Tuesday, April 1, 2008

My First Beard or Do I Just Need To Wash My Face?

I had this photo taken 'cause I was about to go shave off my very first attempt at growing a beard. I was 18 years old, and nowhere near as hairy as I wanted to be.

I remember telling all my family and friends there in the Lodge's dining room that the snowshoes needed to be in the photo, so that my family and friends down in Maryland could see them. At Katahdin Lodge, Fin, Marty, me, some of our family and friends, and a few paying guests used those snowshoes now and then. But only for recreational snowshoeing. It was mostly two mile round trips into the woods behind the Lodge to Hale Pond and back.

Professionally speaking, this photo needs to have the left side cropped in some so that a viewer's eyes don't try to focus in on what's on the other side of that room divider. And the left side curve of the snowshoes to the far left tends to draw a person's eye that way. The right side needs to come in a fraction, so we don't see that little strip of darkness from that inner section of the dining room. This picture cropping knowledge is basic Photo 101.

The photograph is cropped that way because it allows other snowshoers an opportunity to get a kick out of checkin' out what may very well be some handmade, moose hide, 1960's era Aroostook County snowshoes.

Our closest neighbor, and my tea drinking buddy, who lived about a mile away, had made a pair of handmade moose hide snowshoes for my Uncle Finley. I believe the neighbor's name was Tillie. Or was his wife named Tillie? I don't know anymore.

That were nigh onto forty year' ago.

You gotta' treat and store snowshoes right. Or they'll have y'ur lazy arse stranded and freezin' way out in the woods.

Various sections of the world have their own particular way of building their own snowshoes and maintaining them.

Maybe some snowshoe loving Scandinavians or one of them crazy Russians doing time up in Siberia might see this photo one day and enjoy seeing the details of how the snowshoes are constructed.

In the photo, it looks like a pair of inexpensive neoprenes on the right, and the real thing, the moose hide shoes, are on the left.

Both pairs of snowshoes were serviceable aids to snow top transportation, in the woods, and they never let me down.

My face in this photo not only looks like it needs me to stand a little closer to the razor next time I shave, it looks like I haven't been anywhere near a bar of soap for quite awhile.

But that ain't dirt darkening my formerly comely mug.

When I uploaded that photograph for this article, I noticed that from my hairline down about two inches on my forehead, I look rather pale. Then from there, about two inches above my eyebrow, on down to my neck the surface of my skin looks kinda' smudgey-brown.

Then I remembered that this was my Northern Maine wintertime tan line. All professional outdoorsmen up there get wintertime tans every year.

I had been living and working at the Lodge for five months, when this shot was taken, and all the while had worked outside during many an hour of daylight. There was snow all over the ground the entire time. The sun was often shining healthy, wholesome, vitamin D deliverin' sunrays down hard on me from up in the wide skies over the Katahdin Valley, while some of it was also simultaneously being reflected back up at me off the shiny surface of the pure white, often hard crusted and gleaming, snow. That set of wintertime conditions creates a natural version of a tanning salon.

I always wore a hat when working outside, and that's a wintertime tan line running across my forehead.

I was complimented on it and kidded about it by several of the folks there who saw it as a clear indication that their young relative or friend from the suburbs of Baltimore was becoming a tried and true outdoorsman.

That winter it snowed about the most that it ever has up there. There was plenty of snow on the ground from before Thanksgiving week of 1968, when I arrived at the Lodge, till way into April.

The very first snowfall had covered the ground completely, and that blanket of snow endured the entire winter long. The first snow didn't come any earlier than was normal. It's just that the first few snowfalls usually melt away, then finally the substantial snows hit numerous times, and that succession of heavy snows often keeps the ground well covered for several months.

In the early fall of '68, the ground didn't have time to freeze, before the insulating properties of snow took full effect. Consequently, there was none of the normal layer of frost deep into the surface of the earth there that winter. Which made it a wicked bad mud season the following springtime. And I had the memorable pleasure of working out in it. While it worked against my Uncle Finley and I, at Katahdin Lodge, the entire time the mud was drying out. It was a formidable foe for Fin and me and our shovels to contend with. We scooped out and maintained little canals all through the yards and driveways everyday.

Ask any Mainer about the yearly mud season up there. It's mud, mud everywhere, and no dry land in sight.

The Lodge's post office was in Patten, but the Lodge actually sat about ten or eleven miles up Rural Route 11 from P-town, in the Township of Moro Plantation--Moro, Maine.

In Maine, plantations are simply chunks of local geography that are mapped out in square sections, with six miles to each four sides.

Moro, Maine was, and maybe still is, in a regional snowbelt.

This snowbelt began somewhere just over to the west of the Lodge, where the very most northern one hundred mile section of the Appalachian Mountains lay there all sprawled out nice and comfy like; while generously blessing that part of God's Country with majestic beauty, and the finest kind of nature's wealth. The snowbelt ended somewhere to the east of the Lodge, about two-thirds of the way over to Houlton, Maine and Woodstock, Canada. How far north or south the limits of that snowbelt reached, I never knew.

I do know that right there about in the middle of it was right where I wanted to be at the time.

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