to stay one step ahead of him and the law.
He wasn’t a heartless “by the book” law enforcer, but treated everyone fairly and decently. John had a way about him of mixing humor and enforcing the law, so as to still treat the culprit respectfully. As a game warden, John had a good working relationship with the Maine State Troopers. Following his retirement, he served two terms (eight years) as sheriff of Waldo County.
John can also laugh at himself, telling stories of how green he was in those early days as a game warden, exposing his foibles and fears to us. It was refreshing to hear him tell of his mishaps and how he learned so much from the people he served. One of the best stories was from early in his career when he had a seaplane land near two women fishing on a remote pond so he could check their fishing licenses. He reenacted the story for us, leaving us breathless from laughing so hard.
One story I particularly liked was how a witness outwitted a prosecuting attorney by gauging the exact time a minute was up during a courtroom trial. You’ll have to read the book to see how he did it!
The author’s love of wildlife had him rescuing many injured animals over the years and bringing them home while his patient and tolerant wife, Judy, allowed them to be nursed back to health in their home.
John and his longtime friend, retired State Trooper Mark E. Nickerson, wrote a bi-weekly column, alternating with each other, for the Republican Journal and later The Village Soup in Belfast about actual events, some humorous and some downright scary. These were actual incidents that occurred while on patrol in their area.
The author is now writing for a national monthly magazine, Northwood’s Sporting Journal, covering similar topics. He has so much material from his days as a warden and a sheriff that another book is in the wind!
John was honored by his peers in 2000 as Maine’s Legendary Game Warden at the wardens’ annual banquet. He was recognized in 2005 by the Maine Press Association Better Newspaper Contest, winning second place for a Sports Column Weekly written in the Village Soup Citizen Newspaper. He achieved first place in 2007 for the same event at the same newspaper.
John has taken his book on the road and is booked many weeks in advance for book signings and lectures throughout Maine and in New Hampshire, even into next year. A few local ones include:
Sept. 9 at 5:30 p.m. at Ricker Memorial Library in Poland.
Sept. 14 at 11: 30 a.m. at USM’s Lewiston/Auburn Senior College “Food for Thought.”
Sept. 16 from 1 to 5 p.m. at the Androscoggin Republican Party family fun day at The Great Outdoors, Route 117, Turner.
Sept. 28 at 7 p.m. at Pig Roast Woodfords Social Club Woodfords Street Portland.