Today, in the age of social media, when a proprietor, service provider or seller of whatever widget comes to mind, screws up, the ‘customer’ can instantly bring his dissatisfaction to the attention of thousands the world over. And that is a pity, as no matter what the vendor has done ‘right or wrong’, their business reputation often becomes besmirched.
The following story was first told in a Philadelphia paper, and then reprinted in the LaGrange Bulletin in Indiana, before coming back to further haunt a highly regarded Guide by the name of Natt Carr here in Rangeley, where it was reprinted in the August 6, 1896 edition of the RANGELEY LAKES.
It is an entertaining piece, that poor Mr. Carr was probably horrified by when he read it. I imagine he laid pretty low around town when the news broke and suffered a mess of ribbing from his fellow guides in the process. Natt Carr was an excellent guide by all accounts and served as a Maine Game Warden for a time, so there is little doubt when it comes to his ultimate abilities as a woodsman. Everyone has a bad day now and then. To be honest, I admire Ol’ Natt here, and would go out with him again were I his “Sport” back in the day.
As you venture out to make some outdoor history of your own, remember to be kind as you retell the tales of any misadventures about your guide or a friend, and before you hit “Post” on ‘Mugbook’, err…Facebook, perhaps think again and give it 24 hours. You never know, as someday you might be the victim of some fateful adventure. I hope you enjoy the following account of what was probably a very memorable experience for both Guide and Sport.
A Philadelphia Man Tells His Experience with Rangeley Guide
How a Straight Course in the Woods, Proved to be a Circle
Natt Carr, a well-known Rangeley guide, is done up in the LeGrange (Ind.) Bulletin of recent date. From what we know of this favorite and jolly guide, we are inclined to think “Mr. A. B. F.” has pulled the lower limb of the editor so much, that it would take a very steep hill for him to touch both feet on the ground and stand level. The story is told as follows: “Yes, I have knocked around quite a bit,” remarked a visitor at the Lawrence yesterday to the editor. He desired we use only his initials when he had learned we would like to publish his story, so we introduce our interesting informant as Mr. A. B. F. of Philadelphia. Being from the city of Brotherly Love, renders his veracity undisputable, though when we looked incredulous at the weights of his catches, he thought we were inclined to mistrust that a grain of sand, instead of salt had been used before the weights were recorded, but having a copy of a local paper published where he caught the fish, we had to acknowledge the correctness of the statement.
We give the words of Mr. F. as nearly as we can remember what we could not write out at the time:
“It was last July, I left home for the celebrated Rangeley region in Maine. The last fifty miles is done on a narrow gauge railroad, the rails only 24 inches apart.” (We verified this statement at the railroad station. Ed.) “It is wonderful how fast those little trains run, and they fly round a curve and go back onto the reverse so quickly, it will nearly snap your head off.
“We reached Rangeley at night and you find a mighty good hotel (Rangeley Lake House) there and lots of guides hanging about. They are waiting for a job, and as I heard very little complaint, I judge they are all good fellows. I fell into the hands of Natt Carr. Double “t” in the guide’s name, that’s the way he spelled it on his cards. Oh, they are tony chaps, with their visiting cards, I assure you. I asked Natt to take me where I could be sure of getting some of the big trout I had read so much about and we went to the biggest lake in the whole lot and the one that has the biggest names,” (Mooselookmeguntic) and Mr. F. rattled off a string of them as glibly as he would have told you the names of half a dozen of the Principal streets in his own city.
“We were to troll for the monsters and Natt looked over my tackle and selected what I was to use. Then we needed minnows for bait, and they were procured at a cost of about two dollars per pound.
After a while we are off. I am given the seat in the rear of the boat and Natt takes the forward one to row. He was a large, good-natured fellow, weighs over 200 and kept his end of the boat down while the stern was scarcely touching the water. The hooks were baited, and I let the line run way out behind a hundred feet or more. Every few rods my guide would tell me “that right here Mr. So n’ So that I was with, caught a nine pound trout or a pair of sixes, but mostly from to 5 pounders. Why he had a perfect map of that lake in his head and at least every ten square feet had been the scene of a battle royal between his man and the trout. Natt forgot his tobacco (I noticed he kept doing so about every time we went out), but I had laid in a supply and there was enough for both.
“There were lots of other boats out and every little while Natt would say: ‘Tom, Dick or Harry has got a strike,” and then we would hear the click of the reel as the fish ran out or was reeled in.
“Somehow, fish didn’t seem to come to our net, and we went to dinner without one fish. It was cutting to me to hear of the large and numerous catches made all about us as we sat about the large open fire after dinner. Every time a sportsman told of his catch, I would look at Natt and soon he became very uneasy and proposed that we go out again.
‘It was right here’ said Natt, ‘only two weeks ago, I was with a man and he hooked a big one. We played him for forty minutes and he got away. I was just ready to dip him and the leader broke. He would go nine pounds sure. The man’s rig was poor. I told him so, but he thought it all right. I had patched up the snell on the fly that he lost. I’ll never go out with any man again, if he don’t have a good rig. That fellow went home half blaming me because he lost that trout.’ Right then, I nearly lost my rod there was such a sudden yank on my line, but I recovered quickly and a second later I knew there was something more than a minnow on my hook. How that fish did run. I couldn’t reel fast enough and had to coil the line on my hand and hold the rod between my knees. Then he leaped out of the water. ‘A ten pounder!’ said Natt; ‘Don’t let him get any slack.’
Next, he took a turn under the boat, but Natt was up to all such tricks and he made no gain that way. Then he sulked and went down which gave me time to reel in my handful of line. All at once he made a rush, the reel buzzed like a room full of Indiana mosquitoes! Natt was backing the boat as hard as he possibly could, a minute more and the reel would be empty, and seemingly but a single turn was left when he again stopped. ‘Reel in slowly’ said Natt, and I did. The boat was nearing him and I was trembling with excitement.
“Again and again did this same performance take place, though each time more line was left on the reel, and we felt that victory was hovering in our vicinity. All the other boats had stopped and were anxiously watching the fight. In 54 minutes from the strike he had surrendered and Natt lifted him into the boat.
‘That’s the same old trout’ excitedly exclaimed Natt, as he held him up, and attached to his jaw was another hook with a short piece of leader. ‘There’s where I mended the rotten old thing,’ and he inspected the hook he had removed. ‘I’m mighty glad he lost him trying to fish with such stuff. I’ll send this hook to him and tell him to fix it up and come again. Confound his old heart, but I wouldn’t guide him anyway.’
“Such a beauty I had never seen before and he weighed just 8lbs. I didn’t care to fish any more that day. I was satisfied.”
“I wanted to see a moose or deer in their wild state and Natt was highly elated when he learned my desire. ‘I’ll take you to a place where you can see lots of ’em this very night,’ said he. It was close time for large game, but Natt took along a rifle as ‘protection from bears and other wild varmints,’ and loaded with a knapsack containing blankets and provision and with an axe hanging to his belt he presented the appearance of one of the old frontiersmen.
“We crossed the lake and struck into the woods for a three miles walk. Three miles in the woods means ‘three times three and a tiger’ if the distance was measured, and this did not fall short, rather it overran, as the sequel will show.
“During the first hour my guide imparted to me many of the secrets of woodcraft—how to keep your course when the sun was hidden, as it was at the time, how to follow the trail of moose or deer and tell by signs how far ahead of you they were and many other tricks known only to guides. He told of the habits of moose, but when he pointed out a round- wood tree, barked up twenty feet from the ground and said a moose did it, I felt that I was getting natural history in advance of the reality. However, I took it all in, and we journeyed on. There was no trail nor spotted trees to guide us, but Natt said there was no danger of missing the pond and we kept on. I noticed that he was looking about him more than usual and mistrusted he thought we were off the right course, and as it began to get nearer night fall, he admitted that we had probably gone past the pond. He proposed to climb a tree, to take an observation, and selected a spruce, having an abundance of dead limbs, up which he started. He didn’t go very far up before a limb gave way and he started back suddenly. Visions of a dead guide, and I, a stranger in an unknown forest, flashed through my brain, but quick as were the thoughts a stout limb had caught the stout ‘knickerbockers’ and Natt was suspended with legs and arms gesticulating wildly.
“When I found he was uninjured and only a few feet from the ground I could not resist the temptation to have a little sport. I suggested that he take his knife and cut off the limb as the quickest way down; that he would be safe there from wild beasts, and that I could pass his food up to him on a pole as they feed bears in a pit. But I cut a small tree and stood it up so he could ‘unhitch’ and he climbed down.
“Undaunted he tried it again and saw the pond but a short distance away, but it was dark before we reached it. Natt did not know what part of the shore we had struck, so we did not know which way to look for a boat, but we went back in the woods and had our supper where the light of the fire would not show on the water.
“Natt built a little shelter of boughs and a bed of the same and I turned in to await the result of his search for a boat. He found one and for several hours we paddled silently along the shore listening for a deer. ‘Not a sound was heard’ and we gave it up, returned to our camping ground and were soon asleep.
“Next morning when I awoke, I found Natt had breakfast nearly ready; the coffee had just begun to boil, and the bacon was spread on birch bark plates. When he saw I was awake, he arose from his culinary duties and approached. The expression on his face was such that I will never forget it. For a moment he looked in silence, then he asked this conundrum: ‘What is the difference between me and a confounded ignoramus?’ I said I give up. ‘Well,’ said he, ‘there ain’t any difference; come out here.’
“We walked to the shore of the pond. It was a pond no longer, but a lake. Right across, a mile away, was the hotel (Mooselookmeguntic House) we left the night before, and the boat we had been jacking with was the one we had rowed over in!
So near, and yet so FAR! Have a good week and please stop by Outdoor Heritage Museum and say hello! We are open for the season (10-4pm Weds.- Sun.) and some really great “New…Old Stuff” to share.